For Ina Garten, Sheet Pans Are Also Universal Pot Lids

It's hard not to love Ina Garten, especially when the accomplished chef, television personality, and cookbook author assures us time and again that occasionally relying on store-bought ingredients is absolutely fine. It's even more endearing to learn that, just like many of us, there are occasions when even the Barefoot Contessa can't find the matching lid to cover the pot of soup she has simmering on the stove; even consummate pros like Garten slip up from time to time. Luckily, she has an easy workaround for such a scenario, and as she shared in her 2022 cookbook, "Go-To Dinners: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, that's using a sheet pan to cover a pot.

That's right. A simple sheet pan on top of the pot will nearly always work fine. After all, you're probably searching for the lid to retain heat and moisture in the dish you're preparing, but as long as the handles of the pot don't rise above the rim, a flat pan should do in a pinch. A sheet pan may not look as pretty as a perfectly matched set of pots and pans — lids intact — simmering in harmony on the stove, but not every kitchen moment is going to be a put-together, pearls-and-heels, June Cleaver-esque one. So, in these cases, a sheet pan will get the job done.

Proceed with caution

A few caveats to keep in mind. While Garten's sheet pan tip for missing lids is a great workaround for the forgetful or disorganized cook, one should do so advisedly because, clearly, they are not designed to fit snugly on top of the pot. In other words, they're not stable, and one could easily knock them off the pot by accident; this is especially true when juggling multiple pots and pans on a single stovetop. 

That lack of stability will be more of an annoyance than a problem, that is until you find yourself trying to catch a hot one bare-handed before it hits the floor. Even if your plan is to use a sheet pan to loosely cover a saucepan to keep the heat in but let the moisture out, the potential for steam burns is greater than when using the proper, vented pot lid. But as long as you're careful, it's still a handy go-to option for missing lids.