Friday, September 14, 2012

Essential Baking Pans

Having a good set of baking pans is essential for every baker, because it enables one to create a large array of cookies, muffins, breads, cakes, cupcakes & pastries at home.  With more and more of us rolling up our sleeves and carefully measuring out ingredients in our very own kitchens, we're enjoying working our way through recipes in greater numbers these days.  There are many pans available to the consumer, that at times it may even seem daunting trying to figure out what exactly one needs to make recipes found in most cookbooks, online and in magazines. 

I call these the basics in my batterie de cuisine (tools & pans).  For those of you wanting to tackle recipe after recipe (think this blog!), the list I've compiled is meant to be used as a guide.  These pans are the ones I reach for the most week after week, month after month to help me test, create and bake the many treats I like to make for my friends, my family & for myself.  If you're a professional baker or a very accomplished one, these pans will be very familiar to you and will undoubtedly be in your kitchen already.  If you're new to baking and are fearless, this list will provide you with what you should consider when setting up your baking equipment in your kitchen.  Yes, they are essentials.

Baking Pan Essentials

Round Cake Pans (I prefer light colored aluminum pans with straight sides; these pans don't brown cakes excessively and they give professional edges to baked goods)
  • 8"x2" rounds (two pans); perfect for layer cakes such as butter, genoise our pound; they're great for making large rounds of shortbread. 
  • 9"x2" rounds (two pans); same as above
  • 8" and 9" springform pans: these are deeper (3") and are perfect for cheesecakes, pound cakes or any type of wedding cake; they have a release mechanism to remove the sides of the pan when your cake is done; the bottom is also removable. 
Tube Pans (they either come in plain anodized aluminum or with nonstick coatings; nonstick is OK for a bundt pan, but not for an angel food cake pan)

  • Bundt Pan with a at least a 10 to 12 cup capacity (9" to 10" diameter): these pans come in an array of styles.  All have an inner tube which is meant to circulate heat into the center of the cake (it would not bake completely without it).  These can be purchased with a nonstick finish, which is especially useful when the design is very intricate.
  • Angel Food Cake Pan (9"-10" diameter) with a removable bottom & tube: buy this pan in a plain heavy gauge aluminum.  Angel food cake pans don't get buttered because this type of batter needs to cling to the sides of the pan in order to rise.  Don't purchase one with a nonstick finish! 


Square & Rectangular Cake Pans (available with or without a nonstick finish; I like those with straight sides and either a rolled rim or one with a lip)

  • 8" square (two pans): 2" deep pans are the best.  They enable you to make layer cakes, coffee cakes, bar cookies and shortbread.
  • 9" square (two pans): same as above.  I like the option of a 9" and 8" pan because some cookbooks will call for either one of the two.
  • 9"x13" rectangular pan:  this is the pan used for a large batch of brownies, coffee cakes, sheet cakes (think Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake) or any type of breakfast cake.

Tart & Quiche Pans (all should be made of tinned steel with removable bottoms)
  • 9" and 11" (one of each): since tarts and quiches require delicate crusts, it's important to use a pan made specifically for this purpose.  These pans are made in France and have a wonderful fluted edge.  The bottoms are removable which is what you want in order to extricate the tart once it's cooled.  After washing, these pans must be completely dried or they will rust.

Pie Plates & Pans (they're available in ceramic, porcelain, earthenware, aluminum & glass; all are good and suitable for pie baking)

  • 9" or 10" pie pan: I've tried baking in every type of pie plate, tin & pan.  I've had great results with all of them.  Glass ones (picture above) are great because they let you check the bottom of the pie for doneness.  It's a good idea to also get a deep dish pie plate (about 2" height) whenever you want to make a substantial pie (think apple).

Loaf Pans, Muffin Pans, Cookie Sheets and Baking Sheets


  • Mini Loaf Pans 5 3/4"x 3 1/4"x 2 1/4" (four pans): these are wonderful to divide batters for smaller loaves to give as gifts.  For the holidays, it creates a sense of bounty without having to give a large loaf, as long as it's accompanied by other baked goods.


  • 8"x 4"x 2 1/2" Loaf Pan with 6 cup capacity: the pan to make tea breads, tea cakes, pound cakes, jam cakes and sandwich bread. 
  • 9"x 5"x 3" Loaf Pan with an 8 cup capacitysame as above.  I make my pumpkin breads, banana breads & pound cakes in these. 
 Note: if you can afford to have 2 of each, even better.


Muffin Pans (available in nonstick or plain aluminum; either is fine)

  • Mini Muffin Pans 12-24 capacity pan: these diminutive pans make the smallest of muffins or cupcakes.  Great for parties & holidays, the pans can also double up as cookie pans or brownie pans; simply divide the batter into prepared pans and bake. 
  • Standard Muffin Pans 6-12 capacity pan: everyone should own a set of these.  I have pans that fit one dozen standard muffins as well as those which only fit 6 muffins.  Sometimes, certain recipes will make an odd number of muffins, which is why it's a good thing to have the 6 muffin pan.
  • Jumbo Muffin Pan 6 capacity pan: divide your batter into this type of pan and you get gargantuan muffins perfect for breakfast. 
Note: all muffins brown nicely in pans with nonstick finishes.  For lighter colored muffins & cupcakes, it's a good idea to have light colored pans and to use muffin liners as well.  Most pans are well made, so they should last you a long time.

 Jelly Roll, Quarter Sheets, Half Sheets (pictured above) & Flat Cookie Sheets 

  • Jelly Roll Pan 10"x15"x1" (two pans): as the name implies, these are meant for jelly roll sheet cakes.  They bake quickly, evenly and quite thin.  A heavy sheet pan that doesn't feel as if it will warp with the oven's heat is best; nonstick or anodized aluminum is up to you.
  • Quarter Sheet Pan 9"x13"x1" (two pans): indispensable for toasting nuts, making small cakes and for baking the "last of the cookie dough", I am lost without these tiny sheets.  They're even small enough to fit in most toaster ovens.
  • Half Sheet Pan 18"x13"x1" (two to four pans): these pans are the ones I use the most!  Line them with parchment or silpats to bake cakes and dozens of cookies.  Two pans are fine for most cooks, but if you want to churn out lots of cookies, get four pans.  Pictured above, the pans should be light colored aluminum with rolled rims.  They should be sturdy and should not bend or warp if you twist them.  This is very important.
  • Flat Cookie Sheets: many bakers swear that this is the only way to bake cookies.  I've found over the years that this isn't necessarily so.  If, however, you want this type of sheet, again, make sure it's sturdy.  Most come in a dark nonstick finish, but I find this to be a bit troublesome with several cookies.  They tend to brown excessively on the bottom.  They do sell insulated cookie sheets if your oven gives off too much heat, so look for them if your chocolate chip cookies are too brown when you take them out.
As I said already, these pans are the basics.  Any baker's kitchen will have a few of these pans or all of them and then some!  It really depends on your baking style, your budget and what your family likes.  The pans, manufacturers and kitchenwares stores from which to choose when making these purchases is vast, to say the least.  I always advocate buying a well constructed pan that looks as if it will last you many years.  I don't like investing in something that's going to give me trouble in a year or two.  I like baking pans that are going to last me for 10 or more years. 

There are certainly many specialty pans & novelty pans out there which are adorable and eye catching.  Those, however, I consider to be extras; I will compile a list of these pans for you in the near future.  If you want to make a good set of brownies with perfect edges or cakes that don't burn on the bottom, invest in good baking pans.  Over the years you will come to appreciate your batterie de cuisine.  Enjoy baking! 

3 comments:

  1. David I have 3 heavy jelly tool pans that I love. But I can not seem to restore them to they're shiny state even after scrubbing! Any suggestions?

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  2. Co.Co.

    Make it a habit of cleaning your jelly roll pans/half sheets as soon as you're done with them. I scrub them well with soap and hot water to remove any butter/flour mixture or nonstick spray, as these can leave a film or unsightly look.

    If they have already discolored, you can always try scrubbing them with a mix of cream of tartar and vinegar and steel wool. Also, if you're familiar with Bar Keeper's Friend, try a bit of that and see how it works for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much. I'm going to try this.

    ReplyDelete

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