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When I first heard of sheet pan meals, they sounded too good to be true.
Throw everything on a sheet pan, put it in the oven and dinner is served.
I knew better.
Honestly, I am picky with my food. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I’m not picky with what type of food I eat, as I pretty much try everything. But I am picky with how it’s prepared, what texture it has and hot food has to be steaming.
In my own kitchen, thankfully, I control the factors. I’m sharing this with you so you can see I am not easily impressed with Pinterest trends for food.
Pictures vs. Reality
While I love watching sheet pan meal prep videos as much as the next person, actual reality looks a lot different.
Cooking time is longer than stated in the recipe. Seasonings don’t taste right. Soggy veggies. Overcooked veggies and undercooked meat together on the sheet pan.
I cooked enough in my life so I wasn’t going to be easily convinced.
I still needed something fast and easy a few nights a week. We already eat a ton of soup and salad for lunches, so soup in a crockpot wasn’t my solution. I never have liked the taste of any crockpot meat I cooked, except pulled pork and beef stew, so that wasn’t a good route for me either.
My instant pot is great for some things, but again, a bit over-hyped in my opinion. You sacrifice a lot of flavor and nice looks for the sake of quick cooking.
I knew I wasn’t a fan and I grouped sheet pan dinners in the same category.
But, 3 beautiful kids, homeschooling, working from home, and a passion for healthy food were enough motivation to at least give this quick cooking method a try.
Not to mention, even one of my favorite bloggers talks a lot about the gloriousness of sheet pan meal prep. She can’t be wrong! (Right?)
Top 5 Reasons Why You Must Try Sheet Pan Meals
So with much doubt, I decided to investigate and try out sheet pan meals.
I learned a lot and in a short time, I became a sheet pan aficionado. With modifications of course.
For all you fellow doubters out there, here are 5 reasons why sheet pan recipes will change dinner time and your meal planning game forever!
By the way, I have a free resource for meal planning, check it out.
Back to sheet pan meals and why you should try them!
1. Sheet Pan Meals Are Quick (Duh)
I gave you enough of a backstory to show I am not easily impressed with “quick and easy” in the kitchen.
But one of the first reasons to try sheet pan meals is the short time it takes to make them.
There’s no cooking involved outside of the oven. Setting something in the oven means forget it and walk away till the timer lets you know your food needs attention.
I’m not gonna lie, it takes practice. You can’t rely on somebody else’s oven to tell you exactly how long will your sheet pan chicken take. After cooking a recipe a few times though, you will have a pretty good feel for it.
Most sheet pan recipes call for a 400-425 degree oven. That’s pretty hot. The higher temperature ensures fast cooking, nice color, and a yummy crisp. Major plus if you’re a texture person like me.
If you have your ingredients prepped, sheet pan meals go even faster, which brings me to my next point.
2. Sheet Pan Recipes Can Be Prepped Ahead
They were actually made for serious meal preppers like me! Meal prepping dinner is one of the ways I cut down on unnecessary cleanups and simplify my life at home.
Every week on Sunday (sometimes Saturday), I wash and chop most of the veggies for the week. They seem to take the longest task when cooking. Besides cutting up veggies, you could also trim and season the meat ahead of time.
One modification I make is that I don’t put my sheet pan meals completely together ahead of time and cover with foil as many sites suggest. I don’t like onion and garlic stinking up my fridge.
The most I do is put everything I prep in an airtight container until I need it.
Throwing them on the pan takes exactly three seconds.
I don’t cut up potatoes either, because they get brown when exposed to air. So either use baby potatoes or if your kids don’t like those, cut up potatoes on the day of cooking.
3. Sheet Pan Dinners Are Versatile
I like variety in the kitchen but not so often that it’s overwhelming.
Cooking has to be on autopilot if I am going to provide healthy meals for my family. However, once I have served the same rotation of foods for a few weeks, I am usually ready to try something new.
If you’re like me, you’re gonna love the versatility of sheet pan meals.
I’m pretty sure, the variations of meats, veggies, and starches are endless.
There are sheet pan recipes for different seasons to accommodate seasonal veggies. I tried sheet pan meals that created a flavorful warm salad for a lighter dinner or found heartier meals for when you have teen boys at your table.
Sheet pan meals are perfect for when you have no idea what to cook and only have basic ingredients in your house. If you want, you can also make sheet pan meals fancy and nobody will ever know you didn’t cook all day.
4. Sheet Pan Meals Are Cheap
Cooking with minimal ingredients and keeping meals simple will always result in a reduced food bill. Yes, meal planning itself will do that too, but if you’re gonna cook filet mignon with shrimp risotto every night, chances are you will be paying up even if you plan ahead.
So the secret of sheet pan meals is in their simplicity. You can use what’s on sale or what’s in season. You can use veggies in your fridge that aren’t so fresh because roasting will bring them to new life.
Frozen veggies are just as good of a choice, and they’re often better quality than out of season produce you find fresh.
If you include meat in your sheet pan meal, it doesn’t have to be the main ingredient. You can chop it to pieces and hide it among veggies and top your potatoes or rice with the mixture. This will further stretch your money.
Chickpeas or other legumes are another welcome addition to sheet pan meals. They’re affordable and hight in fiber and protein. Win-win-win.
5. Sheet Pan Meals Were Made For A Crowd
This closely relates to my previous point where I told you sheet pan meals are pretty cheap. That’s not the only reason why they’re good for a crowd.
Have you thought about how convenient it is to throw something together and then forget it? Though you’ll have to stir them usually once, you don’t normally have to babysit sheet pan meals.
This gives you a chance to visit with your dinner guests instead of slaving over the stove.
Serving the meal is also easy because sheet pan meals look good in their natural habitat. Why disturb them? A nice sheet pan with colorful veggies and meat inside is irresistible. You can provide several spatulas for everybody to dig in with.
You won’t have to scrub dishes for hours either, because sheet pan meals are best when you line the pan with parchment or foil. Even if some juice or oil seeped under the liner, it won’t stick or burn to it much, if at all.
Often, I’m able to just wipe down my sheet pan and put it back in the drawer.
I hope I managed to convince you of the benefits of sheet pan dinners. Let me bring you another step farther and show you the best tools I know of, for meal prepping sheet pan dinners.
Tools For Fool-Proof Sheet Pan Meal Prep
Here are the essentials:
Bonus: 3 Of My Favorite Sheet Pan Recipes
I can’t leave you without a few recipes to try, can I!
Here are my top three favorite sheet pan dinner recipes for your enjoyment.
I love this meal because it turns into a hearty salad. My husband said he never in a million years would have chosen this combination, but it works and the result is delicious! I agree.
Since this dish has fall favors, I prefer to make it during the colder months. It’s one of those seasonal sheet pan meals you will crave year after year.
I serve mine with feta crumbles on top and a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Yum!
Our favorite night of the week is taco night. The kids could eat basic beef tacos every night of the week, but I like to mix things up a bit. I love pork carnitas and enchiladas too, but these sheet pan chicken fajitas recipe is my fave.
You can meal prep everything ahead of time, so after baking all you need to add are the tortillas and toppings. I used to make fajitas on the stovetop but I am never going back.
I like to separate the chicken from the peppers because I find that the cooking times aren’t the same. So I use two separate pans for each and mix them up when cooked through.
The reason why I love this combo so much is that shrimp is my favorite way to eat seafood. I’m learning to like fish, but shrimp will always be my favorite, fast cooking protein of choice.
I never had much use for shell and tail-on shrimp. It’s such a hassle to peel!
But I find this recipe to taste better with shrimp that hasn’t been peeled. (I use frozen)
Leaving the shell on prevents the shrimp from shriveling up too much. I also really like the way it soaks up just enough of the seasoning and lemon juice.
And when you peel cooked shrimp, your reward is immediate.
I serve this meal with oven-roasted potatoes (spread on a sheet pan of course), rice or quinoa.
It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Are you ready to try sheet pan meals? Let me know how it goes!
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