A Simple Hack to Upgrade Your Cooking Sheet Game

Don’t you love your cooking sheets? Just this morning I made sausage and diner potatoes on a sheet, and my wife is a huge fan of those one-pan meals like sausage and mixed vegetables roasted in the oven.

The problem we often get with sheet-pan cooking is that it doesn’t brown our food as thoroughly as a standard skillet. Sausage just isn’t the same without some browning around the edges. And an un-browned steak? Forget about it.

I have one super simple fix to rectify the problem: when you preheat your oven, preheat with the pan already inside.

It’s that simple!

Why does this work?

Heating something up takes a lot of energy. You don’t want to have to heat up your cooking apparatus at the same time you heat up your food. Think about it: you always put the skillet on the stove and let it get nice and hot before you add your oil (unless you’re using the fancy cold-sear technique, which I’ll write about some other day). Then you let your oil heat up before adding everything else.

It’s the same concept in your oven. You have a big piece of metal you’re about to cook your food on, and you don’t want to have to spend all the energy heating that thing up at the same time you’re cooking your food.

So what exactly are the benefits?

Easy, there are three:

  1. Your food will cook faster.
  2. There’s less of a chance of your food sticking as long as you oil the pan correctly.
  3. The food will brown better around the edges without burning in the middle.

Simple and easy, right? Well here’s mine and my wife’s favorite pan dinner to give you some practice.

Matthew's One-Pan Sausage and Root Veggie Dinner

This is one of my family's favorite meals on busy weeknights. It is high in protein and essential nutrients, and it leaves you with only a couple of dishes to wash. Feel free to swap out the Italian sausage for your preferred variety. In this case I prefer the Italian because it tends to be more acidic, sweet, and spicy, which contrasts well with the brussels sprouts.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Serving size: 3
Calories per serving: 563

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups halved brussels sprouts
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/3 - 1/2 cup rendered beef tallow or other high-smoke-point cooking oil
3 large Italian sausage links
1 cup thin-sliced almonds (optional)
fresh lemon juice to taste

1. Place a sheet pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Thoroughly wash the sprigs of thyme and strip the leaves off of them.
3. In a glass bowl, combine the diced sweet potatoes, halved brussel sprouts and cauliflower florets with the rendered beef tallow and thyme leaves. Toss them and mix them to make sure they're thoroughly coated.
4. Once the oven is preheated, evenly spread the vegetable mixture over the hot cooking sheet. Cook for about 15 minutes.
5. While the vegetables cook, slice or tear your sausage into bite-sized pieces (I personally prefer to tear the sausage as it leaves more jagged bits on the ends. This leaves more surface area and contributes to better browning).
6. After about fifteen minutes, remove the sheet pan from the oven, toss its contents to turn the brown sides up, then add your sausage on top of the vegetables.
7. Cook for another fifteen minutes. It will be done cooking once the sweet potato is tender when stabbed with a fork.
8. During this last five or so minutes, you may add your optional sliced almonds to the pan as well. Let them get buttery and brown, but be careful not to burn them.
9. Garnish with lemon and flaky salt.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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    Matthew Christensen
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2023
    Email the author! matthew@dvo.com


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