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Glass vs. metal baking pans

Your choice affects cooking times and crustiness

Fine Cooking Issue 26
by Molly Stevens.  Photo: Scott Phillips
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Size isn’t the only thing that counts when choosing a pan from the many in your cupboard. The material it’s made of will affect both the baking time and the color of your breads, pies, cakes, and brownies.

Glass pans give food a darker, browner crust, so they’re generally best for breads and pies, which benefit from a deeply baked exterior. Because of the way glass transfers heat in the oven, it will bake both faster and darker than most metal pans (the exceptions are very dark, heavy-gauge metal pans, like the black steel pans used in professional kitchens. These intense heat conductors cook quickly and will also turn out appealing, dark crusts.)

Lighter-colored pans give you a paler crust, which is what you want with delicate cakes and brownies. Light-colored aluminum and shiny stainless-steel pans reflect more heat than glass and dark metal pans. This may mean your baked goods will need a bit more time to finish cooking, but it also means the sugar and chocolate in these pastries won’t be as likely to burn. Avoid flimsy metal pans, which often bake unevenly and tend to warp at high temperatures. If you don’t have a high-quality pan, it’s worth investing in one (see “Pros Pick the Best Baking Sheets,”).


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