Metal, Glass, Ceramic, or Silicone Pans: When To Use Each

How important is the material when it comes to pans and other bakeware? Ever wondered if you could substitute a glass dish when a recipe calls for a metal pan? This quick guide to using glass, metal, ceramic, and silicone pans will help set you straight.

Metal Pans - Light-colored or shiny metal bakeware is the best for even browning, while darker-colored metals can cause over-browning (though darker is great for getting deep golden-brown crusts on bread!). Aluminum is better than stainless steel for conducting heat and baking foods evenly, but be careful of storing foods in aluminum pans; the aluminum will react with acids in the food and give them a metallic flavor.

Best in Metal Pans: breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, tarts

Glass Pans - Glass conducts heat extremely well, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Recipes with a lot of sugar (like pound cakes and cookie bars) might start to burn before being cooked all the way through, but glass is fantastic for making casseroles, bread pudding, and other dishes where browning is less important. Glass also has the advantage of being non-reactive, so you can store recipes right in the baking dish without worry that the food will pick up metallic flavors.

Best in Glass Pans: casseroles (for savory dishes, cobblers, bread puddings, etc.), pies

Ceramic Pans - In many ways, ceramic is like glass: it conducts heat very well, but can cause over-browning in sweet dishes. The biggest advantage of ceramic is that these dishes look pretty! Foods can be served and stored in their baking dish.

Best in Ceramic Pans: casseroles (for savory dishes, cobblers, bread puddings, etc.), pies

Silicone Pans - If sticking is a worry for you, silicone pans are your best friend. However, silicone is a poor heat-conductor and baked goods tend to brown very little, if at all, when baked in these pans.

Best in Silicone Pans: very light-colored cakes, breads and muffins when sticking is an issue

Do you have a favorite pan for baking?

Related: Modern Glass Bakeware: More Likely to Shatter?

(Image: Emma Christensen)

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