For Perfect Rice Every Time, All You Need Is Your Oven and a Sheet Pan

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Credit: Marge Perry

When you start with rice (yes, rice!) you can turn any sheet pan recipe into a complete meal. Rice cooked on a sheet pan turns out fluffy and delicious — and you get the bonus of tasty little browned bits in the corners.

When we set out to create complete, well-balanced meals for our book, Hero Dinners, we tested and re-tested methods for making fluffy rice (and quinoa!) on a sheet pan. Through trial and error, we learned that there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution — it often depends what else you’re putting on the sheet pan. Luckily, there are certain guidelines you can follow to ensure that no matter what those other ingredients are, your rice turns out perfect every time. 

We used two basic methods. The first method, which is best for when you’re adding ingredients that give off a lot of moisture (like our Farmers Market Chicken pictured above, which has tomatoes and chicken thighs), is to combine the rice with water (or other liquid) and a pinch of salt on the sheet pan and cook it in the oven at least 15 minutes before you add other ingredients.

The second method, which you’ll use when the other ingredients don’t give off as much liquid (like our sheet pan Cuban Beans and Rice), is to cover the rice, water, a pinch of salt, and any other ingredients (veggies, protein, etc.) with foil before they go in the oven. This steams the rice (and other ingredients) and is more akin to cooking rice by the traditional stovetop method.

The Rice-to-Liquid Ratio

As I mentioned, you’ll want to pay attention to how the other ingredients on the sheet pan affect your rice. As a general guideline, if you’re adding vegetables that give off a lot of moisture, like tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, and mushrooms, you only need 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. With vegetables like sugar snap peas, asparagus, and broccoli that don’t give off as much liquid when they cook, use up to 2 1/2 cups of water.

Just as there are wetter and drier vegetables, some proteins, like chicken thighs, add a lot more liquid to the pan. Boneless chicken breasts, canned beans, and lean fish add very little, which makes them good candidates for the foil method. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Best Rice for Sheet Pan Rice

Long-grain white rice and quick-cooking brown rice (parboiled, such as Uncle Ben’s Quick and Healthy, but not any of the microwave packets) work really well in a sheet pan. The texture of the rice is best when at least half the liquid is water, but you can combine it with broth or add a squeeze of lemon or zest to amp up the flavor. You can also add dried herbs and spices that work well with the way you’ve seasoned the ingredients that make up the rest of your meal. But don’t forget — the rice also gets loads of flavor from those other ingredients on the pan. In fact, that is one of the great advantages of cooking rice as part of your sheet pan meal.

How Long Does Sheet Pan Rice Take to Cook?

Most sheet pan meals cook at 400°F to 425°F degrees, which is also perfect for cooking rice. Depending on how much liquid comes from your other ingredients, and how long they need to cook, you will want to get the rice started for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan. It will be quite crunchy at this point. Once you add chicken, meat, or fish and vegetables, the rice slowly gets infused by the liquid they give off, and will take another 15 (for salmon and snow peas) to 30 (chicken thighs and tomatoes) minutes.

Of course, you don’t need to put other ingredients on the sheet pan with the rice (although why wouldn’t you?). To cook rice alone, use the foil method: It will take 28 to 30 minutes at 400°F.

Credit: Marge Perry