Not all Baking Pans are the Same
Whether you’re a fan of your ceramic stoneware baking dishes handed down from your grandmother, or prefer the quick and inexpensive convenience of metallic nonstick pans, there’s a reason to consider what type of bakeware to use for the dish you’re making. Choosing the right type of baking pan can often be as important as following the recipe.
While it goes without saying that you should use the right baking pan for the job (i.e. don’t make muffins in a cake tin), the material those dishes are made from will have a say in how the final result will look and taste. Although you can bake just about anything in any type of bakeware, some pan materials lend themselves better to certain dishes. Factors like size, shape, volume, and material can affect your meal’s appearance, taste, and doneness.
There are four major classes of baking dishes: metal, glass, ceramic (glazed and unglazed), and silicone baking pans.
The different types of metal used in baking pans are aluminum, steel, copper, cast iron, and enameled cast iron. Many of the thinner aluminum pans are Teflon coated for a nonstick surface. Aluminum conducts heat better than steel, but steel holds heat a little longer. The lighter the metal, the more evenly your baking will brown, and insulated metal bakes more slowly, which is great for baking softer cookies. Cast iron is considered the “holy grail” of baking pans, but they don’t work for every application; best used for low-rise baked items like pizza, buns (yum cast iron cinnamon buns!) and other flat breads, and even brownies and skillet cookies (see this yummy recipe from the inimitable Martha Stewart for a Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Glass pans conduct heat quite well, which means you’ll need to watch your baking recipes with high sugar content carefully so they don’t burn; to that end, glass dishes are best for savoury recipes like casseroles (see this delicious recipe from website Spend with Pennies for Cheesy Chicken Casserole). There is also a difference between clear glass and dark glass pans; dark glass pans concentrate heat at the edges, so if you are using a dark glass dish, reduce the oven’s temp by at least 25°F. Lastly, glass dishes do not do well with sudden temperature changes (i.e. fridge to oven), so you’ll need to be sure that any foods in glass dishes destined for the oven are room temperature.
Ceramic and Stoneware
These pans conduct heat evenly and behave rather similarly to glass pans. Unglazed stoneware works well when they are seasoned, as they will become virtually non-stick. However, if your ceramic or stoneware baking dish is often used for savoury dishes, it may take on an ineradicable aroma over time (think of a well-used pizza stone), and may be best to only use it for savoury dishes so to not transfer unwanted flavours. Speaking of pizza stones, check out how to use and care for your pizza stone from excellent website The Spruce Eats.
Silicone baking dishes have many benefits; they’re great for small storage spaces, clean up in a jiffy, can often be formed into odd shapes, are very durable, can handle extreme temperature ranges from fridge to oven with ease, and are nonstick, which (supposedly) eliminates the need to grease your pans; however, the older your silicone bakeware gets, the less nonstick it gets and you will eventually have to start greasing and flouring your silicone bakeware just like all the others.
Also on the minus side, they are very poor conductors of heat so baking times will need to be extended to accommodate. They also do not promote browning, so your baked goods will be much lighter in colour (this can come in handy when you’re looking for that result like in sugar cookies or a snow white cake). In addition, results can be inconsistent, so a recipe that worked perfectly last time may be over or under baked the next time. And lastly, many of the larger silicone baking dish shapes are poorly structured and need extra support, which negate the benefits of using silicone in the first place.
Ultimately, its entirely up to you and what you have available/prefer to use for your baking, but I hope this info was useful and enlightening.