At first sheet pans act real nice and innocent, just sitting there all metally, flat and rectangular. "Bake cookies on me," one whispers seductively. "Or me," puts in another. "We're all the same, no big deal."
Be wary of whispering sheet pans, I tell you! Not only are they a surefire sign of psychotic disassociation, but they are also notorious liars and probably trying to trick you. Luckily, FSW has long been on to their plots and we are here to share with you all you need to know about sheet pans.
Style: There are two basic sheet pan styles, each designed for different applications.
Bun pan: Also known as a jellyroll pan, this style of sheet pan has raised edges. Bun pans are best for baking items that need to be contained, such as sheet cakes or cookie bars.
Cookie sheet: Cookie sheet pans either have no raised edges, or only raised edges on two sides. When baking items that do not need to be contained, cookie sheets make it easy to remove the baked goods from the sheet.
Size: Sheet pans only have three sizes, some of which are designed for commercial use and some for residential or countertop ovens.
- Full size sheet pans: Full-size sheet pans measure 18 x 26 inches and are only for use in commercial ovens, as they do not fit in residential ovens.
- Half size sheet pans: Half-size sheet pans measure 18 x 13 inches and fit in some residential ovens, but it can be a tight squeeze.
- Quarter size sheet pans: Quarter-size sheet pans measure 9 x 13 inches and are typically found in residential settings, though they can also be used in small, commercial countertop ovens. These sheet pans are also great for smaller batches or specialty items in a commercial setting as well.
Material: Here is where it gets fun. The three basic sheet pan materials are aluminum, steel and aluminized steel. Choice between the three mainly relies on personal preference, but here is a breakdown in the differences between the three materials.
- Steel sheet pans: Steel sheet pans are very durable and can last for decades, but some chefs complain that they are not great heat conductors, leaving an uneven baking surface. These are great for prep as well as storing cold items. Steel sheet pans are also preferred by chefs who believe that cooking with aluminum is unhealthy or who need to bake acidic foods. Learn more about whether it is safe to cook with aluminum.
- Aluminum sheet pans: Aluminum is durable and a great conductor of heat, creating an evenly-heated baking surface. However, acidic foods react with these sheet pans in such a way that added amounts of aluminum can get into the food. It is still safe to eat, but is not recommended as it changes the taste.
- Aluminized steel sheet pans: Aluminized steel is steel that has been dipped in an aluminum coating. Aluminized steel provides the best of both worlds - better conductivity than steel, and stronger durability than aluminum.
- Non-stick sheet pans: Some sheet pans come with a non-stick coating so that you do not have to use butter or shortening when baking. Non-stick pans are convenient for this reason; however, the coating does not last forever. Teflon and other non-stick coatings peel off, especially when used with metal utensils. Many chefs bake with a parchment paper lining as an alternative to Teflon, butter or shortening.
Gauge: Though both aluminum and steel are durable materials, the durability of your sheet pans depends largely on the gauge. Sheet pan gauges range from 12 to 19, with 19 being the most economical option and 12 the thickest and most durable. Keep in mind that higher-gauged sheet pans will warp over time, especially if used at a very high heat.
Avoid sheet pan trickery and use this guide to find your perfect baking partner. Happy baking!
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