Though most folks are discerning when it comes to picking a recipe, sometimes it’s hard to know what the best tool for the job is. This is especially common when it comes to baking, and while the age of the yeast or the quality of cocoa powder matters, so too does the baking dish. And one common area of confusion is whether to use metal or glass.
The science of baking involves complex chemical reactions that occur when you place batter or dough in the hot environment of an oven. This is why the material of the bakeware is important and can change the outcome considerably. Here, we break down the pros and cons of using metal and glass.
The best bakeware conducts heat evenly, a function of metal type and thickness. Ease of unmolding, finish (i.e., nonstick coating), quality construction, and aesthetics are also key factors when selecting your baking vessels. Read on for the pans BA editors swear by for superior cakes, muffins, loaves, and more.
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After leaving the restaurant industry when my kids were babies, I started a home-based baking business specializing in desserts for milestone occasions, from 1st birthdays to 50th anniversaries. Beyond traditional layer cakes, I made heart-shaped cakes, cupcakes, train cakes, cookie cakes, petit fours, fancy tarts, and the list goes on and on. As you can imagine, I accumulated quite a few specialty baking pans, and most of them are now collecting dust in my cabinet. However, there are certain baking pans I still use over and over again for family cooking.
These are the essential baking pans I recommend for all bakers, experienced and new, in order to have a well-stocked kitchen when it’s time to get your baking on.
Want to become a better baker? Read my essential baking tips. (Not a baker? Check out my recommendations for the best pots and pans to stock your kitchen.)
Straight to the Point
You can read our full review on half sheet pans here (as well as more about our top picks from Nordic Ware and Chicago Metallic).
Growing up, my mother never used rimmed baking sheets. Instead, she had thin, edgeless pans, which she employed exclusively to bake cookies. For roasting meat or vegetables, she’d use either a frying pan or glass casserole dish. I didn’t even know there was a difference between cookie sheets and rimmed sheet pans until I, as a teenager, attempted to roast asparagus for the first time. I coated the spears with olive oil and seasoning, layered them on a cookie sheet, and popped them into the oven. A few minutes later, the smell of burning oil let me know I made a mistake. Without sturdy sides to contain it, all of the fat pooled in one warped edge, then rolled off the pan and onto the bottom of the oven, where it sizzled, then smoked.
It was then I realized how useful rimmed sheet pans are. If you grew up with them (lucky!) or use them regularly, you already know this. Not only are they great at roasting vegetables, they can bake a sheet cake and accommodate an entire dinner’s worth of food. Fit one with a cooling rack to aid in air flow, and they become superior resting trays for cooked meat and fried items.
Most rimmed sheet pans are made of metal like steel or aluminum. And we prefer bare sheet pans over ones coated with a nonstick layer for most cooking tasks, as they can handle extremely high temperatures, making them good vessels for browning and broiling. Rimmed sheet pans can also moonlight as informal serving platters, and keep condiments, kitchen tools, or mise en place tidy while you’re cooking.
All bakeware is not the same. Be sure you know the difference between baking pans and dishes and when to use each.
You’re about to whip up a batch tangy lemon bars and the recipe calls for preparing a 9×13 baking pan. But if you have both metal and glass pans of this size in your kitchen, which one do you use? Is one type better than the other for that recipe? The answer is yes, and we’ll explain the difference between a glass and metal baking dish (besides the material they’re made with, obviously). In all the recipes developed by the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen, a baking dish means an oven-safe glass or ceramic vessel while a baking pan refers to one made of metal. Here’s what you need to know before you make your next chocolate cake.
When to Use Baking Pans (Metal)
Aluminum (nonstick or not) is a great choice for baking pans. They are lightweight and conduct heat well for even baking. Pale or shiny metal pans, such as heavy-gauge aluminum, deliver a tender delicate crust for breads and cookies. They’re also handy for easy sheet pan dinners. Dark metal pans, which conduct, retain, and distribute heat well, are for items that require more crispness or browning. Here are some instances when you should use metal baking pans.
- For nicely browned baked goods.
- For broiling. Do not use glass dishes or casseroles when broiling because the high temperatures may cause the glass to shatter. Therefore, when broiling, use only metal pans or bakeware suitable for broiling.
- For roasting vegetables.
A Note from the Test Kitchen
Use these when a 2- or 3-quart baking dish is called for (specifically when baking egg dishes and acidic foods, including citrus, tomato, and other fruit-based desserts. You’ll want to use these dishes for those crisps, cobblers, and other crustless fruit desserts. In general, you probably don’t want to use glass or ceramic in temperatures higher than 425ºF. So if you’re in a pinch and need to use glass or ceramic cookware for recipes that call for baking pans, reduce the baking temperature by about 25ºF. It’s also important to note some glassware such as Pyrex can be prone to thermal shock, meaning rapid change in temperature could cause your bakeware to shatter. Make sure your dishes are completely cool before refrigerating or freezing them. Or if you’ve got a breakfast casserole chilling overnight, allow it to come closer to room temperature before popping it in the oven.
Now you know whenever you’re making our recipe for classic lasagna or peach cobbler and it says to prepare your rectangular baking dish, you’ll be reaching for a glass or ceramic dish. And when you’re utilizing those ripe bananas to make some banana bread, prepare your metal baking pan for a perfect loaf.
Confusing a baking pan and a baking dish can muddle any kitchen project. Returning to the basics and learning your dishware’s names and functions can bring more ease to your next baking experience.
The most important thing to keep in mind, writes Made In, is that baking dishes and baking pans aren’t interchangeable. Knowing the difference between the two and when each one works best ensures you use the best baking vessel for your recipe.
According to Taste of Home, the quickest way to tell the difference between a baking pan and a baking dish is by their material. Baking pans consist of metal, usually, aluminum or nonstick, and, occasionally, silicone, explains Southern Living. On the other hand, baking dishes are typically porcelain, ceramic, or glass, notes Cook’s Info. However, the differences don’t end there. Knowing the other characteristics of baking pans and dishes will help you select the correct container if a recipe doesn’t specify which to use.
Identifying the Right Baking Pan
The definition of a baking pan is fairly broad. The term baking pan can include metallic cake pans, bread pans, and other pans in different sizes and shapes. A baking pan’s specific purpose often determines its shape, such as quiche pans, meatloaf pans, muffin tins, and bundt pans, explains Cook’s Info. Typical shapes for baking pans also include round, square, rectangular, sheet pans, loaf pans, or tube pans, writes Southern Living.
Knowing what foods work best in baking pans is helpful when you don’t have clear directions. Use a baking pan for any recipe that doesn’t have a lot of acidic ingredients and where you want to get some brown color. Think projects ranging from cakes to roast vegetables, says Taste of Home
Some bakers argue that a true baking pan is what many might call a baking sheet or baking tray. One can identify a sheet pan by its metal material and characteristic shape: rectangular and low-edged notes Made In. Cookie sheets are even more specific, with raised edges on only two sides to help slide the cookies onto a cooling rack (per Southern Living).
Identifying Baking Dishes
Most commonly, you can identify baking dishes – sometimes called casserole dishes –- by their depth. Typically, they’re around two inches deep, says Made In. Because of that, recipes that require wide pans with a few inches of depth, such as casseroles, enchiladas, or cobblers, usually call for baking dishes, says Taste of Home. Furthermore, their porcelain or glass material makes them better at handling acidity from ingredients like fruit, as opposed to the baking pan. Most frequently, baking dishes are rectangular. However, they can also be square or oval.
Baking dishes are a versatile asset to your kitchen. All are oven-safe, many are microwave-safe, and often, they can double as serving dishes, notes Made In. Once you’ve identified your baking dish, it’s important to remember that glass, ceramic, or porcelain can shatter when put into the oven cold. Be sure to get your baking dish to room temperature before putting it under the broiler or in an extra hot oven, cautions Taste of Home. If you don’t have a baking dish and your recipe requires it, you can substitute a frying pan rather than a baking pan.
Whether you’re baking bar cookies, banana bread, or chocolate torte, these top picks ensure even browning and perfect crumb every time.
From creaming butter and sugar correctly to preheating the oven, every step counts toward the perfect cake, yet your prep can be undone by choosing the wrong pan. Colorful stoneware and Pyrex pans look great, but they simply aren’t as heat conductive as those solid metal pans found stacked in professional bakeries all over the world. Whatever the shape, from round to rectangular, loaf to Bundt, choosing the right pan is key to to achieving a perfect crumb every time.
Whether you’re new to baking or just refining your recent affinity for snacking cakes, you can benefit from an aluminum pan, according to Roger Rodriguez, owner, pastry chef, and chocolate maker at Vesta Chocolate. “They are great for short, high temp baking, such as cakes, cookies, muffins, etc. It heats up and cools down quickly, and it promotes even browning,” he says. Read on for our full list of the best cake pans.
Pros: It’s reliably easy to use and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Cons: It must be hand washed.
Bake like a professional at home with this set of three Fat Daddio ProSeries round cake pans. These anodized aluminum cake pans consistently bake great cakes. Aluminum is prized for baking because of its lightweight nature and excellent heat conductivity, which leads to quick heating and cooling. Yet, aluminum can leach into acidic foods and leave a metallic taste. Unlike many aluminum pans, these are non-reactive to citrus and cocoa powder thanks to the anodization process, which makes a metal surface resistant to corrosion.
Rolled rims make these pans easy to grab with bulky mits while hot, and the straight sides shape a cake that’s easy to work with. Chose from a variety of depths, from two to four inches, and widths. Bonus: the pans are oven safe up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and are even pressure cooker, air fryer, and freezer safe.
- Material: Anodized aluminum
- Dimensions: 11.9 x 13 x 5.8 inches
- Wash: Hand wash
Pros: It’s inexpensive and reliable.
Cons: It can be unwieldy to handle when hot.
The beauty of a springform pan is twofold: its ability to hold very crumbly, wet ingredients together and how easily the pan releases after the cake has set. Think perfectly creamy cheesecake with a graham cracker crust or a dough-heavy deep dish pizza. The anodized aluminum is rust resistant, heats up quickly, and helps bake as uniformly as possible. The bottom’s has waffled texture helps the cake release.
- Material: Anodized aluminum
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 3.2 inches
- Wash: Hand wash
Pros: A removable bottom piece lets the finished cake easily release.
Cons: It only comes in one size.
Ever wonder why angel food cakes are cooked in a tube pan? The super light and airy batter contains a ton of whipped egg whites, which can turn rubbery when overcooked. A tube pan keeps angel food cake light and springy by cutting the cooking time. Two extended arms are made to be turned upside down for faster cooling. This non-stick coated version from Chicago has the added feature of separating into two pieces for a seamless transition from cooking vessel to serving implement. The pan holds up to 16 cups of batter or one boxed cake mix.
- Material: Alloy steel
- Dimensions: 9.5 x 4 inches
- Wash: Dishwasher safe
Pros: It’s a well-made pan with a beautiful shape.
Cons: Handle it with care, as the finish can easily be scratched with a sharp tool.
You don’t always want texture on a cake, but when you do, nothing beats a Bundt pan. When the cake cools, the crags from the pan are perfect for drizzling icing over. With a golden exterior, this pretty pan consists of durable cast-aluminum metal with PFOA-free nonstick coating to help the cake release after cooking. (Still, be sure to thoroughly butter or grease all of those little crevices!) Nordic Ware, the inventor of the signature Bundt pan design, releases new castings regularly, so keep an eye out for everything from floral patterns to ribbon-like shapes.
- Material: Aluminum
- Dimensions: 9 x 3 inches
- Wash: Hand wash
Pros: It’s both nonstick and dishwasher safe, and it comes with or without a lid.
Cons: It can scratch easily.
A sturdy rectangular pan is a must-have for any baker, and this very inexpensive model from Farberware gives you great excuse to refresh your collection. With a lid included, it will come in handy for any potluck or dinner party. The heavy-duty construction makes this pan warp resistant while still encouraging even browning all around. Plus, it can do double duty for other baking needs with a threshold of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The rolled edges and non-stick alloy steel make it durable and easy to transport. And unlike a lot of other coated models, the pan is dishwasher safe, though the lid is not.
- Material: Alloy steel
- Dimensions: 9 x 13 x 2 inches
- Wash: Hand wash
Pros: A ridged surface adds to its non-stick abilities.
Cons: It may not be as useful as other shapes for baking.
Every shaped baking dish has its ideal purpose and nothing says a brownies, cornbread, or cobbler like a square pan for all those extra chewy, crispy corners. Made of aluminized steel and wire and designed to be extra heat efficient, this commercial-quality pan has a nonstick silicone glaze, plus a unique ridged surface that helps batter cook more evenly by encouraging minute amounts of air circulation. keep an eye on cooking times and adjust according for the first few uses, then making adjustments to recipes as necessary. To retain the nonstick coating’s integrity, only use non-metal utensils.
- Material: Aluminized steel and wire
- Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 2.5 inches
- Wash: Hand wash
Pros: A wire rod keeps the rim from warping, and the pan can go in the dishwasher.
Making banana bread? This pan from Chicago is the ideal shape and size for any denser batters and can take longer, hotter cooking times. Heavy-weight aluminized steel conducts heat evenly and efficiently for a crumbly, browned topping and a moist, even crumb for that perfect bite. Plus, the pan holds its shape: a wire rod prevents warping, reinforcing the folded rim.
- Material: Alloy steel
- Dimensions: 4.5 x 8.5 x 2.8 inches
- Wash: Dishwasher safe
Cons: It only makes six mini cakes per batch.
Get your next party started with mini cakes baked in this six-well pan, which also lends itself well to cinnamon rolls, hamburger buns, mini tartes, and more. With BPA-free, nonstick silicone coating, it has a quick release that aids in easy clean up. Wash it with some mild soap in hot water and a gentle scrub.
- Material: Alloy steel
- Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.5 inches (per well)
- Wash: Hand wash
Pros: The cutest little Bundt cakes around perfect for drizzled icing.
Cons: Non-stick coating can easily be scratched.
Minneapolis-based Nordic Ware released special-edition pieces like this bundlette pan for its 65th anniversary, and we love that it bakes the company’s classic fluted Bundt cakes in miniature form. Just like the traditional pan, this cast aluminum version is nonstick with an extra-large center tube and a specific attention to crisp detail, from the alternate vertical flutings to handles that make unmolding and lifting easy breezy.
- Material: Aluminum
- Dimensions: 3.6 x 2 inches (per well)
- Wash: Hand wash
Nordicware Fluted Loaf Pan
What They’re Used For: Baking cookies, breads, and sheet cakes; roasting vegetables and meats; making full (sheet-pan) dinners; carrying foods to and from the grill.
What You Should Know: You’ll find yourself pulling these babies out over and over (and over), so I recommend having at least 2 baking sheets. Some may refer to sheet pans as jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. While technically cookie sheets are a bit different (they have a raised lip on 1 or 2 sides but don’t have the higher edges all around), baking sheets can be used for all cookie recipes. When purchasing a baking sheet, choose a heavy-duty pan that won’t buckle under high heat. It’s also important to select one that is light in color. Darker metal conducts heat better than light metal, which can cause the bottom of your baked goods to burn.
❤️ My Fave: USA Pan Bakeware Half Sheet Pan
First, Let’s Talk About Conductivity
The left glass pan shows how the interior center of the brownie is underbaked, making it difficult to cut. The right metal pan shows how the brownie is baked evenly throughout the pan, with clean cuts from the butter knife.Serious Eats / Irvin Lin
Metal and glass have different heat conductivity, which means they carry and transfer heat differently. According to A.J. Bates, professor of chemistry at Skyline College in California, metal heats up quickly, conducting heat to whatever you’re baking quickly (metal also cools down faster). He explained that glass, on the other hand, has a higher specific heat capacity, which means it takes more energy and time to heat up and retains the heat after it’s been removed from the oven.
Baking in metal means you can bake a dessert until the center is done, remove it from the oven, and not have to worry about the pan continuing to bake the edges. Glass, however, will retain the heat, and continue to bake what’s inside, resulting in either an underbaked center or an overbaked edge—or often both.
What They’re Used For: Breads, quick breads, pound cakes, no-churn ice cream
What You Should Know: Whether it’s to bake a quick banana bread for your family or to whip up no-churn ice key-lime pie cream on a hot summer day, your loaf pans will get plenty of use. It’s important to purchase pans that have a reliable nonstick surface so you can easily remove your baked goods. For the most flexibility, I recommend two different-size loaf pans: 8½x4½ inches, and 9×5 inches. These loaf pans are not interchangeable; although the difference in size may seem minimal, recipes don’t usually translate well to a smaller or larger loaf pan.
❤️ My Faves:
Though it may seem like a small thing, a metal pan makes very neat edges.Serious Eats / Irvin Lin
Baked goods served directly from the dish can benefit from a handsome glass or ceramic dish. Alanna Taylor-Tobin, author of Alternative Baker and blogger at The Bojon Gourmet recommends baking cobblers, crisps, and crumbles in glass or ceramic. “I love using attractive ceramic and glass baking dishes for fruit desserts. The dish retains heat, keeping the dessert warm, and it looks nice too! So desserts like my almond flour apple crisp can go from the oven directly to the table for an easy yet dinner-party-worthy dessert,” she says.
However, if your dessert is removed from the dish before serving, like with brownies, cookies, or bars, a metal option is going to give you a more attractive final product because the edges and corners of a metal dish are often an ideal 90-degree angle, creating a perfect square or rectangle.
Bed Bath & Beyond
USA Pan 9-by-13-inch Nonstick Pan
A 9-by-13-inch pan is a staple piece of cookware for all treats sliceable, and a metal one gets the job done more effectively and more efficiently than the glass variety. Metal conducts heat well and in turn produces even bakes. Glass bakeware (which is heavier and more expensive) insulates rather than conducts; in other words, it’s slow to heat but, once hot, retains that heat for longer. Save the Pyrex baking dishes for casseroles like lasagna.
The right metal pan, unlike glass pans, can also elicit sharp 90-degree corners. For squared-off slices with superlative crispy corners every time, reach for a straight-sided baking pan. This type of pan is perfect for brownies, focaccia, sheet-pan pizzas, sheet cakes, and so much more. This particular piece of aluminized-steel cookware looks like a piece of industrial equipment and cooks with that same level of exactness.
Round Cake Pans
What They’re Used For: Layer cakes and other cakes
What You Should Know: When we think of birthday cake, most of us think of a traditional layer cake with lots of candles on top – and since most of us need to bake a birthday cake from time to time (even if it’s from a store-bought mix), round cake pans are a home baking essential. I recommend two 8-inch and two 9-inch pans with a reliable non-stick coating. Unless you’re baking tiered wedding cakes, these two pan sizes will have you covered for the great majority of round cake recipes.
Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Rectangular Tart Pan
This pan is a long and skinny rectangle measuring 4.25 by 13.75 inches, which means anything you bake in it can be served as one giant bar or sliced into elegant mini-bars for serving. Like many round tart pans, it comes with a removable bottom that makes it a cinch to unmold and transfer to a plate. It’s especially good for any tart that has a roughly equal ratio of filling to crust. At just 1-inch tall, the walls of the pan aren’t particularly high, making it ideal for desserts with very rich or sweet fillings that you want just a taste of.
Fat Daddio’s Springform Cake Pan
Unmolding a cheesecake couldn’t be easier with Fat Daddio’s nonstick springform pan—particularly compared to many of its competitors that feature a raised lip around the base that will often leave a visible divot on the side of your crust. The heavy-duty, stainless-steel spring-lock buckle on the outer ring is the sturdiest we’ve tried. Plus, it’s made of restaurant-grade anodized aluminum, which means no warping.
Does the material of a baking sheet matter?
The material matters when it comes to choosing high quality baking sheets. In our review of half sheet pans, we found ones made of heavy gauge metal, like aluminized steel and uncoated aluminum, performed better, with more consistent and even temperatures across the surface. They also resisted warping in extreme heats.
The thickness of your sheet pan doesn’t matter as much. Indeed, in our test we discovered that the heaviest was too unwieldy to be useful, no matter how evenly it conducted heat.
The finish of a standard, uncoated sheet pan—matte or shiny—matters only in terms of aesthetics. A matte finish will hide scratches and scrapes, although even these will start to show signs of wear and discoloration with regular use.
Also of note is whether the baking sheet is coated with nonstick material, like ceramic. This extra layer can make cleanup easier, and release food with less sticking. On the other hand, nonstick pans can’t handle as high temperatures as uncoated pans—and their lifespan is shorter as with anything nonstick. This is why we recommend standard, uncoated sheet pans for most cooking tasks.
Glass and Metal React to Ingredients Differently
Metal and glass also react to ingredients differently. Acidic ingredients like tomatoes and citrus can react with aluminum (the most common metal used in bakeware), creating a metallic taste in your food. This is why lasagna and other casseroles with acidic ingredients are often baked in glass. The smooth slick surface of the glass is also naturally somewhat nonstick, making it easier to clean baked-on cheese and other crusty ingredients.
What size baking sheets should you buy?
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik
For most home cooks, half sheet pans and quarter sheet pans are the most useful. Although you can find half sheet pans at many large grocery stores, quarter sheet pans are more widely available online (it’s worth shopping on the web for all rimmed sheet pans anyway, so you have your pick of brands). Eighth sheet pans are also immensely useful, so if you’ve got the space (and they are pretty tiny), keep a few on hand. The key thing here is having a few of whatever size you like. Multiple pans is more efficient—as anyone who’s had to wash a baking sheet in the middle of dinner prep could tell you.
Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Rectangular Tart Pan
Most often, you can clean a baking sheet with hot, soapy water and a nonabrasive sponge. Be sure to get into the corners and the underside of the pan, where grease can collect or hide. (Residual fat that gets heated past its smoke point results in a sticky, thick resin over cookware.)
For stubborn stains, like burnt sugar or caked-on grease, you can soak the pan before washing it. Better yet: Apply a paste made from baking soda and water, let it sit, then go to town with a sponge. Let the pan cool completely before washing it; blasting a hot pan with water can contribute to warping.
Finally, embrace the patina. A pristine baking sheet is simply one that doesn’t get used.
Nordic Ware Half-Sheet Pan
A jelly roll pan is a slightly smaller version (usually 9 or 10 by 14 or 15 inches) of a standard half sheet pan. They’re ideal for cooking sponge cakes, as they’re proportioned to hold a standard amount of cake batter. Jelly roll pans sometimes have a layer of nonstick coating, to help the delicate cake they’re named after release from the surface. Like rimmed baking sheets, jelly roll pans have 1-inch edges. If you’re serious about your annual Bûche de Noël, you could invest in a jelly roll pan, though our recipe just calls for a half-sheet pan (as does this jelly roll).
What It’s Used For: Baked goods, like muffins, cupcakes, and popovers, as well as savory dishes, like egg bites, mini frittatas, and individual meatloaves.
What You Should Know: It’s important to buy a good-quality muffin pan that will distribute heat evenly and ensure the batter in the center of each well cooks as much as the batter on the outer edges. A good nonstick coating is vital so your baked goods don’t stick; it also makes cleaning the muffin pan much easier.
❤️ My Fave: USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick Muffin Pan
Nordic Ware Jelly Roll Pan
What They’re Used For: Cooling racks aren’t just for cooling! While they’re primarily used to cool cookies and cakes after they’ve been removed from the oven, they’re also great for cooking. For example, you can place one on top of a baking sheet to cook meat. This allows any excess fat from the meat to drip down onto the baking sheet. Additionally, they’re useful for ensuring that items with a crispy coating come out crisp on all sides; putting the food on a rack over a baking sheet lets the hot air circulate all around it and keeps the bottoms from coming out soggy.
What You Should Know: There are a few important things to keep in mind when buying a cooling rack. First, make sure you purchase one that is oven-safe. This gives you the flexibility to use it in all the ways I’ve described above. Additionally, it’s best to buy a cooling rack that has a grid pattern (instead of the bars going just one way), as this helps prevent food from slipping through.
❤️ My Fave: USA Pan Half Sheet Bakeable Cooling Rack
OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro 12 Cup Muffin Pan
For baked desserts like cakes, cookies, and brownies, metal is better. Most recipes are designed and developed for metal pans, and you’ll be able to replicate the recipe in your home if you use a similar pan. For fruit desserts like cobblers, crisps, and crumbles; desserts that have a lot of acidity like citrus; or savory dishes like casseroles, glass is probably better, as it is non-reactive and easier to clean; it also keeps food warmer longer, which is great for serving.
What’s the best way to clean glass and metal baking pans?
The best way to clean a glass pan is to hand wash it with warm soapy water. Soak the pan first if there is baked-on residue; this will soften and loosen the gunk, allowing you to scrub it off more easily with a sponge. Avoid harsh scouring pads, as they can scratch the surface of the glass.
To wash metal baking pans, soak the pan first in soapy hot water if there are crumbs stuck, but usually, a sponge and hot water will remove most of the residue. Your glass or metal baking pan might also be dishwasher safe, but consult the manufacturer’s cleaning and care instructions first before putting it in the dishwasher. And realize that some pans may be listed as dishwasher safe, but harsh dishwashing detergents can corrode or shorten the lifespan of the dish.
What is a rimmed baking sheet?
A rimmed baking sheet is a flat pan with 1-inch edges on all sides. The sides are typically rolled—if they aren’t, we recommend continuing your search for a pan that does have rolled sides; they make for a comfier grip. This pan differs from cookie sheets in its higher profile—cookie sheets tend to have one very short, angled edge, and are open on the three other sides. Rimmed baking sheets also have fairly standardized sizing measurements (a half-sheet size is roughly 18 inches long and 13 inches wide).
They’re also more versatile than cookie sheets, due to their design and construction. Rimmed baking sheets are also colloquially known as sheet pans, baking sheets, or rimmed pans. They’re sometimes also called by their size; most commonly a “half sheet” or “quarter sheet.”
Fat Daddio’s Cake Pan
Fat Daddio’s round cake pans are made of light-colored anodized aluminum. Since dark pans heat more quickly than light pans, using Fat Daddio’s ensures that the outside of your cake doesn’t cook too quickly, which can result in a burnt-crust-underbaked-middle situation. And their nonreactive coating means you can bake a citrusy upside-down cake in it without fear of it tasting metallic.
Oxo Good Grips Non-Stick Muffin Pan
The Oxo Good Grips 12-cup muffin pan is made of heavy-gauge aluminized steel, which conducts heat more evenly than stainless steel and therefore bakes whatever’s inside more evenly too. No more cupcakes with burnt bottoms and gooey centers. The other nice thing about this one? The ends of this dishwasher-safe tin (points for easy cleaning) extend well beyond the baking cups to make it easy to grasp with oven mitts—no thumbprints on the sides of your fluffy, perfectly baked muffins.
Are sheet pans dishwasher-safe?
Most sheet pans are dishwasher-safe. But just because you technically can do something doesn’t mean you should. Dishwashers can decrease the longevity of a sheet pan because of the high temperatures, agitating wash cycles, and strong detergents—not to mention the discoloration, dulling, and speckling effect on the finish. To protect your pans for years of use, it’s best to wash them by hand using a non-abrasive sponge.
Square and Rectangular Baking Dishes
What They’re Used For: Sweets recipes, like breakfast cakes, snack cakes, sheet cakes, brownies, and bars, as well as savory dishes, like lasagna, baked ziti, vegetable gratins, strata, and casseroles.
What You Should Know: You’ll need several sizes of these baking pans in both metal and ceramic (or glass) versions. Metal heats up more quickly than both ceramic and glass and is great for baked goods that need to rise in the oven; it also gives whatever you’re baking lovely crisp, golden edges. Ceramic and glass are slower to heat up than metal but hold their heat for a long time, making them ideal for savory casseroles and pasta dishes that go from oven to table. Unlike metal, which can react negatively with acid-rich foods, ceramic and glass are nonreactive, so there are no limitations in terms of the ingredients you can use. Ceramic also comes in a variety of colors and designs so if you’re serving something directly from a baking dish, it makes a prettier presentation.
❤️ My Faves: You’ll need 3 different sizes of these pans for the most versatility: 2 quarts, 2.5 quarts, and 3 quarts.
- Metal: USA Bakeware 8-Inch Square Nonstick Cake Pan
- Ceramic: Sur La Table Porcelain Baker (be sure to select 2-qt size) or Emile Henry 8-Inch Square Baker
- Glass: Pyrex Basics 8-Inch Square
- Metal: USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick 9×13-Inch Cake Pan
- Ceramic: Sur La Table Porcelain Baker (be sure to select 3-qt size) or Emile Henry 13×9-Inch Rectangular Baker
- Glass: Pyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish
What It’s Used For: Denser cakes, like coffee cakes and pound cakes, as well as gelatin fruit molds
What You Should Know: Bundt pans, known for their decorative sculpted sides and inner tubes, have thicker walls than most other baking pans, which helps cakes bake more evenly. Additionally, the hole in the middle of the pan lets heat rise through the center of the cake, ensuring even rising and baking. There are a wide variety of designs available, from simple ridges to decorative flowers. Because bakers sometimes have problems with Bundt cakes sticking to the pan, I strongly recommend purchasing one with a simple design. In my experience, the more complex the design, the more likely the cake is to stick. I also recommend buying a pan that has a light interior. Pans with darker interiors conduct heat better and can over-brown the exterior of your cake.
❤️ My Fave: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan
Nordic Ware Anniversary Bundt Pan
At around $35, this high-quality pan with a nonstick finish is a worthy, affordable addition to any baker’s cupboard and is made to last. The fluting makes it easy to evenly portion slices, and it turns out beautiful cakes that look great plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or glazed. The Anniversary Bundt pan has straighter sides and a taller height (4½ inches) than most other pans, which works well with a variety of batter quantities—anywhere from 10 to 15 cups. Since the hardest part about baking a Bundt is the unmolding process, this pan also boasts handles and a PFOA-free, silicone-based nonstick coating to make the “big flip” a smooth one.
How big is a half sheet pan? How big is a quarter sheet pan?
A half sheet pan measures 18 by 13 inches and has 1-inch walls, approximately. This size pan is so-called because restaurants and professional kitchens use full sheet pans—those are 18 by 26 inches. Although you can buy full sheet pans at specialty restaurant supply stores, they’re not a helpful purchase for home cooks: they’re too big for most residential ovens.
A quarter sheet pan is 13 by 9 inches. This less-popular size is actually a smart buy because it’s ideal for cooking smaller portions of food; a helpful thing when you’re only roasting a handful of potatoes or a couple of chicken breasts. (Quarter sheet pans are also fantastic for toaster oven use or baking, say, two portions of cookie dough.) Beyond that, eighth sheet pans—9 by six-and-a-half inches—are less common in the home goods retail sector, but nice to have a few of, as we explain here.
If you have off-brand, very old, or mysteriously sourced baking pans, you may notice that their sizes are slightly off. In fact, I have two half sheet pans from a popular direct-to-consumer cookware company that differ by a half-inch in length. This is likely due to a change in manufacturers, but because they both fit in my oven and can handle high heat without warping, I don’t worry too much about it. (It could mean, however, cooling racks fit differently.)
A loaf that’s baked in the Nordic Ware fluted loaf pan emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon, intricately designed and absolutely stunning. With its undulating curves and star-like design, this Nordic Ware pan molds even the plainest pound cake or banana bread into a beauty queen—no glaze or dusting of powdered sugar necessary, though it sure is nice. If you’ve been done dirty by a pan with an elaborate design in the past, don’t fret: This piece of nonstick bakeware will unmold beautifully with just the lightest coating of butter or baking spray.
Nordic Ware Natural Jelly Roll Pan
If you’re someone who cares deeply about the ratio of cake to frosting, please consider the Swiss roll. And to achieve this rolled delight, you need a proper jelly roll pan, usually smaller than a half-sheet pan at 15 by 10 inches with 1-inch sides (for containing the batter as it rises in the oven). If you’re a casual home baker, you probably don’t need a half-sheet pan and a jelly roll pan, but if you’re attempting a recipe that calls for the latter, you won’t get the right results with the former. Nordic Ware’s jelly roll pan features fortified sides to prevent warping, and it’s made from high-quality aluminum for ideal heat conductivity and even bakes every time.
9×13 inch Non-Stick Baking Pan
Alissa Fitzgerald is a chef, recipe developer, and food writer with over 15 years of experience in the food industry. For this piece, she interviewed Roger Rodriguez, owner, pastry chef, and chocolate maker at Vesta Chocolate to find out what the pros look for in cake pans. She then used these insights, market research, and her own expertise to curate this list.
What It’s Used For: Delicate baked goods, like cheesecakes, mousse cakes, and flourless cakes, as well savory dishes, like spaghetti pie or deep-dish quiche.
What You Should Know: A springform pan, or round pan with sides that can be released from the base, makes for easy work of removing delicate baked goods from the pan without the need to invert them. You can then either serve the cake directly from the base of the pan or transfer it to a plate. It’s important to get a high-quality pan with a strong seal between the base and the sides; this will prevent leaks (and frustrated bakers!). Springform pans come in a few different heights; I recommend one that is 3 inches deep.
❤️ My Fave: Nordic Ware 9-inch Springform Pan
Tips for Baking in Glass Instead of Metal
If all you have in your household is glassware and you don’t wish to buy any metal pans, you want to adjust the time and temperature of the baking. Kristina Razon, a former Serious Eats editor and avid baker suggests dropping the temperature of the recipe by 25°F and increasing the baking time by five to 10 minutes. Keep in mind that glassware continues to retain the heat longer than metal pans, so you might want to also take the pan out of the oven slightly underdone and let the carryover heat continue to bake the dessert while it sits.
Fat Daddio’s Round Cake Pan, 9 x 3 Inch
Cake pans are incredibly useful tools for baking everything from brownies to banana bread and even fancy layer cakes. With their even browning and clean release, we consider Fat Daddio’s Round Cake Pans the best of the bunch.
Deep-Dish Pie Pan
What It’s Used For: Pies, cakes, quiches, egg dishes
What You Should Know: Whether you’re making a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving or quiche for family brunch, a pie plate is a must in your kitchen. There are two different depths of pie plates: standard and deep-dish. A standard pie plate is typically 1.25 inches deep; a deep-dish pie plate typically measures 1.5 to 2 inches deep. All of my pie-pan recipes call for a deep-dish pan, so this is what I recommend having. Of course, if you make standard-size pies, you’ll need one of those pans too.
Factors to Consider
Most pans, unless clearly marked, have some sort of nonstick coating. To keep your pans performing their best, steer clear of most dishwasher detergents and abrasive soaps. Be cautious with metal spatulas or knives, and even course sponges, which can damage the surface of treated bakeware. For cleaning purposes, soak cake pans in warm, soapy water and hand wash as needed. Allow pans to dry fully before putting them away. If discolorations do occur, you can season your pan just like you would cast iron: rub a few drops of your favorite baking oil into the pan with a cloth and let it sit in a warm oven around 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 10 minutes and then wipe clean while still warm.
Material and Heat Conductivity
Plan ahead to ensure you have the right sort of pans for the right cake outcome. Different cakes perform better depending on a lot of factors, including temperature, where in the oven the cake is placed, and the depth of the cooking vessel. Pans provide varying levels of consistency based on minor differences like ridges or steel versus aluminum. Always check baked goods during the cooking process and pay attention to signs like uneven edges and gooey middles, which can result in an overcooked cake. Anodized aluminum is nonreactive, which means that acidic ingredients in your batter like buttermilk, natural cocoa powder, and citrus can’t leach metal from the pan into the baked good.
Pan Depth and Shape
A pan with straight sides is a great choice when baking cakes because it makes for a clean line which is easy to decorate and stack. Leave those angled pans for pies. Shallow pans can cook the surface of the cake too quickly while the bottom and center are still gooey. Play around with different placements in the oven if that is the case and different cake pan depths. Occasionally check your oven temperature with a thermometer for any unresolved issues. In general, beginning bakers can get by with just a few pieces like a rectangular pan and a round pan and build.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Does the depth of a cake pan matter?Yes. The heat from convection can or can’t get to surface depending on how deep or shallow baking pan is. For example, shallow pans will brown more on top,” says Rodriguez.
- Why are some cake pans slanted?A cake pan may have slanted edges so that you can nest it with other pans in storage. A round cake pan with a slanted edge, however, is likely meant for pies, according to Rodriguez. Instead of a pan with slanted edges, opt for a “straight edge aluminum cake pan with removable bottom,” he says. “It makes getting the cake out of the pan so much easier.”
So, Which Bakes Best? Glass or Metal? The Answer
Most desserts like brownies, cookies, bars, and cakes bake best in a metal dish. The metal conducts heat evenly and efficiently, allowing the baked goods to heat and rise equally from edge to center, cooking at the same rate.
Desserts like fruit cobblers, crisps, and crumbles, as well as savory casseroles, are best made in a glass dish. The glass retains the heat better, keeping the dish warm, and the dish can go directly from the oven to the table.
One thing to note about pies and tarts: a lot of recipes and articles will tell you to bake pies in glass, and it’s true that glass has the added advantage of being transparent—you can easily see if the pie crust is done. But, if you’re an experienced baker or want your pie to have an extra flaky crust, metal is a superior option. Pie crust is flaky because there are shards of butter in between the layers of dough. When heated, the butter melts, and the water in the butter creates steam, which gives the crust its layers and flakiness. Glass does heat up faster than fancy stoneware pie pans, but metal heats up even quicker, creating an evenly browned crust with loads of flakiness. And, with metal, you can place the pie crust in the freezer to chill the dough thoroughly before moving it to the hot oven, which is riskier with a glass pie dish, since it can shatter.
Do keep in mind that pie bakers are divided about what sort of pie dish they prefer, with a lot of recipes developed with glass pie pans. If you pick metal as your pie pan, your bake time might be less and need to be adjusted.
In the End, Use What Works for You
Finally, one last thing to consider: If you have favorite recipes that work with the pans that you own, you don’t need to change what you’re doing! You know your kitchen and your equipment best. Every kitchen is different, and every oven is different. If you have a favorite recipe for brownies that works perfectly with your favorite glass dish, then by all means, keep baking with it. It’s possible you’ve already adjusted your baking time, temperature, and method to accommodate for the glass material, your oven bakes at slightly lower temperatures than most ovens, or you have family members who love the fudgy, slightly undercooked inside pieces and others that fight over the crispy corner pieces.
But if you are trying a new recipe or trying to figure out why your cookie bars are always coming out hard and overdone at the edges and underdone and raw in the middle, try baking a batch using a metal pan instead of the glass one. You might find switching pans is all you need to make the recipe work.
Consider Practical Use and Storage
Metal is quite durable and can take a beating in a busy kitchen, while glass is fragile and heavy, requiring a little more care in cleaning and storage. Some glass can also suffer thermal shock, which means it can’t handle extreme temperature changes. For example, if you move a glass dish from the freezer to the oven, or from a hot oven to a cold stove, the glass can shatter. The exception to this is borosilicate glass, which is more thermal-shock resistant than other types of glass (which is why it’s often used to make microwave cookware, like this set from Anyday). However, keep in mind that most common glass bakeware is not borosilicate. Metal doesn’t have this issue, allowing you to chill a pie crust in the freezer before moving it directly to the oven to bake.
Glass can also be difficult to store since pans are often inconsistently sized, as well as heavy and thick. If you have pets or inquisitive young kids, or just don’t have a lot of storage space, opt for metal bakeware.