Get to know the different types of baking sheets and when to use them.
Chocolate cookies on a baking tray with wire cooling rack
Credit: Mint Images / Getty Images

Often, the type of bakeware you use determines the success or failure of a recipe. Some bakeware conducts heat poorly, while others discolor certain foods. And certain pans or dishes can give food a metallic taste. But getting the most expensive bakeware doesn't guarantee the best results; the key is to use the bakeware best suited to what you are making.

Many recipes call for a specific type of bakeware: aluminum, nonstick, glass, insulated, black steel, or heavy gauge. But other recipes make no specifications. Knowing the differences between these types of bakeware will give you a culinary advantage.

Baking Pans and Cookie Sheets

Although cookie sheets are often referred to as "baking sheets," there is a difference. Baking pans have rolled edges, and cookie sheets do not. Cookie sheets offer the advantage of a large surface area ideal for holding a large number of cookies. But their lack of edges limits their uses: Roasting, for example, is impossible on a cookie sheet, because juices will run off the pan.

The Difference Between a Cookie Sheet and a Flat Baking Sheet

Cookie sheets have a lip on the short sides for easy gripping. Its flat edges allow you to slide cookies off without disturbing their shape.

Basic Aluminum Baking Pans and Cookie Sheets

Affordable, durable, and easy to clean, these pans conduct heat quickly and uniformly. Aluminum can react to acidic foods such as tomatoes, however, resulting in a metallic taste, and can cause delicate foods to discolor. Aluminum imparts a metallic taste to some foods, too. To prevent such mishaps, line aluminum bakeware with parchment paper or a Silpat (a French nonstick baking mat).

Double-Thick Aluminum Half-Sheet Pans with Rolled Edges

These pans cost between $11 and $15 and are ideal for everything from baking cookies, pastries, and breads to roasting cuts of meats and vegetables. Typically, half-sheets measure 13 by 18 inches—the perfect size, since most ovens have an interior rack that measures 22 inches wide (for optimal results, several inches are needed around the baking sheet for air to circulate). Similar baking sheets are available in smaller sizes. Quarter-sheet pans with rolled edges are the right size for many toaster ovens and are great for toasting breadcrumbs, nuts, and coconut in small amounts.

Heavy-Gauge Professional Aluminum Cookie Sheets

These cost about $20 and are ideal for baking large batches of cookies.

French Black Steel Sheet Pans

These pans require special care. They must be seasoned regularly with kosher salt (rubbing salt into the surface prevents corrosion), and they must be kept dry, as a damp steel sheet pan will rust. These heavy-duty metal sheets conduct heat very well, resulting in even browning. If you find the pan cooks too quickly, lower the temperature by 25 degrees, or reduce the cooking time. These pans are excellent to use for puff pastry and, according to Martha, are the best baking sheets for palmiers.

Insulated Cookie Sheets

These sheets have a 1/2-inch lip and cost about $20. They are ideal for preventing thin or delicate cookies from browning too quickly. The tops and bottoms will come out evenly baked and evenly colored; pans like these are ideal for lightly colored treats such as spritz cookies and shortbread. Unfortunately, insulated sheets bake more slowly, so the baking times given in the recipe will need to be modified. Don't use these sheets if you want crispy edges or browned bottoms on your cookies; they are designed to prevent those results.

Nonstick Cookie Sheets

Because they are dark in color, these pans bake cookies more quickly than standard aluminum pans do. Cookies come out crunchy, and the nonstick surfaces are easy to clean. Keep in mind, however, that these pans vary greatly in quality, and all nonstick cookware must eventually be replaced, because the finish wears off.

Rimmed Baking Sheets

Also, known as jelly-roll pans, rimmed baking sheets have rolled edges, which make them ideal for bar cookies or short bread. They are best when made from heavy-duty, shiny aluminum for even baking.

Darker Pans vs. Lighter Pans

Darker pans tend to brown baked goods faster, so you may need to lower the oven temperature and reduce the baking time when using them.

Comments (16)

Martha Stewart Member
February 7, 2021
Add some photos!
Martha Stewart Member
December 22, 2019
This would be exceptionally helpful with pictures!
Martha Stewart Member
September 6, 2019
Hi from Texas!!! One of Mom’s Ekco Insulated baking sheets/pans (3/4” sides) has a [filtered] on one end (to hang? Or to “fork” out of the oven?) & also has a small [filtered] on one corner of the back that water drains out of when I wash it. Just curious what these holes are really for. I haven’t baked much til lately. THANKS!!!
Martha Stewart Member
July 12, 2019
Hi Martha, big fan! In Baking Pans vs. Cookie Sheets above, you indicated that baking pans have rolled edges, yet Rimmed Baking Sheets also have rolled edges. Are Baking Pans the same as Rimmed Baking Sheets? Also, since I'm clueless, it would be nice to have photos to go along with the descriptions. Thanks.
Martha Stewart Member
November 28, 2018
Okay, I HAVE to thank Martha for this wonderful information, because now that I am a follower, I now have some more stuff to look at when I am bored, and I also helped a young friend of mine with a school project (he/she used THIS website and a few others for sources[his project was on cookie sheets]) and he/she would ALSO like to thank Martha VERY, VERY much!! This website is SUPER useful for cooking tips, and I really enjoy cooking with information used from cooking websites, such as this AWESOME one. I can use this AMAZING website for when I don't understand what to do for cooking, too!!! THANK YOU, MARTHA!!!! :) :) :)
Martha Stewart Member
November 17, 2017
hey well im cooking cookies for my science fair project
Martha Stewart Member
June 29, 2017
Darker pans, lower oven much? Reduce baking much?
Martha Stewart Member
April 1, 2015
I notice Martha uses a convection oven for her cookies. (Also other recipes??) How do I adjust temp for my gas oven? Love this show!
Martha Stewart Member
February 26, 2015
There is some great Genuine Vegetable Parchment from Chef Le Bon
Martha Stewart Member
April 23, 2014
Any tips on CLEANING an aluminum sheet pan?
Martha Stewart Member
November 15, 2013
What about stainless steel?
Martha Stewart Member
February 14, 2013
As a designer of professional cooking equipment and working hand in hand with a professional chef, the type of baking sheet most often used by professionals is the heavy aluminum with 4 sides. Aluminum takes on the heat very evenly and gives the best baking results overall. That being said, the convection oven is the real winner here. It, by far, gives the ultimate baking results even while baking 5 sheets at a time. That's why I have one in my own home. You can't beat 'em.
Martha Stewart Member
July 1, 2008
Sorry--that's "UNGREASED"
Martha Stewart Member
July 1, 2008
It's my understanding that "engrossed" is a term often used in old-timey recipes meaning "lightly greased". I could be wrong, but that's what I've always heard.
Martha Stewart Member
April 4, 2008
Did you mean engrossed or embossed? Like a pattern embossed on the bottom like an old-style cookie sheet?
Martha Stewart Member
March 18, 2008
I have a recipe asking to use an engrossed cookie sheet. Where would that fall into the glossary of cookie sheets?