Upgrading to a good sheet tray feels like the kitchen tool equivalent of redoing the electrical wiring in a fixer-upper. It’s necessary. Although it might not seem particularly fun, you’ll so appreciate the upgrade. And you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
Nordic Ware sheet pans are the best in the business. They’re made of natural aluminum, which makes them heat quickly and evenly—ideal for baking. And they have rims to prevent both spills and warping. The sizing of sheet pans is admittedly a bit confusing: A half sheet is actually the standard size a home cook would use. Full sheet pans will fit only in commercial ovens. This three-piece set is a great starter because it has a standard 18×13-inch half sheet, which is generally what recipes call for. Then there is the quarter sheet, which is—yes, you guessed it—half the size of the half sheet. This size is perfect for smaller crowds or portions. Last in the set is the big sheet, which is still smaller than a traditional full sheet and should easily fit in your home oven. Use it for bigger projects when you need more space. (There are few jobs you can’t get done with this set, but I do have an inexplicable soft spot for the adorable and ridiculously tiny eighth sheet tray. I have used it for roasting a lone chicken breast and that’s about it.)
Beyond baking, the uses for sheet pans are endless. I love them for roasted veggies. The rims are high enough to protect from spills but low enough to allow air to circulate around the veggies, making them crispy. (A higher-rimmed casserole dish traps moisture and steams veggies.) I’ve been roasting turkeys on top of a wire rack set inside a half sheet for years for the same reason—crackling skin all around. I love them for a sheet-pan dinner, crispy-bottomed focaccia, and in lieu of a pizza stone, I’ll preheat an inverted sheet tray on the lowest rack in my oven and slide my dough directly on it.
My favorite use of the sheet pan, however, isn’t for cooking. It’s for organizing my mise en place—which is the French-derived culinary phrase for putting everything in its place and setting up your station before cooking. If I have a few recipes I’m testing at once, I’ll divvy up the ingredients for each dish on a quarter sheet pan to stay organized. I’ll use one to hold my mirepoix for soup while I chop. I’ll line up fixings for grain bowls, summer rolls, or taco night in pretty rows on a quarter sheet pan. If I’m grilling, I load up everything I’ll need on a half sheet—olive oil, tongs, a towel, salt, a knife, lemons—and use it as a portable finishing station. I’ll put marinated meats on a sheet pan before heading out to grill and have a clean one nested below, ready to switch when the meat comes off the grill to rest. Depending on how rustic I’m feeling, I’ll even serve from a sheet pan. They’re much easier to clean than my wedding china.