My old rule of thumb used to be that when I wanted to roast a big hunk of meat, I’d reach for my roasting pan to get the job done. With its deep sides and sturdy handles, the pan is easy to maneuver in and out of the oven, and is spacious enough to hold a bevy of veggies underneath the meat, which then browns gloriously on top.
But what’s the point of rules that you can’t occasionally break? Sometimes, a shallow-sided sheet pan works better, like when you want the liquid in the bottom of your pan to condense and evaporate, forming the basis for a heady sauce. And such is the case in this recipe for pork loin with cider, apples and onions, roasted directly and unapologetically on a rimmed sheet pan.
Drizzle the pickling liquid on top of the finished meat.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times
As the meat roasts, the sheet pan allows the cider to cook off without steaming the meat. The low sides also encourage the apples and onions to turn golden in spots, which is harder to achieve in a roasting pan. And thankfully, a sheet pan is more convenient and easier to clean than a roasting pan. I throw mine in the dishwasher.
The downside of a sheet pan is that once you add the cider, the pan can overflow. The trick is to arrange the pork and vegetables on the pan, and transfer it to the oven before pouring in the liquid. Watch as you pour, adding just enough to coat the apples and onions, but not so much that liquid sloshes over the sides when you push the oven rack in. Then keep an eye on it; if the pan starts to burn, tip in a bit more cider.
While this recipe does require your attention, the results are worth it: juicy roast pork — infused with the flavor of rosemary, fennel and cinnamon-laced cider — served with meltingly tender browned onions and apples.
Because the combination of pork and caramelized apples is such a rich one, I pair it with tangy pickled apples and green chiles that come together in under 10 minutes (plus a couple hours’ pickling time). The piquant apples and chile bits can be eaten alongside the meat while the brine gets drizzled on top for an even sharper jolt.
And if the whole sheet-pan thing seems too precarious, and you’d rather cook the meat in a roasting pan, you can. The apples and onions may not get quite as golden, but it will still be a sweet and snappy dish no matter how you roast it.