As I’ve said before, both of my Grandmothers welcomed me with warm and open arms into the world of baking. My paternal Grandmother baked everything you could possibly think of and fortunately for me, handed down many of her pans and equipment to me; all of which I continue to cherish and use. My maternal Grandmother didn’t even have to welcome me, as soon as I saw her creating beautiful little lifelike roses and other flowers out of sugar, I forced my way in and soaked up every single bit of cake baking knowledge and decorating that I could possibly stuff into my little tween age brain. As I grew older she taught me her many secrets of baking the many scrumptious cakes her customers clamored for and I lived for any opportunity to watch her teach the many delicate techniques of cake decorating at the old Montgomery Ward store here in Kansas City. I have to admit there are times where I wish both of my Grandmothers could see how many incredible tools and products are available now in our great big beautiful baking world; it is truly a bakers playground! I miss these sweet ladies daily but truly feel so much gratitude for their precious lessons and the legacy of love for baking they left with me. Baking and candy making is truly my bliss. All of that being said; I want to write a little about what the many baking pans available today are made of. This isn’t exactly light reading, but I’ll post it as a reference, for you to look back on.
The materials that your baking pans and dishes are made of are tantamount to the brilliant success of your baking. If you are just beginning to bake or just desire to slowly supplement your existing baking equipment, it is important to know all you can before purchasing. You will want to purchase pans that you will love, but that will also love you back. Perhaps you too will hand your much loved baking pans down to someone you love So here’s a bit of information.
A great heat conductor that browns your baked goods evenly. There are many different types of Aluminum and it can get confusing, so let’s make it a little easier here.
- Anodized aluminum is treated to make it stronger and more durable.
- Insulated Aluminum is also good because it heats slower, and it’s worth the extra baking time because it doesn’t burn the bottoms of your baked goods as easily.
- Lightweight Aluminum just doesn’t go the distance. Honestly, it’s not worth your money if you are purchasing new pans.
- Disposable Aluminum pans are fine in a pinch; just remember my “Shiny, Dull, Dark Tip”
- Easy to clean, definitely aids baking. No baker wants all of their hard work to be stuck to a greedy baking pan. Ugh! These pan do conduct heat well, but they are typically not heavily gauged steel. If you do decide these are the pans for you, remember to buy silicone or plastic spatulas to remove your baked goods; also remember to never cut on these pans, the non-stick coating can be scraped off easier than you’d think.
- Usually used more for baking pans and pie pans because they support a better browning of your baked goods. It is also a plus to be able to check your pie crusts and how they are browning while you are baking. Glass heats faster so a good rule of thumb for pies: if your recipe does not instruct you to use a “glass” pie plate, decrease the oven temperature your recipe calls for by 25°. It’s better to cook for a longer period of time, then to have your delicious pie crusts burn right?
- In my experience, ceramic baking pans are an awesome addition to your baking pan arsenal. They cook evenly, are non-scratch and non-stick. There are some beautiful pans, dishes and fluted pie plates available and although pricey, I believe they are worth the money. An important note on buying ceramic dishes however, and I cannot stress the word IMPORTANT enough. Buy all of your ceramic bakeware/cookware from a reputable dealer/company in the United States. Ceramic glazes contain inorganic minerals and oxides. It is imperative that the glazes do not contain any metals, lead and/or cadmium. All ceramic products are tested and have to pass stringent guidelines to be sold in the United States.
- Very sturdy and also easy to clean. Dark steel pans although wonderful at absorbing and conducting heat are notorious for over browning. Yuck! You can purchase pans that are covered or coated in tin alloy or “tinned” and those do prevent the overbrowning, and still carry the above mentioned positive qualities of stainless steel.
- No, Nope, Never! This is bad stuff, and if you own it, pitch it. This stuff is toxic.
Commercial Grade Aluminized Steel, (Ceramic Coated)
- The new kid on the block, and I kind of want to play! These pans are only available at Williams Sonoma. These Goldtouch® colored pans are commercial-grade aluminized steel and are advertised to distribute heat quickly and evenly for consistent baking results. The pans are covered in a ceramic coating which reinforces these pans making them more resistant to abrasion than normal non-stick surfaces and releases your baked goods easily. (Disclaimer, I am solely going by the information Williams Sonoma advertises.) I can say I have inspected the pans personally and they look promising with the exception of the corners of the pans which trouble me. As I’ve stated before in other posts, it is best to avoid pans that have seams (areas where they are joined together and not an entirely formed piece. Seams are places that are weaker than a fully formed corner or other part of a baking pan/ This is mostly because it although small has space where even normal wear and tear and gentle washing can begin to erode. They are also difficult to clean. However, that being said, if they are everything W.S. says they are, the color is that perfect dull color I love, perfect for browning baked goods, I’ll probably buy a cookie sheet and see what’s up. Truly every single thing for my kitchen that I have ever purchased from W.S. has left me with nothing less than absolute satisfaction. And no they are not paying me to say that. But they absolutely can if they want.:))
Carbon Steel, with latte (dull) non-stick finish
- I have recently discovered this new set of pans by Rachel Ray and they have definitely peaked by interest by their “latte” a.k.a. duller color. My own experience with a this same colored pan was one given to me by my sweet Grandmother and was a dream. Unfortunately, my teenage boys liked it too, and hurt it using a metal pizza cutter. I am definitely buying these I mean come one now, it’s Rachel Ray, they’ve got to fantastic. Check them out here. ( These pans are also pictured above.)
Insulated pans of any kind
- If you are baking a delicate spritz, shortbread or meringue type cookie, these pans will probably do the job. You should also know however, you will never get a crispy bottomed result for anything you bake. Insulated pans are essentially two pans semi-sandwiched together with a core pocket for air. They heat and thus bake slower than other pans so recipes will definitely need to be adjusted. In a nutshell; unless you are solely baking delicate type cookiesonly, (which can also easily be baked on another type of cookie sheet with parchment paper place atop), I would say give these pans a pass.
My sole purpose of this post is for you to use as a reference when choosing baking pans. It may also help you in understanding the pans you already own. I hope it helps!