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Glass vs. metal baking pans

Size isn’t the only thing that counts when choosing a pan from the many in your cupboard. The material it’s made of will affect both the baking time and the color of your breads, pies, cakes, and brownies.

Glass pans give food a darker, browner crust, so they’re generally best for breads and pies, which benefit from a deeply baked exterior. Because of the way glass transfers heat in the oven, it will bake both faster and darker than most metal pans (the exceptions are very dark, heavy-gauge metal pans, like the black cake pans used in professional kitchens. These intense heat conductors cook quickly and will also turn out appealing, dark crusts.)

Lighter-colored pans give you a paler crust, which is what you want with delicate cakes and brownies. Light-colored aluminum and shiny stainless-steel pans reflect more heat than glass and dark metal pans. This may mean your baked goods will need a bit more time to finish cooking, but it also means the sugar and chocolate in these pastries won’t be as likely to burn. Avoid flimsy muffin pan, which often bake unevenly and tend to warp at high temperatures. If you don’t have a high-quality pan, it’s worth investing in one (see “Pros Pick the Best Baking Sheets,”).

Martha Stewart was placing two apple crisps on a sheet pan to catch the juices that bubble out during baking when she said, “If you saw how many sheet pans I owned, you would be quite horrified. I have a lot of sheet pans.”

And she’s accumulated them over a long time: Ms. Stewart was first introduced to commercial loaf pan — the thick, uncoated aluminum baking sheets with 1-inch-high rims and rolled edges — by Fred Bridge in the 1970s. She had a catering business in Connecticut, and he owned Bridge Co., a professional kitchenware store on 52nd Street in Manhattan.

“That’s where I really started learning about high-quality, restaurant-quality, long-lived equipment,” Ms. Stewart said. “I bought my best things from Mr. Bridge.”

On her first TV show, two decades later, she used 9 inch round nonstick cake pan on set, showing them to home viewers repeatedly — though not intentionally. Like most professional chefs in America, and bakers in particular, Ms. Stewart relied on those pans even if she didn’t showcase them.

And yet this utilitarian piece of equipment has become a star. That can be attributed in part to a surge of sheet-pan recipes from food publications, cookbooks and bloggers, a new genre of weeknight cooking that provides an entire meal on the pan. Cousins of one-pot meals, sheet-pan suppers combine vegetables, protein and starch in a single piece of cookware, but offer a larger canvas to compose a range of shapes and colors. The actual cooking requires nothing more than passive waiting.

If you've ever debated on baking a cake in a glass pan versus a metal pan, or had cookies burn on the bottom at 350 oF within a "reasonable" amount of baking time, this post is for you! Find out everything you need to know about baking pans and bakeware, from how the material and the colour of the pan have an impact on baking to why 7 inch in cm cake pan may warp, bend, or rust.

The point of this post isn't to have you throw out all your bakeware and buy new. On the contrary, what I am hoping is that this post will help you better understand how your baking pans affect your baking and how to make adjustments so that you know how to make adjustments and adapt, regardless of what bakeware you're using! If you want to easily convert recipes from one pan size to another, I recommend investing in the complete baking conversion charts bundle to get conversion charts for ingredients, pans, temperatures, volumes, weights, and more.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

When you’re diving into a recipe, it’s always important to look at the ingredients. Checking to make sure you have everything on hand can make or break a dish. But is it just as important to take a look at the required bakeware for the recipe? The short answer—yes. Depending on what you’re making, there certainly is a difference between a baking dish and a baking pan. Here’s what you need to know to choose the right one.

What’s a Baking Dish?

The term “baking dish” typically refers to an oven-safe rectangular dish made out of glass, stoneware or porcelain. Baking dishes also come in oval and square shapes, and they vary in size and depth.

Glass, stoneware and porcelain don’t conduct heat very well, so they take a while to heat up. But once hot, a baking dish will distribute heat more evenly. It’s also important to remember that a baking dish has the ability to shatter. Be sure you’re not putting a cold baking dish in a hot oven or using the broil setting to add intense heat.

What’s a Baking Dish Best For?

Reserve baking dishes for desserts such as fruit crisps, cobblers and bread pudding. A baking dish is also perfect for savory dishes such as casseroles, potatoes au gratin, enchiladas and quiche.

A baking pan refers to bakeware made out of metal, often aluminum. Aluminum is one of the best metal options for conducting heat, so the pan gets hot quickly. As the pan heats up, it transfers the heat to what you’re baking. Baking pans can withstand higher temps and come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, including multiple sizes of rounds, squares, rectangles, Bundts and cupcake pans.

What’s a Baking Pan Best For?

Because of its heat conductivity, a baking pan is great for recipes when you need a bit of browning. Most commonly, a baking pan will be used for cakes, but you can also use a baking pan for treats such as brownies, muffins and breads. Use baking pans for savory items such as meatloaf and roast vegetables as well.

Just be sure to consider acidity when making your decision. If your dish includes acidic fruits or vegetables, which can react with metal, consider making the switch to a baking dish for best results.

You've undoubtedly heard about the benefits of a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Legends are spun about this heavily-coated, durable piece of cookware that's often passed down by generation after generation of home cooks.

But have you ever considered the benefits of a well-seasoned sheet pan?

That splotchy tray you use to cook countless weeknight dinners—the one you hide when guests come because you're afraid they'll think you don't properly clean your cookware—is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it's time to celebrate those splotches, to stop thinking of your pan as dirty and start considering it perfectly worn-in.

That patina—which is really baked-on oil—carries a host of advantages. The darkened surface aids in the caramelization of whatever food is in direct contact with it. Epicurious food director Rhoda Boone always uses a well-worn baking sheet for roasting vegetables. "The seasoning gets the cut edges nice and golden brown," she says. "More so than vegetables cooked on a lighter baking sheet." She also prefers it for roasting chicken thighs and pork chops.

Anna Stockwell, another Epi test kitchen editor, agrees. That dark discoloration on well-used pans functions as a sort of natural non-stick surface, which means that vegetables are less likely too stick, even without the help of parchment paper. And less parchment used in the kitchen means both less waste and less money spent at the grocery store.

There are a few times you might want to avoid a seasoned sheet pan, warns Katherine Sacks, Epi's resident pastry expert. "They can be a bit dinged up, so for cake or cookies—where it's important for the surface to be flat—I would use as new a pan as possible." And if you're baking a light-colored cookie or pastry that you don't want to color and a well-worn pan is your only option, lining it with parchment will slow down the browning.

Unlike your trusty cast-iron, you should keep washing your sheet pans regularly. A quick scrub with mild, soapy water is best to keep the pan from building up too much residue, and a quick dry will ward off rust. But there's no need to pull out the baking soda and vinegar or stress about the amount of elbow grease it will take to get your darkened pan looking shiny and new.

Besides, there's no better way than a loved and dented sheet pan to add panache to your Instagram photos.

Today, we're breaking down a question we've asked ourselves, oh, a million times: How do we adapt cake pan sizes in baking recipes? (Say, something calls for a 8x8-inch, but you only have an 9x9.) Alice will show you with just a little math. 

The brownie recipe you want to make calls for an 8-inch square pan, but your only square pan is a 9-inch. Should you risk it? Maybe you want to double or triple a recipe but you aren’t sure which pan to use, or maybe you have a specific large pan but don’t know how many times to multiply your recipe in order to fill it.

The answers to these and similar questions (asked endlessly in cooking classes!) do not involve rocket science, but just enough elementary school math to calculate the area of a square, rectangle, or circle. I love the math (and I’ve included a little math review below if you want to brush up), but I’m sharing my chart in case you don’t have my thing for math.  

The handy list below (or some basic math, also explained below) will tell you the surface area of your pan. Once you know the area of any pan, you can compare it to the area of another pan to see how much bigger or smaller it is. You can divide the area of a large pan by the area of a small pan to figure out how many times to multiply a recipe to fill the larger pan with the same depth of batter (more on that later).

Just by glancing at the two pans, you might think that a 9-inch pan is very close in size to an 8-inch pan of the same shape, thus making it a reasonable substitute. But if you check the chart, you’ll find that a 9-inch square pan is more than 25% larger than an 8-inch square pan. (The relationship between a 9-inch and 8-inch round pan is similar.) Such a considerable difference will result in a 9-inch batch of very thin brownies that may be over-baked by the time you check them for doneness (because thin brownies bake faster than thick ones). Knowing this beforehand, you can increase the recipe by 25% for results as thick than the original recipe intended. If you want brownies that are even a tad thicker than the original recipe, you can even increase the recipe by 33%. 

Here’s what to do if you multiply a recipe and end up needing part of an egg: Set aside any whole eggs you need. Next, whisk the other egg to blend the white and yolk; weigh it (preferably in grams); then weigh out the fraction of the egg that you need for the recipe and add that to the whole eggs. If you need 40% of a 50-gram egg, that’s 20 grams of the whisked egg. When egg whites and yolks are used separately, weigh and measure them in the same way, but separately. Add leftover egg parts to your morning scramble. See, no waste and still no rocket science!

The chart (or your ability to do the math) is extremely valuable: Use it but don’t be a slave to it. When I make brownies in a large quantity, I like them to be about the same thickness as they are in a small batch, so I stay close to the chart. But, when I increase the dimensions of a birthday cake, I often make it a bit taller than the original (in other words, I round up when multiplying) because the proportions are visually more pleasing. For example, if I am making a 12-inch round cake using a recipe meant for an 8-inch pan, I divide the area of the 12-inch round pan (113) by the area of the 8-inch round (50 inches) and get 2.26. But instead of multiplying the recipe by just 2.26, I might multiply it by 3 so that the cake will turn out tall and lofty. See: Love the chart, but don’t let it bully you! 
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