A Beginner's Guide to Baking Pans and Tins

Pick the right dish for your baking project.

Types of Cake Pans
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

When you're just starting out in the world of baking, it's important to set yourself up for success. Our first piece of advice: Read the recipe from start to finish. Our second piece of advice: Invest in some quality bakeware.

While we may love and cherish the bakeware passed down to us from Grandma, it's key to think practically about your baking materials and how they will impact the resulting baked goods. Something as simple as using a glass dish versus an aluminum pan can completely change the outcome of your cake. Lost in the technicalities? Not to worry—we've done all the necessary research for you. We're covering everything from the material to the shape of your baking pans, helping you set yourself up for success in the kitchen.

Looking to get all of your pans and tins in one fell swoop? Check out our top picks for bakeware sets here, and a collection of our essential pans here.

Baking Pan Materials

When baking, material matters. We're breaking down some of the most common materials used in baking to help you make the smart choice for your project.

  • Aluminum: When it comes to baking pans, aluminum is the all-around winner. These pans have become a standard baking choice for their lightweight nature and ability to distribute heat evenly. Aluminum pans are not non-stick, though, so be sure to grease them well.
  • Non-Stick: Another staple choice in our baking supply kit is a non-stick pan, which makes baking a breeze. The non-stick properties make it easy to remove your baked goods from the tin; the downside is that these pans require extra love and care to maintain their non-stick coating (don't use metal utensils, which will scratch the surface). There are certain cases when you will not want to use a non-stick pan, such as when baking an angel food cake, where the delicate cake needs to cling to and climb up the sides of the pan.
  • Glass: While many old-school baking pans were made from glass, this is actually not the best choice when it comes to evenly conducting heat. We recommend sticking to aluminum or non-stick pans when you're looking for an even, consistent bake.
  • Silicone: Mostly reserved for novelty items, silicone baking pans are not ideal for conducting heat. These pans can be fun, but are best used in no-bake applications, like making fudge or ice cream.

Types of Baking Pans and Tins

1. Round Pans
Frequently used for baking cakes, round pans are often made from aluminum and result in tender, evenly-baked cake layers. Though they're best known as cake pans, round pans are versatile enough to be used to make a variety of baked goods in a pinch, from brownies to cheesecakes.

Round pans come in a variety of sizes. For beginners, we recommend purchasing two pans of the same size—having two stackable pans will enable you to bake your own picture-perfect layer cake. An 8-inch round pan is a great starting point for cake-baking—get a set of two on Amazon. As you gain more confidence in your baking skills, go ahead and collect additional sizes (we love a mini cake pan). You can also find some specialty varieties of round pans, like a springform pan, which boasts a detachable bottom ideal for baking cheesecake.

2. Square and Rectangular Pans
In the world of baking, square and rectangular pans are fairly interchangeable. You only really need one of these two to do the job. They can be used to bake brownies, as well as plenty of other types of bars and even cakes. 8-by-8 is a great choice for a square pan, and we swear by our 9-by-13 rectangular pans, specifically for cake-baking.

3. Sheet Pans
The secret workhorse of our baking supply collection, sheet pans can work marvels in both the sweet and savory departments. We love a simple sheet pan dinner, but a sheet pan cake is our favorite way to bake for a crowd. You can also use a sheet pan to bake a variety of desserts, from slab pies to cookies.

If you'll specifically be using your sheet pans for baking, opt for a set of 2 of Wilson's non-stick sheet cake pans. If you're looking for a multi-purpose tool, go for a set of classic aluminum sheet pans from Nordic Ware.

4. Loaf Pans
All those pretty loaf cakes and homemade sandwich bread loaves come from the tried-and-true loaf pan. Typically 8-½ x 4-½ x 2-½ inches, these durable pans can be made of anything from aluminized steel to cast iron. Did we mention that there are plenty of ways to use this pan, aside from bread baking? You can also get miniature loaf pans for individually-portioned treats.

5. Muffin Tins
A muffin tin is a staple in any kitchen. It can be used to bake muffins, cupcakes, or any individually-portioned dessert (like cinnamon buns); we can also count a few surprising uses for this common pan. Most muffin tins will bake a dozen pastries.

6. Bundt and Tube Pans
Grandma's famous Bundt cake? The magic comes from this distinctive pan. With beautiful ridges and flutes, Bundt pans come in a variety of styles and shapes, the common denominator being a hole in the middle. This tool may have quite a niche use, but we firmly believe that every Southern baker should have at least one Bundt pan in their collection—these old-fashioned cakes will never go out of style. Pro tip: Be sure to use plenty of butter or cooking spray when baking in a Bundt pan to ensure a clean finish.

Another funky hole-in-the-center pan you might recognize is a tube pan, the distinction being that a tube pan's sides are smooth. This pan is made from aluminum (no non-stick here) and used to bake light-as-a-cloud angel food cake. We prefer a tube pan with feet, which comes in handy when the cake cools upside-down.

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