Here’s How to Turn Any Dinner into a Sheet Pan Meal

updated May 4, 2022
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Are you a fan of sheet pan meals? If not, we hope to convince you to give them a try. These easy meals cook quickly, get your food deliciously and deeply browned, and require minimal management on the part of the cook. Many of your suppertime staples can easily transition from stovetop to sheet pan — so the next time there’s chicken, tofu, or seafood on the menu, leave the skillet on the shelf. While we haven’t quite figured out how to make soup on a sheet pan yet, here’s how to make practically every other meal into a sheet pan dinner.

What Makes Sheet Pans So Special?

Sheet pans are one of the most versatile kitchen tools. In restaurant supply stores, these sturdy aluminum or stainless steel rimmed baking sheets are usually labeled as 1/2 sheet pans. Thanks to the large surface area (18×13 inches), superb heat conduction, and low sides, food cooks quickly and browns beautifully on sheet pans. And when you’re done, we’ve found the best way to clean your sheet pans, too.

Pick a Protein

Start building your meal by choosing a protein. Sheet pan dinners cook hot and fast, generally in a 375°F to 425°F oven. Use the following times as a guideline, but rely other indicators and an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness.

  • Chicken, whole and cubed boneless skinless breasts and thighs: 15 to 20 minutes or 165°F
  • Chicken, bone-in skin-on breasts and thighs: 25 to 35 minutes or 165°F
  • Pork tenderloin: 20 to 25 minutes or 145°F
  • Steak, 1 – to 1 1/4-inch thick: Broil about 8 minutes for rare (115 to 120°F), 9 minutes for medium-rare (120 to 125°F), and 10 minutes for medium (130 to 135°F)
  • Sausage: About 20 minutes or 165°F
  • Tofu: 30 to 35 minutes or until crisp and warmed through
  • Shrimp: 6 to 8 minutes or until curled and opaque
  • Fish: 10 to 15 minutes or until flakes easily, or broil 6 to 8 minutes

Add Vegetables

Once you’ve sorted out your protein, add some veggies. Vegetables fall into two categories: quick- and long-cooking veg. Size also factors into the time it takes to cook, with smaller pieces cooking more quickly than large ones.

  • Quick-cooking: Tender vegetables like onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, green beans, okra, and asparagus cook quickly when spread on a sheet pan and roasted in a hot oven. Consider frozen vegetables a part of the quick-cooking category too, as they are usually par-cooked before being frozen. These vegetables cook in 12 to 20 minutes.
  • Long-cooking: Dense vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and beets cook in about 30 minutes, depending on their size. Large pieces of vegetables, like quartered onions and peeled broccoli stems, also fall into this category and require a slightly longer cook time. Give these veggies a head start, then add proteins at the midpoint.

Two Tips for Super Sheet Pan Suppers

  1. Preheat the pan: Slide the sheet pan into the oven while it heats up. This simple step will help crisp chicken skin (when placed skin-side down for the first half of cooking) and brown the cut sides of potatoes.
  2. Leave space: Sheet pans can hold a lot of food — enough to feed a family of four. Spread the ingredients into an even layer, but don’t fill it from edge to edge. Leaving space for the air to flow and the moisture to evaporate will help the food brown and crisp.
Credit: Photo: Kristin Teig; Food & Prop Styling: Catrine Kelty

Invent Your Own Sheet Pan Dinner

Once you feel confident in the basic sheet pan strategy, mix and match proteins, veggies, seasonings, and sauces. Just remember to account for the cooking times of each ingredient. To keep things easy, you can pair quick-cooking shrimp, salmon, or chicken breast cutlets with quick-cooking vegetables like tomatoes, asparagus, and tender green beans. And pair hearty vegetables like potatoes with longer-cooking bone-in proteins. If you want to combine ingredients with different cooking times, just remember that it will be a two-step process: Start with the longer-cooking stuff, then add the quick-cooking ingredients midway through.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

A Few Sheet Pan Dinners to Get You Started

Get Ahead with These Sheet Pan Meal Prep Ideas

Credit: Kitchn