The best pans in my kitchen are my quarter sheet pans. I have a stack of them, ready and waiting for both everyday cooking and larger culinary projects. What is a quarter sheet pan? It’s the miniature version of the classic 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet (which is called a half-sheet pan because it’s half the size of the even larger commercial-use full-sheet tray).
Rimmed baking sheets are first and foremost for the oven. The standard half-sheet tray is so popular because it fits perfectly in most home ovens with just the right amount of room on all sides to promote air and heat circulation. While I value my half-sheet pans dearly and use them for all sorts of things—think one-pan dinners and roasting large foods—my quarter sheets get even more play. You can fit two of the smaller pans side-by-side on the same oven rack. This is ideal for roasting more than one thing if you don’t want them mingling on the same tray. For instance, maybe you want fish and some roasted potatoes, but don’t care for fishy spuds.
I use this parallel roasting technique when I’m prepping vegetables for the week. While a melange of roasted veggies is an excellent thing to have on hand, I prefer to have the different vegetables cooked and stored separately. This way, I can use them in various applications and ensure each type of vegetable is cooked properly.
A quarter sheet pan is also great for heating up leftovers. As Daniel points out in his story about eighth pans, you have to pick the right size pan for the job. You don’t want too much extra space around the reheating food, as it just allows for more room for juices and sauces to run and burn. But, when I’m heating up leftovers for my family of three, the quarter sheet works perfectly.
I even recommend having at least three quarter sheet pans for making easy layer cakes. The 1-inch depth is perfect for creating even layers of cake to slather with frosting and stack on top of one another. It’s so much easier than making a round layer cake and you don’t have to mess with torting a thicker cake (slicing it horizontally into even layers) or waiting around for your pans to cool to bake subsequent layers.
Quarter sheet pans are heroes outside of the oven, too. I do the majority of my mise en place on quarter sheets because they easily fit in my home refrigerator. Unlike a half-sheet pan, the quarter sheets also fit in my freezer. This is really helpful when I want to flash-freeze things on a flat surface–like fragile raspberries or balls of cookie dough–before bagging them up in freezer bags for long-term storage.
My kids also have their own uses for quarter sheets: They make the ultimate movie night snack trays. We load up a tray for each person with little piles of their favorite treats for personalized snacking bliss. Quarter sheets are kind of the perfect TV dinner tray, too.
Even if I’m not doing the actual cooking on a quarter sheet pan, I take advantage of its heat-handling prowess. Moving pancakes off the griddle as they finish cooking? Removing seared meat from a Dutch oven? No matter the final destination, the quarter sheet pan is the best transitional vessel because of its ideal size–you can comfortably and stably hold it with one hand while maneuvering hot food with the other. Overturned quarter sheets also work well as trivets to protect your table from hot serving dishes and skillets.
When you’re done with your cooking, that’s when the quarter sheet pan really shines brighter than bigger baking pans. Whether you’ve used it for prep, roasting, baking, serving, or shuttling hot things around, it’s easy to clean. It fits into just about any sink, too. And once the quarter sheet pans are all scrubbed and dried, they stack up into a nice little pile, ready to be of service tomorrow.
Can quarter sheet pans go in the dishwasher?
You should always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before washing your sheet pans in the dishwasher. In general, we recommend hand washing sheet pans to preserve their finish and to prevent warping–over time, exposure to high dishwasher temperatures and harsh chemical detergents can harm some sheet pans.
Do quarter sheet pans fit in a toaster oven?
A quarter sheet tray will fit in most, but not all toaster ovens. Our favorite toaster oven, the Breville Smart Oven, has room to spare around a quarter sheet tray; however, a quarter sheet would not fit in our favorite small toaster oven, the Panasonic FlashXpress.