How to choose bakeware
A bakeware buying guide
When you're figuring out how to choose bakeware, you'll notice an impressive array of materials, pan shapes, sets and individual pieces. Choosing the best bakeware is a matter of knowing what you'll bake and whether you need multi-purpose or specialty bakeware.
>> What do you want to bake?
As you figure out how to choose bakeware, look for pans that will work for the recipes you like to bake; some bakeware is versatile and some is specialized.
- Savory foods: If you want to make entrees like casseroles, lasagna or meatloaf, you'll need deep pans. Square and rectangular baking pans 2 to 4 inches deep work well for savory foods. For meatloaf, choose a loaf pan.
- Cookies: Most cookies are best made on a sheet pan. In addition, you'll find cookie pans for specific types of cookies, such as madeleines. Most bakeware brands offer a few cookie pan options.
- Bread: For sandwich loaves, you need a loaf pan. For baguettes, boules and rolls, you can use sheet, rectangular and square pans.
- Muffins and cupcakes: These require a pan with individual batter wells. You can also use silicone cupcake cups placed on a sheet pan.
- Cakes: As you look for the best bakeware for cakes, you'll notice several types of cake pans to consider in addition to traditional round cake pans. You can also use standard rectangular square pans and sheet pans for cakes.
- Pies: For traditional pies, look for round pans with slanted walls. Springform pans, which have straight detachable sides, work for delicate treats like cheesecake and unique pies.
Although you may occasionally need specific types of bakeware, usually the best bakeware includes pieces that allow you to bake different types of recipes and clean up easily.
>> What materials make the best bakeware?
Materials are essential to figuring out how to choose bakeware. Consider what you want to make as well as heat conductivity, ease of cleaning and your personal preferences when choosing materials and bakeware brands. The chart below describes some of the different bakeware materials.
|Tempered glass ||Heats gradually and evenly. Holds heat well. ||Soak in soapy water and scrub clean with a gentle scrubber. Dishwasher safe. ||Versatile material - also see-through. |
|Porcelain ||Tends to heat and cool faster than glass. ||Soak in soapy water and scrub with a gentle scrubber. Hand washing recommended. ||Check if the porcelain is oven-safe. Protect from dings and scratches. |
|Stoneware ||Heats gradually and evenly, holds heat well. ||Soak in soapy water and scrub with a gentle scrubber. Hand washing recommended. ||Often available in different colors and shapes. |
|Silicon ||Heats quickly and evenly. Cools in minutes. ||Soak in soapy water and clean with a dishcloth. Always hand wash. ||Great for limited storage space and specialty pans. Can make cakes a bit crusty. |
|Stainless steel ||Heating varies from piece to piece. Usually best when combined with other metals. ||Easy to clean, dishwasher safe. ||Durable and easy to maintain. |
|Aluminum ||Heats quickly and evenly. Cools quickly. ||Soak in soapy water and scrub with a gentle scrubber. Hand washing recommended. ||Lightweight and versatile material favored in commercial kitchens. |
|Cast iron ||Heats gradually and evenly. Holds heat longer than most materials. ||Bare: Heat and scrub clean with hot water and a stiff scrubber. Do not use soap. Rub a light layer of oil into the dry pan to re-season.Enamel: Soak in soapy water and scrub with a gentle scrubber. Hand washing recommended. ||Once seasoned, bare cast iron develops a natural nonstick finish. Enameled cast iron merges the benefits of stoneware and cast iron. |
|Non-stick ||Varies - ultimately, the heat depends on the base material. ||Soak in soapy water and clean with a dishcloth. Hand washing recommended. ||Clean up is easy; remember to use soft, flexible tools when removing baked goods from the pan. |
>> Consider bakeware sizes, shapes and purposes
As you figure out how to choose bakeware, consider the shapes and types of pans you need. Unless you are doing baking that requires specific pans, an assortment of the basics outlined below should allow you to make just about anything.
Cookie sheets: Designs with edges are sometimes called jellyroll pans. Cookie sheets are versatile because you can bake cakes and bar cookies on them. Bakeware brands also make flat, edgeless cookie sheets that make it easier to slide cookies onto a rack. Insulated designs help prevent burning. Any cookie sheet works for scones, rolls and eclairs.
Loaf pans: Longer than they are wide and usually a few inches deep, loaf pans are the best bakeware for bread, quick breads (like banana bread) and meatloaf. You'll see bakeware sizes (in inches) like 9 x 5 or 5¾ x 3 x 2. The first number indicates length, the second width and the third (if listed) depth.
Square and rectangular pans: Arguably the best bakeware for versatility, square and rectangular pans accommodate a variety of sweet and savory baked goods. One of the most popular sizes (in inches) is 13 x 9 x 2 (length x width x depth).
Muffin pan: When choosing the best bakeware for muffins and cupcakes, note the number of wells, well size and depth. The larger and deeper the well, the taller and wider the muffin or cupcake.
Standard cake pan: These are round and 8 or 9 inches wide, with sides between 1 and 2 inches tall. The taller the sides, the thicker the layers you can make. To make layer cakes, use 3 to 5 identical pans made by the same bakeware brand.
Pie pan: Round with slanted sides, a pie pan is a remarkably versatile piece. Besides pies, you can make a variety of baked savory goods, tarts, pie-sized cookies and more.
>> Do you need specialty bakeware?
Although the above items can meet most of your needs, sometimes you need to know how to choose bakeware to fill a niche or make a particular recipe. Cake pans such as fluted bakeware pans, angel food cake pans or character pans allow you to make shaped cakes. For single-portion baking, ramekins are some of the best bakeware because you can make single-serve dishes like pot pies, chocolate custard and souffle in them. Pizza stones, which are round stoneware bakeware, can double as baking sheets for breads and cookies. Try to buy versatile bakeware to maximize your investment.
If you're wondering whether the best bakeware comes in a set or individually, that depends on your needs. If you're refreshing your collection, you might buy bakeware individually so you can get exactly what you want. For gifting or for starting a new kitchen, a set might be best. Tempered glass bakeware sets are great starter kits and gifts because the pieces can go from oven to fridge to freezer, and they work for a broad range of sweet and savory baked goods.
When you're learning how to choose bakeware, remember to place equal value on function, cleanup and versatility. The best bakeware balances the three points at a price that works for you.