Critics' Pick

The Very Best Loaf Pans for 2021 and Beyond

published Dec 19, 2020
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Banana bread in a metal loaf pan
Credit: Photos and vectors/Shutterstock

Remember back in April when everyone you knew was making banana bread? We have a feeling that might start happening again. (Baking is something we can control. And it allows us to make our own provisions to keep on hand. And, well, banana bread is yummy!) Even if quick breads don’t rise in popularity quite so much (get it?), every home baker should have a loaf pan. (Hello, meatloaf!) We even consider it a must-have on our list of Kitchn Essentials.

Which loaf pan is best, though? Which one will bake your pound cake evenly? And release it (cleanly) when it’s time? We looked to see which pans other food sites and shoppers had to recommend. And then, in true Kitchn fashion, we weighed in with our own two cents. Here goes!

USA Pan 1-Pound Loaf Pan

Best Loaf Pan, According to Cook’s Illustrated

The testers at Cook’s Illustrated say this $20 pan is the best for professional-quality results. They found that it made tall, picture-perfect pound cake and sandwich bread with crisp corners. In fact, it got a perfect score when it came to “baked good appearance.” It did get dinged a little because of cleanup and durability: It’s a folded pan, which means it has corners that can trap in food (you have to clean it very carefully by hand!) and the metal scratches slightly during testing. In the end, the pro-level treats that came out of the pan made it a winner.

USA Pan 1.25-Pound Loaf Pan

Best Loaf Pan, According to Wirecutter

The editors at Wirecutter picked almost the exact same pan: The difference here is that the Cook’s Illustrated option is smaller and makes a 1-pound loaf. This one is slightly bigger, making a 1.25-pound loaf. Testers said that, more than any other pan, the breads baked in this one baked up evenly, stood up nice and tall, and released without issue. Wirecutter also noted that this pan was recommended by two of their experts: Rose Levy Beranbaum and Tish Boyle. They make a note that, if you’re having trouble finding it (we were!), King Arthur Baking Co sells a version that’s made by USA Pan and stamped with their logo.

Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 1-Pound Loaf Pan

Best Loaf Pan, According to Serious Eats

Baking pro Stella Parks made a list of her favorite baking gear for Serious Eats and mentioned this loaf pan. It’s made of aluminized steel, which isn’t her favorite for layer cakes (because it results in a heavier crust), but that’s exactly why she likes it for breads or pound cake. She especially loves this pan’s sharp corners and tall sides.

Rachael Ray Nonstick Loaf Pan

Bestselling Loaf Pan on Amazon

This is the most popular loaf pan on all of Amazon and it has a 4.8-star rating from almost 3,000 reviewers. (A rating that high is legitimately impressive and hard to get!) Satisfied shoppers noted that the pan is nonstick, has easy-to-grip handles with silicone touch points, and is dishwasher-safe. This one also makes 1-pound loaves.

Kitchn’s Thoughts on the Best Loaf Pan

We also really like the one that Wirecutter suggests, but the fact that it’s sold out online (even on the manufacture’s website!) is clearly a deterrent. But you’re not out of luck! The smaller one that Cook’s Illustrated likes also gets our thumbs up. It’s actually the perfect size for our go-to banana bread recipe and that should be the case for any other recipe you end up using.

We really like the corrugated design — it doesn’t leave marks on your finished baked goods, but it does help them release from the pan easily. And we’ve found that even though it can get scratched up, the scratches don’t affect performance and it’s super durable. You’ll never need to buy another loaf pan in your lifetime … unless you want to be able to bake two banana breads at once, in which case buy two.

Do you have a loaf pan you love? Tell us about it in the comments below.