Cooking day after day and actually enjoying it means really leaning into whatever makes it easier for you.
In order to not grow tired of cooking (okay, to not hate cooking) at any point during the 630-or-so meals I’ve made since March, I’ve cycled through a whole host of tricks: meal prep, nextovers, one-pot dinners. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes things got a little weird: I ate more hard-boiled eggs and things-on-toast than I have since college. I reheated a single pot of beans more times than I will tell you.
The thing that’s worked for me recently? Just letting the oven do its thing. I’m sure there are cooks out there who would prefer to have a pot or pan sizzling away, clearly in their line of sight, rather than tucking something into the oven and hoping for the best. I want to hope for the best. (Spoiler: It nearly always turns out just fine.) Trays of end-of-season tomatoes get juicy, saucy, and umami-rich. Sweet potatoes take on a caramel flavor. Taco night becomes a one pan kind of deal.
To do this, I need very few tools: a good knife, a cutting board, a cast-iron skillet, and my favorite, a Nordic Ware sheet pan.
It wasn’t until I started working at Epicurious that I bought my first Nordic Ware sheet pan—and I’ll be honest, I did it begrudgingly. Of all the groovy gadgets out there, why home in on the sheet pan? Aren’t all sheet pans basically the same? But my colleagues who rigorously tested sheet pans and found the Nordic Ware to be the best were absolutely right: That pan has not warped in the slightest and has stayed cleaner than its older, cheaper companion. It transmits heat evenly to every corner. It works hard for me, and I love it for that.
The secret to these pans is twofold. First, they have rolled edges, which unlike the short, upturned edges of cheaper pans, give support that prevents warping, even under the blast of a broiler. Second, the commercial-grade aluminum is sturdy enough to transmit heat evenly, and again, resist the dreaded warping.
That first pan I bought is still in perfect working condition, but since I can’t look at my other sheet pans since buying my Nordic Ware, I’m going to stock up this Prime Day. Fall and winter are the seasons where I seem to never not be putting a tray of smashed potatoes, or cookies, or spice-doused cauliflower florets in the oven, so always having a clean one is key.
One note on sizing: Some ovens only fit a quarter-sheet pan (which is small enough to work as a handy catchall for oils and vinegars on your countertop). For most home ovens, the half-sheet size is perfect. Do not go for the full-sheet pan: This one’s made for commercial ovens and is huge.
I’ve been relying on Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table as well as some of my favorite back-pocket dishes like a citrusy roast salmon from our digital director David Tamarkin’s COOK90 book. Pair a sheet pan with one of these (or a great baking book like Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person, which comes out next week) and you’ve got a great gift—maybe even better than one of those groovy, high-tech kitchen gadgets.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious