Baking pans are a kitchen essential, but they can be tricky to choose. To make the right choice, start with a basic understanding of how pan size and volume capacity work.
Color plays a surprisingly large role in how a pan bakes. Dark metal pans and sheets absorb more heat, which can cause over-browning or even burns. Light pans, on the other hand, can spread heat more evenly.
There’s a pan for almost every dish, and most come in more than one size. When deciding what you need, consider the recipes you most often make and what types of food you cook.
You can use simple math to determine the surface area of divided pans and their volume capacity. For example, you can multiply a pan’s length and width to find its area. This can help you determine whether a different pan could be used in place of the one called for in a recipe.
Note that a pan’s volume may vary based on its depth. For example, a standard loaf pan can have 6 or 8 cups of capacity. It’s best to stick with the volume listed in a recipe, but be sure to check for doneness closely so that you don’t overbake or underbake your baked goods. You should also know that some specialty pans, such as springform and Bundt pans, serve a specific purpose that may not be compatible with another pan of the same type.
Whether it’s a full- or half-size sheet pan, a bundt pan or a casserole dish, the shape of a divided baking pan can significantly alter how well a recipe bakes. This is because if the sides of a baking pan are slanted, it can cause food to rise unevenly or burn and brown too quickly.
A pan’s color can also significantly affect its performance in the oven. Dark-colored metal pans absorb more heat, speeding up cooking time and leading to over-browning or burning. On the other hand, light-colored pans reflect more of the heat they receive, slows down cooking time and allow for more baking.
In addition to material, it’s also important to consider a divided baking pan’s durability and strength. A cheap pan may bend or warp with temperature changes, whereas a high-quality pan should stay strong and rigid throughout its lifespan. If you’re shopping for a new pan, read reviews to learn more about how durable a product is.
When baking, exact measurements and precise leavening agent use can make all the difference in a recipe’s success. Scaling recipes up or down in pan size often requires a bit of extra math to get it right, especially when using the same ratio (for instance, if you’re dividing a 13″ x 9″ cake batter into two 8″ round pans to create pretty tiered layer cakes).
Round and square pans are fairly easy to convert, as their areas can be calculated by simply multiplying one side times the other (for example, an 8-inch round pan’s area is 3.14 times its radius squared, or 50 square inches). However, things become more complicated regarding rectangular, oval, and other non-square pans. Here’s where it can help to have a professional kitchen designer on hand to consult, particularly when making those tricky conversions. Their expertise can ensure you don’t run into any unexpected roadblocks while completing your dream kitchen.
Many pans are on the market, and it’s easy to get confused. However, using the wrong pan can affect everything from bake time to the final texture. It’s best to use a pan specifically designed for the recipe; this way, you can be sure it will work correctly.
For example, a baking pan with a dark finish will absorb heat and cook the outside edges faster than the center, so you’ll end up with over-baked edges. Also, a nonstick pan intended for metal utensils (like whisks) may impart a metallic flavor to custards and other recipes that call for gentle stirring. Ask an expert if you need help determining which plan is right for your kitchen. Most bakeries and big box stores will have knowledgeable staff to answer your questions and help you find the perfect divided pan for your cooking needs.