The Best Bakeware
Along with your stand mixer and a good set of kitchen utensils, a solid bakeware set should be a priority for you . Every baker will tell you that it is a critical piece of equipment when it comes to creating wonderful meals in your kitchen.
Choosing the best bakeware for your needs will depend a lot on what you plan to bake, how comfortable you have become using different types of kitchen materials (think of the types of baking sheets you already have) and if convenience is more important than consistent heat distribution.
Good bakeware needs to meet three standards to be considered a good value. It has to be durable enough to handle high temperatures for extended baking times. It must be able to distribute heat evenly over all of its surfaces. Last, it needs to be the right pan (or dish) for your baking needs.
What your bakeware is made of will make a difference when it comes to baking. There are three types of materials that are most commonly used: metal (steel or aluminum), glass (such as Pyrex) and stone. All three do very well when it comes to baking your food but there are some characteristics with each material that may influence your purchase.
Aluminum has been a popular material for bakeware for a long time. We all know it when we see it, it’s shiny and reminds us of the pans our moms or grandmothers used. As a metal (it’s actually an alloy) it works well for baking. Besides being durable, it conducts heat very well. High temperatures generally don’t affect it, seldom will an aluminum pan warp.
The downside of aluminum bakeware is that it can stain (which is usually just cosmetic). There also can be issues if you are baking a very salty or acidic dish right on the pan surface. There can be some leeching from the salt or acid.
Stainless steel is the other type of metal used for bakeware. Typically it is coated with a non-stick surface. It’s light weight and does a good job of distributing heat although it can warp at high temperatures for long periods of time. Both aluminum and stainless steel baking dishes are inexpensive.
Pyrex is probably the most well-known name in glass bakeware, a lot of people call any glass baking dish Pyrex. Glass offers some benefits when it comes to baking. It’s easy to clean, you can see what is being baked and usually glass baking dishes can be both microwave and oven safe. Often glass baking pans are sold with a cover, making for convenient storage.
The pitfalls of glass baking utensils are possible problems points for different types of baking. While the glass used in the dishes is tempered, it can shatter in the oven if you put a cold dish in a hot oven. Glass also takes longer to absorb heat. It distributes heat very well once it is warm and it retains heat longer after you remove it from the oven. It just takes longer to get the dish to the desired temperature. Many recipes call for lower oven temperatures for glass dishes compared to metal bakeware pieces.
Some bakers swear by stone bakeware pieces. In some respects stoneware is similar to a cast iron pan. It’s indestructible, it handles high heat very well and lasts forever.
Most stoneware is made from clay that is fired at extremely high heat in a kiln after being formed into shape. Generally it won’t chip or discolor and the lifespan of good stoneware is almost forever.
Stoneware sold in the USA and Canada must be tested for any traces of minerals (such as lead) in the clay used. This happens in cheaper brands who are using inferior materials. Stoneware is safe to use and has been material used in cooking and baking for thousands of years.
Stoneware works very well for recipes that require longer baking times. The bakeware will hold the heat well, distribute it evenly and will retain some heat after the dish is removed from the oven.
Pros And Cons
Anytime you have options you have good points and bad points. It’s no different when picking out your next bakeware set. Here are a few pros and cons for all three types of material.
Pros: Lightweight. Inexpensive. Wide variety of shape and sizes.
Cons: Can warp at high heat. Discolor from acidic foods. Usually no lids.
Pros: Easy to clean. Can be used in the oven and microwave. Storage lids.
Cons: Can shatter. Heavier than metal bakeware pieces.
Pros: Wonderful with high heats. Easy to clean. Last forever.
Cons: Heavy. Will shatter when dropped. More expensive than glass or metal.
How you bake and what you bake will matter when it comes to choosing your bakeware. Most bakers have a combination of all three materials. If you are baking cooking you will probably use an aluminum baking sheet. If you are baking bread you might want to try a stone loaf pan, it gives that bread an different crust than metal does. Glass works well for brownies and cakes, but so does metal and stone. One type won’t be perfect for every baking recipe, you should have a nice assortment of all three kinds of bakeware.