A pan for every occasion—and cake.

By Sheri Castle
November 05, 2020
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Credit: Eric Jeon

Specialty pans and fancy gadgets can be fun and tempting, but home bakers can tackle most recipes with only a few basic pieces.

Simple and plain are best. Spend wisely and invest in sturdy, well-made pieces that can last for years. High-priced pans don’t necessarily perform better. Dark, heavier-than-necessary pans with colored finishes and nonstick coatings sound helpful, but often interfere with the recipe and can cause more problems than they solve. On the other end of the continuum, flimsy disposable pans rarely work properly and can cost nearly as much as a real pan.

It’s easy to find reliable bakeware online and in kitchenware shops, although restaurant and bakery supply stores and some warehouse-style chains offer professional-quality pieces at bargain prices. To get the most from the pans and help them last, clean and store them as directed.

Baking pans are made of metal. Baking dishes are made of ceramic, tempered glass, or pottery. They conduct heat differently, which affects baking times and the texture of the baked good. If a recipe specifies one or the other, there’s a good reason and it’s best to follow that instruction.

These are the go-to pans for any home baker.

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: USA Pan Bakeware Rectangular Cake Pan

BUY IT: $19.99; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: Wilton Angel Food Tube Cake Pan

BUY IT: $24.99; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: Nordic Ware Pro Cast Original Bundt Pan

BUY IT: $24.99; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

A 12-by-16-inch pan (often called a half-sheet) is the most useful and versatile, and most cooks want at least three. Some people refer to baking sheets as cookie sheets, but an actual cookie sheet is rimless and not as versatile, although serious cookie bakers might want one of those too.

Our Pick: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet (2 Pack)

BUY IT: $21.99; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Three 8-inch pans and three 9-inch pans. Select pans that are 2 inches deep to avoid spill-overs.

Our Pick: USA Pan Bakeware Round Cake Pan

BUY IT: from $14.99; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

One 8-inch pan and one 9-inch pan.

Our Pick: USA Pan Bakeware Square Cake Pan

BUY IT: from $14.99; amazon.com

One 8-by-4-inch pan and one 9-by-5-inch pan.

Our Pick: Wilton Perfect Results Large Nonstick Loaf Pan

BUY IT: $11.49; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: Wilton Excelle Elite Non-Stick Tart and Quiche Pan with Removable Bottom

BUY IT: $17.19; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan

BUY IT: $21.13; amazon.com

Our Pick: CorningWare French White 9" Pie Plate

BUY IT: $12.99; bedbathandbeyond.com

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-Stick Mini Muffin and Cupcake Pan

BUY IT: $14.59; amazon.com

Credit: Amazon

Our Pick: Chicago Metallic Professional 6-Cup Non-Stick Muffin Pan (buy two)

BUY IT: $15.90 each; amazon.com

This isn’t a pan, of course, but almost all baked goods should cool on a wire rack that lets air circulate under the pan.

Our Pick: OXO Good Grips Nonstick Pro Cooling and Baking Rack

BUY IT: $14.99; bedbathandbeyond.com