The Quarter and Eighth Sheet Pan
Of all the favorite finds I’ve come across in the last few years, one (or two) of my favorites have been these mini sheet pans. Most professional bakers use what are called full sheet pans, or half sheet pans. They’re inexpensive, so there’s always a good-sized stack of them in any restaurant or bakery, and they can pretty much stand up to anything, although in restaurant kitchens, they’re prone to abuse, like when I was a line cook and threw a stress-induced tantrum and whacked one on the edge of a counter, buckling it in half.
I manage to straighten it out fairly well, and put it back. And that pan kept going, and going, and going. (In fact, it’s been nearly twenty years and I wonder if it’s still in rotation in that kitchen?) But every time it made its way to the top of the stack in the kitchen, I slyly moved it back to the bottom.
There are all sorts of sheet sheets out there, but the kind I like, and the ones that restaurant cooks and bakers use, are rimmed, aluminum baking sheets, which are sometimes called jelly roll pans, since the high, rolled-edge rims let you bake a sponge cake in them. (They also keep the pan in check by preventing warping.) Not sure how many are used for making jelly rolls these days, but I use mine for everything from making a one-pan chicken dinner, to toasting nuts.
When I was building my kitchen (recounted as a comedy of errors, in L’appart), I needed a larger-than-normal oven, at least for France. I had to have something that would hold a standard 11″ x 17″ (28 x 43cm) half-sheet pan since that’s what baker’s and home cooks most commonly use in the States. (French recipes usually don’t include pan sizes, assuming readers will know which one to use.)
These little guys are different. The quarter sheet pan is 9 1/2″ x 13″ (24 x 33cm) and the one-eighth pan clocks in at a mere 6″ x 9″ (13 x 23cm). If you’re concerned about cooking on aluminum, which is an excellent – and even – conductor of heat, bakers line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
I’d been out of the country for a while and learned about these when I was visiting Fany at La Newyorkina, and saw an eighth-size baking sheet in her kitchen. I gasped, “Omg…what’s that?!” And had to have one.
Fany offered that one to me but I said I wanted to get my own, so she sent me down to the Bowery, in New York, to pick one up. (I since learned that in my absence, they’d become more popular in the U.S. because restaurants serve meals on them.) I ended up buying a short stack since they were less than $5 each. I don’t remember the name, but there is a cluster of restaurant supply shops down there. You can also get them on Amazon, although they’re cheaper at restaurant supply shops, so I recommend visiting one locally, or comparing prices online here or here.
I have, what’s called in Europe, a “compact” oven, in addition to my full size one. It’s great because it takes just a few minutes to heat up, rather than 30 minutes (ugh). The downside is that it has a “safety” function so that when I open the door to check if something is done, it doesn’t go back on automatically unless I remember the press the button again, which is a major drag if I’m testing the timing on a recipe and forget to turn it back on. (ugh)
These mini sheet pans are great for toasting a cup of nuts, baking off just a couple of cookies (i.e.; recipe testing) or reheating a slice of pizza. Even better, if your kitchen sink isn’t very wide – or your oven is little – these pans will have no trouble fitting right in. It drives me nuts, no pun intended, when I have to soak a sheet pan with baked on fruit juices, or something stubborn like that in the small sink and it won’t fit in and lay flat. So I have to tilt it diagonally, so it’s partially in the sink, then I have to move it a few times while it’s soaking, so it all gets submerged at once. So I end up having to soak it in the bathtub.
Yes, I’ve showered with baking sheets. But that’s how much I love my baking sheets. I’ve got four of these now in my kitchen and can’t imagine living without them again. I just hope I don’t get mad again and take it out on one of these little fellas. They don’t deserve my wrath, especially after all they’ve done for me, in my kitchen.