For the Glossiest, Sauciest Sheet-Pan Chicken, Grab a Jar of Jam

Photo by Elizabeth Coetzee, Food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

Glazing is about as chic as cooking techniques go. Enrobing meat or veggies in a thick, mirror-like sauce that’s as shiny as lip gloss is an impressive move. A roasted carrot is great, sure; a glazed carrot is a stone-cold stunner. But replicating a restaurant-quality glaze at home requires a bit of practice. Too much sugar and it becomes saccharine, too little and it’s dull. Lucky for you, there is a common pantry ingredient that can help you replicate pro-level shimmer without much work at all: jam. Yes, the very same jam that you’d eat slathered on toast is your shortcut to a polished glaze on tonight’s dinner. Let me explain.

For a glaze to properly caramelize, char, and become as shiny as possible, it needs to have a sizable quantity of sugar in it. (But not too much!) Most glazes call upon honey, maple syrup, or straight granulated sugar to achieve this effect, but jam works harder: It provides sugar, acidity, and flavor.

Just about any variety of preserves will work—whichever jams, jellies, or conserves you have in your fridge or pantry. Avoid sugar-free options, since they won’t caramelize properly in the oven, and stay away from jams that are excessively seedy unless you’re okay with some additional pops of texture. In a glaze for chicken, apricot is my personal favorite. It’s just sweet enough while still delivering bright tangy character and a ripe fruity flavor that is not at all overpowering. Orange marmalade, strawberry jam, and seedless raspberry would all work well. Heck, even a nostalgic concord grape jam would work—so go rogue and grab whatever jam speaks to you.

Now that you have your jam picked out, there are a few things you have to add in order to unlock its true glazing potential. A splash of olive oil heightens the glaze’s browning ability while a glug of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar tame the jam’s sweetness and lend a salty-acidic edge. Finally, minced garlic and Dijon mustard amp up the savory factor, and after that, your glaze is ready.

You can glaze just about any protein that you plan to roast—try using it to add a little shine to pork loin or fish. It’s a low-stress affair: This glaze can roast for a very long time without burning. Use it to coat chicken pieces prior to roasting, and you’ll transform meat you might consider mundane into something worthy of a special night. Just slather it on the chicken and let it bake. I’ve found that it works well on vegetables too. Toss cut carrots in it; the sticky sauce heightens their natural sweetness. Or split the glaze in half and roast both veg and chicken legs all together for a two-for-one sheet-pan dinner that gleams.

Sheet-Pan Sticky Apricot Chicken

Jesse Szewczyk

Originally Appeared on Epicurious

More cooking tricks and tips from Epicurious