The 7 Top Most Recommended Pieces of Bakeware

Published on 12/15/2023 · 8 min readFrom versatile baking sheets to classic cake pans, explore our top recommendations and expert tips to take your baking to the next level!
Di Doherty, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Di Doherty

Photo by Kosoff

TL;DR: Baking pans are a staple in any baker’s kitchen for desserts like cakes and cobblers and savory dishes like homemade pizza or roasted veggies.

I’ve been a baker for as long as I can remember. I started out by helping my mom in the kitchen, but then I started doing it on my own when I was old enough to be trusted to do so. I’ve made homemade cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, cupcakes, pizza, banana bread, and numerous other types of quick bread.

Established home bakers have certain baking pans that they use more often than others. I’ve gotten my collection through a combination of inheritance, picking them up at thrift stores, and buying them myself. I’ve used all sorts of baking pans and have gotten an idea of what works best for what purpose.

Blueberry cobbler in a glass baking pan. Photo by Di Doherty

How to Pick the Right Baking Pan for the Job

There are certain pans you will want to make sure you have. If I had to choose just a few, I’d want a half-sheet pan, a skillet, and a 9-inch x 13-inch pan. With these, you can make almost anything. Whether you’re just starting your collection, rounding it out, or want to upgrade some pans, this article will cover my recommendations for the best baking pans to have in your kitchen.

What Material Should They Be Made From?

One of the most important decisions you can make is what your bakeware is constructed from. While there aren’t any “wrong” materials, per se, some work better for certain tasks than others. Here’s a rundown of the types of materials you’ll likely encounter and what they are and aren’t good at.

  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel is a practical choice for bakeware due to its durability and resistance to high heat. It has good heat distribution, though not excellent, and it can last a long time if properly cared for. Its shininess can be a detriment, though, as it can prevent browning.
  • Aluminum: Due to its heat reactivity and even heating, aluminum is considered one of the best materials for baking—and it’s arguably my favorite. However, aluminum is prone to scratches, meaning you should avoid using metal utensils on it (though the scratches are cosmetic). It’s also reactive with highly acidic foods, meaning that it can be pitted and discolored by exposure to them.
  • Aluminized steel: This combination utilizes steel's durability and aluminum's heat distribution. Aluminized steel is steel with an aluminum coating. That means it can still be scratched, and the core can rust if the coating is damaged.
  • Anodized aluminum: For those looking for the heat distribution of aluminum with more durability, anodized aluminum is the way to go. This is made by bonding aluminum with its oxidation via a chemical bath. It makes the aluminum scratch resistant, more durable, and dulls the color, which is good for baking.
  • Cast iron: Cast iron is excellent for bakeware, so long as you don’t mind that it weighs a lot. It has a good heat distribution, and everything I’ve ever baked in cast iron has come out beautifully browned. Cast iron bakeware is harder to find, though, and it requires special care.
  • Glass: In most cases, I don’t recommend glass bakeware. Glass is heat resistant, which means it heats slowly but then holds that heat. That tends to cause what you're baking to be over-browned on the outside and undercooked on the inside. For certain things, like casseroles and lasagna, it doesn't matter. For pie pans, that’s exactly what you want to ensure a browned crust.

What Baking Pans Are Must-Haves?

A few types of baking pans have enough versatility that they’re must-haves in any kitchen. If you’re only going to have a few pieces of bakeware, these are the ones I recommend:

Unbaked apple tart on a half sheet pan. Photo by Di Doherty

  • Half-sheet pan: This baking sheet is one of the most useful pieces of bakeware. It can handle cookies, rolls, biscuits, roasting veggies, roasts, and full-sheet pan dinners, as the rims will prevent spillage.
  • 9-inch x 13-inch pan: While these are primarily mentioned for cakes, they’re also great for lasagna, casseroles, and brownies. A lot of casserole recipes call for a pan this size, making it a practical choice.
  • Square cake pan: An 8-inch x 8-inch or 9-inch x 9-inch square cake pan can be used for many recipes. It’s often called for in brownies, but you can use this pan for smaller cakes, cobblers, macaroni and cheese recipes, and other casseroles.
  • Cast iron skillet: While not something that immediately springs to mind when thinking of a baking pan, a cast iron skillet can be used to make a lot of recipes. Skillet cornbread, of course, but also cobblers, pan pizza, skillet cookies, and pies.
  • Muffin pan: Sometimes called a “muffin tin,” you can use a muffin pan for more than just muffins. It’s great for cupcakes, mini cakes, and individual portions, like meatloaves.
  • Loaf pan: If you want to make bread, be it quick bread or yeast bread, you’ll need one of these. You can also use a loaf pan to make meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and other small casseroles.
  • Springform pan: This is another slightly specialized pan with many uses. A springform pan is called for in most cheesecake recipes, as it is easy to remove the pan without damaging the cake. It's also fantastic for deep-dish pizzas, tortes, quiches, baked pasta dishes, and layer cakes.

My Top 7 Bakeware Picks

There are a lot of good options out there in terms of baking pans. The right pan for you depends on what you plan to use it for and what material you prefer your bakeware to be made of. To narrow down the search, here are my recommendations for must-have bakeware.

1. Circulon Bakeware Nonstick Square Cake Pan

This pan is made of heavy-duty carbon steel with an easy-release nonstick finish. Carbon steel is excellent for even heating and heat retention, making it an excellent choice for bakeware. However, this pan is nonstick, so it will need replacing as the coating will wear out, and it’s only safe up to 450°.

2. Anolon Pro Bake Bakeware Aluminized Steel Half-Sheet Pan Baking Set

Anolon’s set of half-sheet pans will cover a lot of bases. These are made of aluminized steel, meaning a steel base has been coated with aluminum. It gives them the durability of steel with the heat reactivity of aluminum. If properly cared for, these pans will last a lifetime. However, they aren’t nonstick; aluminum is prone to scratches and can react to acidic ingredients like tomatoes.

3. Lodge Cast Iron Dual Handle Pan

While a skillet doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking of baking pans, it’s an excellent tool. This dual-handle pan is designed with baking in mind, and it’s excellent for cornbread, cobblers, and homemade pizza. Lodge is known for making high-quality cast iron at affordable prices; this pan is no exception. It’s made in the USA and comes pre-seasoned and ready to use. Keep in mind that cast iron is heavy and highly acidic dishes can damage the seasoning.

4. Caraway Nonstick Muffin Pan

A muffin pan is a necessity in most baker’s kitchens. This nonstick pan has a ceramic nonstick coating, which is considered the best nonstick coating available. It works wonders for my bundt pan—those pans are notorious for sticking. Although it comes with a high price tag, the pan’s body is made from aluminized steel, meaning that it’s heavy-duty and will last.

5. Circulon Nonstick Bakeware 9-inch x 5-inch Loaf Pan

Loaf pans are a more specific type of bakeware, but if you’re at all interested in making bread, they’re a must-have. This pan is another one in Circulon’s collection, meaning that it has excellent even browning and an easy cleanup. It’s even dishwasher-safe, though I’d recommend washing it by hand for longevity. However, it’s not broiler-safe, and nonstick coatings will wear out over time.

6. Lodge 9-inch x 13-inch Cast Iron Casserole

A 9-inch x 13-inch pan is one of the most versatile baking pans. This pan is made of solid pre-seasoned cast iron, meaning that any cake you bake will be evenly browned. It’s also excellent for casseroles, lasagna, and baking vegetables. However, it requires special care and can’t go in the dishwasher. Cast iron will also last generations if it’s properly cared for.

7. Anolon Advanced Bakeware Nonstick Layer Cake Pan Set

Round cake pans are another excellent addition to anyone’s kitchen. The Anolon set of pans has silicone grips to make it easy to get a hold of, even with oven mitts. While the design isn’t the most attractive, their nonstick coating is bronze; therefore, it’s not so dark as to risk burning your baked goods but isn’t so shiny that the pans won’t brown properly. It’s made of heavy gauge steel that’s resistant to warping and is safe up to 450°.

Find the Right Bakeware for You

Cranberry Danish in a springform pan. Photo by Di Doherty

A baking pan is something you’ll use a lot over its lifetime, so don’t be afraid to take your time to find the one that suits you best. There are a variety of options out there. If you need more information, recommendations, or advice, reach out to one of our Kitchen Experts for free, personalized advice! Any of our Experts would be more than happy to help you find the baking pan that’s just right for you.

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