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Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

No, you don't just dump ingredients on a pan and pop it in the oven.

February 20, 2018

Your sheet pan is the key to creating meals that don't wreak havoc in the kitchen. When it comes together, the prep takes no time, and the cleanup is a snap. But you can't just toss everything onto the pan, throw it into the oven, and expect it to come out looking (or tasting) perfect. Here are 7 quick tips to help you make the most out of any sheet pan recipe:

1. Add Food in Stages

Foods of varying sizes and densities will take different lengths of time in the oven. Start cooking meats first. Add hearty vegetables (like potatoes) a few minutes later and delicate veggies (greens, green beans) last.

2. Position Everything Wisely

Place whole proteins in the center of the sheet pan (where they’ll absorb the most heat), and scatter the vegetables on both sides.

3. When Prepping, Aim for Uniform Sizes

Cut vegetables to the same size and shape (too large and they won’t cook through, too small and they’ll burn). Look for meat cuts of the same thickness so they’ll cook evenly.

Layers of graham cracker crust, rich dark chocolate, and fluffy marshmallow make for a dazzling dessert:

4. Preheat the Pan

Place the baking sheet in the oven as it preheats to create a sizzling surface for the food; this will create a browned crust.

5. Keep Moisture Out

Excess water is the enemy of sheet pan cooking because the oven has to work harder to evaporate moisture before it can brown and cook the food. Pat meat and rinsed veggies dry before cooking.

RELATED: 3 Unusual Sheet Pan Dinners That Are Actually Worth Making

6. Don’t Overcrowd The Ingredients

Allow room on the pan for air to circulate. If food is packed too tightly, any moisture that’s released won’t evaporate— giving you soggy results.

7. Test for Doneness

It’s hard to tell when meats are done when you can’t prod them throughout cooking as you would on a stovetop. Take their temp with a meat thermometer (We like this one from OXO).