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Baking equipment is just as important as the ingredients you use. But since most of us stocked our kitchens forever ago, we might not realize just how big an impact our pans have on our baking.
That’s why I decided to put a bunch of baking pans to the test. For this post, I focused on sheet pans and cookie sheets, to keep things simple. There are SO many types of baking pans but I find that your standard sheet pan/cookie sheet is the most used in the kitchen.
Note: if you’re curious about my FULL list of recommendations for my favorite baking equipment (including a wider variety of baking pans such as cake pans, loaf pans, and cookware), or you are interested in more baking science, then you’ll LOVE my Magic of Baking online course + community. I hope you’ll check it out!
Let’s get to testing and see which are the best baking pans, and which are the worst!
The Best (and the Worst) Baking Pans I’ve Meticulously Tested
Take a look at the below cookies. I made a few batches of my Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie dough. Here were the control parameters:
- Each batch was baked in a 350°F oven for exactly 12 minutes.
- One pan was baked at a time.
- The dough was kept refrigerated between batches, for temperature consistency.
- Each pan was lined with parchment paper only. No added grease/butter/nonstick spray.
- The only difference between each batch was the baking pan.
- You can already see what a difference the various baking pans made:
Exact Products Used to Find the Best Baking Pan:
- T-fal Air Bake Natural Aluminum Pan
- Wilton Baker’s Best Heavy Duty Nonstick Cookie Pan
- Walmart’s Mainstays Uncoated Tin-Free Steel Cookie Sheet (this was less than $5)
- Viking Ceramic Nonstick Bakeware
- Nordicware Natural Aluminum Half Sheet Pan
- Good Grips Nonstick Pro Half Sheet Pan (this is “micro-textured”)
I knew that baking on different pans was going to result in a slightly different outcome, but the results were even more dramatic than I was expecting. They did fall in line with something I’ve known to be true: that nonstick pans and dark-colored pans brown much more quickly and aggressively, compared to light-colored pans. So let’s get onto what you really want to know…
Which is the Best Baking Pan?
These have become my go-to unlined aluminum sheet pans. I’m a big fan of the Nordic Ware brand. To me, it yielded the perfect Goldilocks batch of cookies, which were perfectly golden brown.
- The heat conductivity of the Nordic Ware pans is perfect; it heats evenly without being too aggressive, allowing your baked goods time to spread a little without burning on the bottom, yet still caramelizing slightly.
- This is what you’ll find in most professional kitchens, and is the basic type of pan we used in culinary school.
- I use these pans daily, for both sweet and savory preparations. I now have five of these durable pans in my kitchen!
- This is the pan I use when I’m testing new recipes. I always use the most straightforward and basic equipment possible because I don’t want to skew or warp my baking results because I’m using different or high-end equipment that many readers won’t have.
- You can get a 2-pack of the pan used in this experiment here.
I also have two more recommendations, depending on your baking preferences.
If you like golden crusts
If a golden crust is your preference, you may want to choose a nonstick option – but not all non-stick cookie sheets were created equal. I’d recommend the OXO Good Grips Pro Half Sheet Pan.
- It’s ceramic-reinforced with a two-layer coating for easy food release while protecting against scratching, staining, and corrosion.
- This pan is micro-textured with a non-stick pattern, to minimize surface contact and increase airflow, for even baking.
- This coating makes the pan bake more quickly, so that’s another reason why these cookies browned more than the unlined aluminum.
- The next time I bake with this pan, I’ll probably shave a few minutes off the baking time.
If you like pale crusts and a soft texture
If pale, soft cookies are your thing, you may want to choose the T-Fal Air Pan option.
- The layer of air in the center of this pan reduces the heat of the pan, reducing browning and burning.
- I personally don’t prefer this result, but I know many do, so I wanted to mention it!
- I don’t love that this pan doesn’t have rims. Move too fast and your cookies will slide right off!
The Worst Baking Pan?
I would definitely NOT recommend:
- Walmart Mainstays pan. This pan was super flimsy. It warped AND rusted after first use and cleaning.
- I also wasn’t a big fan of the Viking pan either, which basically burnt my cookies on the bottom.
- Wilton Non-Stick baking sheet was also not a favorite. The non-stick coating on this pan caused the cookies to bake far too quickly, darkening the bottoms of the cookies more than I prefer.
Final Thoughts & Tips
- I like my cookie sheets unlined. This means that the pan does not have a nonstick coating.
- Always use parchment paper to line your pans, but don’t grease them. This causes burned bottoms.
- You can use silicone mats instead if you prefer. Check out my Silpat vs Parchment article here!
- Even if your pans say they’re dishwasher-safe, I always recommend hand washing. This will prolong the pan’s lifespan and prevent rust.
Which is Your Favorite?
Let me know in the comments below which baking pan is YOUR favorite, and if you learned anything through my experimenting! I hope you found this helpful.
More Baking Science Articles:
- Glass vs Metal Baking Pans
- Buttermilk 101
- How to Cream Butter & Sugar
- Cake Flour 101
- The BEST Cookie Scoops (Plus How and Why to Use One!)
- Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder
Be sure to download my Baking Secrets guide for even more helpful tips: