Air Fryer Sheet Pan Meals. How to convert your favourite sheet pan meals and traybakes to the air fryer. Including lots of easy air fryer sheet pan recipes to try next.
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Air Fryer Sheet Pan Meals
Whether you live in the UK and call it a traybake or live in the US and call it sheet pan, it is a delicious way to enjoy an effortless lunch or dinner.
Here in the Milners we have been enjoying our favourite sheet pan dinners for years and love the simplicity of it.
Load ingredients into a tray, season and bake in the oven. What is not to love about that?
But with our modern day gadgets and the love for the air fryer, we have been experimenting behind the scenes at Recipe This to see how easy (or hard) it is to take your favourite sheet pan dinners and make them into air fryer sheet pan dinners.
Expect the good, the bad and the ugly as we take notes along the way.
Air Fryer Sheet Pan Meals – The Good
Air fryers make an excellent choice for a typical sheet pan meal because the air fryer can replace the oven. But I am sure you’re wondering which sheet pan dinners work best in the air fryer.
These are our top picks for air fryer sheet pan recipes:
- Air Fryer Steak Fajitas – The steak is tender; the mixed peppers are perfectly cooked, and it all comes together in the air fryer basket. No messing about and a perfect low carb air fryer dinner when you are feeling lazy.
- Air Fryer Chicken Fajitas – The same applies to chicken fajitas in the air fryer. You can use chicken stroganoff and then slice your onion and pepper and throw it all in with your dry fajitas rub.
- Air Fryer Steak Bites & Potatoes – The third of my favourite best sheet pan meals in the air fryer. You toss the potatoes in your favourite seasonings, add your favourite steak cut into chunks and it comes together like clockwork.
The 3 recipes above use the air fryer basket instead of a sheet pan and because there is only a dry rub involved you don’t have to worry about the holes in the basket.
Though away from the air fryer basket, the air fryer oven is perfect for sheet pan dinners too.
Instead of using the air fryer basket you can cook sheet pan dinners directly on the air fryer oven shelves and any fat will drip down to the bottom to the drip tray.
You can also use the drip pan as an alternative sheet pan if you are cooking a food that is not high in fat.
Here are a few air fryer oven sheet pan examples:
- Air Fryer Oven Greek Lamb Chops – Load the potatoes and lamb onto the drip tray and extra potatoes that wont fit can go on one of the shelves. You will be amazed by how crispy the potatoes are on little fat compared to the oven.
- Air Fryer Oven Pork Tenderloin – Let the air fryer oven shelves be your sheet pans and have potatoes on one shelf and pork tenderloin and apples on another. They work perfectly together and its so effortless and perfect for lazy dinners.
Air Fryer Sheet Pan Meals – The Bad
I have shared with you 5 AMAZING air fryer sheet pan dinners. These are meals that you can cook easily in your air fryer or air fryer oven.
But I thought it was important to share the bad ones too. All taste good by the way, they are just not always suitable as a sheet pan dinner replacement.
- Air Fryer Leg Of Lamb – This is the most delicious lamb I have ever tried in the air fryer. It has made the bad list because it doesn’t feel like it interacts with each other enough to be a sheet pan dinner. The leg of lamb cooks on one shelf and the potatoes on the other. Though with a smaller cut of lamb if they could be cooked together it would make my top list.
- Air Fryer Maltesers Traybake – I love this as a sweet tooth alternative. You use the air fryer oven to melt your chocolate and then load your rocky road ingredients into it. Its on my bad list just for how unhealthy it is compared to other sheet pan dinners. But OMG it is addictive!
- My favourite Spanish Traybake was one of my favourite oven baked recipes that I wanted to transform to the air fryer oven. But I always knew it wasn’t going to work.
This is how it normally looks:
The problem is that it is a liquid based sheet pan dinner and because of the fat of the chicken there is no place for the extra liquid to go.
You see because of the way an air fryer works it can reduce like a sauce can in the oven.
Think about this when you are considering which of your favourite sheet pan dinners will work in the air fryer.
Air Fryer Sheet Pan Meals – The Ugly
To make the air fryer sheet pan meals ugly list, I am talking about good food that looks ugly.
We all tend to eat with our eyes and forget about the delicious smell of food, or how tender or crispy food is. If it looks ugly then we are not interested.
- Air Fryer Greek Chicken Traybake – This is an example of that. It tastes of a taverna in the Greek isles but sat there on the plate it looks ugly. The food tastes delicious and the way it bakes in the air fryer oven means that it is holding extra liquid and when it goes on your plate you know its not worthy of being posted on Instagram.
Air Fryer Sheet Pan Meals – Essential Tips
Here are a few important points to note when converting your favourite sheet pan recipes to the air fryer:
- Reduction is key – food in the air fryer that is cooked in a liquid can’t reduce like it could in the oven.
- Accessories change things – If you cook in the air fryer with an accessory, such as the air fryer baking pan, it takes longer for the food to cook, which will mean that an air fryer sheet pan meal goes from 30 minutes to 70 minutes.
- Quick cooking method – If you want a quick cooking sheet pan dinner opt for what I would call low carb dinners. Quick cooking meat with quick cooking vegetables. Think our fajitas recipe above or other combos of chicken and light vegetables. For example, I often cook chicken and zucchini in the air fryer for lunch.
- Dry rub is essential – sheet pan dinners cook best directly in the air fryer basket. Therefore, aim for seasonings that are like a dry rub that are not going to make the air fryer dirty or set off the fire alarm! Think adding curry powder to chicken and cauliflower for an Indian sheet pan dinner.
- Top not bottom – Please note that the air fryer cooks from the top not the bottom. Therefore, cooking in air fryer baking pans with a lot of meat and veg will not evenly cook.
- Right size trays – Because the air fryer oven is much smaller compared to the average oven, you need trays that will fit. This is the tray I recommend and you read more about it in our air fryer oven accessories guide.
Here are the oven trays we regularly use in our air fryer oven:
As you can see, they are both 8 inch square and perfect for a smaller sheet pan dinner. I have also used them in other recipes too such as our air fryer cheese nachos.
Air Fryer Sheet Pan Recipes – Cooking Times
When we were making our air fryer Greek chicken traybake, we did an interesting experiment.
We cooked two lots. One in the air fryer basket and one in the air fryer oven. Normally the same recipe would be cooked in the oven as a sheet pan dinner and take 1 hour 10 minutes to cook.
Here are the cooking times when we tried it in the air fryer:
- Air Fryer Oven – 50 minutes at 180c/360f followed by 160c/320f for a further 30 minutes. Total cook time of 80 minutes.
- Air Fryer Basket – 23 minutes at 180c/360f followed by a further 10 minutes at 160c/320f. Total cook time of 33 minutes.
In summary, if you are converting your sheet pan dinners to the air fryer oven expect a similar cooking time. If you fill both shelves (or three) with your sheet pan food, then you will need to swap shelves during cooking.
However, take your sheet pan dinner to the air fryer basket and you are saving time, energy and getting crispy delicious food.
The air fryer basket (such as this air fryer we currently have) is a true winner and if you have delicious sheet pan dinners that cook without a wet rub, then I recommend you cook them from now on in your air fryer basket.
Once you cook a sheet pan dinner that way, such as our air fryer steak fajitas, there will be no going back.
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