Select the Best Type of Bakeware from a Simple Baking Dish to the Best Baking Tools

Baking can be a rather complex process. From selecting the right ingredients, to measuring with a chemist’s accuracy, to adding just the right bit of personal flair – the whole idea can be daunting. With that in mind, once you have done the proper due diligence (i.e., picking out the perfect ingredients and desired recipe) there is still the matter of selecting the proper vessel within which to complete the baking. No, freshly picked berries and rich cream from the local dairy will not miraculously transform into a perfect farm-to-table masterpiece. The ingredients need a little love and the proper piece of bakeware before you can achieve ultimate success.

That’s where this handy guide comes in. Bakeware options range from glass to ceramic to new materials such as silicone. When purchasing bakeware, one must take into consideration multiple factors and outcomes. Read on to find the best bakeware for each of your baking adventures.

Glass Bakeware

Four pies in glass baking dishes

Glass bakeware is a necessity in any busy home kitchen. Though it’s called bakeware, you can actually bake, freeze, roast, microwave, and refrigerate food in these versatile pieces. Today, many glass bakeware pieces even come with covers and carrying bags for easy transport.

A non-porous surface prevents flavors from absorbing into the glassware and also keeps it from reacting with salty or acidic foods. This means glassware is great for preparing dishes that are rich in acid like lemon pepper chicken or Caprese salad. Also, there is no need to worry about glassware leaching any harmful chemicals during use. Glass bakeware is a great conductor, which means it warms quickly and holds heat for an extended period.

However, because of those properties, glass bakeware can be dangerous for recipes with high sugar content. Sugars can actually harden or caramelize during the baking process, causing some baked goods to over brown from too much heat. It is also important to allow glassware to come to room temperature between freezing and baking. Failure to allow the glassware to adjust can cause some pieces to shatter or explode. The good news is that this is a very uncommon occurrence. Once you have baked to your heart’s content, the cleanup with glass bakeware is a breeze. In the event of any sticking, simply soak with a bit of liquid dish detergent and water.

Ceramic Bakeware

Three ceramic baking dishes

Baking with ceramic bakeware is much like using glass bakeware. It conducts heat well, doesn’t corrode or hold flavor, cleans up easily, and can go from the oven straight to the table for serving. The biggest difference is that ceramic bakeware creates a more aesthetically pleasing presentation.

Ceramic bakeware comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and is very appealing for all ranges of service. Everything from buffet to family style and even formal service can be achieved with the diverse pieces on the market today. Like glassware, ceramic bakeware often comes with lids to keep food warm and makes traveling with prepared foods much easier.

Refrain from baking with your ceramic directly after removing it from the freezer. Instead, thaw it in the refrigerator before sliding it into the oven. This will keep the dish from cracking or shattering. Also, if microwave use is important for you, be sure to check the bakeware before you purchase it. Not all ceramic bakeware is microwave safe.

From savory to sweet, baked, frozen, or refrigerated, ceramic bakeware makes a great vessel for cooking up a variety of foods and creates a lovely display for everyday or special occasion use.

Metal and Non-Stick Bakeware

Metal, non-stick bakeware

When baking with metal or non-stick bakeware I think of baking for a crowd. Though you can bake a few cookies on a non-stick cookie sheet for the family, this kind of bakeware is often associated with batches. It’s best for breads, cake, cookies, muffins, and tarts, and comes in many shapes and sizes. As the section title indicates, there are two kinds of metal bakeware: non-stick and plain, shiny metal.

The plain, shiny metal can be made non-stick with the use of grease, parchment liners, or other non-stick, reusable baking mats. Many consumers opt for this extra step because there has been some concern that the non-stick metal pans leach harmful chemicals during use. Since the rise of this concern, bakeware producers have improved many of their baking products to address it. Still, if you choose to avoid the products, you do have an alternative.

Metal bakeware typically comes in aluminum or stainless steel. Though the aluminum is often less expensive, it does not conduct heat as well and can react with acids if you store food products in or on it.

The dark, non-stick metal is great for producing a crisp, dark crust on breads but should be used with caution when baking delicate cookies or cakes. Be sure not to use metal utensils with your non-stick pans to avoid scratching or marring the surface.

Silicone Bakeware

Silicone cupcake baking vessel

As the newest addition to the bakeware family, silicone has made quite an impression in the past few decades and is now popping up as a material for utensils, prep bowls, measuring cups, and much more. When it first hit the market, there was much concern about the potential for secreting harmful toxins during baking, but that has been dismissed as long as the bakeware does not contain fillers.

An easy way to test this is by pinching the bakeware. If it turns white when you pinch, pass. If it remains the same color as it was before pinching, it’s safe. This isn’t a fail-proof method but it holds up in most cases. Though the construction may seem flimsy, silicone bakeware can hold up in temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

The non-stick surface works well for a variety of applications. Most baked goods simply slide right out of silicone bakeware without much effort provided you grease the vessel first.

If you are looking for a crisp, browned finish, this may not be the best bakeware for the job. Silicone is not a good heat conductor and often takes a bit longer to bake in than traditional pans.

Cast-Iron Bakeware

Though it hasn’t been around as long as ceramic bakeware, cast-iron bakeware has been warming bellies for centuries. With its durable make-up, cast iron can be used right in a campfire, over the stove, and even in the oven.

Cast iron works well for multi-step recipes that require browning ingredients first and then finishing off by baking or can be used much like ceramic or glass to bake directly in the oven.

The sturdy material can be a bit heavy for some, so be careful and use both hands when lifting. Thanks to that weight, cast iron warms evenly and holds heat very well. This is great for browning meat or giving a crispy crust to baked goods, but can also lead to burning if it heats too fast. You’ll definitely need a pot holder for the handle, no matter if you’re cooking on the stove or in the oven.

Cast iron is best for casseroles, corn bread, cobbler, pies, cakes, muffins, and fritatas. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, you can bake everything from a round cake to cactus-shaped corn bread in cast iron bakeware.

Cast iron baking dishes

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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