Choosing a baking pan isn’t a decision to take lightly as bakeware plays an important role in the outcome of each product. Even if a recipe is followed to the letter, using the incorrect baking pan could affect how the food cooks, whether or not it browns as desired, the shape and size of the food, the texture, and so on. When making cakes, for example, bakers often see better results using one type of pan, but may find baking breads more successful using another. The choice should largely be based upon
- specific ingredients
- desired shape and size
- required characteristics for the finished product.
If you’re struggling to figure out the best baking pans for you, here’s a handy guide that will make it easier to create soft, spongy cakes, chewy cookies, and perfectly browned breads.
Best Baking Pans for Cakes
Many cake makers prefer 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, producing cakes with a very tough, dense crumb, tending to 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, but always consider the type of cake you’re making before opting for silicone.
For ‘wet’ cakes, like gooey chocolate fudge cake, silicone is undoubtedly the best choice. But remember it’s not as good for ‘dry’ cakes, 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.
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 that traditional loaf look. 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.
- When bread cooks, the dough bubbles in the outer 3mm of the loaf vaporise, causing a temperature drop at the core. This allows the inside of the bread to cook at a lower temperature, while the outside cooks at a higher temperature creating a flakey inner crumb and a classic, browned crust.
Generally speaking, metal tins are the best baking pans for breads as silicone is too flexible and allows the bread to expand outwards, rather than upwards, producing a rather strange-looking loaf whose texture is a little off.
Best Baking for Brownies & Blondies
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 perfect brownie should have crispy, almost caramelized edges, while the centre should be soft, gooey, and almost as if it’s a little undercooked. 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 edge counterparts.
For this reason, both amateur and professional bakers alike claim that the best baking pans for 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 using practically any bakeware. But what are the best baking pans for cookies?
The choice really depends on the ingredients you use to make your cookie dough.
- Cookies that are made with baking fat will spread slightly in the oven, but not too much. These cookies may successfully be cooked on a baking sheet, or even in a roasting pan.
- 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.
Choosing the Right Baking Pan
Always consider the material of the pan, the size and shape, flexibility and durability, as well as overall practicality.