Here’s why you’re getting soggy, bland and unevenly cooked meals.
Sheet pan meals are quick and easy to throw together and make for delicious dinners or lunches. Just chop up some veggies, toss them in the oven and go about your evening while an amazing meal cooks without you. And with minimal clean up, what’s not to love? Now, it’s easy to be turned off by this one-pan wonder when you end up eating the dreaded soggy veggie or bland meat. If you're skeptical of sheet pan dinners because of this, we’re here to tell you — it’s not the sheet pan... it’s you. Here are the three top mistakes you’re making and how to correct them to get the perfect sheet pan meal every time.
Mistake #1: Overcrowding the Pan
It can be tempting to pack as much food as you can onto the pan, whether to maximize leftovers or minimize cleanup later. Put don’t fall into this trap. All you do is create a warm sauna for all food pieces to bake and let out steam, leading to sad soggy veggies and meat. That steam is also bringing moisture to the dish and watering down your flavors. And when wet, bland food doesn’t have the space or ability to sear on the pan, you lose the flavor of that beautiful caramelization too.
Leave space between the pieces of food so each one is touching the pan and has room to breathe. This will allow each veggie and piece of meat to brown to perfection and lock in all its gorgeous flavor.
Mistake #2: Forgetting the Fat
You may be inclined to forgo fat to keep your meal lean, but this is a fatal mistake for your sheet pan dinner. If you don’t toss your food in oil or butter — or at least spray the pan — your food will stick to the pan. Not only will you be robbed of your delicious meal but you’ll be stuck scrubbing that pan all night.
Toss your food pieces in a small amount of oil (like coconut or avocado) or butter, if you prefer, to keep them from sticking to the pan. (The fat also helps caramelize the food for big flavor.) For a lighter option, spray the pan with nonstick oil spray or line it with parchment paper.
Mistake #3: Cutting Food Unevenly
Sheet pan meals are so simple, they’re as easy as 1, 2, 3 (chop, bake, eat)! But don’t sacrifice attention to detail to save even more time. Cutting veggies and meat haphazardly leaves you with pieces of all different size, which means all different cooking times. When you’re left with a hodgepodge of burnt and underdone pieces, it can make you never want to pull out the sheet pan again.
Take the extra minute or two to be sure your pieces of food are cut evenly and roughly the same size. This allows each piece to cook to the same doneness in the time allotted at one temperature setting. You’ll be able to enjoy a full meal or perfectly crisp and tender veggies and meat.