What are the Best Baking Pans?

Choosing the right baking pans and cake pans will make it easy for you to create soft, spongy cakes, chewy cookies, and perfectly browned breads.

Bakeware plays an important role in the outcome of each individual product. Even if a recipe is followed to the letter, using the wrong baking pan can affect how the food cooks, whether or not it browns as desired, the shape and size of the food and the texture.

heat efficient aluminium pans, create a tender, moist, and spongy cake

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Always consider the material of the pan, the size and shape, flexibility and durability, as well as overall practicality. These are the secrets to finding the best baking pans for all your kitchen adventures.

Best baking pans for cakes

Steel vs silicone

In terms of cakes, what constitutes the ‘best’ baking pans really is relative. Many cake makers prefer to use glass or aluminium pans which are very heat efficient and ensure that heat is distributed evenly throughout the batter, creating a tender, moist, and spongy cake.

Cast iron doesn’t quite distribute heat as evenly*, which some bakers claim produces cakes with a very tough, dense crumb which can be quite dry, especially if the cake is slightly overcooked.

A modern trend for cake pans is silicone which is great due to its non-stick properties and variety of shapes, but always consider the type of cake you’re making before opting for silicone.

For ‘wet’ cakes, like a gooey chocolate fudge cake, silicone is undoubtedly the best baking pan, but it’s not as good for a ‘dry’ cake, like sponge. As liquids aren’t absorbed into the material, an oily layer between the cake and the pan can cause sogginess, and the cake may fail to brown* as desired.

Springform cake pans

I use these all the time, there’s so many uses for these cake pans. They make it so easy to create fabulous marble cakes, cheesecakes, tea cakes in fact very often these are my ‘go to’ baking pans.

You just have to make sure the sides of the pan are well-greased before adding your base or crust, (if you’re cooking a cheesecake) or batter if you’re baking a cake. Greasing the sides well ensures that you won’t have any problems with sticking when it comes time to remove the cake from the pan after cooking.

To remove a cake from a springform pan, simply unclip the side panel. Firmly support the bottom of the pan, and your cake, while you carefully lift out of the sides of the pan. 

Having said that, most modern bakeware is non-stick which makes baking easy.

Baking pans for breads

Loaf pans are widely considered to be the best baking pans for making breads, particularly classic-style loaves. These rectangular-shaped baking pans produce the look of a traditional loaf.

But it’s not all about aesthetics, it’s also about practicality. It’s important that bread is cooked in this shape to ensure there’s a good crust-to-crumb ratio.

Generally speaking, metal tins are the best baking pans for breads. The reason is that silicone is too flexible and allows the bread to expand outwards, rather than upwards, producing a rather strange-looking loaf with a texture that is a little off.

How bread cooks

As bread is cooking, the dough bubbles in the outer 3mm of the loaf. The bubbles are expanding and collapsing and creating a density which turns into a crust. This process is causing a temperature drop at the core allowing the inside of the bread to cook at a lower temperature. The outside cooks at a higher temperature creating a flaky inner crumb and a classic, browned crust.

For a complete scientific explanation, check out the resources for further reading at the bottom of this post*.

Best baking pans for brownies & blondies

The perfect brownie should have crispy, almost caramelized edges, while the center should be soft, gooey, and almost as if it’s a little undercooked.

Studies looking into the best baking pans have consistently concluded that rounded pans have much better heat distribution than rectangular pans, but no one wants round brownies or blondies! The heat distribution issue of rectangular pans means that they don’t create a classic brownie – the type of brownie that makes your mouth water.

A rectangular baking pan will produce the perfect brownie around the edge of the pan, but the brownies in the middle will lack the crispy, chewy crust of their rounded edge counterparts. For this reason, both amateur and professional bakers agree that the ideal pans for cooking brownies and blondies are those that are compartmentalised, much like a muffin pan.

Baking pans for cookies

The good thing about cookie dough is that it’s quite versatile, and cookies can usually be baked with success using practically any bakeware.

But if you’re looking for the best pans for cookies this is what you need to consider. The choice depends on the ingredients you use to make your cookie dough.

  1. Cookies that are made with baking fat will spread slightly in the oven, but not too much. These cookies can successfully be cooked on a baking sheet, or even in a roasting pan.
  2. Cookies made with oil spread out more.* They’ll need plenty of room when cooking.

Therefore the best baking pans for cookies made with oil are cookie sheets, which are similar to baking sheets but without the raised lip. Cookie sheets have lots of usable space, which gives the dough adequate room to spread out without creating co-joined cookies!

So you can see there really is no ‘one size fits all‘ when it comes to choosing the best baking pans. It depends on what’s being baked. When making cakes, bakers see better results using one type of pan, but for baking breads they’ll be successful using a different type of pan. The best baking pans for each type of  food is based on the specific ingredients, the desired shape and size, and the characteristics of the finished product.

Resources for further reading

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