A Beginners Guide to Baking Dishes

A Beginners Guide to Baking Dishes

Publish Date April 18, 2023

With so many options on the market, shopping for bakeware can raise a lot of questions. Which shape should you use? What’s the best cookware material for your recipe? How many baking dishes do you really need in your repertoire? On this page, we’re sharing everything you need to know about bakeware, including how to choose the right material, why shape matters and what each dish can be used for. At the end, you’ll be able to curate your own baking set that perfectly meets your cooking needs, no matter your experience level.

Types of Bakeware

Since the size, shape and volume of your baking dish affects how your food turns out, there’s no denying the importance of using the right type of bakeware. Let’s go over the different baking dish shapes you may want to consider:

  • Cookie Sheets and Sheet Pans: A staple in any baker’s kitchen, cookie sheets are wide, shallow baking pans that encourage air circulation. This style offers a large, even surface area, making it ideal for cookies, Danish pastries, rolls and other baked goods that benefit from consistent airflow around all sides.
  • Round Pans: Round pans have high, straight sides, perfect for making cakes of all varieties. For traditional layered cakes, like this Blue and Red Velvet Cake, choose two or more round baking pans of the same or complementary sizes. If you’re making a cheesecake, opt for a springform pan which features a side latch to easily release your cake from the pan.
  • Square and Rectangular Pans: Square and rectangular pans are designed with high sides that can hold in runny batters. These shapes are ideal for creating smooth squares, like for brownies, blondies, sheet cakes and bars.
  • Cupcake and Muffin Tins: Specially built for making sharable sweets and grab-and-go treats, cupcake and muffin tins are designed to evenly cook cupcakes, muffins and other individually portioned treats.
  • Loaf Pans: If you want to whip up a beautiful pumpkin bread or pound cake, you’re going to need a loaf pan. These pans, which are rectangular in shape and feature deep walls, bake dough uniformly and allow for a beautiful golden crust.
  • Bundt Cake Pan: Bundt cake pans are circular in shape and have a hole in the center, allowing for increased heat circulation. These pans are often adorned with decoration, resulting in an effortlessly intricate design on your cake. Though it’s not as common as some other styles, this baking pan is essential for creating the popular Bundt cake shape.

Types of Baking Pan Materials

Since different materials react differently when heated, the material of your pan will affect how your food cooks. Let’s go over the most common baking dish materials so you can choose the best option for every dish:

  • Glass and Ceramic: It might take longer to heat up, but glass and ceramic are great at retaining heat and keeping your food warm for long periods of time. Since ceramic and glass baking dishes are such great insulators, they’re ideal for things like casseroles, baked pastas, cobblers and pies.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum baking pans are lightweight, warm quickly and distribute heat evenly, making them a popular kitchen choice. Aluminum baking pans come in all sizes and can be used to cook savory and sweet dishes. When baking with aluminum, be aware that highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes, vinegar or citrus juice, can wear on your cookware over time.
  • Cast iron: Useful on both the stovetop and in the oven, cast iron heats low and slow and maintains a constant and high temperature, making it ideal for edge-to-edge, even cooking. Another benefit of cast iron is that as you use it, the oils in your food “season” your pan, giving it natural non-stick properties. For more information on this must-have cooking tool, check out our Cast Iron Guide.
  • Stoneware: Stoneware, which is made from earthenware clay fired at a high temperature, is elegant looking, warms evenly and retains heat well. Coming in all shapes and sizes, stoneware is durable, versatile and great at achieving crispy crusts, moist fillings and perfectly browned finishes.
  • Stainless Steel: Stainless-steel pans are lightweight yet durable and are good for making a wide variety of foods. Since these items don’t have any non-stick coating, you can keep your finished food from clinging to this material by preheating your cookware before adding the ingredients.
  • Silicone: A great alternative to old-fashioned materials, silicone is lightweight, resistant to damage and incredibly flexible. Since it has a lower heat threshold, silicone bakeware shouldn’t be used on the stove or under a broiler, but it’s a great option for baking light-colored cakes, cupcakes, breads and muffins.
  • Non-stick Coated: Made with convenient, non-stick properties, non-stick coating makes removing your baked goods from the tin as easy as, well, pie. When using this type of bakeware, avoid using knives or metal utensils that may scratch the delicate coating.

Dark vs Light Bakeware

Finally, when choosing the right baking dish, it’s also important to consider the color. Light baking pans reflect heat, resulting in a more even bake and lighter golden finish. These pans are good for cakes, cookies and other soft baked items. Dark pans absorb heat and brown food faster, making them a better option when you want more heat and a browned bottom, like with pizza, roasted veggies or crispy-edged potato wedges.

Shop the baking dishes on this page to grab the bakeware you need to complete your collection. Then, find fun and festive baking inspiration and Summer Party Recipes at our Summer Shop, or explore everyday recipes, kitchen hacks and DIY projects at our blog, The Fresh Lane.

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