The world of bakeware can be a little intimidating for the home cook that only bakes for special occasions. Before we did our research, it even seemed a little crazy to us! With so many different styles of baking pans and dishes on the market, how do you know which one to use for the job at hand? We’ve got some basic pointers to help you take a step in the right direction.
To start, let’s talk about the different types of baking pans that are out there. Two that are commonly confused are baking sheets and cookie sheets. A cookie sheet is flat on at least three sides of the pan and is ideal for holding a large number of cookies or biscuits, as they are usually large in size.
They are not ideal for jobs where you rely on the edges to contain your food on the pan, like roasting vegetables for example. For this type of job, you’ll want to use a baking sheet (many sizes are available) which has edges to help contain your ingredients.
Then, there’s another choice to make… light or dark pans? What’s the difference? The color of the pan tells you how quickly it will absorb and radiate heat. A dark pan will heat up faster than a light colored pan, similar to how you feel on a hot, summer day when you’re wearing a black t-shirt versus a white t-shirt. Dark baking pans will get hot fast, and radiate that heat throughout the pan, whereas a light pan heating up and radiating heat is a more gentle process.
So which should you use?
It all depends on the outcome you’re looking for. If you’re hoping to achieve a crispy, browned bottom (such as roasted vegetables or pizza crust), you’ll want to use a darker pan. Cookies and cakes, on the other hand, are better suited for a lighter pan so they have time to cook before becoming too brown on the bottom or sides. Lighter pans should be used when you want everything to cook very evenly all over – unless you prefer a crisp bottom cookie!
If you only have one style or the other, don’t fret – we have a solution. If you’re working with a darker pan and you want to minimize the amount of browning that will occur, use a silicone baking mat. This will protect the bottom surface from becoming too brown before cooking completely. If you’re working with a lighter pan, increase your oven temperature by 25°F and your ingredients will become golden brown more quickly.
What about glass? Generally speaking, if a recipe calls for a “baking pan,” it’s referring to a metal pan, whereas if it calls for a “baking dish,” it’s referring to an oven-safe glass or ceramic pan. You can always substitute a glass dish for a metal pan, but the oven temperature should be reduced by about 25°F and your cook time might need to be increased.
Glass is a poor conductor of heat, but it does distribute it evenly once it heats up. It can take a while, but it will stay hot much longer than a metal pan would. To compensate for the time it takes for the dish to heat up, cooking times may need to be extended. Glass and ceramic pans are great for serving dishes directly from the oven to the table, since they will stay warm from the oven longer. It’s also important to note that glass should not be used in direct, high-heat situations (like broiling). Glass dishes are typically preferred for casseroles, egg dishes or anything that contains acidic ingredients.
When should you stick with a metal pan? Preferably for foods that are cooked at higher temperatures for short times. Metal pans are generally a safe bet for just about anything, but they are not ideal when cooking acidic foods, since the acid will react with the metal. This not only discolors your pans, but it also adds an unfavorable metallic flavor to those foods. Metal bakeware is great for quick-roasting foods when a crisp outside is desired, or nicely browned baked goods.
Keep in mind that the finish of the pan will also make a difference for how quickly something will brown. For example, if you bake chocolate chip cookies on a dull cookie sheet, they will become too dark on the bottom before they cook through. A tip from our kitchen? We reserve our “well loved” pans for roasting vegetables.
Now let’s get baking!
Honey Balsamic Roasted Carrots (Dark Baking Sheet)