essential baking pans

The 10 Essential Baking Pans Your Kitchen Needs

Your all-purpose go-to baking pans for breads, cakes, cookies, and more
By Alesandra Dubin
October 04, 2020
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If you're a serious baker, you may already have a fully stocked kitchen containing all the tools of the trade. But even if you're a casual or novice baker, you'll want to have an array of essential baking pans at the ready for all the holidays, celebrations, and recipe experiments that will invariably come along. Here's a list of the essential pans any baker needs, and some of the best-loved, best-reviewed options on the market in their respective categories.

Best Baking Pans at a Glance

What to Look for When Shopping for Baking Pans

Most home bakers won't want to fuss with the most expensive and status-minded bakeware on the market. Instead, many everyday bakers probably want great-quality, well-priced tools that will last.

You want pans that will bake evenly through, and keep cakes and breads level. Ideally, your pans won't be likely to warp or stain, and you may likely want dishwasher-safe baking pans to make cleanup easier. So look for those features when choosing materials.

Glass vs. Metal

Also, note that metal takes less time to heat up than glass, but glass is excellent at holding heat. Nonstick surfaces make cleanup breezier, and today's nonstick and Teflon-coated pans are perfectly safe to eat from.

Silicone

Consider pans with silicone details: Some have silicone-grip handles, or silicone pads on the base to protect surfaces from scorching when the pan is right out of the oven. (And some versions of baking tools are silicone altogether.)

You also might want to consider pans that can multitask or stack easily — especially if you have limited storage space.

The Essential Baking Pans — and the Best Ones to Buy

Here are 10 essential baking pans you'll want to have on hand, how to use them, and a best all-around pick that's reasonably priced, durable, and high quality.

Related Items

AirBake Nonstick Cookie Sheet
Credit: Amazon

Cookie Sheet

While they might look similar to baking trays, cookie sheets are different primarily because they are fully flat — some with just a little lip around the edge — without the sides that trays have. This helps make sure the cookies you bake on them keep their shape and bake evenly. Plus, cookies are easier to handle with a spatula on a sheet, without sides to fuss with.

(Note that a jelly roll or half sheet pan is similar, but they have one-inch sides for making cake rolls; use them as a cookie sheet if you want to stock your kitchen more sparingly.)

The mid-priced AirBake's Nonstick Cookie Sheet earns hundreds of five-star reviews for its nonstick finish, 10-year warranty, and heavyweight aluminized steel that helps prevent burning.

Buy it: $23; Amazon

Nordic Ware Naturals Baker's Half Sheet
Credit: Target

Half Sheet Pan

A half sheet pan measures in at 18-by-13 inches, or exactly half the size of a full sheet pan (26-by-18 inches, and usually too big for the average home use). It has sides that come up to about an inch high, so unlike a baking sheet, it can handle runny batters from cakes or breads.

Nordic Ware Naturals Baker's Half Sheet is budget priced at just over $10. It's made in the United States of aluminum, which is durable and will never rust.

Buy it: $11; Target

Fat Daddio's Round Cake Pan
Credit: Amazon

Round Cake Pan

A round cake pan is just as it sounds: a circular-shaped baking pan, used for baking straight-sided cakes. These pans do not typically nest for storage given their straight sides and uniform sizing. These come in varying depths as well as diameters, but the most typical sizes are eight and nine inches. You'll probably want a pair of pans for making tiered confections.

Fat Daddio's nine-inch diameter version comes in varying depths (two, three, or four inches) and is much beloved as a kitchen staple, earning thousands of five-star reviews. Its anodized finish is non-reactive, so it won't be harmed by citrus ingredients. These reach baking temperature fast, and cool quickly to prevent over-baking.

Buy it: $11; Amazon

Calphalon Classic Bakeware 8-Inch Square Nonstick Cake Pan
Credit: Amazon

Square Baking Pan

A square baking dish, typically eight or nine inches to a side, is essential for whipping up brownies, bar cookies, cornbreads, and the like.

Calphalon's nonstick eight-inch version has interlocking layers to release even sticky baked goods cleanly. Its steel core heats evenly and creates crisp, straight edges. This pick is dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Buy it: $26; Amazon

Pyrex Easy Grab 1.5-Quart Glass Loaf Dish
Credit: Amazon

Loaf Pan or Bread Pan

A bread or loaf pan is a skinny rectangular pan, typically glass or metal, used to bake bread, shaping it as it rises.

Pyrex's well-loved 1.5-quart glass version won't warp or stain, and has large ergonomic handles for easier handling. It's dishwasher safe, and also comes with a BPA-free lid for convenient storage or bringing along to parties.

Buy it: $14; Amazon

Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan
Credit: Amazon

Springform Pan

Springform pans have removable sidewalls that separate from the base, which is ringed with a groove where the walls connect. The pieces secure by way of a clip on the side. This construction method makes it possible to remove cakes such as tortes and cheesecakes, without damaging fragile details.

Nordic Ware's nonstick springform pans come in seven- or nine-inch diameter. Thousands of reviewers appreciate the tight seal to prevent leaks and spills from this pan, which doesn't stain or bend.

Buy it: $11; Amazon

Rachael Ray Yum -o Nonstick Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Tin With Grips
Credit: Amazon

Muffin Tin or Cupcake Tray

A muffin tray is a baking pan with indentations to bake muffins or cupcakes. Trays most typically bake a dozen cupcakes or muffins, with room for about 3.5 ounces in each cup, but smaller and larger versions are also available.

Rachel Ray's top-selling 12-cup nonstick muffin pan is made from sturdy, heavy-gauge steel with grippy orange silicone handles for easy handling. The nonstick finish makes for no-fuss release and clean up. (Bonus: A portion of the sales goes to Yum-o!, Ray's nonprofit that helps families develop healthy relationships with food.)

Buy it: $17; Amazon

OXO Good Grips Freezer-to-Oven Safe 3 Qt Glass Baking Dish with Lid
Credit: Amazon

Rectangular Baking Pan

A rectangular baking dish with sides is a highly versatile tool for baking and cooking sweet and savory dishes alike. It typically comes in a nine-by-13-inch configuration, a standard size that matches up with most recipes and baking mixes, so it's a multitasking essential.

Related: Here Are the 7 Casserole Pans You Need

OXO's three-quart version is made of glass, with handles that provide a secure grip. It also comes with a BPA-free lid so you can store leftovers or bring your brownies to a potluck. This all-purpose utensil is safe for the freezer, dishwasher, and microwave alike.

Buy it: $20; Amazon

Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan
Credit: Amazon

Bundt Pan

A bundt pan is a round baking pan with decorative fluted sides and a hollow tube that rises in the middle to make a donut-like center hole. Use these for making bundt cakes. Note that a tube pan is similar, sometimes with detachable sides, to help you invert such delicate cakes as angel food.

Nordic Ware's 60th anniversary pan is a close cousin to its first cast aluminum version. This beloved tool made of durable cast aluminum has a narrow base, straight sides, and extra-large center tube.

Buy it: $33; Amazon

Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Pie Dish
Credit: Williams Sonoma

Pie Plate

A pie plate also goes by many similar names: pie dish, pie pan, and pie tin. It's a round baking dish, but unlike a cake pan with straight edges, this version has sloping edges and a round or fluted rim made for pie crusts. These typically come in glass, metal, or ceramic.

Williams Sonoma's professional-weight, aluminum-coated steel version is loved for its even baking and consistent results. Goldtouch nonstick coating releases and cleans up easily (and makes a decorative presentation to boot).

Buy it: $19; Williams Sonoma