Baking Basics: Selecting the Right Pan

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From cupcakes to crème brulee, good baking is not always about just having the best recipe. What you decide to bake your culinary creations in can have just as much impact on the final product as the balance of ingredients and cooking method. Choosing a baking pan that is too small can have a devastating effect, turning your mouth-watering red velvet cake into an overflowing gooey mess in your oven. Selecting a glass pan instead of a dark metal pan without lowering the oven temperature could transform your favorite lemon tart’s flakey, buttery crust into a black, burnt disaster.

So how do you choose the right baking pan to fit your needs? Follow these three simple guidelines to achieve baking pan perfection.

Material

Baking pans are available in a range of materials, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Known for their superior performance and durability, aluminum
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are frequently used in both restaurants and homes. Aluminum pans vary in color and weight; generally the heavier and darker the pan, the better it will conduct heat and brown evenly and the less likely it will warp or bend.  Available in non-stick, aluminum baking pans make excellent bread pans, muffin pans, and cake pans.

Extremely versatile and dishwasher safe, ovenproof glass baking pans make it easy to prepare, bake, serve, and store food in one single dish. Ovenproof glass does not conduct heat as well as other types of materials, so it is generally a good idea to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees when using these pans in lieu of metal ones. Because glass prevents excessive browning, ovenproof glass is often a top choice for casserole pans and roast pans.

Flexible and convenient, silicone baking pans allow bakers to easily remove muffins, cakes, pastries, and other baked goods that sometimes stick. Like aluminum pans, silicone baking pans provide even heat distribution, facilitating even browning. Dishwasher, oven, and freezer safe, silicone baking pans are simple to clean, use, and store.

Size

When it comes to baking, size matters. Filling up a cake pan past the halfway mark could yield an unevenly rising cake, so think twice before substituting an 8 inch round cake pan for a 9 inch round cake pan. Baking times can also vary depending on the size of the pan, requiring you to closely monitor the oven, a hassle if you are busy preparing other food. If you must substitute a smaller or larger size pan, pay

careful attention to the volume of the pan in the recipe and that of the pan you are using. Measure the amount of water that each pan holds to determine volume and adjust the amount of batter you put into your pan accordingly.

Shape

From square to round to rectangular and everything in between, baking pans are available in a variety of different shapes. When selecting a shape for your baking pan, think about the texture and appearance you are trying to achieve. A rectangular baking pan can transform banana bread batter into a simple and delicate cake while a loaf pan can change blueberry muffin batter into dense bread.