You’ve got your ingredients, you’ve got your tools, and you have plenty of extra time at home to get baking. So what’s stopping you? If it’s a lack of pans and bakeware, then I have you covered. In this third installment of the baking survival kit, I’m going over all the bakeware essentials you need to get started with baking.
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There are many different baked goods, and each can require a slightly different pan. From shape to size to material, there are so many options, that it can be overwhelming if you’re just getting started. Don’t worry about running out to buy a tartlette pan, a donut hole pan, or fancy cake molds right now. I’m here to give you the absolute essentials to make the basics. Let’s break this down by shape.
Essential Round Baking Pans
Pie Pan: These come in a variety of sizes, depths, and materials. However, for your average pie, your best bet will be a 9-inch non-stick or glass pan, with sloped sides that’s about 1.5-inches deep. The best pie tins have a wide rim, so you can create those gorgeous edges. You can splurge on a fancy scalloped pan for presentation, but a simple one will make pies that are just as delicious.
Cake Pan: For regular layer cakes, what you’ll want is an 8-inch cake pan. Cake pans have a flat bottom and straight sides. To make layer cakes, you can collect a few of these pans so you can bake faster, or use one and bake each layer on its own. It depends on how often you’ll be baking round cakes. For tiered cakes, you’ll need a variety of diameters, but for everyday baking, a single size is fine.
Spring Form Pan: This is an absolute must if you’re making cheesecakes. If you aren’t into cheesecake, you may be able to skip it. However, it can be used for other fun treats, like ice cream cakes, crustless quiches, and anything with gelatin. Go for a 9-inch pan, which holds a volume of ten cups.
Cast Iron Pan: The versatility that cast iron offers is unmatched. You can go from stovetop to oven easily, which is perfect for fruit bakes, like cobblers and crumbles. You can also use these for deep dish cookies, pizzas, and more. If you’re only going to get one, get a medium size, around 10-inches. However, you may want to build up a collection in a variety of sizes. I love my mini ones for personal-size skillet cookies!
Square and Rectangular Pans
Baking Sheets: For cookies, rustic breads, galettes, and so much more, your baking sheets will be a go-to. The standard size is 12×18-inches, and you’ll want one with edges, so it’s more adaptable. These are perfect for roasting vegetables, for anything that holds its own shape (like scones), or for placing under other pans that may overflow. I suggest having at least two, but you can get by with one if you’re short on space.
8×8 Baking Dish: I probably use this pan the most when baking. It’s the perfect size for brownies, lemon bars, apple crisps, and more. I swear by my Pyrex pan, and you’ll see it show up in plenty of my recipes on here.
9×13 Baking Dish: For any baked goods you’ll want to share with a crowd, this pan is perfect. You can double recipes for your 8×8 pan, or make really simple sheet cakes, cinnamon rolls, or cobblers. This is also great for large dinners like lasagna or enchiladas, so it’s extra versatile.
Loaf Pan: A 9×5-inch loaf pan is exactly what you need to make most bread loaves, including quick breads (like banana bread), cinnamon-swirl breads, basic sandwich bread, or pull-apart loaves. A metal loaf pan is also a great way to store homemade ice cream.
There are so, so many different types of specialized baking pans. When deciding which ones to invest in for your own kitchen, you have to think about what you bake or want to bake a lot. These three are the bare minimum, but I also enjoy my mini loaf pans and mini muffin pan for tinier treats.
Muffin Tin: A standard size 12-cup muffin pan is exactly what you need to make most muffin and cupcake recipes. Liners make these pans easier to use over and over and clean. You can also use these to make individual-sized cheesecakes, pies, or cookie cups.
Ramekins: Having a few of these around makes single-serving baked goods a breeze. If you live in a smaller household, these are essential when you only want just enough dessert, like a weeknight apple crisp. Plus, these come in fun colors and patterns, which makes serving super fun as well.
Bundt: A 9-inch diameter pan will work for most recipes. Obviously, you can use this pan for basic bundt cakes, like lemon, chocolate, or angel food cakes, with the traditional hole in the middle. But you can also use it for monkey bread, to make ice rings for punch, or anything else you want to display. These pans tend to have very pretty designs, so pick one you’ll love to show off!
Size and shape of your pans is important, but you also need to think about materials. In general, most recipes will work with only slight variations across many different pans, but it’s good to understand how your own collection may affect your baking.
Glass pans are excellent for even heating, but they don’t conduct heat the best. This means that glass can take longer to heat up, insulating your treats at first, but then holds the heat well even after being removed. Some benefits to glass pans are that you can see through them, which is great to tell when crust is done, and they are non-reactive which is perfect for high-acid recipes.
Aluminum pans will heat up more quickly, so they are perfect for when you want browned edges. They also cool more quickly after being removed from the oven. Aluminum pans are very common, especially among professionals. In a lot of cases, the recipes you make are tested in these pans.
Stoneware is beautiful, and comes in gorgeous colors, which looks so wonderful when serving. However, the material can be a bit of a toss-up when it comes to heat transfer. The type of clay and how it’s made can all affect your baked goods. I like using these for casseroles and dinners more than baking.
Silicone pans are really interesting. These are flexible, which makes them easy to clean and release items from, but they are also less stable. The material itself is not a great heat conductor, which means it can lead to denser baked goods, that may not brown or cook through the way you expect.
Disposable pans are really good for bringing foods to a potluck or party, or giving gifts around the holidays, like my family does with apple kuchen. They are also a good choice if you don’t want to invest in a reusable pan for a size or shape specific to a single recipe.
Remember, stocking your baking survival kit all at once can be very expensive. I recommend buying items as you need them for specific recipes or events. This allows you to slowly build your collection over time, and also see what is the most valuable to you. There are plenty of specialty pans I still don’t own, even after years of baking. There’s no pressure to buy everything!
What essentials are you missing from your collection, or what else do you use all the time?