Any cook knows how important it is to have the right equipment. Here is some essential baking equipment used in our test kitchens.
Of all bakeware, cookie sheets probably offer the most choice in terms of materials. You'll find aluminum, stainless steel, and insulated, but nonstick is a sure bet. These offer lots of other uses besides making cookies, such as roasting nuts and placing them under pies to catch any liquids that bubble over the pie pans. If you cook a lot, you may want to invest in an aluminum half-sheet pan and silpat.
A half-sheet pan is the regular size that most home cooks use. It's actually half the size of a professional sheet pan. A heavyweight aluminum sheet pan is the best. Sheet pans are very versatile and are used for cookies, toasting nuts, roasting vegetables, or placing under pies that might bubble over.
Aluminum loaf pans can turn out tender cakes, while dark, nonstick or glass pans will produce a crunchy-chewy crust. You can make quick breads, brioche, and meatloaf in a loaf pan.
Although you can bake layer and butter cakes in regular cake pans, cakes with less structure like cheesecakes and tortes require a springform pan. A heavy-duty, nonstick, nonreactive springform pan with a protruding lip (at the bottom) is the best. The lip keeps thin batter from leaking through.
Angel Food Cake Pan or Tube Pan
These are uses for any kind of cake batter and angel food cakes.
Bundt pans can be as decorative as the cakes made in them. These are great for pound cakes.
Mini muffin tins are great for bite-size treats or hors d'oeuvres. The jumbo pans produce bakery-size muffins that make attractive gifts.
Materials for pie plates range from ovenproof glass, glazed ceramic, heavy foil, aluminum, tinned steel, stainless steel, and nonstick coated steel. Glass is the best, since it provides good heat conductivity. Glass is also nonreacitve, so you can store a pie filled with acidic fruit for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
10-Inch Tart Pan
These require no explanation since they are used to make tarts.
8-Inch Round Cake Pans
You'll need a minimum of two round cake pans if you want to make a layer cake. The standard for most cake recipes is 8- or 9-inch pans that are 2 inches deep with straight sides. Avoid using nonstick cake pans, which can cause the crust to darken too much.
9-by-13-Inch Baking Pans
A glass 9-by-13-inch baking pan is ideal for buckles, betties, cobblers, and crisps.
8-Inch Square Cake Pan
Choose a nonstick 8-inch square cake pan to make perfect brownies.