Picture this: You have a new recipe you’re excited to bake. There you are in the kitchen, pulling ingredients from the pantry and utensils from the cupboards. Then you stop. How do you choose which pan is right for your recipe? There are so many different baking pans from which to choose. In my cupboards you’ll find glass, light colored metal, dark non-stick metal, ceramic, and stoneware. They all have their pros and cons.
The glass and ceramic bakeware is nice for casseroles or homely cakes that go straight from oven to table. They’re attractive and retain heat well. I reach for my light colored metal baking pans when baking a fancy cake, when I’m especially concerned about not letting the outside edges of the cake layers brown too much before the center is done. Stoneware can help get a great crust on artisan-style yeast breads.
All of these materials have their downsides, too. Baked on food tends to glue itself to glass and ceramic, requiring a long soaking time in order to get them clean. Light colored metal cake pans require careful preparation with a parchment paper lining and a thorough application of grease and flour so that your cake comes out of the pan intact.
For everyday roasting and baking, I like the ease of non-stick metal pans. I might need to grease the pan in preparation, but I don’t need to waste parchment paper or foil to ensure that my goodies release well from the pan. When roasting vegetables, I appreciate the extra caramelization that comes from the dark baking sheet, along with the quick clean up afterward. You can quickly brown meatballs in a hot oven before sliding them into a rich sauce, without leaving half of each meatball stuck to the pan. A non-stick pan is also essential for wet, sticky no-knead bread dough.
I love that an entire slab of brownies or blondies falls right out of the pan onto a cutting board, ready to slice. If you don’t like those crispy edges to your bar cookies (in my house, there are a couple people who fight over the edges!), you can reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees when using a dark non-stick pan, and check for doneness a few minutes early.
Melissa Jerves writes about food, family and 21st century home economics on her blog, Home Baked.