Monday, March 15, 2010

Essential Baking Pans – Part One

If you're going to do some serious baking, you've got to have a serious pan. Pans that are always cracking jokes just aren't going to cut it.

Even serious (or semi-serious) bakers don't bake everyday, so you don't want to spend a fortune on these things. At the same time, cheap flimsy pans may result in your masterpiece landing on the floor. This is my only real concern with flexible, silicon pans. That and, in some cases, the cost.

The material choice is going to vary from job to job, be it metal, ceramic, silicon, non-stick, coated or whatever. Whatever you decide to buy, take care when storing your bakeware, avoid things that would cause rusting or scratches.

Muffin Tin
A non stick coating is a pretty good idea, here. If you don't have that luxury, uses paper liners and grease the cups, well with butter.

Baking Sheet/Jelly Roll/Sheet Cake Pan
I love my aluminum baking sheets. They're sold as “jelly roll” or “sheet cake” pans and are pretty inexpensive. I've had one for nearly twenty years and it's still going strong. I was so impressed with it, that when I decided I needed a second one to expedite things in the kitchen, I bought the same type and brand. It cost me all of $15.00. It's been an absolute bargain.

When buying a baking sheet, you want to get the largest one you can that will still comfortably fit in your oven. It should be sturdy, inflexible. The difference between a true baking sheet and a jelly roll or sheet cake pan is the lip. A true baking sheet is completely flat and has no lip. The jelly roll pan and sheet cake pans have a small lip around the sides. I've never minded the lip and have felt no need to buy separate sheet for cookies, small pizzas, or meringues.

Cooling Racks
A must have item for baking in my kitchen. Cakes must be cooled completely before being filled, iced, or otherwise decorated, let alone cut into pieces. Without a cooling rack, cookies can become over-done on the bottom. They won't remain flat if you don't cool them before stacking them, either. It's the same with good bread. It has to cool completely before you slice it, or you're going to get too hard of a crust and bad slices. A cooling rack allows air to circulate around the entire item, from the bottom up, not just the top down. This is especially good for breads so that the steam inside the bread can rise to create a terrific crust, not too crunchy, not too soft.

Loaf Pans
Speaking of bread, if you're making your own, you may want to invest in a couple of good loaf pans. Again, I prefer a strong aluminum pan. I have two that are constructed in the same way as my solid aluminum baking sheets, and they share a similar story. I've had one for nearly twenty years that's still going strong so, I bought a second for about $7.00. Non stick varieties are preferred by some, but I've never had a problem with breads or meatloaf sticking if I just grease the pan, before hand.

Baking Dish
A solidly made ceramic or glass baking dish, about 9 inches by 11 inches, seems to be the best choice, here. You want at least a 2-inch depth so it can handle things like lasagna and other baked pasta dishes, or even a roast. Such baking dishes are great in the oven, but do not take sudden temperature changes well so aren't good for stove top. If you're going to do something with the roast's drippings, like making gravy, use a dedicated metal roasting pan instead. Because they don't handle sudden temperature changes well, avoid pouring cold water into your hot baking dishes or they will crack and break.

Stay tuned food lovers. In part 2, we'll cover pans for cakes and pies.


Angenette said...

I'm in need of a new baking dish, since I cooked the crap out of my last one. Would you suggest glass or aluminum? I don't do a lot of cakes or casseroles (*shudder*) but I make a lot of lasagna.

Dave said...

The best loaf pans I have ever used are the Norpro Stainless Steel. They still look like the day we bought them in 2004. (And they get regular use!)

John Newman said...

Hey Angenette! I really like my glass one. I have a glazed clay one as well (no lead) that I'm not quite as fond of. I know other people who prefer aluminum because of it's even heating. If you do go for aluminum, make sure it's a heavy pan. A dark "coating" on the pan seems to make things brown better than the shiny ones do. Don't ask me why.