It's time to think beyond banana bread.

bread loaf pans and measuring cups
Iain Bagwell/Getty Images
| Credit: Iain Bagwell/Getty Images

You don't have to make your own bread, or even bake, to love the loaf pan. Despite their specialized name, these rectangular pans are extremely adaptable to cooking, freezing, desserts, and more. And with all the creative ways you can use them, loaf pans are anything but idle in the kitchen.

Like other pans, they can be made from a variety of materials. Metal tends to be traditional because it retains heat best, which is ideal for the yeasted breads that such pans are intended for, says Tracy Wilk, lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education. Whether you prefer glass, ceramic, silicone, or even single-use paper pans largely depends on what you use them for most. Silicone loaf pans ($14.88;, for example, release food easily but don't have a rigid shape, so they often need to be set on a baking sheet for stability.

You can find loaf pans ($14; in a range of sizes, but the most common is 9-by-5 inches, which can be great for scaling larger recipes to just a few servings. "A loaf pan is probably not the first piece you reach for," says Wilk, "but once you have one, you will use it more often then you expect." Below are just a few of the ways to do that, so grab a loaf pan and get to work.

Easy Meatloaf

Get the Recipe: Easy Meatloaf

1. Make meatloaf.

Bread isn't the only thing that comes in loaves. These pans are the ideal shape for the ultimate comfort food, meatloaf. If you want to get cute with it, try mini meatloaves in individual mini loaf pans ($19.99;

2. Marinate meats.

Keep more of each steak, chicken breast, tofu slice, or veggie skewer in contact with the marinade you made by placing the foods in a loaf pan, then pouring the marinade on top. Cover with plastic wrap, and slip the loaf pan into your fridge for the allotted time. If you have a bit of meat or a few sides of the skewers sticking out, use tongs to rotate them in the marinade for full coverage.

Blue Cheese Lasagna
Credit: Soup Loving Nicole

Get the Recipe: Blue Cheese Lasagna

3. Think Italian.

Rectangular pans are perfect for lasagna or baked ziti, especially if you're only serving a few people. If you cut recipes in half, a square baking dish may be too big. Use a loaf pan instead.

4. Store food scraps.

If the kitchen garbage can is more than two steps from where you prep and cook your meals, use a loaf pan as a makeshift garbage can. A 9x5-inch loaf pan takes up less space than bowls or other baking dishes. The tall sides prevent spills, too.

a side view of a two-crusted pie filled with chicken and vegetables on a white plate
Credit: Baking nana

5. Rethink pie.

Savory pies like shepherd's pie or chicken pot pie don't have to be round just because that's convention. You can bake them in a loaf pan and still have a hearty one-dish meal. For faster serving, consider using smaller individual loaf pans for your savory pies.

Raspberry-Pomegranate Jellies
Credit: pomplemousse

6. Scale down dessert.

Whip up a half-batch or brownies, bars, or cake in this slimmer baking vessel. You can even use the pan to make a small batch of unique desserts, like jellies or truffles.

Strawberry Whipped Sensation
Credit: ronazack

7. Freeze it.

"A loaf pan works great for no-churn ice cream or granita, or a semifreddo that you can slice," says Wilk. Alexander's Hot Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe and Easy Chocolate Ice Cream don't even require an ice cream maker. They're whipped, poured into the loaf pan, and frozen until solid.

Not all frozen recipes will be for dessert, either. This Frozen Cranberry Salad is meant to be served as an alternative to cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.

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