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Baking pans come in all different shapes, sizes, and materials, but most bakers don’t realize how important it is to pick just the right one for their baked goods.
It might be convenient to just buy a few generic pans and use them for everything, but that strategy can (and will) lead to baked goods that are cooked unevenly or fall apart when you’re trying to remove them.
In short, using proper baking pans is literally make or break.
In this article, I’ll go over all the most important types and recommend my top pick for each type.
What You Need to Know About Baking Pans
Types of Pans
There are 10 different types of pan that every baker should have in their kitchen. If they don’t, certain types of baked goods simply won’t come out right. Those 10 types and my favorite example of each are detailed in the table below. In the next section, I’ll tell you why I love each of the products I highlight.
|PAN TYPE||BRIEF DESCRIPTION||MY FAVORITE EXAMPLE|
|Round Cake Pans||These circular pans produce the classic cakes that you’ll generally see in bakeries. A circular pan might not be the most size-efficient option, but there’s something aesthetically pleasing about a circular cake.||USA Pan Bakeware 9-Inch|
|Rectangle Pans||Since most oven racks are rectangular, rectangle-shaped baking pans are usually the best shape to make the biggest cakes in the oven.||Emile Henry Modern Classics 13”x 9”|
|Square Pans||Like circular cakes, square cakes are aesthetically pleasing. Unlike circular baking pans, though, square ones produce cakes with the corner pieces some people love.||King Arthur Square Pan|
|Half Sheet||Full-sheet pans are 26”x18” – too big for nearly all home ovens. So most people instead use a half-sheet pan, only half the size (13”x18”) and still shallower than a cake pan (1” deep).||Nordic Ware Half Sheet Pan 18” x 13”|
|Muffin Pan||Muffin pans make it easy to produce a whole batch of identical personal-sized treats all at once. Cupcakes, muffins, or miniature cakes made in a muffin pan are perfect party snacks.||USA Pan Nonstick Muffin Pan, 12 Well|
|Loaf Pan||A dedicated loaf pan is the only way to get the thickness that makes bread so good. Bread needs to rise a lot during baking, so a tall loaf pan is a must if you want to prepare it yourself.||Platinum Pro Loaf Pan 8.5” x 4.5”|
|Cookie Sheet||A cookie sheet is like a baking pan but with little to no depth. The reason for that is that when you’re making cookies, they do not need to be held in the pan like a cake – they don’t press against the sides of the pan when baking.||Sheet Pan, 18”x13”|
|Springform Pan||A springform pan is like a circular cake pan with sides that detach. That means that after baking, you can detach the sides instead of having to remove the cake from the pan and risking breakage.||Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan, 9”|
|Bundt Pan||Bundt pans are round cake pans with a distinctive tube in the middle that prevents the possibility of runny cake centers. Bundt pans also have artful indentations that produce decorative cakes.||Original Classic Bundt Pan, 10.5”x4.5”|
|Pie Dish||Pie dishes are like round baking dishes but with angled, wavy edges that help give the pie’s exterior its distinctively crisp, crumbly texture.||10.7” Pie Dish|
Besides the types mentioned above, there are other considerations to make before choosing a baking pan. Make sure the material of the pan (glass, aluminum, clay, steel, etc.) and the coating on the pan (ceramic, teflon, etc.) are right for your oven and the temperature you will be cooking at.
10 Baking Pans Every Kitchen Needs
1. Round Cake Pans: USA Pan Bakeware 9-Inch
by USA Pan
This round pan looks nice and basic with its old-school alloy steel construction, but it stands out similar products during use because of its finish.
I’m not sure how USA even manages to make a nonstick finish that makes it so incredibly easy to release its contents after baking without letting a single crumb stick to the pan. I rarely have to do any cleaning beyond a light rinsing after I use this pan. It’s nice and heavy, too, and it cools very quickly after baking.
For such a good price, this is a very, very solid product. It’s no wonder it gets 5 stars on Amazon based on over 8,500 reviews.
2. Rectangle Pans: Emile Henry Modern Classics 13”x 9”
by Sur La Table
The reason many people love this specific model so much is because it’s deep. You can make awesome mac and cheese, casserole, or layered lasagna in here without having to worry about it bubbling over.
It’s also a very attractive pan, with a glossy glass finish, stylishly angled handles on either end, and a subtle but appealing palette of earthy colors to choose from. It’s good at releasing cakes and easy to clean.
Finally, it has great heat distribution, which is important in a relatively large rectangular pan like this one.
3. Square Pans: Square Pan
King Arthur is another company that just does a really solid job of manufacturing simple yet effective baking products.
This square pan does what you need it to do, and it does it well; the size is perfect for at-home bakers and the aluminum material does a good job of heat distribution while keeping the build light in weight.
Despite that, though, the pan has a pleasantly heavy-duty feel that can be attributed to its inclusion of recycled steel.
4. Half Sheet: Nordic Ware Half Sheet Pan 18”x13”
by Sur La Table: Nordic Ware
Nordic Ware is a great brand that’s been around for a long time. Through trial and error, they really have become the best baking pan manufacturer in my opinion, and they know how to make products that distribute heat evenly and don’t cause food to stick.
At the same time, though, Nordic Ware products – especially their half sheet pans – are very easy to clean by hand.
5. Muffin Pan: USA Pan Nonstick Muffin Pan, 12-Well
by USA Pan
As I said, USA Pans have mastered the art of baking pans using a non-stick finish. And since muffin pans have so much surface area, this may be the best use of non-stick of all.
The pan is also incredibly good at distributing heat. So good, in fact, that I often find myself decreasing the cooking heat by about 30% when using this pan.
My only complaint about this pan is that it’s just a hair too big to fit two of them side by side in a standard sized home oven. If just an inch had been shaved off each side, this issue could’ve been avoided.
6. Loaf Pan: Platinum Pro Loaf Pan 8.5” x 4.5”
by Sur La Table
This pan heats evenly and has created beautifully-textured bread every time I’ve baked with it. The pan is a perfect size, too, and it cleans off easily.
You’d expect a high price tag given the product’s quality, so it’s surprising that it costs less than $20 at the moment.
7. Cookie Sheet: Sheet Pan, 18”x13”
This aluminum pan is heavy duty and has a very sturdy feel without being too heavy. The attractive finish is great, too, preventing sticking and breakage more effectively than other similar products.
It is easier to scratch than some cookie pans I’ve seen, so don’t scrub too hard or use steel wool – you probably won’t feel the need to anyway.
8. Springform Pan: Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan, 9”
by Sur La Table
I love springform pans, and I use them a lot. Many models claim to be leak-free, but none over 6” actually make good on that promise.
This one is as close as any springform pan I’ve used, though, keeping anything but the thinnest liquids from seeping out – making a water bath for a cheesecake in the pan will not work.
The locking mechanism is easy to use and has nice motion, too.
9. Bundt Pan: Original Classic Bundt Pan, 10.5”x4.5”
Lots of imitators have tried to knock off the brilliant Bundt Pan design in the 60 years since it debuted, but no one has been able to top the original.
The design keeps cakes from coming out undercooked in the middle, it reflects heat to keep the edges from being overcooked, and it produces cakes with a retro and aesthetically pleasing look thanks to its trademark patterned design. It’s easy to hold during baking, easy to clean afterwards, and allows for crumble-free cake release.
The pan is and has always been a baking marvel, and it’s an absolute essential for any cake-maker.
10. Pie Dish: 10.7” Pie Dish
There are two things that set this pie dish apart from the competition.
The first is the material: it’s really pleasant to hold, cools quickly, and cleans easily.
The second is the look. I’m a sucker for baking products with classic, no-frills designs, and this dish captures that while still looking elegant and sturdy.
Recipes Using Your Baking Pans
After you’ve gotten your baking pans, you’ll want to put them to use! Here are some of my very favorite baking recipes that will let you break in some of your new kitchen supplies.
Baking Pan FAQ
Step 1. Spray the pan with nonstick spray or apply oil using a cooking brush.
Step 2. Tear off a piece of parchment paper larger than the pan and place the pan on top.
Step 3. Using scissors, cut diagonal slits at each corner of the paper to the corner of the pan.
Step 4. Take the paper from beneath the pan and push it into the pan, folding the corners along the slits. After you do, the paper should be covering the pan bottoms and sides.
If you need a visual, check out this video from Savory about how to line a baking pan.
It’s important to line any pan before baking in it to prevent your baked goods from sticking.
Lining a pan or using a non-stick pan helps make it easier. If you’ve already cooked a cake and you’re having trouble getting it out of the pan, though, you can take a knife (the sharper the better) and carefully cut around the edges of the pan.
After you’ve done so, let the cake cool – the fridge can speed up this process. Finally, turn the can pan upside down on a cutting board or plate (be careful not to spill) and tap the bottom of the pan to release the cake.
One method is to line the pan with parchment paper before baking. Another more delicious method is to coat the pan with a thin layer of butter or oil before baking and then dust it with flour.
I recommend you do both: line the baking pan with parchment paper and then coat it with butter/oil and flour.
• For messy pans, boil some water, mix it with a few tablespoons of baking soda, and pour it into the dirty pan before letting the mixture sit for 30 minutes. It will get rid of most messes, though it won’t make the pan look brand new.
• To make the pan look new again or for heavier-duty stains, mix in a cup of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide instead of water and let the mixture sit for an hour.
• As a last resort, try putting the baking pan in the oven and turning on the oven’s self-clean feature. This will clean the baking pan along with the oven itself.
In The Pan
Most bakers underestimate just how big of an impact the pan has on the final product. You can elevate your baking game completely by buying the right ones. Hopefully this post serves as a good jumping-off point to that end.
Last update on 2022-02-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API