The Best Baking Pans for the Kitchen – BobVila.com
October 31, 2020 - Bakeware Baking Set
Whether you fancy sweet treats or savory bites, choose the best pan for your cooking needs.
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Whether you’re a newbie baker or a veteran, the right baking pans can be your best ally in the kitchen.
Baking pans come in all shapes and sizes. Some serve a variety of uses, like a sheet pan that’s good for everything from baking cookies to roasting veggies. Other baking pans are designed for specific types of recipes, like muffin pans or tube pans. The best baking pan options are usually made of steel, aluminum, glass, or ceramic, are warp-resistant, and are made to distribute heat evenly so your cakes, cookies, and breads bake perfectly.
Ideally you want a set of pans to cover a range of cooking needs. The specific pans you need depend on what you plan to cook, how many people you cook for, and your budget.
Keep reading to find some of the best baking pans reviewed—and possibly the one your collection is missing.
- BEST OVERALL: Nordic Ware 3 Piece Baker’s Delight Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Calphalon Nonstick Bakeware Set
- BEST MUFFIN PAN: USA Pan Bakeware (1200MF) Cupcake and Muffin Pan
- BEST LOAF PAN: Rachael Ray Yum-o! Oven Lovin’ Nonstick Loaf Pan
- BEST BUNDT PAN: Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-Stick Tube Pan
- BEST SQUARE PAN: USA Pan Bakeware Square Cake Pan
- BEST TUBE PAN: Chicago Metallic Professional Angel Food Cake Pan
- BEST CAKE PAN: Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Round Cake Pan
- BEST PIE PLATE: Emily Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish
Common Types of Baking Pans
You’re going to need a collection of pans so you have the right pan to suit your needs. These are the most common types of baking pans.
A metal sheet pan is a versatile cooking tool that can be used to roast chicken or bake cookies and other treats. It has a shallow rim edge, about an inch tall, that holds in liquids like meat drippings. Sheet pans come in a variety of sizes, but the most common one is a half sheet that measures 13 inches by 18 inches.
9-Inch by 13-Inch Baking Pan
This is similar to a sheet pan, but its sides are higher so it’s more appropriate for cooking deep- dish foods like single-layer sheet cakes, brownies, and casseroles.
A muffin pan is used for baking cupcakes, popovers, and of course, muffins. A 12-count muffin pan is standard, but you can also get six-count pans. Mini-muffin pans are available if you want to make bite-size treats.
A loaf pan is used for cooking loaves of quick bread, yeast bread, or meatloaf. The standard size for loaf pans is 9 inches by 5 inches and 2.5 inches to 3 inches deep, but smaller versions are available, too.
This pan is used for making Bundt cakes, that all-American classic. The pan is fluted to give the cake its distinct sculpted shape.
This 8- or 9-inch pan is made for baking brownies, bar cookies, cakes, and cornbread. One square pan makes a single layer of cake.
This pan is used for baking lighter cakes like angel food and sponge cake. It’s similar to a Bundt pan but taller, with a hollow center tube and straight sides. Some models have removable bottoms to make it easier to remove delicate cakes. Standard-size tube pans are 9 inches in diameter with 3-inch sides.
Round Cake Pan
If you want to make tiered cakes, this pan is a must. It can even be used for other baked goods, like brownies and cookie bars, when you want a fancier presentation. Cake pans come in a variety of sizes, but the most commonly used ones come in 8-, 9- and 10-inch diameters.
Whether you bake pies or quiches, a pie plate will keep the inside moist and the crust crisp. A 9-inch diameter pie plate is the standard option. Some pie plates are utilitarian pieces of metal, while others are ceramic and glass with decorative features.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Baking Pans
When shopping for the best baking pans, consider what you will be cooking, the quantities you’ll cook, the ease of cleaning, and how much you want to spend.
Glass, ceramic, and metal are the typical materials used for baking pans. The material affects how quickly your food cooks and how well your food turns out.
Ovenproof glass and ceramic pans will heat evenly but more slowly than metal. They will also retain heat, which is good if you want to serve food from them. Glass and ceramic are the best materials for cooking acidic foods—like lasagna—because acids in tomatoes or citrus can react with metal and give your finished dish a metallic taste. Glass pans let you see how done your food is, too.
Metal baking pans, whether aluminum or steel, conduct heat more efficiently so food cooks more quickly in them. Stainless steel is the material of choice for pros, but stainless steel pans don’t have a nonstick coating, so it takes longer to prepare them for baking. The upside is you can pop them in the dishwasher when you’re done because they’re super durable. Be sure to choose double-thick metal with a rolled edge that’s warp-resistant, as even baking pans can get so hot they lose their shape.
Nonstick pans are easy to prepare for use and easy to clean. And food doesn’t stick to them, which is great. But it’s easy to scratch nonstick pans, and you cannot use metal utensils on them. Most are not dishwasher-safe, and that nonstick coating wears off over time, too.
Some people are reluctant to use nonstick baking pans because they think the Teflon on them can transfer carcinogens into their food, but this is not true. Also, most nonstick bakeware doesn’t use Teflon and instead uses a silicone-based coating that is considered safe.
The amount of food you plan to make will influence the size and number of pans you need. If you love making baked goods to share with friends and neighbors, consider buying a set of pans or multiples of the pans you plan to use. Do you regularly bake cupcakes for your child’s class? Buy enough muffin pans to make 24 cupcakes in one shot. Like to give bread to the neighbors for the holidays? Buy a couple of loaf pans. Do you make a lot of cakes? Get two or three cake pans so you can make tiered cakes to die for.
The sides of your pan are made to accommodate its function. Sheet pans generally have a 1-inch high rim that keeps liquids and drippings contained. Cookie sheets have no raised edge so you can slide those cookies right off the pan. A quarter-sheet pan has higher edges (around 2 inches) so it can hold sheet cakes, brownies, and casseroles. Bundt and tube pans have high sides to accommodate tall cakes, while round cake pans have sides that are 2 to 3 inches tall for smaller cakes.
Sheet pans and cake pans don’t have handles, generally, and ceramic and glass baking dishes usually do. Roasting pans generally have handles, which is convenient when cooking heavier items like a turkey, ham, chicken, or brisket.
If you don’t have a lot of storage space, consider getting pans with multiple uses. A sheet pan and a 9-inch by 13-inch pan are probably the most versatile, accommodating an entire meal and many desserts as well. You can get creative with pans that are dedicated to making certain dishes. For example, a muffin pan can hold mini quiches or individual frittatas, and a loaf pan can hold bread as well as meatloaf and small casseroles.
Ease of Cleaning
The pans that are easiest to clean will be those with a nonstick coating, with residue coming off easily with a standard sponge. Anodized aluminum versions will usually clean up quickly, too, especially with a soft, abrasive scrub pad. Look for dishwasher-safe versions to save on some scrubbing.
For an even easier cleanup, line your pan with parchment paper. For those pans that tend to get burnt and crusted over with food, try an easy mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Glass and ceramic options will often become easier to clean if soaked first after use. Baking soda and dish soap will also do the job quickly.
Our Top Picks
We reviewed some popular baking pans, measured them against our shopping considerations, and picked some favorites.
This trio of commercial-style baking sheets includes a quarter sheet, a half sheet and a jelly roll sheet (15 inches by 10.5 inches), so you can cook anything from cookies to dinner. The aluminum pans won’t rust, and they provide excellent heat distribution to brown food evenly and quickly. They also have reinforced, encapsulated steel rims that are 1 inch tall and won’t warp. They are lightweight, dishwasher-safe, and uncoated, meaning they don’t have a nonstick surface that can scratch off. What’s more, Nordic Ware is still a family-owned company that manufactures its products in the United States.
This set of 10 pans gives you a kitchen full of bakeware at a nice price. You’ll have the molds you need to cook banana bread, tiered cakes, muffins, and more so this is a good choice if you’re stocking a kitchen from scratch. The set comes with a pair of 9-inch round cake pans, one medium loaf pan, one 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan and cover, one 9-inch by 13-inch brownie pan, one 12-cup muffin pan, one 12-inch by 17-inch baking sheet, one 14-inch by 17-inch cookie sheet, and one cooling rack. The pans are made of heavy-gauge steel that heats evenly. The nonstick surface easily releases food, and they are dishwasher-safe. Additionally, they can hold up to temperatures of up to 450 degrees.
This commercial-grade muffin pan has a patented, nonstick silicone coating that is PTFE- and BPA-free. It also has a corrugated surface that adds to its nonstick abilities and encourages air circulation to prevent warping. It’s sturdy and dent-resistant. The pan has 12 standard-size muffin wells that measure 2.75 inches at the opening and are 1.38 inches deep. Its light color means baked goods brown a little more slowly, which is a good thing, as it gives cakes and cookies time to rise properly. USA Pans are, as the name suggests, made in the United States, specifically, Pittsburgh.
The Oven Lovin’ loaf pan is made with heavy-gauge steel that resists warping, and it has a nonstick surface that’s oven-safe up to 500 degrees and releases baked goods easily. The pan has oven-safe silicone handles that make it easy to grab out of the oven, and they add a pop of color, too. The pan is dishwasher-safe, so it’s easy to clean. It’s a standard 9-inch by 5-inch pan that’s 2.5 inches tall.
This durable, heavy-gauge steel pan can be used for traditional Bundt cakes or more creative recipes like monkey bread. Oversized handles allow for easy handling in and out of the oven, and they’re also embossed with pan measurements for easy reference while following recipes. A nonstick coating and dishwasher-safe construction make for an easy cleanup. This pan measures 12 inches from handle to handle and has a 10- to 12-cup capacity. It’s more lightweight than many Bundt pans.
This pan is made of commercial-grade aluminized steel that’s coated in a nonstick surface called Americoat, a silicone-based coating that’s PTFE- and BPA-free and promotes quick release of baked goods. Its corrugated sides and bottom add strength, promote even heat distribution, and increase the pan’s nonstick qualities. The pan also features a steel wire in the rim for extra strength and resistance to warping. Hand wash with mild soap and a soft sponge. The pan measures 9 inches on each side with a height of 2.25 inches to accommodate standard-size cakes.
The two-piece design of this pan, which lets users separate the bottom of the pan from the sides, makes it super easy to get a cake out of the pan intact. The pan has feet on it that allow air circulation and cooling when the cake is out of the oven.
The pan measures 9.5 inches across and 4 inches high, and it holds approximately 16 cups of batter (one standard cake mix). It has a nonstick coating and it’s dishwasher-safe, so cleanup is easy. It’s also heat safe up to 450 degrees.
Fat Daddio’s “Safe-Seal” anodizing process creates a durable finish without coating, so there’s no coating to scratch or flake off. The pan is nonreactive to acidic foods, so you can bake citrus- or tomato-based foods without the pan affecting the food’s flavor. The pan’s reflective surface allows quicker heating, so food reaches temperature faster. Hand-washing is recommended. At 8 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep, the pan has higher sides than many similar-diameter pans.
Emile Henry’s pie dishes are designed and manufactured in France with locally sourced natural materials, like the Burgundy clay that is known for its superior heat diffusion and retention properties. The company’s HR (high resistance) technology makes this pie plate oven-, broiler-, and microwave-safe at temperatures up to 520 degrees. Its glaze makes it scratch-resistant. The pie plate’s scalloped edge and four color options offer a polished presentation. It is 10.2 inches in diameter with 2.56-inch tall sides. For easy cleaning, it is dishwasher-safe.
FAQs About Baking Pans
Perhaps you’re still wondering what the best baking pan is for you. Read on for some answers to common questions regarding baking pans to help you make a decision.
Q. What baking pans do not rust?
Glass and ceramic pans will not rust. If choosing metal, look for anodized aluminum pans labeled “rust-free.”
Q. Is it better to bake in a glass or metal pan?
It depends what you’re baking and how much time you have. Ovenproof glass pans will heat more slowly than metal alternatives.
Q. Are ceramic baking pans safe?
Older cookware made from ceramic was known to contain lead, but modern ceramic baking pans are lead-free and safe for cooking.
Q. How do I convert baking time for different pans?
If you are substituting a glass or ceramic dish for a metal pan, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and check it often since glass and ceramic don’t heat up as quickly.
Q. How do you make a large baking pan smaller?
You can make your pan smaller by creating a foil dam. To do so, lay a piece of aluminum foil in your pan and fold up one side to create a wall where you want the pan to end.