Roasting food, especially vegetables, adds beautiful browning and deep flavors with really little work. Just throw it on a pan and into the oven it goes, right?
Well, here's a quick tip tip that makes roasted foods even better: preheat your baking sheet or pan in the oven while it heats up. We love using this technique, and here are some reasons why you should try it too!
Preheating a baking sheet takes very little extra effort — just remember to throw it in the oven when you turn it on, then move onto the rest of your food prep while it's heating up. While you should be careful when dealing with a hot baking sheet, here are three reasons why it's worth it to preheat:
1. Even Browning
Preheating a baking sheet is just like preheating a pan on the stove — you want the surface to get nice and hot so the food sizzles and starts to brown quickly. The hot flat surface means heat from the oven as well as the baking sheet hits the food at the same time, helping to evaporate water and liquid so that browning and caramelization are nice and even.
2. Saves Time
Throwing a whole chicken, pork loin, or vegetables onto a hot baking sheet means the undersides start cooking and browning immediately instead of waiting for the oven to heat both the baking sheet and food up first. The few extra seconds it takes to throw the baking sheet into the oven first are totally worth it when your food cooks faster.
3. No Flipping Necessary
Since you've given food a jumpstart by placing it on a preheated surface, you can reduce or eliminate flipping completely. This is especially great when you have starchy products like French fries, since the bottoms will start to brown and crisp up instead of steaming while the tops do the same.
When Shouldn't You Use This Technique?
Keep in mind that preheating your baking sheet works well when you're roasting, which usually involves high heat and food already having structure before going into the oven, like meats and vegetables.
Don't use this technique for baked goods like cookies, where baking times and temperatures are very specific and dropping dough on hot baking sheets can cause uneven baking or sticking.
Recipes to Try with This Technique
Updated from a post originally published in July 2009.
(Image credits: zkruger; Kelli Dunn; Faith Durand)