“Sheet pan meals” — aka, meals in which all of the components are cooked entirely on a sheet pan — are currently all the rage. But if your household is comprised of only a couple people (or, gasp, one human), you don’t exactly need a sheet pan-amount of food.
Photos by Claire Lower
Enter cake pan meals: smaller, just as easily cleaned-up-after meals that are cooked in a 25cm cake pan. (They could also be prepared in a cast iron frying pan, but — let’s be real — a cake pan is much easier to clean.) “Why not just prepare a smaller amount of food on a sheet pan?”, you ask.
I’ll tell you why. For one, it looks kind of sad, but it’s mainly because cooking in too large a cooking vessel means your pan juices run everywhere. Plus, given the choice between washing a small pan or a big pan, I am going to choose the small pan every time.
The options for what you can cook this way are veritably endless but, if you follow a few simple strategies, you’ll be able to cake pan almost any meal. You can either choose foods that cook for the same amount of time (such as chicken thighs and fingerling potatoes or flaky fish and delicate vegetables), or you can add things to the pan in stages (like I did with the breakfast pan below).
First, pick your meat or main, and do a quick Google to find out how long and at what temperature it usually cooks. Write that down. Then, pick a couple of vegetables — or fruits — you’d think you’d like to pair with your protein and find out how long they cook at that temperature.
Write that down, too. After you’ve figured out what you’re cooking, it’s time to prep it. When preparing a cake pan meal I do three things every single time:
- Grease the pan (usually with a butter wrapper).
- Season the protein with a marinade or rub (unless the protein is egg).
- Toss the vegetables with some sort of oil, and season them simply with salt and pepper.
Put everything in a pan, pop it in the oven and let it cook. Like I mentioned earlier, there is an endless amount of combinations you can try and you should experiment, but I’ll go ahead and share a couple of my favourite recipes.
The Cake Pan Breakfast Bake
This is a shockingly easy breakfast that looks much fancier than it is. To make it, you will need:
- 2 1/2 cups frozen, shredded hash browns
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
- About 1/3 of a red capsicum, peeled and cut into strips
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar
- 4 pieces of prosciutto
- 2 eggs
- Chopped spring onions for topping
- Seasoning. Salt, sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion recommended
Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease your cake pan. Add hash browns and melted butter and stir to coat. Add the yeast and stir once more. Top the hash browns with the capsicum slices and cheese and pop it in the oven until the edges start to brown (about 20-25 minutes).
Remove the pan from the oven and using two pieces of prosciutto for each egg, make little nests for your eggs to sit in on top of the hash browns. Crack each egg into a cup — to make sure you don’t break the yolk all over your crispy pile of potatoes — then gently pour them into their new porky homes.
Bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the whites are opaque, but there’s still some jiggle in the yolks. Top with spring onion and seasoning and serve.
The Cake Pan Cumin Chicken Dinner
Kipfler potatoes cook up alongside sweet and spicy chicken thighs perfectly without chopping up. Baby shiitake mushrooms are added 10 minutes into the cooking process, so they don’t burn, but that’s the only “complicated” part of this process. To make this fairly basic, but extremely comforting meal, you will need:
- 2 chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- A pinch or two of cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 12-15 Kipfler potatoes
- 110g of baby shiitake mushrooms, left whole (you can also use larger mushrooms and slice them)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and grease your cake pan. Mix the sugar, spices and salt together and rub it all over the chicken thighs. Place the thighs in the pan, Place the potatoes in a bowl and drizzle some olive oil on them — just enough to coat.
Toss them, season with salt and pepper and put them in the pan around the chicken. Pop that in the oven, and place the baby ‘shrooms in the bowl you just prepped the potatoes in. Drizzle those with enough olive oil to coat, season with salt and pepper and toss ’em all around.
Once the chicken and potatoes have been cooking for ten minutes, add the mushrooms and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh registers 70°C on an instant read thermometer. Divide your bounty between two plates and chow down.
Though these meals are meant for a household of one or two, that doesn’t mean larger families can enjoy them. Just scale up the recipe with a little multiplication and cook it in a large (and trendy) sheet pan.