Glass Vs. Metal Baking Pans: Which Is Better?

Pick the right tool for the right job.

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Assorted Baking Pans

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When it comes to baking, everything matters. It’s an art of precise amounts and fairly rigid rules, and this extends to baking tools, too.

There is a right tool for the right job, especially when it comes to baking pans. Most cake and loaf pans are sold in both metal and glass, but each bakes banana bread, brownies, and bars differently.

One kind of pan isn’t necessarily better than the other, but each is best suited to different baking projects. Using one over the other can be the difference between perfectly fudgy brownies throughout and ones with hard, dry edges. Here are the pros and cons of both kinds of bakeware.

Baking With Metal Pans

Metal pans have a few distinct features. Commonly made of aluminum or stainless steel, metal baking pans heat up quickly and transfer their heat to what you're baking fast.

Conversely, metal pans cool quickly, which means you won't have to worry about carry-over cooking drying out the edges of your cake as it cools. Metal pans can also withstand higher temperatures better than glass can, especially broiling. 

When purchasing metal bakeware it's best to buy pans with a shiny finish instead of those that are dark-coated. This is because dark-coated pans absorb heat even faster, which can quickly lead to overbrowning. Cake and brownie mixes will often suggest shorter baking times for pans with dark-coatings compared to their lighter-colored counterparts for this reason. 

Metal pans aren’t always the best option though. Aluminum metal pans can react with certain acidic ingredients like tomatoes, giving foods a metallic taste. This is why lasagna is often baked in a glass or ceramic baking dish instead of metal.

Baking With Glass Pans 

Glass pans are the opposite of metal pans in terms of how they react while baking. They take longer to heat, but retain that heat better. This can easily lead to overcooked or tough cake edges.

Fruit desserts however, like crisps and cobblers that are served warm, can benefit from a baking dish that retains heat well. They're also generally prettier than metal dishes, making glass superior for desserts that are served in their pans (although cast-iron pans are more attractive than other metal pans, and can both bake cobblers well and retain heat). 

Unlike metal pans, glass does not respond well to large and rapid changes in temperature. So while you can take a metal pie plate directly from the freezer to the oven, you can’t do the same with glass pans.

The rounded edges of glass pans will also yield rounded corners, which isn’t always desirable for square bars and brownies. 

Other practical issues with glass bakeware is that it’s heavy and more fragile, as it can chip or crack. Metal pans tend to be more durable, although glass can be easier to clean as they can go in the dishwasher, but most metal bakeware, especially aluminum and nonstick-coated varieties, are not dishwasher safe. Even metal pans that are labeled dishwasher safe are best handwashed as detergents can corrode or shorten the lifespan of the pan. 

A Note on Pies

Some bakers swear by glass pie plates as it's easy to tell if the bottom crust is cooked through when the pan is clear. However, metal pie plates actually do a better job of evenly browning the pie and tend to produce flakier crusts thanks to how they conduct heat. 

Which Is Better? 

Don't toss out your glass pans just yet. While they aren't ideal for all kinds of baking, they're still a great go-to for casseroles, lasagna, and fruit desserts. If they're all you have, it doesn’t mean you can't use them for other cakes or brownies; you’ll just have to make a few adjustments.

Start by lowering the oven temperature by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit when baking with glass pans. This will help prevent the outer edges from overbaking, but might mean the baked good has to bake five to 10 minutes longer overall to yield a nicely set center.

If you're looking to bulk up your collection of metal pans, try purchasing them from a restaurant supply store. These stores always have a huge selection of inexpensive metal bakeware. 

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