Lindsay Maitland Hunt

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Healthy Cooking Essentials: In Praise of Rimmed Baking Sheets

While writing Healthyish, I went back and forth about whether to include a list of tools to keep in your kitchen. When there are so many general cooking books offering similar advice, I wondered whether I should add to the noise. Do I really need to provide a list of what to have in your kitchen, when almost every cookbook offers one? In the end I decided no—Healthyish was about encouraging people to cook, not about making them feel like they needed to buy a bunch of kitchen equipment.

Now that I am writing a cookbook about gut health, I see the value now in giving a simple list of essential tools, because an easier, more streamlined experience in the kitchen makes it easier to commit to a new way of eating. It’s fine to wing it when you’re boiling pasta and topping it with butter and cheese, but a soggy salad because you don’t have a salad spinner? That’s a shame. Or maybe you can’t rinse your beans or grains because you don’t have a large fine-mesh strainer? It just makes healthy cooking feel like a chore. The right tools can save you money, too, as in the case of my all-time favorite lemon squeezer, which gets 20% more juice out of every lemon.

After almost a decade working in test kitchens and my experience reviewing kitchen tools at Real Simple Magazine, I’ve developed the expertise to know what’s worth buying (and what’s not), and which brands make the best version. I’ll be sharing one tool at a time, then eventually rounding these up into a guide to stocking a healthy kitchen on my website. And, yes, there will be a guide in my next book, and probably every one after that.

Today we are starting with rimmed baking sheets, which are the key to amazingly delicious vegetables.

6 Reasons Why Rimmed Baking Sheets are a Healthy Kitchen Essential

It wasn’t until today while hanging out at my sister’s apartment watching her roast three batches of cauliflower in a single 9-by-13 baking pan, that I realized I had taken the ubiquity of rimmed baking sheets in professional kitchens for granted.

If you don’t own rimmed baking sheets already, I think they’ll make a revolutionary difference in your cooking experience. Too far? I don’t think so. I rely on these baking sheets to keep pancakes and waffles hot in the oven so I can serve everyone at once, I use them to toast nuts and seeds, and when I decorate sugar cookies, I do it on a the small, quarter-sheet size, so that sprinkles and icing don’t run all over the table.

If you have another way you make use of your rimmed baking sheets, please let me know in the comments!

  1. Less Mess: A rimmed baking sheet prevents little bits from falling into the oven, making it easier to toss roasted vegetables, granola, or allowing any juices to slip down onto the oven floor.

  2. Streamlined Recipe Prep: You might have seen these types of prepped trays on cooking shows with the “mise en place” of a recipe’s ingredients. The rim keeps everything from sliding around as you move the tray. If you’re the type of cook who discovers you don’t have an ingredient half way through a recipe—try this tip.

  3. Avoiding Soggy Grains: Spreading cooked grains (e.g. brown rice, barley) and grain-like seeds (quinoa, millet, etc.) on a rimmed baking sheet after cooking and draining helps them cool quickly, avoiding them becoming soggy.

  4. Corralling Ingredients in the Fridge: I use the smaller quarter sheet pans to keep like-ingredients together in the fridge. For instance, condiments or prepped salad ingredients.

  5. You Can Set a Wire Rack Inside a Rimmed Baking Sheet: Why does this matter? Well, you can roast meats on top and catch the drippings below, or when drizzling chocolate on caramels or cookies, the mess is easily contained.

  6. Easy Handling of Hot Dishes: I set almost every baking dish onto a rimmed baking sheet, whether it’s a casserole dish, pie plate, or springform pan. It’s much easier to move a hot pie in and out of the oven when you can grip a rimmed tray, and you don’t risk sticking an oven mitt into the food.

Shopping information:

Rimmed baking sheets aren’t too pricey considering what a kitchen workhorse they are. Avoid ridged or nonstick ones if possible, since I find they steam rather than give vegetables a nice caramelized edge.

My favorite brand is Nordic Ware, and I recommend buying 2 Quarter Sheet Pans ($23 for both) and 2 Half Sheet Pans ($20 for both) to start.