Whether you’re baking a birthday cake for the kids or brownies to take to work, having good pans will help ensure that your baked goods come out well. The right shape, size, and material can make all the difference.
A cake pan with sloped sides works fine for brownies, quick breads, and coffee cakes. But it isn’t ideal for layered cake recipes that call for perfectly perpendicular sides.
Just like wearing black clothing in the sun, dark pans absorb and radiate more heat than light ones. This means that they can cause your food to cook faster and brown more quickly, particularly the edges of cakes and cookies. Light-colored pans, on the other hand, reflect more of the heat so that they are able to bake your foods more evenly and thoroughly.
This is particularly important when baking delicate foods such as cookies, cakes, and breads. If you don’t have a set of light-colored pans but your recipe calls for them, try adding a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to your oven to promote more even bake. These are inexpensive and easy to find at your local grocery store.
You can also use darker pans for recipes that require extra crispness, such as pizza and cornbread, since they encourage browning. However, you should lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees when using a dark pan to prevent overbaking your food. Proprietary to Matfer Bourgeat, Exoglass is a non-porous, natural nonstick composite that’s ideal for cakes and other delicate pastries. It’s also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. To maintain this type of pan, you can wipe it inside and out with hot water and a degreasing product or soft cloth. You should also follow specific care instructions for your particular type of pan.
As you’re probably aware, darker pans absorb and retain heat more efficiently than lighter ones. This can be a good thing if you want to speed up baking time or encourage the Maillard reaction, which gives foods their brown color and rich flavor by accelerating the reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars.
However, dark pans can also cause over-browning, especially if you’re not careful with the temperature setting. This is because they tend to brown the edges and bottoms of foods more quickly than their paler counterparts, which can result in over-cooked or burnt centers if you bake your treats until they’re well done.
To counteract this effect, you’ll need to lower the temperature and shorten the baking time when using dark pans. You can also line your pan with parchment paper, which prevents sticking and is an excellent choice for delicate spritz cookies. However, parchment isn’t an insulator and won’t block the pan’s heat, so it’s not a foolproof solution for this issue.
Ultimately, you can enjoy the benefits of dark pans without worrying about over-browning with these simple adjustments. With a little care and know-how, you can still produce deliciously golden cakes and cookies that are evenly baked. So next time you pull out your trusty dark-colored pans, remember these tips to ensure that your creations turn out perfectly!
Stainless steel pans
Stainless steel pans require a little more patience and practice to use, but they have amazing longevity and can withstand high heat. The best ones are made with chromium, which guards against rusting. They are heavier than nonstick pans, however, and can be difficult to maneuver on the stovetop.
To make a stainless-steel pan more durable, look for ones that are clad. This means that they are layered with a metal that conducts heat more efficiently, such as aluminium or copper (the All-Clad Copper Core range is one of the best on the market). You want to look for pans with multiple layers—tri-ply pans have one layer of heat-conducting metal sandwiched between two layers of stainless-steel, while 5-ply pans have five.
A good-quality stainless-steel pan is also dishwasher safe, but it’s important to hand-wash it to avoid scratching up the surface and leaving it prone to rusting or discoloration. Be sure to let the pan cool completely before running water over it or placing it in the dishwasher, and use gentle cleaners like deglazing or Bar Keepers Friend on stubborn spots. Just don’t scrub a stainless-steel pan with steel wool, as this will damage the surface and leave it vulnerable to corrosion. Stainless-steel pans are recyclable, so you can feel good about using them again and again.
Glass pans are cooking and baking vessels made of glass. They have a few advantages over metal pans for baking, including being easy to clean and less reactive with acidic foods. They also retain heat longer than metal, a feature useful in recipes that call for keeping baked goods warm before serving.
Glass is a poor conductor of heat, however, which means it takes more time for the heat to reach the center of your batter. For this reason, bakers who use glass pans usually have to lower their oven temperature by 25 degrees or more and bake their foods for a few minutes longer than the recipe suggests.
The disadvantages of using glass are that it is heavier and breaks more easily than aluminum, so you’ll have to be careful when handling it. Glass is also not conducive to intense heat, such as that found in the broiler, and doesn’t handle temperature changes well, which can cause it to crack if you pour cold water over hot glass.
The best uses for glass pans are for baked pasta dishes like lasagna and casseroles; pies (as in a glass pie plate); cobblers; flans; and bread pudding. If you have to bake a cake, though, choose a metal pan instead. The faster heat transfer of metal can help prevent the edges of your cake from overbaking before the middle is set.