How To Buy The Perfect Sheet Pan (and then make everything in it)

rimmed sheet pan

The sheet pan is one of the most essential kitchen staples. From roasted veggies to baked chicken breasts to cookies, sheet pans can be used for a wide variety of kitchen tasks, and having a good one (or two...or three) can take you much farther in the kitchen than you may have realized.

Particularly popular lately is the "sheet pan meal," because it allows busy cooks at all levels of expertise to make an entire meal with minimal effort and cleanup. This method is especially helpful for omnivores, since meats and veggies can often be cooked together on the same sheet pan.

What makes a good sheet pan?

No matter what you're using your sheet pan for, you should be looking for the same key features when selecting the best one.

First, pay attention to the size. Sheet pans (as well as jelly roll pans, cookie sheets, and other cousins of the sheet pan) come in a variety of sizes. There are a few standards, though:

  • Full-size: About 26 by 18 inches
  • Half-size: About 18 by 13 inches
  • Quarter-size: About 13 by 9 inches

Pick the sheet pan (or set of sheet pans) that works best for you. A full-sized sheet pan gives you the most space, and will take up a full rack of a standard oven. It may not be necessary if you are making meals for 1 or 2 people. A half size is one of the most common sizes; two of these can fit side by side on a single oven rack. A smaller oven or small batch of food (e.g. half a dozen cookies) calls for a quarter size pan.

Next, pay attention to material. Many sheet pans are made entirely or partly of aluminum because aluminum transfers heat readily and evenly. Some sheet pans come with nonstick coatings, silicone handles, or are made of other materials like carbon steel. Each type of material has a different level of longevity, a different range of temperatures it can withstand safely, and meets some needs better than others. Assess what's important to you and read product descriptions carefully to make an informed decision.

Lastly, pay attention to thickness. A common complaint with sub-par sheet pans is that they warp or buckle after a few uses. Sheet pans warp like this when they are too thin to withstand the expanding and contracting that happens as the material heats and cools.

Our Top Picks

So now that you're informed, let's get right to it, shall we? Here are our top choices for sheet pans.

Nordic Ware Aluminum Half Sheet & Quarter Sheet Set

nordic wareThis set of sheet pans comes with two of the most useful sizes for average and smaller households and is made of aluminum for even and quick heating. This is a great example of the most classic type of sheet pan, and serves most cooks perfectly. Since it has no special nonstick features, we recommend covering these with foil when using for easy cleanup, or using a silicone baking mat (see below).

Vremi 3-Piece Nonstick Baking Pan Set

vremi baking sheetsThis excellent sheet pan set comes with a half-sized and quarter-sized sheet pan, as well as a third size in between (roughly 1/3rd the size of a full sheet pan) so you have a size to suit most every dish imaginable. It comes with a nonstick coating that makes cleanup super easy (just make sure not to use metal spatulas or other metal tools with it) and silicone handles that make taking the pans in and out of the oven particularly painless. It's safe up to 450°F.

USA Pan XL Aluminized Steel Baking Sheet

USA Pan Baking SheetThis "extra large" sheet pan is really a two thirds-sized pan, which is an excellent choice for average or larger families and medium to large cooking tasks. It has a silicone-based nonstick coating and its corrugated design helps reinforce the pan to keep it from warping as well as contributing to the the pan's nonstick properties. It also comes in half- and quarter-sized pans if that suits you better.

Kitzini Silicone Nonstick Baking Mat Set

Silicone Baking MatsWhile we're talking about sheet pans, we'd be remiss not to introduce you to silicone baking mats. These non-stick mats fit perfectly into a half-sized baking sheet and are completely non-stick, which makes for super easy cleanup without having to use aluminum foil or parchment paper. They are particularly great for cookies and for veggies like potatoes that easily stick to regular aluminum pans.

Now Get Baking!

So, once you have all you need, it's time to get inspired! These are some of our favorite sheet pan meals will make you so glad you have one or two sheet pans at your disposal.

Oven Roasted Smoked Sausage & Potatoes

oven roasted smoked sausage & potatoesThis dish uses smoked sausage, onions, and potatoes for a savory and hearty dinner that tastes amazing. In an hour, the onions are caramelized, the potatoes and sausage browned, and the whole dish mouth-wateringly fragrant.

 

Lemon-Herb Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables

lemon-herb roasted vegetablesThis dish is packed with different autumnal vegetables like brussel sprouts, parsnips, and butternut squash. Its lemony flavor brightens up the whole dish for something truly special. It makes the perfect side dish or main dish. You can add chicken breasts too for a more filling meal.

Sheet Pan Fajitas

sheet pan fajitasThis is such an easy way to make fajitas. Sure to please just about anyone, these fajitas are deliciously seasoned and are great eaten with tortillas, avocado, and a little sour cream. Plus, it's ready in just 30 minutes.

What's your favorite thing to make in a sheet pan? Let us know in the comments, and happy baking!

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