The Best Baking Sheets to Look for When Stocking Your Kitchen
The baking sheet. A seemingly simple item, this piece of kitchenware is so versatile and useful, it’s no wonder many folks have so many odd pans lying around the house (using that broiler as storage, anyone?). But when zeroing in on the best baking sheets, you should look for models that possess a few key traits. Break your baking sheet needs into two categories, rimmed and rimless, then let’s explore some options.
Despite the many winning qualities of an exceptional rimless baking sheet, most home cooks will get more use out of the rimmed sort. With the aid of the bakeware’s spill-proof walls, the rimmed variety enables you to seamlessly roast vegetables, toast nuts, bake any sort of protein, make sheet cakes and even turn out an impressive deep dish pizza.
Raised edges also make the best rimmed baking sheets great tools for collecting drips. By placing a cooling rack within a rimmed baking pan, you’ve made yourself a gadget perfect for draining fried foods. This can also be used to enable 360-degree air circulation when you’re cooling cakes, cookies and loaves of bread, avoiding that dreaded soggy bottom. Inserting a cooling rack into a rimmed baking sheet while baking and roasting is also a great way to ensure even cooking.
Rimmed baking sheets are typically sized 12- or 13 by 18 inches. These “half-sheet” pans, as they’re known, fit perfectly into most ovens, which are often 22 inches wide, and leave just enough room around the sheet for optimal air circulation. If you’re spending a lot of time cooking with your toaster oven (making breadcrumbs, doing a quick veg roast or toasting nuts and the like in small amounts), a quarter-sheet pan is a great option for you. Within this category, we believe the best bakings pans are sized 9 to 13 inches.
Jelly roll pans are also popular rimmed options. Named for their intended use of making jelly roll cakes, they are actually just slightly smaller rimmed baking sheets with rolled edges (10- or 11 by 15 inches). They are great for baked goods that hit the rim of the sheet like bars and shortbread.
Rimless baking sheets are not quite as versatile. However, the best cookie sheets, as they are commonly known, are incredible workhorses. Their considerable size and smooth edges make them ideal for batching vast quantities of cookies. Really, cookie sheets are great for any recipe that creates something that will not seep too much juice, fat, oil or butter while cooking, and for anything that needs a bit of breathing room around individual pieces, like an oven-baked fritter.
If you have an oven that has inconsistent heat spots, cookie sheets are a wonderful option for you, as they’re quite easy to handle and rotate quickly mid-bake. The best baking sheets lacking rims allow you to quickly and easily slide cookies onto a cooling rack, minimizing post-oven residual baking. This, we would say, is one of the top reasons to keep one, if not more, on hand.
Beyond the rimmed vs. rimless ruling, we must consider materials when identifying the best baking sheets.
A baking sheet’s weight is extremely important. Thickness, or “gauge,” will typically be noted on a baking sheet’s packaging. The gauge scale is regressive, meaning that the higher the numbers go, the lower the thickness of a pan’s material. So when we say the best baking pans fall within the 10- to18-gauge range, we are recommending 10-gauge pans (about 0.102 inch) as the thickest options you should reach for, and 18-gauge (about 0.0403 inch thick) as the thinnest.
The best cookie sheets should have a lower gauge because they are at greater risk for warping due to the lack of supporting rim. Of course, we love the feel of a sturdy pan in our hands, but the top reason that considerable gauge is important is that you must be mindful of staving off warping. The thinner a pan is, the more likely it is to bend out of shape when exposed to extreme heat. This warping will then lead to unevenly cooked, burned or misshapen goods — results we certainly want to keep at bay. For cookie sheets, your best bet is to go for 10- to 12-gauge.
Baking sheets of varying gauge come in a wide spectrum of materials. Here are your stand-out options:
The debate between nonstick and uncoated across all sorts of cookware is a contentious one. For baking sheets, this is especially true. Untreated aluminum is the most widely available option, thanks to its affordable price, durability and efficient heat conductivity – it gets hot, and fast! The best baking sheets made of aluminum heat evenly, then cools with great speed to help you avoid burnt results. This quality also increases speed when you’re batch cooking and using the same pan over and over.
Aluminum’s drawbacks are not remarkable. The material does have the capacity to stain and at times things can stick to it, demanding of a bit of effort in removal, or in the worst cases, minor burning brought on by too much time in contact with the pan. A preventative feature some of the best baking sheets offer is a micro-texture. This bumpy texture increases airflow under your baked goods and offsets surface area contact.
Aluminum is also a reactive material that is especially prone to imparting a metallic taste onto acidic foods. Preventing these blights is not insurmountable, though. Lining your aluminum baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat is a sure way to speed cleanup, avoid burns and maintain the flavor and aesthetic integrity of your baked goods. Covering your sheet when baking also lengthens its lifespan.
Other uncoated options include steel and tri-ply. Steel heats unevenly, meaning your sheet’s contents can cook to different degrees based on its placement within an oven. Because of this, we don’t consider steel the cream of the crop. Stainless steel is beautifully shiny, durable and nonreactive, however, so we understand if you have an affinity for it.
Tri-ply baking sheets are made up of an aluminum core sandwiched between stainless steel. This construction makes use of aluminum’s efficient conductivity while giving the home cook a nonreactive surface to bake on. Because of the layering, these baking sheets are quite expensive. It is also important to bear in mind that tri-ply baking sheets retain heat longer, so you run the risk of over-baking after you pull your haul from the oven. In all honesty, tri-ply is best reserved for your roasting pan.
Nonstick makes for easy cleanup and enables low-effort cookie sliding. However, the slick surface tends to produce cookies that are more spread out and it keeps you from developing a textured and browned base to any item you’re cooking. The dark coating of a nonstick baking sheet will cook batches more quickly and can lead to a crunchy cookie. For some home cooks, this could be viewed as a perk, but for most, having to keep such a watchful eye on a bake is a nuisance. Another important point to keep in mind is that nonstick pans are not going to last you a lifetime. Inevitably, they scratch, their finish wears off, and you will need to replace them.
An alternative to a coated nonstick pan is an insulted baking sheet, which sandwiches a layer of air between two sheets of metal. These take longer to warm up and can draw out bake times, but their steady heat yields impressive, evenly browned results that aren’t overly brittle. Seasoned bakers love insulated pans for delicate cookies like meringues.
Finally, we come to care. To ensure your baking sheet lives its longest life possible, we recommend sticking to hand washing, either with a nylon pad or something softer. Avoid the dishwasher; your baking sheets will be exposed to drying detergent and heat, which can lead to discoloration. Likewise, avoid abrasive scrub pads if you can help it. This is particularly important for aluminum pans; nonstick versions are a bit more forgiving. If things get really tough, you can reach for a non-abrasive cleaner; and remember, baking on parchment or a silicone mat will help you side-step stubborn messes.
Here are a few scrappy kitchen hacks that baking sheetsa are perfect for, because this super-tool shouldn’t be relegated to just your next batch of chocolate chip cookies:
- You can prep for a big cooking project on a baking sheet. It will keep things more orderly and allow you to move a slew of small bowls and ingredients around at once. This is also great if you’re bringing things from a kitchen to an outdoor barbecue setting.
- Baking sheets are a great resting place for your just-off-the-grill burgers and hot dogs.
- Baking pans are amazing drawer and shelf organizers.
- Missing a plant tray? Place a baking sheet under your troublesome pot and your drip woes are gone.
- Baking sheets are useful for freezing fruit. For this hack, spread your fruit out on a sheet in your freezer in a single layer, and once they’ve hardened (conveniently not sticking to one another), they can go into a sealable plastic bag.
- If your cutting boards are just a hair too small, placing a baking sheet below them helps collect any overspill.