Many people have lots of fancy kitchen equipment, including all sorts of dishes, cutters, graters, blenders and mixers and the latest silicone cookware. But, surprisingly one item is often missing from the inventory - the humble half-sheet baking pan.
These sheet pans are common in most commercial kitchens as full size pans, but half-size pans are more suitable for small domestic ovens.
Sheet pans are very versatile for cooking an entire chicken, in pieces, potatoes, carrots, onions and green vegetables in the oven all at once. These pans are convenient and there is minimal cleanup.
Sheet pans are solid with low sides, that mean that meat portions are cooked and browned much better than in a deep baking dish.
These pans are ideal for many baked goods such as baklava and for many sweets, flans and slices. The ideal a half-sheet pan measured 18 x 13 inches (45 x 33 cm) and is made of heavy metal, stainless steel or aluminum.
This article discusses why half-sheet pans are ideal for cooking and offers some great recipes for them.
If you don't have any of these pans, do yourself a favor and buy several. Even good quality pans cost less than $20 and they last a lifetime.
The stainless steel ones are more expensive and are easier to clean. They are the preferred option especially if you are concerned about tainting or residues from aluminum.
They are extremely versatile not only for baking foods, but also for cooking asparagus, eggplant, root vegetables and fish.
You would not cook a whole chicken or a leg of lamb on them, but they are ideal for smaller portions of all types of meats. the shallowness of the trays helps the meat brown and become crisp when cooked.
Half Sheet Pans are heavier and deeper than cookie sheet or even deep sided pizza pans, but these sheets do not work as well and the genuine half sheet pans. They are the equivalent to a wok used in the oven, in the sense that various food items are added and cooked in sequence and combined into a single dish at the end of the cooking process.
Roasting pans, with taller sides are great for roasting turkeys, chickens and large pieces of meat, but roasting pans are less suitable for collections of smaller pieces of meat.
Potatoes and many vegetables do not roast well in deep pans because the higher sides inhibit browning. The lower sides means that the heat distributes and circulates more evenly and the steam escapes.
When cooking with half sheet pans the key is the timing as it is for cooking in a wok. The choice is to cook all the individual items and then to assemble at the end. Otherwise, each of the items is added in the right sequence so that all the items are cooked perfectly at the end. This means starting with the slowest cooking ingredient first such as the meat or whole potatoes. Then the quicker cooking items are added progressively, ending with the leafy green vegetables and herbs.
You can even up the cooking times by cutting potatoes and similar vegetables into smaller pieces. Potatoes, turnips, parsnips, onions, carrots, celeriac, rutabagas, or even radishes and beets can be cut up and added to the pan. Spread them out and sprinkle with olive oil, spices, salt, pepper and herbs. make sure there is plenty of room between the items to encourage then to cook evenly. Put the pan in the oven and roast until all the items are golden brown and crisp, or how you like them.
A temperature around 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) is ideal but not critical and it may depend on what is required for the meat. The protein can be cooked in a second pan or add at the right time to the single pan. Timing depends on the type and size of the meat pieces. Generally fish, chicken and small pieces of meat can be added when the denser root vegetables are half cooked and well before the green leafy vegetables. Ideally everything comes out of the oven at the same time.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into slices about 1-inch (2 cm). Wrap each potato in 2 layers of foil and bake until very tender (about 60-75 minutes).
Make the mustard butter a small bowl, by combining the chopped thyme leaves and whole-grain mustard. Mince 2 garlic cloves and add to the bowl. Add the butter and Dijon and stir to combine.
Next, season the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the mustard butter. Then toss the chicken pieces in the bread crumbs to coat well. Transfer the breaded chicken pieces to a greased baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
When the sweet potatoes have baked for about 30 minutes, put the pan with chicken into the oven and bake until chicken is golden and cooked inside (generally about 35 to 40 minutes).
Toss the broccoli rabe pieces with olive oil, and season with salt and the red pepper flakes. Add 2 cloves and crushed and spread through the rabe. Spread the broccoli rabe out on another baking sheet pan. Put into the oven with the chicken and potatoes for the last 10 minutes of total cooking time. All the items should be cooked at the end of the cooking period.
To serve, combine some mustard with the yogurt in a small bowl and use to dress the potatoes and as a sauce for the chicken.
For the Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a half-sheet pan with cooking spray. Combine the butter, water, cocoa and espresso powder in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat mixing regularly until the butter melts.
Next whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix to combine the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk mixture. Whisk to combine well into a stiff batter.
Pour the mixture into the greased half baking pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes) on wire rack while making the frosting. The slight cooling before pouring on the frosting gives the cake a better texture.
To make the frosting combine the buttermilk, cocoa, butter, vanilla, espresso powder and salt in a small saucepan and heat over low heat. When butter is melted, increase the heat to moderate and bring the mixture to the boil. Then remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the icing sugar, mixing vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Mix in toasted pecans.
After cake has cooled for about 10-15 minutes, pour the warm frosting over the warm cake and spread evenly. Cool the cake, still in the pan on a wire rack for 3-4 hours to allow the frosting to permeate through the cake and set.
For more fabulous recipes see: => Baking with Sheet Pans, Best Half Sheet Pan Size to Buy, Recipes