Cake Pans to Cookie Sheets: 16 Essential Baking Pans

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After leaving the restaurant industry when my kids were babies, I started a home-based baking business specializing in desserts for milestone occasions, from 1st birthdays to 50th anniversaries. Beyond traditional layer cakes, I made heart-shaped cakes, cupcakes, train cakes, cookie cakes, petit fours, fancy tarts, and the list goes on and on. As you can imagine, I accumulated quite a few specialty baking pans, and most of them are now collecting dust in my cabinet. However, there are certain baking pans I still use over and over again for family cooking.

These are the essential baking pans I recommend for all bakers, experienced and new, in order to have a well-stocked kitchen when it’s time to get your baking on.

Want to become a better baker? Read my essential baking tips. (Not a baker? Check out my recommendations for the best pots and pans to stock your kitchen.)

Round Cake Pans

What They’re Used For: Layer cakes and other cakes

What You Should Know: When we think of birthday cake, most of us think of a traditional layer cake with lots of candles on top – and since most of us need to bake a birthday cake from time to time (even if it’s from a store-bought mix), round cake pans are a home baking essential. I recommend two 8-inch and two 9-inch pans with a reliable non-stick coating. Unless you’re baking tiered wedding cakes, these two pan sizes will have you covered for the great majority of round cake recipes.

❤️ My Faves:

Square and Rectangular Baking Dishes

What They’re Used For: Sweets recipes, like breakfast cakes, snack cakes, sheet cakes, brownies, and bars, as well as savory dishes, like lasagna, baked ziti, vegetable gratins, strata, and casseroles.

What You Should Know: You’ll need several sizes of these baking pans in both metal and ceramic (or glass) versions. Metal heats up more quickly than both ceramic and glass and is great for baked goods that need to rise in the oven; it also gives whatever you’re baking lovely crisp, golden edges. Ceramic and glass are slower to heat up than metal but hold their heat for a long time, making them ideal for savory casseroles and pasta dishes that go from oven to table. Unlike metal, which can react negatively with acid-rich foods, ceramic and glass are nonreactive, so there are no limitations in terms of the ingredients you can use. Ceramic also comes in a variety of colors and designs so if you’re serving something directly from a baking dish, it makes a prettier presentation.

❤️ My Faves: You’ll need 3 different sizes of these pans for the most versatility: 2 quarts, 2.5 quarts, and 3 quarts.

2-Quart

2-1/2 Quart

3-Quart

 Muffin Pan

What It’s Used For: Baked goods, like muffins, cupcakes, and popovers, as well as savory dishes, like egg bites, mini frittatas, and individual meatloaves.

What You Should Know: It’s important to buy a good-quality muffin pan that will distribute heat evenly and ensure the batter in the center of each well cooks as much as the batter on the outer edges. A good nonstick coating is vital so your baked goods don’t stick; it also makes cleaning the muffin pan much easier.

❤️ My Fave: USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick Muffin Pan

Springform Pan

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What It’s Used For: Delicate baked goods, like cheesecakes, mousse cakes, and flourless cakes, as well savory dishes, like spaghetti pie or deep-dish quiche.

What You Should Know: A springform pan, or round pan with sides that can be released from the base, makes for easy work of removing delicate baked goods from the pan without the need to invert them. You can then either serve the cake directly from the base of the pan or transfer it to a plate. It’s important to get a high-quality pan with a strong seal between the base and the sides; this will prevent leaks (and frustrated bakers!). Springform pans come in a few different heights; I recommend one that is 3 inches deep.

❤️ My Fave: Nordic Ware 9-inch Springform Pan

Loaf Pans

What They’re Used For: Breads, quick breads, pound cakes, no-churn ice cream

What You Should Know: Whether it’s to bake a quick banana bread for your family or to whip up no-churn ice key-lime pie cream on a hot summer day, your loaf pans will get plenty of use. It’s important to purchase pans that have a reliable nonstick surface so you can easily remove your baked goods. For the most flexibility, I recommend two different-size loaf pans: 8½x4½ inches, and 9×5 inches. These loaf pans are not interchangeable; although the difference in size may seem minimal, recipes don’t usually translate well to a smaller or larger loaf pan.

❤️ My Faves:

Deep-Dish Pie Pan

What It’s Used For: Pies, cakes, quiches, egg dishes

What You Should Know: Whether you’re making a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving or quiche for family brunch, a pie plate is a must in your kitchen. There are two different depths of pie plates: standard and deep-dish. A standard pie plate is typically 1.25 inches deep; a deep-dish pie plate typically measures 1.5 to 2 inches deep. All of my pie-pan recipes call for a deep-dish pan, so this is what I recommend having. Of course, if you make standard-size pies, you’ll need one of those pans too.

❤️ My Faves:

Bundt Pan

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What It’s Used For: Denser cakes, like coffee cakes and pound cakes, as well as gelatin fruit molds

What You Should Know: Bundt pans, known for their decorative sculpted sides and inner tubes, have thicker walls than most other baking pans, which helps cakes bake more evenly. Additionally, the hole in the middle of the pan lets heat rise through the center of the cake, ensuring even rising and baking. There are a wide variety of designs available, from simple ridges to decorative flowers. Because bakers sometimes have problems with Bundt cakes sticking to the pan, I strongly recommend purchasing one with a simple design. In my experience, the more complex the design, the more likely the cake is to stick. I also recommend buying a pan that has a light interior. Pans with darker interiors conduct heat better and can over-brown the exterior of your cake.

❤️ My Fave: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan

Baking Sheet/Half Sheet Pan

baked salted peanut butter cookies

What They’re Used For: Baking cookies, breads, and sheet cakes; roasting vegetables and meats; making full (sheet-pan) dinners; carrying foods to and from the grill.

What You Should Know: You’ll find yourself pulling these babies out over and over (and over), so I recommend having at least 2 baking sheets. Some may refer to sheet pans as jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. While technically cookie sheets are a bit different (they have a raised lip on 1 or 2 sides but don’t have the higher edges all around), baking sheets can be used for all cookie recipes. When purchasing a baking sheet, choose a heavy-duty pan that won’t buckle under high heat. It’s also important to select one that is light in color. Darker metal conducts heat better than light metal, which can cause the bottom of your baked goods to burn.

❤️ My Fave: USA Pan Bakeware Half Sheet Pan

Cooling Rack

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What They’re Used For:
Cooling racks aren’t just for cooling! While they’re primarily used to cool cookies and cakes after they’ve been removed from the oven, they’re also great for cooking. For example, you can place one on top of a baking sheet to cook meat. This allows any excess fat from the meat to drip down onto the baking sheet. Additionally, they’re useful for ensuring that items with a crispy coating come out crisp on all sides; putting the food on a rack over a baking sheet lets the hot air circulate all around it and keeps the bottoms from coming out soggy.

What You Should Know: There are a few important things to keep in mind when buying a cooling rack. First, make sure you purchase one that is oven-safe. This gives you the flexibility to use it in all the ways I’ve described above. Additionally, it’s best to buy a cooling rack that has a grid pattern (instead of the bars going just one way), as this helps prevent food from slipping through.

❤️ My Fave: USA Pan Half Sheet Bakeable Cooling Rack

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re baking brownies for your local bake sale, creating a festive layer cake for your child’s birthday, or making muffins for your family to grab-and-go in the morning, having the right baking pans will give you the results you’re looking for. It’s so disappointing to have baked goods stick or come out poorly. Conversely, there’s little more satisfying than turning out a sweet treat that you’ve spent time and effort on. Hopefully this list of pans will help you build or supplement the ones you’ve got at home so you can feel successful every time. Just a reminder that in addition to having the right baking dishes, there are many factors to successful baking. You can read more about them here. Happy baking!

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Comments

  • Love a NORDIC WARE Bundt! They are the originators of these fabulous pans and they really do make the BEST! For the fancy pans or really any Bundt, the trick is to grease and flour well, or use cocoa powder if you’re doing a chocolate cake, and then once it’s out of the oven let it cool 10 minutes in the pan, give it a gentle shake and it will thud in the pan, it will pop out no problem! Happy baking!

    • — CP on June 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’m the draftsman for USA Pan. We buy the best materials and all USA Pan products are manufactured here in the USA. We also make an EXCELLENT fluted tube cake pan if anyone wants to try it out!

    Jenn is my favorite chef for home cooked/baked recipes! My daughter and I own her cookbooks and follow her online!

    • — J on June 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • Love your site… it’s my first ‘go-to’ when I need an idea of what to cook. And… If you ha ven’t tried Demarle bakeware, it’s a MUST. You’ll never go back to any traditional pans.

    • — Alyce LaGasse on June 27, 2022
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  • Thanks for your outstanding recommendation for USA Pan’s products. I am always skeptical of non-stick products so I googled the company and their description of the coating specifies that it is “a non-stick silicone coating without PTFE, PFOA, and BPA”. That sold me. They are also made in America – Pittsburgh to be specific. Another poster suggested that they would make great wedding shower gifts. My granddaughter just got engaged so, Zoey, guess what’s in the mail?!

    • — Nana Nana Nana on June 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • Many of the USA Pan designs are manufactured in Pittsburgh, unless the product is “seamed” such as the various size muffin pans (mini muffin, standard muffin, all-for-one muffin, Texas muffin, crown muffin, etc), also the brownie bite, brownie bowl, madeleine, quiche/fluted tart, donut, popover, and mini loaf. The seamed retail pans are manufactured in Urbana, Ohio at the American Pan facility.

      • — LoveUSApans on June 27, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have always been a huge baker and over the last few years decided to replace my bakeware with USA. I noticed that you used USA loaf pans in your pumpkin loaf recipe. That was the beginning of my quest to replace my bakeware. Once I used the loaf pans I was hooked. I also love the sheet pans and have several of those. Using high quality bakeware and cookware makes all the difference. I absolutely love the quality of USA pans!

    • — Jan on June 26, 2022
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  • Jenn, as I sit here watching the sun rise over Brisbane, Australia, I have to thank you for this information about baking and cooking pans. My daughter – who is an amazing baker, could use a few new pieces of bakeware. Any idea what brands are available over here that would equate with your recommendations? If there is anyone else out there who might know I would appreciate your input.

    • — Sue McCullough on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Your scenery sounds peaceful! I wish I could help by suggesting comparable brands that you could find in Australia, but I just don’t know what’s available there — I’m sorry! Perhaps another Aussie will weigh in with some suggestions. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 26, 2022
      • Reply
  • Jenn, all your wonderful baking recipes are crying out to be put together in a new book…Just Deserts. I can hardly wait

    • — Carol J Winkelman on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thanks for all the great info. I don’t know if you answer questions, but I would love some help. I use half sheet pans all the time, and have 4. I recently moved and my new-to-me 24” oven is just a touch to small for them (Nordicware – 17 3/4” wide). By 1/4 inch. Is there a half sheet pan that might fit? Sometimes measurements vary slightly between manufacturers. I found one that measures 17 ½” which looked great but it warps. Aaagghh. Any thoughts? All the small thin pans warp. Thanks for any help. It’s the only issue I have with the oven.

    • — Elizabeth in Austin on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, I love this one by USA Pan and it’s 17.25 inches long. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 27, 2022
      • Reply
  • Thanks so much for your recommendations! I had no idea, when I started baking years ago, what a difference quality bakeware could make.

    For those with pans they no longer use, you might want to check with your local library – many in this area (Southeast Wisconsin) have a variety of pans on loan and would welcome your used bakeware.

    • — Kathy on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • What is that wild thing in the loaf pan. Looks incredible. Will I be able to make it intentionally or do I have to hope the Earth shifts?

    • — Mark Zarlin on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Ha! It’s a babka and it’s delicious! 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 25, 2022
      • Reply
  • Adding my voice to the USA pan brand of bakeware. I’ve been switching out my bakeware over the past decade and can say having nice pans (and cookware, too) makes cooking and baking more enjoyable. It DOES make a difference. My favorite nonstick bakeware is by Williams Sonoma – the nonstick coating is baked on and lasts and lasts, even with marks from utensils. I

    • — Margaret on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Yes Chef! After many failed sheet pans – 20 years worth! – that all warp when the heat is about 400 (contrary to their marketing), difficult to wash, etc – I took a chance on USA Pans. Pricier, but completely worth it, especially since the other ones don’t last. These are lifetime baking/cooking tools. (And of course they would be your recommendation. I have at least one OUAC recipe in rotation/weekly – you’re great!)

    • — Beth on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thank you so much for the information. So nice to know that I have a lot of these. Love Emile Henry bakeware. It cleans up so easily. Will be purchasing the bunt pan. Thank you again for your expert advice. Your site is my go to site and your cookbooks are my first ones to grab.

    • — Jane on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Great advice, Jenn.
    I’ll second the USA Pan recommendations. Over time, I’ve replaced half-sheets, cake pans, muffin tins, etc. with this manufacturer’s wares. The items are always my go-to choice and it’s made a big difference, especially with cake baking.

    • — Donna on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Just what I needed as I fill in a couple missing pans! Love ALL your recipes & made your strawberry cake and it was delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    • — Kim Baty on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • The USA Pans website has a sale on a 5 piece set as of this writing: (Half Sheet Pan & Rack Set, 9 Inch Round Cake Pan, 9×13 Inch Rectangular Cake Pan, 8 Inch Square Cake Pan and Small Loaf Pan), for 49.99 (free shipping at 50). Also see their double-up deals.

    • — Nick on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sorry , it is a 6 piece set, not 5 piece set!

      • — Nick on June 25, 2022
      • Reply
    • Thank you! I ordered it.

      • — Tiffany on June 25, 2022
      • Reply
  • Jenn, Great advice in your article!
    I would encourage one thing, stainless steel cookware. Some years ago I bought some cookie sheets/half sheets and their performance has been outstanding! Little need for parchment paper, things don’t burn on the bottom so much and cleanup is very easy. They cost more, but as always you get what you pay for!

    • — Gary on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
    • Even with my SS pans I use parchment.

      • — Tracy Rowley on June 25, 2022
      • Reply
  • Your insights and advise are always so helpful. I learn something new every time I read one of your posts. Thank you for sharing so much of your expertise with seasoned chefs and those who are just starting out in this journey.

    • — Mary Speyer on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is a great guide! I wish I’d had this info available many years ago when I would bake goods for my son’s school and make birthday cakes for all the kids we knew. Somehow I always managed, but this guide would have been very helpful.
    Thanks Jenn!

    • — Maria on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • What a lot of great info! As a new bride 40+ years ago, I was given various baking pans and tools so my cupboards and drawers are full but fall short of your list. But just like everything else, we manage. Of course many of these items aren’t non-stick (that didn’t exist then) so I’ve learned work arounds like using parchment paper, non-stick spray, etc. But I think this info is great for new families and will keep this article as a reference when buying wedding gifts. Thank you for sharing!

    • — Karen on June 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Good tip on the bread pan sizes. Didn’t have a clue till now.

    • — Dorothea on June 25, 2022
    • Reply

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