11.3 C
United Kingdom
Monday, June 17, 2024

The 4 Best Baking Pans of 2024, Tested & Reviewed


Straight to the Point

My favorite baking pan is from Nordic Ware. Made of heavyweight aluminum, it baked evenly and consistently. Williams Sonoma also makes an excellent 8- by 8-inch pan that has square corners, for crisper-looking baked goods. 

There are loads of recipes that use an 8- by 8-inch baking pan, like our brownies, blondies, and lemon bars. But did you know recipes developed for a 9- by 13-inch pan can also be halved and baked in this smaller dish with minimal tweaking? And if you’re like my husband, who’s a big fan of crispy, caramelized corners, baking a 9- by 13-inch recipe in two 8- by 8-inch pans means double the edges (and joy).

To find the best square baking pans, I tested 12 of them—making blondies and cake and evaluating their durability. Surprise, surprise: Not all of them baked properly and others weren’t actually eight-inch squares, leading to inaccurate cook times.

The Winners, at a Glance

Nordic Ware 8 x 8 Square Cake Pan

Amazon


The Nordic Ware 8- by 8-inch pan is made of heavy gauge aluminum and was durable, with a rolled edge that was easy to hold and move in and out of the oven. Cakes baked evenly, with light brown edges and the pan’s smooth, rounded corners that were easy to clean.

William Sonoma Traditionaltouch Square Cake Pan

William Sonoma  


Sharper corners make for aesthetically pleasing baked goods. If that’s important to you, this is the pan to get. Made from heavy gauge aluminized steel that baked evenly and consistently, the Williams Sonoma pan’s cakes and blondies had crisp 90-degree corners. Every square and slice was picture-perfect.

USA Pan Bakeware Square Pan, 8-inch

Amazon


If you prefer a nonstick pan, I found the USA pan to be the best option. Unlike other nonstick models I tested, which had darker coatings that led to overbrowning, the USA pan is light in color. This yielded consistent, even results similar to that of uncoated pans.

Pyrex Sculpted Tinted (8 x 8) Glass Baking Dish

Amazon


Typically, I don’t recommend glass and ceramic baking pans, as the material heats differently than metal, which is what most baking recipes are developed for. But the tinted glass of the Pyrex compensated for this, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that cakes and blondies baked up nearly as well as in my favorite metal pans.

The Tests

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


  • Yellow Cake Test: I baked half a box of yellow cake mix in each pan (lightly greasing them first with a three-second burst of cooking spray) to see how evenly the cake rose and baked.
  • Durability Test: I took a butter knife and scratched each pan 10 to 12 times, as if I were cutting squares of brownies, to see how durable it was.
  • Blondies Test (Winners Only): I adapted this brown butter blondies recipe, adding in chocolate and butterscotch chips, to see how a dense dough would bake in the winning pans. After baking, I cut the blondies with a butter knife directly in the pan, looking for further scratching.
  • Cleanup and Usability Tests: After every test, I washed each pan by hand. Throughout testing, I evaluated how easy the pans were to hold, move, and unmold baked goods from.

What We Learned

Metal Baking Pans Were Generally Better

The darker pans (like the one on the right) yielded cakes with too-brown edges and uneven bakes.

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


As a recipe developer and cookbook author, I have always recommended light-colored metal for baking pans, especially ones that are used for cakes, brownies, blondies, and bread. This is because darker pans heat up faster, leading to overbrowning on the sides and bottoms. Also, most professionally developed recipes are designed using uncoated, light-colored metal pans, with the baking times and results optimized for this material. 

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


Of the metal pans, the ones made from heavy gauge metal—like my favorites by Nordic Ware, Williams Sonoma, and USA Pan—baked the most evenly. Cakes rose only slightly in the middle and blondies were golden brown from edge to center. Pans like the Wilton Performance and the Fat Daddio were made of thinner metal that baked quicker, resulting in overdone, dark edges and bottoms.

Opt for a Lighter Colored Pan (Unless It’s Glass)

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


One of the many issues with nonstick-coated pans is the color of the coating. The darker color of nonstick coating can absorb heat faster, yielding uneven bakes. This was evident in the Good Cook, Wilton Perfect, and All-Clad baking pans. Their cakes were overly brown and had low sides (as those set quickly) and dramatically risen centers (as the rest of the cake caught up in temperature).

However, when it came to glass, a darker color was actually welcome. Unlike the clear Anchor Hocking pan, the Pyrex was a smoky gray, which absorbed heat faster. Glass is a refractory material, which heats up slower than metal but retains heat longer, even when removed from the oven. This is why the Anchor Hocking pan underbaked cake, but the Pyrex performed almost as well as the metal offerings.

Ceramic Baking Pans Struggled With Standardized Sizing 

The two ceramic baking pans we tested were vastly different sizes.

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


Most of the metal pans I tested were close to eight inches in size. But, inexplicably, the two ceramic pans I tested were off, with the Great Jones measuring 7.5 inches and the Made In pan 10.5 inches.

The too-large baking dish (second from right) resulted in a too-thin cake.

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


Smaller and larger pans resulted in thicker and thinner baked goods and ran the risk of overbaking or underbaking without recipe time adjustments.

Corners Were Nice, But Harder to Clean

I personally love the polished look of baked goods with sharp corners. However, pans with squared-off corners (like the ones from Williams Sonoma and USA Pan) are harder to clean. The small gaps in their corners trap bits of food, and you’ll occasionally need to grab a toothpick or wooden skewer to dig crumbs out. If you’re looking to avoid this, there are pans made from one molded piece of metal and with rounded corners, like my favorite from Nordic Ware.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Baking Pan

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


If opting for a metal baking pan, choose one that’s made from a heavy gauge material and light in color, which will help distribute heat evenly. For glass, opt for a baking pan that’s darker-hued, which will help compensate for the material taking longer to heat up. Finally, if you prioritize ease of cleaning, pick a pan without sharp edges. But if you prefer the aesthetic of sharper, 90-degree corners—great! Just know they’ll require more attentive cleanup.

Our Favorite 8- by 8-Inch Baking Pans

Nordic Ware 8 x 8 Square Cake Pan

Amazon


What we liked: Nordic Ware’s baking pan is molded from one piece of aluminum, with a rolled edge that has a stainless-steel rod inside of it, adding stability and preventing warping. While a small pan may not warp like a larger half-sheet pan, the rolled edge is also easier to grab and move in and out of the oven. 

The pan’s heavy gauge metal evenly distributed heat. Cake rose gently from the edges to the center, with even browning across the top. Blondies baked up golden brown, without any overcooked or underbaked areas. I found a bit of cooking spray was enough to prevent baked goods from sticking and the pan’s sloped, crevice-free corners made for easy cleanup. 

What we didn’t like: The aluminum pan did scratch during my durability test. That said, the scratches didn’t impact performance, as the pan isn’t nonstick.

Key Specs

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 2.2 inches
  • Care instructions: Hand-wash; not dishwasher-safe
  • Handle size: None
  • Maximum oven temperature: 500°F 

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


William Sonoma Traditionaltouch Square Cake Pan

William Sonoma  


What we liked: The Williams Sonoma pan was heavy-duty, evenly distributed heat, and had sharp corners, making every cake slice and blondie square look picture-perfect. The pan’s rolled rim, like the Nordic Ware’s, was easy to grab. In my tests, cakes baked up even and blondies were golden brown. 

What we didn’t like: The sharp corners of the pan trapped crumbs. Like the Nordic Ware, it also showed some minor scratches, but they did not impact performance.

Key Specs

  • Material: Aluminized steel
  • Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 2.25 inches
  • Care instructions: Hand-wash; not dishwasher-safe
  • Handle size: None
  • Maximum oven temperature: 450°F 

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


USA Pan Bakeware Square Pan, 8-inch

Amazon


What we liked: If you prefer a nonstick pan, the USA Pan was the best one I tested. Its proprietary nonstick, silicone coating is called Americoat and is clear. This means the pan performs like one that’s uncoated, without the hot spots or uneven baking that occurred with dark-colored nonstick models. It also featured rolled edges that were nice to grip and baked cake and blondies beautifully.

What we didn’t like: Like the Williams Sonoma pan, the USA Pan’s sharp corners create beautiful baked goods but are more challenging to clean.

Key Specs

  • Material: Aluminized steel with silicone nonstick coating
  • Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 2.25 inches
  • Care instructions: Hand-wash; not dishwasher-safe
  • Handle size: None
  • Maximum oven temperature: 450°F 

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


Pyrex Sculpted Tinted (8 x 8) Glass Baking Dish

Amazon


What we liked: I typically don’t recommend glass baking dishes. However, this tinted Pyrex performed surprisingly well. The gray glass heated faster and held onto heat, so cakes baked up fairly evenly—more so than the dark-colored nonstick options I tested. While the Pyrex’s blondies weren’t quite as good as my favorite metal pans (with the edges more brown than the center), they were still acceptable, especially for folks who prefer crispy edges and corners. 

What we didn’t like: Glass is more fragile than metal, takes longer to heat up, and retains heat readily. This leads to more uneven baking.

Key Specs

  • Material: Tempered glass
  • Dimensions: 8.25 x 8.25 x 2.25 inches
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe
  • Handle size: 0.75 x 5 inches
  • Maximum oven temperature: 425°F 

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


The Competition

FAQs

How do you clean baking pans?

Most baking pans should be washed by hand with a soft sponge and dish detergent. Some pans can be cleaned in the dishwasher, such as ones made from glass. You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if your pan is dishwasher-safe.

Are silicone baking pans safe?

Though no silicone baking pans were tested for this article, they are approved by the FDA and considered food-safe. Typically, silicone baking pans are rated up to 425°F.  However, keep in mind that though silicone pans are convenient due to their flexible nature, allowing for easy release of baked goods, the material doesn’t get hot and won’t brown as well.

What baking pans do professionals use?

Most baking professionals use a commercial-grade heavy gauge metal pan that is durable and uncoated. This allows them to use the pan over and over again, without having to worry about the coating scratching or flaking off. Thicker, heavy gauge metal pans not only bake better by distributing heat evenly but are more durable and can withstand the constant use of a commercial environment.

Why We’re the Experts

  • Irvin Lin is a cookbook author, recipe developer, food writer, photographer, and ceramicist. He wrote the cookbook Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, which was picked by the New York Times as one of the best baking cookbooks of 2016. Irvin also runs a blog called Eat the Love, where he’s developed, photographed, and written recipes since 2010. 
  • He’s product tested and reviewed hundreds of kitchen items including stand mixers and digital thermometers.
  • For this review, Irvin tested 12 8- by 8-inch baking pans. He made box cake mix, scratched them with a knife to emulate wear over time, and baked blondies to see how they fared with a dense dough.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles