In my kitchen, the sheet pan is one of the hardest-working pieces of equipment I own. It's nothing more than a large, rimmed baking sheet, but I seem to use it daily for everything from roasting a pork loin to catching any overflow from a casserole to prevent it from burning on my oven floor.

Nowhere is it more effective, though, than when it's put to use in the form of a sheet-pan dinner. This old technique is getting lots of new attention, as it should.

The sheet-pan dinner is one in which all the ingredients are spread out on a baking sheet and cooked together, making meal preparation and cleanup quick and easy. Sounds good, right?

It is, if you keep a few simple rules in mind. For instance, not all food cooks at the same time, so if your meal has, for instance, shrimp and potatoes, you'll need to start the potatoes first, and give them enough of a head start so they'll be finished at the same time as the shrimp, which may take only a few minutes.

On the flip side, you can start everything at once and remove items as they're cooked, letting the slowpokes continue to roast until all the ingredients are appropriately done, as is the case with today's Deviled Chicken and Summer Vegetable Sheet-Pan Dinner.

The boneless, skinless chicken breasts, slathered in a zippy mustard sauce and coated with buttery breadcrumbs and cheese, cook more quickly than the vegetables. If these were all in the oven for the same amount of time, you'd end up with tough, dry chicken or undercooked veggies. Pulling the chicken out early lets you cook it until it's done, keeping it moist. The vegetables go back in the oven to finish cooking while the chicken rests.

Another hot topic is oven temperature. When you have so many ingredients on a pan at the same time, you will have a certain amount of liquid that will be released from those ingredients. That's why it's important to have the oven at a fairly high temperature, so the liquid has a chance to evaporate in the cooking process. It's hard for food to roast if it's too busy swimming.

Which leads me to another rule: Don't overcrowd. Your food needs a little room to breathe. Less can sometimes be more. If you pile on a ton of ingredients, again, they tend to release too much liquid to evaporate. Keep everything in one layer and make sure you can see the bottom of the pan here and there.

If you stick to the guidelines, you will be rewarded with a perfectly cooked meal and only one pan to wash. It's a win-win.

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Twitter ­at @meredithdeeds.

Deviled Chicken and Summer Vegetable Sheet-Pan Dinner

Serves 4.

Note: A generous amount of Dijon mustard and just a little cayenne give the flavorful and moist chicken a delightfully devilish touch. Summer veggies round out this simple and easy sheet-pan dinner. Panko bread crumbs are larger and lighter than the traditional breadcrumb, which could be substituted. From Meredith Deeds.

• 1/3 c. Dijon mustard

• 1 medium shallot, finely chopped

• 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

• 1 tsp. salt, divided

• 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided

• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

• 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs (see Note)

• 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

• 2 tbsp. melted butter

• 2 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise, then into 2-in. pieces crosswise

• 1 c. cherry tomatoes

• 1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/4-in. slices

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 garlic cloves, minced


Heat oven to 425 degrees.

In small bowl, stir together mustard, shallot, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread tops of chicken generously with mustard mixture.

In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and melted butter. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the chicken, patting firmly onto top and sides of meat. Place chicken on one side of ungreased 12- by 17-inch rimmed sheet pan.

In large bowl, toss zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, oil, garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange vegetables in single layer on other side of pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, stirring vegetables once, until chicken is browned and cooked through (at least 165 degrees). Transfer chicken to serving plate. Continue to bake vegetables 10 to 15 minutes longer or until tender and lightly browned.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories445Fat22 gSodium1,350 mg

Carbohydrates18 gSaturated fat8 gTotal sugars7 g

Protein44 gCholesterol120 mgDietary fiber4 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, ½ carb, 5 ½ lean protein, 2 fat.