The water will turn into steam whilst baking, providing moisture and an even temperature during the baking process.
Another prevalent piece of advice, also cake-related, is putting water in the oven when baking cake. Many of us do these things without thinking because we inherit them with our recipes. But what does putting water in the oven when baking a cake do?
The reverberating pop sound that is made when sheets are placed in the oven is the metal warping or twisting slightly as it expands and contracts. In this article, we take an in-depth look at the warping of sheet pans, why it happens, its possible effects on cooking and much more as well as answer frequently asked questions about the somewhat strange phenomenon.
The metal of your sheet pan is at a cooler temperature than your hot oven. The metal expands as it heats. The large surface of your sheet pan will heat and expand faster than the short rimmed sides.
This creates stress right where the flat base meets the raised lip, causing some pans to buckle or twist. Thin metal sheet pans tend to warp more often than heavier ones, but all pans are likely to warp at least a little at some point.
Are you new to baking and getting to grips with some of the tricks and tips you see online? You may have seen the suggestion to put a tray of water in your oven while baking. If you’ve wondered why you should put water under the baking tray, I’ll explain what this easy hack does.
You will provide moist heat by putting water in a baking tray under your cake. This steam helps to stop fragile cakes from cracking in dry heat and can improve the cake’s texture. Adding water to a tray while baking bread will help it rise and form a light, airy crumb.
This technique is known as a water bath, and it’s an easy way to improve your loaves of bread and cakes. While some recipes don’t need a water bath, leaving that step out could ruin the texture of your baking.
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We’ve all heard of wacky hacks to keep our kitchens clean and organized and our cooking skills up to par. Alton Brown’s tip for keeping parchment paper in place is one to add to your repertoire. Parchment paper is a kitchen necessity for many reasons.
The Pioneer Woman says it helps prevent hot spots by creating an airy layer between the hot baking sheet and the parchment paper. Parchment paper also helps keep cookies fluffy, helps keep cutting bars and brownies clean, and enables easy cleanup. There are so many ways that this baking paper can help make your time in the kitchen more efficient. But don’t confuse parchment with wax paper.
Martha Stewart says the difference between the two is the wax coating. Parchment paper is non-stick and moisture, grease, and heat-resistant. Wax paper is also non-stick, but it contains a thin coating of wax which gives the paper this quality. Wax paper is also not heat-resistant. Never use wax paper in the oven — the wax can melt and may even ignite.
Now that you know the difference between these two baking papers, grab a roll of parchment paper and cookie dough. It’s time to put Alton Brown’s hack into practice.
Spritz the baking sheet with water
According to The Spruce Eats, most brands of parchment paper are heat-safe up to 420 F. This paper works wonders for preventing cookies, cakes, and candies from sticking to the baking pan. It is also used for layering between sticky candies, covering work surfaces, and funneling or sifting ingredients.
If you’ve ever noticed, parchment paper doesn’t like to sit still on a baking sheet. It tends to slide around, making it challenging to keep it in place long enough to position your baked goods. For this reason, Brown comes to the rescue with a hack for making parchment paper stick to baking dishes. According to Food 52, the famous chef recommends using a spray bottle to spritz your baking dish with water before laying the parchment paper down. The water acts as an agent to adhere the paper to the pan. It’s a natural way to keep the paper and cookies in place.
Anyone who’s baked a sheet pan of cookies has heard it. All of a sudden there’s a tremendous “bang” from your oven. What happened? Did something explode? Are your cookies ruined?
Nope — your baking pan popped in the oven, and now, it’s warped and crooked. This happens for several reasons. The first is something called thermal stress, per Science Direct. Metal expands when it’s exposed to high heat, particularly if the temperature change, as in from room temperature to the heat of the oven, is sudden. This stresses the metal so it’s more prone to warping. Second, because no metal pan is completely even, some parts may expand more quickly than others — and it pops and warps.
While your cookies will probably survive, the pan itself is now a problem. Can you fix the pan? Should you use it again? And can you prevent this warping in the first place?
How to avoid warping
Now that we know what causes this banging and warping, is there anything you can do about it? According to Cook’n, yes.
First of all, don’t buy flimsy cookie sheets and rimmed baking pans. They’re far more likely to warp and pop in the oven. Look for heavy-duty steel pans that are solid and have a nice heft to them, suggests The Strategist. Buy sheet pans with a rolled or rimmed edge, too — the support makes the pan more stable. Cook’n adds that those pans are made by pressing steel with consistent pressure so there are fewer weak spots. Second, don’t put a baking pan or cookie sheet in the oven unless it has quite a bit of food on it. Try to cover the surface with food and cover it evenly.
America’s Test Kitchen adds that bare spots in the pan heat more quickly than spots with food on them, which is why a nice, even covering of food is the best choice. And when the pan is out of the oven, you can save further warping by not rinsing a hot pan in cold water, according to Martha Stewart. Let the pan cool first, then wash it.
Can you fix a warped pan?
There are multiple ways to fix a warped pan. But if you can’t fix a damaged pan, throw it away. Warping will expose the food to slightly different temperatures, resulting in uneven baking. And if you’re baking something that releases oil as it bakes, the oil will pool in one corner of the pan, ruining your food and presenting a hazard when you take the pan out of the oven.
To fix a warped pan, put it in a low oven (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 10 minutes. Then gently hit the wood with a mallet until it’s straightened out. (It may be best to do this on the floor of your kitchen or the basement to protect your countertop.) You can repeat this process as necessary until the pan is straight. Then add another pan weighted with some heavy cans or books on top as the pan cools so it holds its shape.
Once that’s done, use your sheet pan to make these fabulous sheet pan dinner recipes.
And does it mess up the pan?
Photo: Grace Cary/Getty Images
Place a sheet pan in your oven and you might soon hear a reverberating “PONG!” that makes you jump a mile out of your shoes. Before you open the oven door to check for casualties, it helps to know a little of the physics behind that sound: This is the metal warping, or twisting slightly as it expands and contracts.
Why Do Sheet Pans Warp?
The metal of your sheet pan is at a cooler temperature than your hot oven. Metal expands as it heats. The large surface of your sheet pan will heat and expand faster than the short rimmed sides. This creates stress right where the flat base meets the raised lip, causing some pans to buckle or twist.
Is It Bad for Sheet Pans to Warp in the Oven?
The short answer is not really.
Sheet pans will usually straighten out as they come up to temperature. A slightly warped pan will also perform just as well as a regular one.
The pop you hear isn’t quite strong enough to fling food onto the walls of your oven, so no worries there either. The main instance where it might make a difference is when it helps to have a very flat surface, like if you’re pouring an egg mixture into a crust for a quiche or making créme brûlée.
How Do I Keep My Sheet Pans From Warping?
First, try to avoid placing cold pans in a hot oven. If you need to chill balls of cookie dough, do this on a plate instead of sticking your sheet pan in the fridge before baking.
Second, use the right-sized sheet pan for the job. The surface of the sheet pan should be topped evenly with whatever you’re roasting. Any bare spots will heat faster than ones covered by food, and that temperature difference could cause your pan to warp. Be careful not to crowd your pan as veggies need some room to brown, but do try to fill in bigger gaps.
Third, be aware of your oven’s hot and cool spots so you can place your sheet pan where the heat is most even. Generally, the oven is hottest at the top and bottom center, where the heating elements are, and on either side (the walls of your oven). Try placing pans in the center of the middle rack, rotating the pan from side to side or from front to back during cooking if needed.
Ready to stock your kitchen with the best sheet pans? Check out our best tested and reviewed baking sheets.
Tips from the Experts
My Baking Sheet Warped. Now What?
A misshapen baking sheet may look disheartening but it is both preventable and fixable.
Have you ever been shocked by a sudden bang in your oven—and peered in to find that your baking sheet has suddenly seized into a warped position?
Thankfully, this isn’t cause for alarm.
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Any baking sheet can warp at least a little. It is the natural result of the metal expanding and contracting unevenly across the pan as it heats during cooking and then cools down.
Most pans will spring back into place when the hotter and cooler spots equalize, but they can remain warped if the thermal stress is too great.
A warped pan will still do its job, but we prefer one that sits flat. Your best bet is prevention.
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How to Prevent Baking Sheets From Warping
- Avoid rinsing a hot baking sheet in cold water. Instead, let the sheet cool before washing so that the metal can contract gently and evenly in the process.
- Ensure that the food covers the entire pan. Any bare spots will heat faster, and the temperature differential can cause the pan to buckle. If the food won’t cover the pan, switch to a smaller baking sheet.
- Buy a sturdy brand. Our winner is the Nordic Ware Naturals Bakers Half Sheet. For smaller tasks, we love this brand’s quarter-sheet and eighth-sheet versions.
If your sheet still warps, read on.
How To Fix A Warped Baking Sheet
1. Heat the baking sheet in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until warm to the touch.
2. Lay a towel down on a hard and flat surface, such as concrete floor or workbench.
3. Place the pan upside down on the towel.
4. Cover the pan with another towel to prevent scratching, then tap gently with a mallet until the original shape returns. Voila!
Small Rimmed Baking Sheets (Quarter- and Eighth-Sheet Pans)These petite versions of a kitchen essential are the perfect sizes for smaller tasks.
There’s no doubt water has universal importance. But, just as water is a precious ingredient to our landscape and bodies, it’s also a very precious ingredient in our kitchen. Some form of water is always used in the cooking or baking process. Therefore, we must recognize the integral role it plays in our recipes and how it can directly affect the outcome of our home-cooked meals.
Admittedly, I’ve boiled pasta in the water to the point where it sticks together in one big clump. I’ve watched numerous pots boil over onto my stovetop. I’ve also managed to kill my baker’s yeast by adding water that was too hot, so my bread never rose properly. These kitchen blunders forced me to value water. Water quality should command the same amount of attention in your recipes as flour does for your cakes and eggs for your omelets.To the naked eye, plain water looks just like, well, plain water. Is it the lack of vibrant color, lack of texture, or lack of flavor that causes us to downplay its role in recipes? Just because it’s not purple, or it doesn’t come shredded or isn’t sticky, doesn’t mean we should disregard water’s importance in the kitchen.
Before doing anything, it’s helpful to have a general working knowledge about the water you’re using in your kitchen. Not all water is created equal. There could be chemical and mineral factors in your water that can alter your dish’s outcome. For instance, I grew up on well water. Because the water came in constant contact with rocks and soil, it was deemed “hard.” Hard water basically means that it contains increased levels of calcium and magnesium. Conversely, soft water contains decreased amounts of these minerals. While neither is good or bad, each can alter your food. Using hard water in homemade bread actually benefits the bread’s yeast fermentation, making the dough stronger. I noticed this difference first-hand when I made Amish White Bread with hard water in the suburbs and then replicated the same recipe in the city with soft(er) water. My family opted for the suburban version, claiming the city version was too doughy and tasted “raw” in the center.
If you receive your water from a ground well, or if you live in a city, chances are your water contains increased levels of chlorine. (Don’t fret -Federal law requires all cities in the U.S. to treat drinking water with chlorine to kill bacteria and microbes.) Your tap water may even have an odor. Or it may not even taste right. These increased chemical levels will certainly alter your dish’s outcome. If you’re suspicious about your tap water and its chlorine levels, you do have some easy alternatives before you cook with it. You can use bottled water in your recipes, though it can contain contaminants from plastic. Or you can keep your tap water in an open-air container for at least 24 hours, allowing the chlorine to escape. Or, you can simply use filtered water to save precious time and alleviate any of the guesswork.
Because filtering water removes impurities, including lead and other contaminants from aging pipes and faucets, many argue that it’s better. Consequently, if you’re making a recipe where water is a key ingredient – especially soups, stews, and drinks – use filtered water in lieu of tap. Better quality water begets better quality food. It goes for your kitchen prep work too. When washing your ingredients, use the purest possible water.
As an ingredient in our kitchen, water is often taken for granted, but it plays so many significant roles in the baking and cooking process that it’s necessary to have a general understanding of its properties and functions. Once water gets the attention it deserves, the quality of your dishes will undoubtedly improve.
Amish Breadadapted from allrecipes.comOriginal recipe makes 2 – 9×5 inch loaves
2 cups filtered warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)2/3 cup white sugar1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast1 1/2 teaspoons salt1/4 cup vegetable oil6 cups bread flour (I used regular flour)1/2 cup dried cranberries2 tablespoons butter, melted1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow proofing until yeast resembles creamy foam.
2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Add in cranberries. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well-oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow rising until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans. Baste tops with melted butter and sprinkle on ground cinnamon. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until the dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes
8 slices of thick-cut Applewood-smoked bacon (approximately 8 ounces)2 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup2 tablespoons unsalted butter1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil1 small onion, finely chopped2 large garlic cloves, minced1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste3 tablespoon granulated sugar1 teaspoon smoked paprikaKosher salt and fresh ground pepper1/2 cup dry wineTwo 15-oz. cans chopped tomatoes2 cups of filtered water1/4 cup fresh orange juice3 tablespoons sour creampesto
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange bacon on parchment paper on the baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes until the pieces are almost crisp.
2. Drain the oil from the baking sheet and sprinkle the crisp bacon with brown sugar/maple syrup and bake another 8 minutes. Let cool.
3. In a saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook over high heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until darkened, about 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the granulated sugar, the smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and cook for 30 seconds.
5. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes with their juices; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
6. Stir the water, orange juice, and sour cream into the saucepan. Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth.
7. Return the soup to the saucepan; season with salt and pepper and add in the bacon pieces.
8. Reheat and ladle into bowls. Add a dollop of sour cream or a spoonful of pesto to the top.
9. The soup can be served chilled.
When to Put Water in the Oven When Baking a Cake
Not all recipes need you to put water in the oven when baking a cake. But some benefit from this culinary trick.
Water is crucial for baking a good cheesecake. These cakes, in particular, should be moist. It’s also extremely fragile. Without water to help distribute the oven temperature, cheesecakes rapidly dry out.
Sponge cakes are famously temperamental when it comes to baking them. If you aren’t careful they expand too quickly. In the worst-case scenario, they explode over the top of the cake tin.
In more genteel moods, they bake unevenly, and you get a lopsided sponge.
Yogurt and buttermilk can also help add extra moisture, but create a much thicker sponge. Sometimes that can work, but for something like Victoria Sponge, you want a light cloud of a cake, and that’s where putting water in the oven can help.
As the water evaporates, the sponge absorbs it. The heat of the water also ensures it cooks evenly, and the result is a light, evenly baked cake.
This is also an excellent way to avoid crumbling cake or hard edges on your sponge.
How Does Putting Water in the Oven While a Cake Bakes Work?
So, that’s why it’s a good idea to bake a cake with a bit of water in the oven. But what does that mean in practice?
Here’s how to use a water bath to keep your cake moist without affecting its structural integrity of the cake.
Start by securely wrapping the bottom of your cake tin in aluminum foil. You want to keep your cake from drying out, but you don’t want it to be soggy.
Place the wrapped and filled cake tin on a baking tray or sheet and set it aside. Next, fill a kettle with water and put it on the range. Note that the kettle doesn’t need to come to boil, but you need the water to be warmer than it would be coming from the tap.
Pour an inch of warm water onto your baking sheet. It’s helpful if you pick a baking sheet with a raised lip or edge to it. That ensures that when you pick it up to put in the oven, you won’t slosh water onto the floor.
This is particularly important because even water that isn’t boiling may cause scalds or burns if it splashes on you.
Place the cake in the oven. For an even rise, the oven shelf should sit in the middle of the oven. Leave the cake there for 40 minutes. Don’t open the oven door prematurely, or the cake may sink.
After the 40-minute mark, you can safely remove your cake and set it on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Take extra care unwrapping the cake pan from the tinfoil since you still don’t want to get the cake wet.
Once unwrapped, leave your cake to cool for an hour. Do this at room temperature rather than somewhere cold, like a fridge, unless your recipe specifies otherwise.
Can You Put Water In The Oven To Prevent Bread From Getting Really Hard?
When baking bread, using steam helps the loaf rise in the oven and prevents it from becoming hard. If your bread gets hard too quickly in the oven, it cannot rise well and doesn’t get the ‘oven spring.’
If you prefer light bread with a soft, airy crumb, you’ll want to add water to a baking tray to provide the necessary steam. The steam works with the yeast’s carbon dioxide to puff your bread up, allowing those lovely light, crusty loaves of bread like ciabatta.
If no guidelines are given, you should spray your loaf with water before placing it in a preheated oven rather than using a water bath.
Should There Be Water In The Oven?
While you don’t need water in the oven, this old trick is a great way to avoid dry cakes or hard bread.
The heat from the oven will dry out your ingredients as they bake, and chefs have come up with many ways to counteract this. Sometimes they add wetter ingredients to the batters, such as cakes with additional buttermilk or yogurt.
However, adding or substituting ingredients can change your cakes’ texture, consistency, and taste. Adding a baking pan of water to the oven increases the moisture content of the hot air. The water evaporates and turns into steam, preventing the cake from coming out dry and crumbly.
You don’t want to use so much water that the moisture in the oven leaves your cake or bread soggy. Usually, you will only need to fill a pan with about an inch of water.
You should also wrap the bottom of your cake tin or springform pan with foil. The foil will stop any water from seeping in and making the bottom of your cake a soggy mush.
Once you’ve wrapped the base of your cake pan with foil, place it on a baking tray with a high edge, and pour a half-inch to an inch of water into the tray.
The Benefits Of Adding Water To The Baking Tray
Particular cakes which need water baths to come out perfectly are sponges and cheesecakes. Use a water bath if you want your sponge cage to be smooth, with a light, moist interior. Baked cheesecakes are exceptionally delicate, and you’ll get the best result using a water bath to keep them from drying out.
When baking custards, the extra moisture in the heated air of the oven prevents them from turning rubbery.
Steam from a water bath is also crucial when making crusty bread like Baguettes or farmhouse bread. Once the oven spring has ended, leaving the bread light and airy, the bread forms a crisp crust.
When grilling meat or chicken, a tray of water in the oven can help catch fat drips and prevent the fat from catching fire.
Cakes Love Moisture
The main reason to put water in the oven while baking a cake is that there’s nothing worse than a dry cake.
Different recipes have different solutions to this problem, including adding high-moisture ingredients to your cake, like yogurt or buttermilk.
These work well, but sometimes substitutions aren’t an option because they change the density of your cake. That can affect cooking time, and if you aren’t used to baking or are trialing a new recipe, that can seem daunting.
For that reason, a popular alternative to keep your cake moist is to put water in the oven while your cake bakes.
Is It Safe To Put Water In an Oven
Putting water in the oven is often essential when baking particular cakes, loaves of bread, and desserts. There are some things to remember when doing so.
- You’ll want to put the water in a baking tray with high sides to prevent spillage.
- Don’t put a glass of water in your oven, as the glass will likely shatter due to temperature changes.
- When adding water to baking bread, remember that the oven will already be scorching, so be careful to avoid scalding yourself.
- You can oversteam bread while using a water bath, as with cakes. You may prefer to mist your bread instead or add a bowl filled with wet dish towelsfor five minutes before adding your bread. Be careful when removing the hot pan of towels, so you don’t burn!
You can also place an empty sheet pan in the oven as it preheats, a great trick for getting roasted veggies extra crisp. For cookies, though, it is better to preheat the pan for just a couple of minutes or to run hot water over it first, as a pan that is
Second, use the right-sized sheet pan for the job. The surface of the sheet pan should be topped evenly with whatever you are roasting. Any bare spots will heat faster than ones covered by food, and that temperature difference could cause your pan to warp. Be careful not to crowd your pan as veggies need some room to brown, but do try to fill in bigger gaps.
Lastly, be aware of your oven’s hot and cool spots so you can place your sheet pan where the heat is most even. Generally, the oven is hottest at the top and bottom center, where the heating elements are, and on either side (the walls of your oven). Try placing pans in the center of the middle rack, rotating the pan from side to side or from front to back during cooking if needed.
Why Put Water In Oven When Baking Cake
Putting water in a baking tray while baking a cake helps to keep the oven air temperature moist and constant. If you are making cakes that are likely to crack if they get too dry, like cheesecake, this can help them retain their shape and consistency.
Adding water to the oven also helps your cake to cook consistently throughout. The moisture helps avoid the dreaded dry, crumbly cake.
However, here are some things to watch out for when adding water to the baking process.
- Don’t add too much water to the baking tray. An inch to a half-inch of water should be enough.
- Adding too little water could mean your water evaporates before the baking process is done.
- Ensure your oven is correctly preheated before adding the cake and the water bath, as the water can lower the temperature.
- Use foil to securely wrap the base of your cake pan to avoid the bottom of the cake getting wet.
Are There Risks to Putting Water in the Oven With Your Cake?
Nothing is fool-proof, and there are a few risks that come with putting water in the oven while you bake your cake.
The biggest danger is that some of the water will seep through the tinfoil and leave your cake with a soggy bottom.
When that happens, your cake may cook on top but not on the bottom. There’s also a chance it may fall apart when you take it out of the tin.
One way to manage this risk is to line your cake pan with baking paper, even if you’re using a non-stick pan. It gives your cake additional protection between the water and the batter.
Another thing to keep in mind as you add the water is that you always want at least an inch between your tin and the water. Even though this technique is colloquially called a water bath, you don’t want the cake pan to be swimming in water.
The main and short response is that it is not necessarily bad for sheet pans to pop while in the oven. Sheet pans will usually straighten out as they come up to temperature. A slightly warped pan will also perform just as well as a regular one.
The pop you hear is not quite strong enough to fling food onto the walls of your oven, and it would not make the oven messy, so no worries there either. The main instance where it might make a difference is when it helps to have a very flat surface, like if you are pouring an egg mixture into a crust for a quiche or making créme brûlée.
While adding a water bath is not always essential when baking cake or bread, it will help improve the texture of your baking. If you want to avoid custards turning rubbery when baked, or cheesecakes cracking in dry heat, you will need to use a water bath.
Adding water to your oven when baking bread can be trickier, as you don’t want constant steam as baking cakes. Some bakers prefer to mist their bread or use only a tiny amount of boiling water on a heated baking tray.
What does putting water in the oven while baking a cake do? It helps keep your cake moist. It also ensures it cooks evenly.
But those aren’t the only advantages. A bit of water in the oven also helps to melt chocolate for molds and icing and reheat baked goods without dehydrating them.
If you decide to experiment with putting water in the oven while baking a cake, take care to protect your cake tin with tin foil. And don’t use too much water. This is one instance where less is more.