100 Techniques

Technique #56: Arrange Ingredients for Great Sheet-Pan Suppers

Much like building a sturdy house, a smart blueprint and strong foundation make for the perfect dinner.

Published Sept. 6, 2023.

This is Technique #56 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master

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Sheet pans, or rimmed baking sheets, are quiet heroes of the kitchen. We turn to them for everything from roasting vegetables to baking cookies. But their broad, flat surface is also the perfect blank canvas for rendering an entire meal in a few bold brushstrokes.

Filling a sheet pan with all the ingredients of your choice and having that pan emerge from the oven a little while later as a great dinner is undeniably appealing. Paramount is how you arrange your chosen ingredients. 

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Your Cooking Environment Matters

Because the oven’s steady, dry heat makes the baking sheet’s perimeter hotter than the middle, sturdier ingredients like potatoes should be arranged either around the edges of the pan or as a bed for more tender vegetables. More delicate ingredients that are at higher risk of overcooking should be placed on top of or nestled into other ingredients or go in the middle.

Sometimes a protein (like a steak or chop) goes directly onto a preheated baking sheet, which helps it develop a good crust. In other instances, as with breaded cutlets or skin-on poultry, it’s better to elevate them with a wire rack to keep the exterior from turning soggy. As a bonus, the released juices and fat from the meat will moisten and flavor the ingredients on the sheet pan underneath. 

Consider Timing As Well As Placement

Another smart strategy is to coordinate when ingredients are added to the sheet pan. By arranging longer-cooking ingredients first, then adding quicker-cooking items later, each component gets its due time in the oven for an ideal outcome. This ensures that everything hits the table perfectly cooked and hot, just as it should be.

Use the Right Tools

Always use a heavyweight rimmed sheet pan for your sheet-pan suppers. Flimsy pans will warp in the extended high heat of the oven, leading to messy and potentially dangerous spillovers. For extremely delicate foods, like the eggs in our Huevos Rancheros, we even stack one rimmed sheet pan inside another for gentler cooking.

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Step-by-Step: How to Arrange a Perfect Sheet-Pan Dinner

When building anything, you need a good blueprint and the ability to see it through. The same applies to the best sheet-pan dinners. Knowing what you should be roasting ahead of time, how you should be layering the different elements of your meal, and when you should be adding each one is a skill, and one you can learn in our step-by-step guide, below. 

Step 1: Roast Some Veggies First 

Give sturdy vegetables, like sweet potatoes, a head start by roasting on their own until they begin to soften.

Step 2: Prep Your Ingredients

While vegetables cook, prepare remaining ingredients.

Step 3: Arrange Delicate Ingredients On Top 

Arrange more delicate vegetables, such as scallions, on top of partially cooked sturdy vegetables.

Step 4: Brown Meat Directly On Sheet Pan

Placing meat directly on hot sheet pan jump-starts browning. Continue roasting until meat is done and vegetables are fully tender, rotating sheet halfway through.

Step 5: Rest and Serve 

Transfer meat to cutting board to rest before slicing. Leave vegetables on baking sheet to keep warm until ready to serve.

Follow Ashley Moore as she constructs a delicious sheet-pan dinner.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Now that you’ve learned the perfect way to build a succulent sheet-pan dinner, you can apply this technique in recipes that use it. We’ve listed a few of our favorites below.


One-Pan Steak with Sweet Potatoes and Scallions

A nicely cooked steak with a great sear and sides, all ready at once? We doubted it, too.
Get the Recipe

Sheet-Pan Huevos Rancheros

To make huevos rancheros more manageable, we prepared them on a sheet pan.
Get the Recipe

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