The Half Sheet Pan
Until relatively recently, sheet pans were the secret weapon of professional kitchens. They’re what other styles of baking sheet aren’t: cheap, versatile, easy to clean, and nearly indestructible. Plus, like a beloved cast iron skillet, they build up a coating of naturally nonstick seasoning over time.
Eventually home cooks caught on and began swapping out their flimsy cookie sheets and baking pans for something more sturdy, which led to our current explosion of sheet-pan dinners and other recipes designed specifically for the tool.
While sheet pans come in several sizes, the 18-by-13-inch “half sheet” pan has emerged as the optimum size for most domestic kitchens. We’re also fans of quarter—and even eighth—sheet pans for smaller tasks, though if we had to pick only one size, our choice would be the half sheet.
Half sheet pans are usually made from aluminum, an excellent conductor of heat, which helps ingredients brown more quickly and baked goods cook more evenly in the oven. They also come in various gauges, or thicknesses (the higher the number, the thinner the metal). Our half sheet, made in the USA by Vollrath, is constructed from 18-gauge aluminum, which is the perfect thickness for lasting durability and maneuverability—just like our skillets!
What really sets the sheet pan apart from other styles of baking sheet is its rolled edge. This simple enhancement gives the pan its structure; where other baking sheets warp as they heat and cool, a good sheet pan stays perfectly flat at any temperature and after hundreds of uses. However, the rolled edge on some sheet pans doesn’t seal completely, allowing water to get trapped inside the channel, which leads to rust. Ours prevents this issue with “fully-encapsulated bead construction,” a complex way of saying “rust proof.”
While it’s probably easier to list the things a sheet pan can’t do, here are just some of the many ways we use one in our kitchen (and backyard):