one dish meals

Saving Time with Easy One Dish Dinners — Basic Cooking Skills

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Easy one dish dinners can make mealtimes simple and stress-free.. Cooking at the end of a long workday is the last thing I want to do. These recipes are quick to prep, hands-off, and require little cleanup afterwards. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor for swiftness, so let’s uncover how to ease your cooking frustrations with these tasty one dish meals.

This post is part of our Basic Cooking Skills series. Each week we will be doing a deep-dive into one basic cooking skill and a brand new recipe to accompany it to practice that newfound skill. Check back throughout the series for updates and new posts.

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sheet pan dinner

Less Time Cooking = More Time Eating

An essential skill to learn is the brilliance of one-pot and sheet pan meals. You’ll thank me when it’s dinnertime and you’re starting to get a little hangry 😉

Sheet pan meals, like chicken fajitas or tropical shrimp tacos, can be filled with healthy roasted vegetables and insane flavor that will have you question why you never tried them before! They are 100% customizable and can use up any produce you have leftover in the fridge.

One pot dishes, like Italian sausage and peppers or buffalo chicken enchilada dip, create amazing tastes from sauteing vegetables in the meat’s juices and gristle, ending up in loads of flavor that permeates through the entire pan.

Time-saving meals will quickly work their way into your routine, allowing you to craft delicious meals in no time. Find some inspiration on Pinterest or NYT Cooking, and follow the guide below to craft your own!

one pot meal

how to: make easy one dish dinners

The two most popular kinds of recipes that require one dish are classified as sheet-pan or one-pot. But really how different are they? And how are they similar? Let’s find out!

Sheet Pan Recipes

  • Sheet pan recipes are amazing because all of the food can roast together in the oven with the flavors mixing in together. Roasting meat and vegetables is a timeless cooking method that really brings out the juices of the food while crisping the edges to a picture-perfect brown.
  • Use whole meat cutlets for a juicier end product (chicken breasts, pork chops, etc.), chop the vegetables into evenly sized pieces, and cube potatoes for a starch. Stay away from rice or pasta on the sheet pan — they require cooking submerged in liquids and will not play nicely in the oven, so stick to potatoes
  • Sheet pan recipes are even more hands off than one-pot meals in that you can put them in the oven and not check on them until they’re almost done. No pan to attend to, no spills on the stovetop, easy-peasy!
  • With only one sheet pan used, cleanup is a breeze! Use aluminum foil to line the pan for even easier cleaner. It honestly couldn’t be easier!

One Pot Recipes

  • The beauty of one-pot meals is the ease of the recipe and the blending of various flavors. Incredible sauces can be made
  • There may be lots of prep to chop veggies and meat, but the payoff is worth it as you just throw in the ingredients and let it cook! 
  • With a little attention, you can have a delicious home-cooked meal in minutes. 
  • Spend more time around the table and less time washing dishes.
one dish meal

Guide to Saving time with easy one dish dinners

Choosing the Right Protein

Sheet Pan

  • Large cuts of meat benefit from much longer cooking times. Whole chicken breasts, tenderloins, and other larger pieces of meat are best when oven-roasted. Chop up into smaller pieces for quicker cooking.

One Pot

  • Leaner cuts of meat, such as chicken breast, pork chops, ground meat, and seafood saute best. They require less time and grow more tender from cooking in a pan. They cook rather quickly, and most meats can be used when cubed into smaller pieces.

Choosing the Right Vegetables

Sheet Pan

  • Aromatics like garlic and onions are packed with flavor and infuse into sheet pan meals flawlessly. Most vegetables can be roasted, as long as they’re evenly cut and in smaller, bite-sized pieces. If you have some pieces that are much larger or smaller than most others, they will be done a lot earlier or later and require more attention on your part.

One Pot

  • Generally, sauteing vegetables in a one-pot meal can be completed in under 15 minutes. Use what you like and think about what will pair well with your protein or rice/noodles of choice.
  • Leaner vegetables are the most suitable for sauteing in short amounts of time. But by slightly adjusting the amount of cook time, there isn’t a veggie out there that can’t be made delicious tossed in a little bit of fat in a hot pan.

Choosing the Right Starch

Sheet Pan

  • Dense potatoes are about the only starch that’s best in a sheet pan meal. The longer they cook the better they taste, and they can get a beautiful crisp at high temperatures! Even-sized, smaller pieces cook the best in the oven and require much less of your time.

One Pot

  • Arguably the trickiest part of one-pot meals is incorporating the starch in without issue. Rice and pasta can be added to create an endless variety of dishes, but do require liquid to cook in. Use broth, water, or a simple pan sauce to finish off the starch.  

sheet pan meal

Materials Needed for One Dish Dinners

Sheet Pan Meals

One Pot Meals

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easy one dish meals pin
easy one dish meals pin

Implement Your New Skill

Coming up next Thursday is one of my favorite new recipes that will allow you to try out your new knowledge. Check back soon!

Do you have any sheet-pan or one-pot meals already in the dinner rotation? Share your favorites below!

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37 thoughts on “Saving Time with Easy One Dish Dinners — Basic Cooking Skills”

  1. Love this post. One dish meals are my go-to meals. You demonstrate some fabulous ones. I love that you included fish. Such a healthy protein. Thank you for this.

  2. One pan dishes for the win! This one looks amazing! I’d really like to make more dishes like this. Thanks for the inspiration Kalin. 🙂

  3. I love the way you explained exactly what you’ll need for both sheet pan and one pot dishes. This is amazing! I need to save it so I don’t forget. I’m always looking for easy-peasy dinners. Thank you!

  4. One dish meals are such a great idea! Now if only kids weren’t picky and would eat everything combined…. hahah. They all look great! Great tips! Thanks

  5. I’m a one dish kind girl . Quick and easy is the way to go lol. Especially if you’ve had a long hard day. You prep and then everything is ready is no time. That’s my style.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Really helpful post Kalin! I follow so many one-pan dishes I find, but I never tried making my own. This guide is really useful, now I know which vegetable to use haha. I usually use iron casts or pans on the stove, instead of the oven. Thanks for sharing, totally bookmarking this post for future use.

  7. I swear by one-pot dinners. I am all for early prep while I’m working and then chilling in the evening. Since working from home, it’s been my biggest achievement and I feel like my balance is finally on point. I love the look of that salmon dish – yummy!


  8. One-pot dishes and one-sheet dishes are becoming so popular since people are getting busier and busier to cook. I was at Sprout this weekend, and I couldn’t believe how expensive a small ready-made one-pot dish was!
    They are so easy to make, so I love them so much! Thank you so much for explaining the difference between sheet pan recipes and one-pot recipes. It’s very good to know.

  9. I literally love posts like this one!!!!
    Everything seems simple, fast, and cleverly planned. Great ideas to help me organize my dinners, thank you for sharing

  10. Sheet pan and one pot recipes are some of my meal prep favorites because they’re easy and make clean up a breeze. Thank you for the new suggestions.

  11. Gabriela Herrera

    Yes these are all great tips especially for those of us always in a rush. Anything sheet pan is good. Lately, I have been on a casserole kick. I literally take the entire baking dish to work and just cut slices every day for lunch. 😀

  12. One dish dinners are my favorite!!! These all look amazing, especially the salmon sheet pan dinner. Thanks for sharing

  13. How interesting! I actually have a sheet pan recipe coming up! I love how easy they are and mess-free. Thank you for showing the informative comparisons! xx

  14. Sheet pan meals are very manageable and require less time for prep. Once it is on the oven you can leave it and just check it once and a while. And love the flavor with all the veggies and meat.

  15. Pingback: 21 Basic Cooking Skills for Beginners - Abundance of Flavor

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