Dinner is always a hassle. It’s a mess of planning and shopping, cooking and cleaning. All while working, taking care of kids, or both. That’s why learning how to create your own sheet pan recipes might be the saving grace you’ve been looking for.
It’s a challenge to come up with a steady rotation of recipes, without getting repetitive. Casseroles and fast food can quickly become part of your regular routine because it’s easier, but it’s certainly not healthier.
Sheet pan dinners are simple, straightforward, and perfect for anyone working long hours. So save some time and energy by learning how to create your own sheet pan recipes.
What Is a Sheet Pan Dinner?
A sheet pan dinner is exactly what it sounds like, a dinner made on a sheet pan. All you have to do is chop up some ingredients, season them, dump them on a sheet pan, and bake it in the oven.
Everything will be finished cooking at the same time. So you won’t have to worry about keeping side dishes hot while you wait on the entree, and you’ll be dealing with fewer dinner dishes.
Do you need a recipe?
If you’re more comfortable using a recipe to cook, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with doing things by the book. Just don’t forget that a little flexibility goes a long way.
Making substitutes and seasoning accordingly is nothing to be afraid of. No one will ever know you made some substitutions, and you’ll still have a delicious meal on your hands.
How to Create Your Own Sheet Pan Recipes
Learning how to create your own sheet pan recipes is fairly simple. You only need meat, vegetables, and some seasonings and you’ll be well on your way.
It makes it incredibly easy to make a healthy, but effortless, dinner.
The best tools for the job
The best thing about sheet pan dinners is their simplicity. You don’t need much to make them work.
Those tools include:
These are only the basic tools you can use to get the job done. You might need a few other things along the way, like a potato peeler or other basic items. It all depends on the recipe.
The point is, you don’t need a whole lot to get this dinner ready. The idea is to make a healthy dinner as easy as tossing frozen nuggets and fries in the oven.
Recommended Read: 5 Easy Dinner Recipes: Kitchen To Plate In Under 25 Minutes
Start with a protein
Meat is the center of a good meal. It rounds everything out and makes it more filling.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you can either skip this section or opt for an alternative meat product. You’ll have to figure out whether it can cook on a sheet pan with everything else, or if it needs to be prepared separately for a better result.
Regardless, picking the protein for your meal depends entirely on the flavor profile you’re trying to create. For instance, if you’re thinking of using a barbeque flavor, you can use steak, chicken, or pork, paired with a rub or marinade to get the right taste.
You can do the same if you’re interested in making a Cajun-inspired dish. You can use sausage and shrimp, which would pair well with corn and potatoes.
In all honesty, you can be as creative as you want, but we’ll include a quick list, in case you need a bit of help coming up with ideas.
But before we do, we did want to mention two quick tips. First of all, if your kids will only eat chicken nuggets or other frozen options, toss it on the pan too. There’s no shame in a meal not being the perfect healthy dinner you imagined.
Also, too many people shy away from chicken because they think it’s bland and boring. Don’t make the same mistake because it’s the perfect blank slate for any dish.
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The best meats for dinner
- Red meat (hamburger, steak, ribs)
- Sausage (smoked, polish kielbasa, sweet Italian, hot Italian, chorizo)
- Seafood (shrimp, tilapia, salmon)
- Pork (tenderloin, pork chops)
These are the basics but don’t feel bad if you need to ease your family into it by throwing some chicken nuggets into the mix too. The goal is to make healthy dinners, but you can take it slow and figure out what they enjoy.
For instance, if you’re going to have a more daring veggie choice, like Brussel sprouts or eggplant, pair it with two things they enjoy, like steak and potatoes. Then they can try something new and still eat the rest of dinner if they don’t like the new option.
By testing the waters over time, you’ll be able to narrow down healthy choices that you know your family will like.
The more vegetables the merrier
Vegetables can be the trickiest thing to figure out when trying to feed your family. They can even be a challenge if you personally hate vegetables and are trying to branch out.
The key to making vegetables that you enjoy comes down to the preparation and seasoning. Every vegetable can be prepared in a multitude of different ways, finding your preference is key.
Roasting vegetables on a sheet pan is a good method for most, but you need to remember that they will cook at different speeds.
The best plan of attack is to pair vegetables together that have similar cooking times. It’s even better if they cook at the same rate as the meat, but if not you can plan accordingly.
You can simply put the vegetables with the longest cook times in first, and add another pan with a shorter cook time about halfway through. That way you won’t overcook anything and everything will come out hot and ready at the same time.
Vegetable options and approximate cook time
All of these estimated cooking times are for roasting these vegetables in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. You can pair these vegetables together to cook at the same rate. Start with the vegetables that will take the longest and work your way back.
15 to 20 minutes:
- Green beans
- Onions (sliced or chopped)
- Summer squash (cubed)
20 to 30 minutes:
- Corn on the cob
- Winter squash (cubed)
30 to 45 minutes:
- Carrots (halved or cubed)
- Onions (halved)
- Potatoes (cubed)
- Sweet potatoes (cubed)
Flavor is everything
If you want to have a good dinner, the flavor is essential to creating the perfect recipe. Eating some bland chicken mixed with some potatoes and a little salt just isn’t going to cut it.
You need to figure out where you need bold seasonings and where you can let the meats and vegetables speak for themselves. Fortunately, there are several different ways to add flavor to your meal. We want to cover a few of the best.
Seasoning is your best friend
A running joke all over the internet is that certain people don’t season their food enough. We don’t want to point fingers, but you don’t want to be one of those people.
Remember, salt isn’t merely a seasoning, it’s a staple in any dish. You should add it to every individual meat and veggie, and then salt everything again once it’s on the pan. You don’t have to go overboard but never skip the salt.
Once you have that down, you can play around with other seasonings. Add garlic and parmesan to your potatoes, cajun seasoning to your shrimp, or ranch seasoning to your chicken. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to look at other recipes for inspiration.
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Moreover, don’t be shy about getting pre-mixed seasonings to make life a little easier. As we’ve mentioned here and there, ranch powder, barbeque seasoning, cajun seasoning, and so many more can add a ton of flavor.
They will also give you a lot more freedom since you won’t have to measure out every individual herb and spice. It’s a good way to cut corners, and there are a ton of options on the market.
If you have a little extra time you can add plenty of flavor to your sheet pan recipe with the right meat marinade.
A marinade can help break down and tenderize meat. That can be a huge help when dealing with beef, pork, and chicken. That can help you avoid dry and grisly meat, which is easy to create when you cut the meat into smaller pieces to roast on a pan in the oven.
Cutting the meat into pieces can make it easy to overcook, but it will make it a little easier to cook it at the same rate as the vegetables. For instance, a whole chicken breast will take a good bit longer to cook, and won’t be seasoned as well as smaller pieces would be.
A good rub goes a long way
Even if you choose to do a marinade, feel free to add a rub to the meat as well. That will give it an extra kick of flavor and doubling up is never a bad thing.
There are plenty of rubs to choose from, depending on the flavor you’re shooting for with the whole dish. To select the appropriate rub for your dish, you need to pick something that works with the meat of your choice.
Chicken is fantastic with barbeque, cajun, Italian, or even ranch seasonings. For beef, you can use steak seasonings, including barbeque, mesquite, Montreal, garlic and herb and so many more.
Recommended Read: Pork Sheet Pan Dinner
And pork is another fantastic option for a whole range of barbeque seasonings, from sweet and tangy to something a little spicier!
Additional flavor options
Remember, the vegetables you choose can also contribute to the flavor of your sheet pan recipe. Peppers and onions bring hot Italian sausage to life. Garlic and onions are a great addition to pretty much anything.
Also, don’t forget that you can add things like parmesan, lemon, and different oils to the dish. For instance, sesame oil would be an excellent addition to a stir fry or Asian-inspired recipe.
Recommended Read: How to Bake Italian Sausage with Peppers
Putting Your Sheet Pan Recipe Together
Now you might be thinking, how exactly do you put it all together? Where do you start?
No worries, we have a quick and simple list for you.
- Select your meats and vegetables.
- Get a head start by marinating the meats ahead of time.
- Chop everything up to about the same size so they will cook at the same speed.
- Organize your meats and veggies based on how long they will take to cook. If necessary split them into separate bowls based on cook time or depending on the seasonings you want to use.
- Toss your ingredients in a generous amount of oil. Olive oil is a good choice, but you can use whatever you have on hand. This is necessary to help the seasoning stick and keep the meat and veggies from sticking to the pan.
- If you want, you can line your pan with non-stick silicone mats, aluminum foil, or merely use a non-stick pan.
- Spread your ingredients evenly over the pan and pop it in the oven at 425 degrees. You can split up the ingredients based on their cooking times.
- Set the timer and enjoy when everything is finished. Your meal should only take somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes. It all depends on the ingredients you chose and the size of the pieces.
Dinner Will be Healthier Than Ever with Easy Sheet Pan Recipes
Even if you love cooking, dinner can be a hassle. There are a lot of different things to juggle in your everyday life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, parent, or hardworking individual, there’s not always enough time for a healthy meal.
Learning how to create your own sheet pan recipes will give you the freedom to make a well-rounded meal in a pinch. Before long you’ll have some favorite flavor combinations your family will love.