A practical guide to the sheet pan and cookie sheet

We have recently had multiple questions regarding which pans should be used to bake, roast, toast, and broil. To solve the mystery between baking sheets, jelly roll pans, cookie sheets, and all the other variations of names used to identify these cooking vessels, we took an in-depth look at the different uses, maintenance guidelines, and technical explanations to differentiate between the vast array of sheet pans.

The baking sheet

This kitchen item is used specifically for baking. Typically free of any distinct sides but may include a small lip or two. Like the name suggests, it is a flat sheet of metal intended for baking. The edgeless design provides an unobstructed surface that is great for moving a spatula around while scooping up cookies, and also allows for even airflow to all parts of the baking product. For products that may run or rely on a vessel for shape, we do not recommend using a baking sheet.

Types of baking sheets

Insulated Baking Sheets: These pans are constructed specifically for delicate baked goods. The term insulated is used because the pan has an air pocket between the two sheets of metal it is composed of. They are often found with a single lip for easy handling. If you are looking for a brown edge or crispy finish, these pans are not ideal. With these pans, you may have to adjust the cooking time to accommodate for a slower cooking rate.
Best for: Shortbread cookies, meringues, sugar cookies, or spritz cookies

Nonstick Baking Sheets: The nonstick pan has become a staple in many home kitchens over the past several decades. A favorite for quick cooking, easy removal of baked goods, and a quick clean up, these pans are ideal for baking several batches of cookies in record time. The darker surface of your nonstick pan may cause burning on the bottoms of your cookies, so be conscious while your items are baking.
Best for: Any cookie you wish to brown or crisp

French Black Steel Baking Sheets: French black steel is a heavy-duty, old-world version of the modern, aluminum baking sheets. These pans require regular seasoning which can be accomplished by rubbing Kosher salt into the surface to prevent corrosion. Also, be sure to store these sheets in a dry space to avoid rusting. These pans provide even browning but can take a bit of time to adjust to. If you find you are overcooking, reduce the heat or time in the oven and be sure to note the temperature adjustment on your recipe for future use.
Best for: Palmiers, puff pastry, pizza, potato wedges, fries, or for warming bread

Aluminum Baking Sheets: Used in many commercial kitchens, aluminum baking sheets come in several gauges and sizes. These sheets are helpful when cooking multiple batches and are known for conducting heat evenly and efficiently. Because of the aluminum make up, these pans can transfer a metal-like flavor to some foods, so take precaution and utilize parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
Best for: Cookies made without citrus or acidic ingredients

The sheet pan

This kitchen workhorse goes by many names, but is easy to identify by its full rim design. Sometimes referred to as a jelly roll pan, baking pan, baking sheet with rolled edges, or rimmed baking sheet, it has even more applications than names. These pans are great for roasting, baking, proofing, broiling, and even acting as a support or drip tray for other goods in the oven.

Sheet Pan Sizes:

Though you can find these pans in a variety of sizes, the standard sizes are full, half, and quarter size.

Full-size sheet pan – 18 X 26

Half-size sheet pan – 18 X 13

Quarter-size sheet pan – 9 X 13

Types of Sheet Pans:

Aluminum Sheet Pans: Aluminum sheet pans are the standard in most professional kitchens. They come in a variety of gauges, which should be noted when purchasing aluminum pans for your home or business. The lower the number, the thicker your pan will be. For example, a 13-gauge pan will be thicker than an 18-gauge pan. This is particularly important if you are concerned about warping your pans or have had issues with warping in the past. The thicker your pan, the less likely it is to warp.
Best for: Baking non-acidic baked goods, broiling with cooling racks placed inside, roasting, proofing baked goods, and great for catching spills from other vessels.

Steel Sheet Pans: Steel sheet pans are ideal for those concerned with a metal flavor transfer from aluminum. They are slightly more costly than the economical aluminum sheet pans and they do not conduct heat as evenly as the aluminum sheet pans. These are sufficient for roasting, broiling, or proofing but are not advised for precise baking. Sheet pans are also available in aluminized steel for better conduction of heat.
Best for: Baking hearty cookies, broiling with cooling racks placed inside, roasting, proofing baked goods, and great for catching spills from other vessels.

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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  1. October 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm, Irene Stelmach said:

    which sheet pans can be put in the dishwasher?


  2. October 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm, KaTom Restaurant Supply, INC. said:

    Hi Irene, you can put nearly any commercial grade sheet pan in the dishwasher. I’d suggest a half size sheet pan for residential use since a full-size pan will not fit in a residential oven or dishwasher. If you are curious about commercial use, then you can typically fit a full-size sheet pan in your ware washer. Please let me know if I have failed to answer your question. Thanks for inquiring. -Chelsea