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Equipment

A Love Letter to: The Rimmed Baking Sheet and Wire Rack Duo

Two in a series of our editors professing love for kitchen gear they’re sweet on.

By Scott Kathan | April 30, 2019
Scott Kathan

If you cook a lot of our recipes (and I hope you do!), you’ve seen that we frequently call for a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. We use this setup for roasting meats and vegetables when we want the fat or moisture to be able to drain away during cooking; it also gets plenty of work in our frying recipes, as we hold breaded, ready-to-be-fried foods on this rig and also use it (often with paper towels) to drain excess grease from the food once it’s fried. Of course, we use the sheet and rack independently of each other all the time for regular roasting and cooling, too.

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This is our first cookbook devoted to the art and science of roasting, and it pulls together decades of test kitchen experience and knowledge.

But it’s together that they really shine. Listen, I’m sure Abbot and Costello were both funny dudes on their own, and I know that a hamburger and French fries are each delicious when eaten without the other. But together: magic. Same deal here.

My favorite use for this gear combo is under the broiler. Marinated or rubbed chicken thighs are perfect in this scenario—and you can easily add broccoli or sweet potatoes or red peppers or onions to the mix. I also use it to get nice broil-y char on skirt and flank steak and on pork tenderloin and chops. I like to brush some sort of sauce on the meat and veggies toward the end of cooking: It could be simple barbecue sauce, hoisin cut with toasted sesame oil, or (should I be ashamed?) a mix of honey and ketchup. Even just olive oil with a little garlic and dried herbs or spices is really good.

Test Kitchen Winners

Checkered Chef Cooling Rack

This wire rack fits inside standard-size rimmed baking sheets, such as our winner suggested below. 

Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet

Everything prepared in this sturdy, warp-resistant sheet cooked appropriately and evenly.

Pro Tip #1

While the whole point of the rack inside the sheet is to let unwanted fat and moisture drain away, sometimes I put thin rings of onion (or zucchini or eggplant) underneath the rack so they can soak up the flavorful juices coming from the meat above. They can be insanely good; I won’t tell my cardiologist if you don’t.

Pro Tip #2

I know some people shy away from using this rig because the rack can be a pain to clean. And it can, especially if a sauce is in play. But my friend—and ATK and Cook’s Country TV host—Bridget Lancaster (cough-namedrop-cough) taught me a cool trick: Put the rimmed sheet in the sink, add soapy water, and invert the gunky rack into it so the cooked-on schmutz is fully submerged and can soak. That, and a good scrubbing brush, make cleanup pretty easy. (You can also spritz the rack with vegetable oil spray before you put anything on it to make cleanup easier.)

Pro Tip #3

The broiler is great for leaner meats that just need some dragon’s breath to char and cook through. But for fattier meats that need some of their fat rendered, it’s better to set the dial to “bake.” Place these meats (such as pork shoulder or beef chuck roast) on the rack in the sheet, pour a little water into the sheet, cover the entire thing with foil, and bake so the meat can steam in the oven. The hot, steamy environment encourages fat to break down; cutting the meat into chunks or steaks before cooking helps this happen faster. Then, once some of the fat has rendered out, you can remove the foil to roast dry (for browning) or broil as you see fit. The covering option greatly broadens the range of foods you can cook on this setup.

What are a few of your favorite cooking tools to use in different ways in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments! 

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