Upgrading to a good sheet metal shelf feels like the kitchen tool that is the equivalent of restoring electrical wiring in a fuser top. It is necessary. While it doesn’t seem particularly fun, you’ll appreciate the upgrade. And you will wonder how you ever got along without it.
Nordic Ware sheet pans are the best in the business. They are made of natural aluminum, which means that they heat up quickly and evenly – ideal for baking. And they have rims to prevent both spillage and warping. The size of sheet pans is admittedly a bit confusing: half a sheet is actually the standard size a home cook would use. Solid sheet pans only fit in standard ovens. This three-piece set is a great starter as it has a standard 18×13 inch half sheet, which is commonly required by recipes. Then there is the quarter sheet, which – yes, you guessed it – is half the size of half the sheet. This size is perfect for smaller crowds or portions. The last in the set is the large sheet, which is still smaller than a traditional full sheet and should easily fit in your home oven. Use it for larger projects when you need more space. (There are few chores that you can’t do with this kit, but I have an inexplicable soft spot for the adorable and ridiculously small tray of the eighth leaf. I used it to roast a lonely chicken breast and that’s it.)
Beyond baking, the uses for sheet pans are endless. I love them for roasted vegetables. The edges are high enough to prevent spills, but low enough to allow air to circulate around the vegetables, making them crispy. (A casserole dish with a higher rim catches moisture and steams vegetables.) For the same reason, I’ve been roasting turkeys on a wire rack in half a sheet for years – skin crackling all over the place. I love them for a tin dinner, a focaccia with a crispy base, and instead of a pizza stone, I’ll preheat an inverted tray on the lowest rack in my oven and slide my batter right on top.
However, my favorite use of the sheet pan is not for cooking. It’s used to organize my staging – that’s the culinary idiom that originated in France, to put everything in its place and set up your station before cooking. When I have a few recipes that I test out right away, I split the ingredients for each dish on a quarter-sheet pan to stay organized. I’ll use one to keep my mirepoix for the soup while I’m chopping. I’ll be arranging fixings for grain bowls, summer rolls, or taco nights in pretty rows on a quarter-sheet pan. When I’m grilling, I load everything I need onto half a sheet – olive oil, tongs, towel, salt, knife, lemons – and use it as a portable finishing station. I put marinated meat on a sheet pan before going to the grill, and put a clean one underneath ready to toggle when the meat comes off the grill to rest. Depending on how rustic I feel, I will even serve it from a sheet pan. They are much easier to clean than my wedding china.