Meet Your Kitchen’s Secret Weapon, the Mighty Sheet Pan

Don't underestimate this important tool.

Roasted Sheet Pan Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, and Broccoli

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

The sheet pan is one of the home kitchen’s unsung heroes. At first glance, it’s simply a broad metal pan that can be used in the oven, an indispensable tool for baking cookies and biscuits. But a sheet pan—also known as a baking sheet or baking tray—can be used to roast veggies, bake fish, and so much more. These days, savvy home cooks turn to their sheet pans to speed up meal prep or to throw together a no-fuss weeknight dinner.

So what exactly is a sheet pan? These flat, rectangular pans are typically made of some sort of heat-conductive metal, like aluminum. They’re designed like trays with rimmed edges (about an inch high) that prevent food from sliding out of the pan, and can be placed in the oven. They differ from cookie sheets, which tend to be rimless in order to allow you to slide baked goods off the tray and onto a cooling rack.

How to Buy a Sheet Pan

When shopping for a sheet pan, look for one made of aluminum, which distributes heat well and is typically quite affordable. If you like nonstick surfaces, you can opt for an aluminum pan with a nonstick or ceramic coating which makes cleaning up a bit easier. If you don’t have any issues with lifting heavier pans, opt for one made of heavy gauge aluminum or aluminized steel. While lightweight pans can be easier to maneuver, they might succumb to warping when placed in the oven.

Best Sizes of Sheet Pans for Most Home Cooks

Baking trays are offered in a number of sizes, but the most useful size for a home cook is the half sheet pan. This pan typically measures 18 x 13 inches and fits most residential ovens. The quarter sheet pan measures 13 x 9 inches, exactly half the size of a half sheet pan and is ideal for toaster ovens or storing prepped ingredients in the refrigerator. You can also use two quarter sheets side-by-side in the oven to keep items separate when roasting. The eight sheet is half the size of the quarter sheet, measuring 9 x 6.5 inches. This is useful for reheating pizza or roasting small amounts of veggies or nuts.

pulled pork nachos

The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

Easy and Delicious Sheet Pan Dinner Recipes

If you’re a meal planner, you’re probably already using a baking sheet to roast trays of Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or chicken thighs. But dinner and sheet pans go way beyond those dishes! Check out these recipes for sheet pan dinners that let you make an entire meal on one pan (and often in less than an hour)—perfect for no-fuss weeknight cooking. 

Here are a few of our favorite sheet pan dinner recipes to get you started:

  • Pulled Pork Nachos: An easy appetizer or snack that comes together in about 20 minutes, start to finish.
  • Sheet Pan Greek Chicken: Colorful roasted vegetables and herbed chicken bake together… to perfection.
  • Salmon Teriyaki: Fish in a tangy teriyaki sauce cooks alongside a rainbow of assorted vegetables.
  • Christmas Dinner: Seriously! Ham, veggies, and even dinner rolls create a holiday meal (or just Sunday supper) in less than two hours.