There are countless recipes for delicious things you can bake at home, from sweet treats like cookies and cakes to more savory items like breads and casseroles. And with all these possibilities comes a huge range of baking pans designed to create the different sizes, shapes and techniques needed for each dish.
The sheer variety of pans can be a bit perplexing. So, to make things a bit clearer, here’s an overview of the most commonly used types of baking pans and their purposes:
Distinctive features: Relatively broad pans with vertical sides, usually around an inch-and-a-half deep
Ideal for: Baking cakes, brownies or bars
Other notes: Cake pans come in a range of shapes and sizes to help you create whatever cake you dream up. Round, rectangular and square are the most common variations, but heart-shaped and oval are also easy to come by.
Distinctive features: Wide and flat, and may have a small lip along the edges
Ideal for: Baking cookies, oven-roasting vegetables
Other notes: There are two types of baking sheets: sheet pans and cookie sheets. Typically sheet pans have a short edge so they can be used for baking sheet cakes, while cookie sheets will have a flat edge. Keep an eye out for cookie sheets that feature “dropzone” markings to help you get uniformly sized and spaced cookies.
Distinctive features: Rounded rectangular pan at least a couple inches deep
Ideal for: Baking bread, cooking meatloaf
Other notes: Loaf pans feature taller edges to help give support or add form to baked items. Because of their taller edges, some loaf pans will also come with separate inserts that help lift the loaf out of the pan for easy removal and cleanup.
Distinctive features: Baking tray that features individual round wells for baking a set of smaller items at the same time
Ideal for: Baking muffins, cupcakes or mini quiches
Other notes: This one type of pan goes by two different names: cupcake pan and muffin pan. These will generally hold a dozen cupcakes or muffins at once; however, pans for making mini versions of these treats can usually accommodate up to two dozen baked goods.
Distinctive features: A round pan 8 to 10 inches wide with slightly outward slanted sides
Ideal for: Baking pies or quiches
Other notes: Pie pans come in a variety of depths suited for different types of pies, from deep-dish apple to traditional pumpkin pie. To get the most even bake, look for pie pans made of ceramic or glass, as these retain heat better than metal pans.
Distinctive features: Round two-piece pan with removable sides
Ideal for: Baking cheesecakes or tortes
Other notes: A springform pan gets its name from the way its sides are able to spring away from whatever is baked in it. This type of pan is particularly useful for making delicate dishes that would be ruined when removed from a pan with traditional edges.
Distinctive features: Deep ring-shaped pan with fluted edges
Ideal for: Baking Bundt cakes, monkey bread or angel food cake
Other notes: A Bundt cake pan allows heat to flow on both the inner and outer sides of the ring, making the cake bake more evenly and more quickly than in a solid pan. This shape also produces cakes and other baked goods that are perfectly structured for easy slicing and serving.
Distinctive features: Broad rectangular or oval pan generally 2 to 3 inches deep – may come with a lid
Ideal for: Baking and serving cobblers, crisps or casseroles, or oven-roasting vegetables
Other notes: A casserole dish, also referred to as a Dutch oven, is a noteworthy multitasker that can perfectly bake dinner and dessert alike. These are typically made of cast iron with an enamel coating, which bakes very evenly and is relatively easy to clean. When shopping for casserole dishes, keep an eye out for dishes that come with their own serving cradle that allows them to go directly from oven to table.
Distinctive features: Small, round baking dishes in single serving sizes
Ideal for: Baking and serving individual portions of desserts like mini soufflés, crème brulees or cobblers
Other notes: Ramekins are a great way to prepare and serve delicate or messy desserts with a beautiful presentation. These are generally made of stoneware or ceramic for even baking, and are also useful for preparing baked goods that need to be cooked in a water bath.
Distinctive features: Pans, trays and molds used to create fun baked treats in unique designs
Ideal for: Birthday cakes, themed cookies, pastries and cupcakes
Other notes: There is enormous variety among the many specialty and novelty baking pans available. These help you create anything from Christmas cookies or heart-shaped mini cakes, to themed baked treats for any holiday. There are also designs such as Madeline pans that create signature shapes for traditional recipes.