Best (and WORST) Baking Pans
Filed Under: Baking Science | How To

Best (and WORST) Baking Pans

September 12th, 2017

I performed side-by-side testing to find the best baking pans! Including nonstick vs. aluminum, and which pans specifically you should NEVER use! Keep reading to find out my all-time favorite pan.

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Baking equipment is just as important as the ingredients you use. But since most of us stocked our kitchens forever ago, we might not realize just how big an impact our pans have on our baking.

That’s why I decided to put a bunch of baking pans to the test. For this post, I focused on sheet pans and cookie sheets, to keep things simple. There are SO many types of baking pans but I find that your standard sheet pan/cookie sheet is the most used in the kitchen.

Note: if you’re curious about my FULL list of recommendations for my favorite baking equipment (including a wider variety of baking pans such as cake pans, loaf pans, and cookware), or you are interested in more baking science, then you’ll LOVE my Magic of Baking online course + community. I hope you’ll check it out!

Let’s get to testing and see which are the best baking pans, and which are the worst!

The Best (and the Worst) Baking Pans I’ve Meticulously Tested

Side-by-Side Testing

Take a look at the below cookies. I made a few batches of my Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie dough. Here were the control parameters:

  • Each batch was baked in a 350°F oven for exactly 12 minutes.
  • One pan was baked at a time.
  • The dough was kept refrigerated between batches, for temperature consistency.
  • Each pan was lined with parchment paper only. No added grease/butter/nonstick spray.
  • The only difference between each batch was the baking pan.
  • You can already see what a difference the various baking pans made:

Side-by-side testing to find the best baking pans! Including nonstick vs. aluminum, and which pans specifically you should NEVER use!
Side-by-side testing to find the best baking pans! Including nonstick vs. aluminum, and which pans specifically you should NEVER use!

Exact Products Used to Find the Best Baking Pan:

I knew that baking on different pans was going to result in a slightly different outcome, but the results were even more dramatic than I was expecting. They did fall in line with something I’ve known to be true: that nonstick pans and dark-colored pans brown much more quickly and aggressively, compared to light-colored pans. So let’s get onto what you really want to know…

Which is the Best Baking Pan?

Testing baking pans

These have become my go-to unlined aluminum sheet pans. I’m a big fan of the Nordic Ware brand. To me, it yielded the perfect Goldilocks batch of cookies, which were perfectly golden brown.

  • The heat conductivity of the Nordic Ware pans is perfect; it heats evenly without being too aggressive, allowing your baked goods time to spread a little without burning on the bottom, yet still caramelizing slightly.
  • This is what you’ll find in most professional kitchens, and is the basic type of pan we used in culinary school.
  • I use these pans daily, for both sweet and savory preparations. I now have five of these durable pans in my kitchen!
  • This is the pan I use when I’m testing new recipes. I always use the most straightforward and basic equipment possible because I don’t want to skew or warp my baking results because I’m using different or high-end equipment that many readers won’t have.
  • You can get a 2-pack of the pan used in this experiment here.

I also have two more recommendations, depending on your baking preferences.

If you like golden crusts

Side-by-side testing to find the best baking pans! Including OXO, nonstick vs. aluminum, and which pans specifically you should NEVER use!
If a golden crust is your preference, you may want to choose a nonstick option – but not all non-stick cookie sheets were created equal. I’d recommend the OXO Good Grips Pro Half Sheet Pan.

  • It’s ceramic-reinforced with a two-layer coating for easy food release while protecting against scratching, staining, and corrosion.
  • This pan is micro-textured with a non-stick pattern, to minimize surface contact and increase airflow, for even baking.
  • This coating makes the pan bake more quickly, so that’s another reason why these cookies browned more than the unlined aluminum.
  • The next time I bake with this pan, I’ll probably shave a few minutes off the baking time.

If you like pale crusts and a soft texture

Side-by-side testing to find the best baking pans! Including air pans, nonstick vs. aluminum, and which pans specifically you should NEVER use!

If pale, soft cookies are your thing, you may want to choose the T-Fal Air Pan option.

  • The layer of air in the center of this pan reduces the heat of the pan, reducing browning and burning.
  • I personally don’t prefer this result, but I know many do, so I wanted to mention it!
  • I don’t love that this pan doesn’t have rims. Move too fast and your cookies will slide right off!

The Worst Baking Pan?

I would definitely NOT recommend:

  • Walmart Mainstays pan. This pan was super flimsy. It warped AND rusted after first use and cleaning.
  • I also wasn’t a big fan of the Viking pan either, which basically burnt my cookies on the bottom.
  • Wilton Non-Stick baking sheet was also not a favorite. The non-stick coating on this pan caused the cookies to bake far too quickly, darkening the bottoms of the cookies more than I prefer.

Final Thoughts & Tips

  • I like my cookie sheets unlined. This means that the pan does not have a nonstick coating.
  • Always use parchment paper to line your pans, but don’t grease them. This causes burned bottoms.
  • You can use silicone mats instead if you prefer. Check out my Silpat vs Parchment article here!
  • Even if your pans say they’re dishwasher-safe, I always recommend hand washing. This will prolong the pan’s lifespan and prevent rust.

Which is Your Favorite?

Let me know in the comments below which baking pan is YOUR favorite, and if you learned anything through my experimenting! I hope you found this helpful.

More Baking Science Articles:

Be sure to download my Baking Secrets guide for even more helpful tips:

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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  1. #
    eileen — November 14, 2023 at 10:25 am

    I’m curious if you’ve tested stoneware baking sheets. I’ve been using stoneware for a very long time and find it does a beautiful job of baking cookies, etc.

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 15, 2023 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Eileen! Tessa has tried using stoneware in the past, but finds it bulky, heavy, difficult to store, and difficult to clean, compared to her favorite baking pans. Additionally, when Tessa bakes cookies, she’s usually baking multiple trays of cookies, and it takes a long time for stoneware to cool between batches compared to aluminum trays. That being said, if you’re happy with the results your stoneware yields, by all means, keep using it! I hope that helps! Happy baking 🙂

  2. #
    Becky — October 27, 2023 at 10:59 pm

    Great article! Thank you for all the useful tips. I would love to hear your opinon on baking stones. They are the only thing I have ever used to bake cookies on and I love them. However, I have never tried Nordic Ware. Thank you!

  3. #
    donna beattie — August 20, 2023 at 3:51 am

    Thank you for all of this information! It is well organized and understandable. I will share with my grandchildren.

  4. #
    Janet Miller — August 3, 2023 at 7:25 am

    I love your comparisons! I do this a lot as well, mostly comparing recipes on paper, choosing 3-4 and having a comparison bake. I choose my fav from those, and put it in my recipe file. I totally agree with you, stay away from dark pans. As for pans, I don’t like Fat Dadio because they are not precise square pans. My favorite baking pans, round/square/rectangle, are Magic line with removable bottoms. I make all my cakes in these, including cheesecakes. No more springforms here! My favorite baking sheets for cookies are Volrath, not cheap, but very heavy unrimmed aluminum, and I can bake up to 42 cookies at once, depending on the size. Thank you for all your very helpful information! I buy parchment by the 1000 sheet box. My husband is a commercial print broker, so he takes the entire box to our of his printers. They have huge commercial cutters, and he has the entire box of 1000 cut to size to fit my Volraths, with smaller sheets left over which are great to cut and line smaller baking pans, or the few cookies usually left at the end of a batch.

  5. #
    Tracy Revalee — May 10, 2023 at 5:06 am

    My granddaughter is moving into her first apartment after graduation from nursing school. Thanks to this blog I know I’m getting her the best cookie pans (through your link, of course.)

    I trust you because: ginger snaps, sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies. All were the best ever I have made. Wow. I have never measured digitally and I’m sure this is the key to making and repeating this success.

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — May 10, 2023 at 9:36 am

      That’s so wonderful to hear, Tracy! We are thrilled that you enjoy Tessa’s recipes and recommendations so much! Thanks so much for the comment 🙂

  6. #
    E — April 30, 2023 at 2:26 pm

    Can you please provide a specific link to the Nordic Ware pan you used?

  7. #
    Tricia — March 27, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    I’m a Nordicware fan too. Its what I use in my business. I use perforated mats for my cut out sugar cookies and parchment paper for all other cookies.

  8. #
    Connie — February 24, 2023 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Tessa, I’ve been following your tips and my baking has really improved. unfortunately before I found you I invested in some all clad ceramic non stick baking and cookie sheets. should I switch to aluminum nordicware? my cookies are dark on bottom and pale on top, using parchment paper. anyway I can NOT get all new? thank you!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — February 28, 2023 at 9:56 am

      Hi Connie! We are so happy to hear that Tessa’s wonderful recipes and tips have helped your baking so much – hearing this truly makes our day!! Having not used the pans you describe much ourselves, we cannot speak to their strengths – but as you saw in this article above, nonstick pans are not a favorite of Tessa’s! As you are finding for yourself, these types of pans will typically burn the bottoms of the baked goods before the top has had a chance to nicely spread and evenly color.

      We would recommend purchasing just a couple Nordicware light-colored aluminum cookie sheets (as Tessa mentions and links to above) to use exclusively for baking, and slowly expand your collection from there over time. Be sure to use these with parchment paper (but don’t spray or grease the parchment – the cookies and other baked goods will release easily from plain parchment). Perhaps your current ceramic sheets would be okay to use for other cooking, such as roasting vegetables, so they won’t completely go to waste! Just a guess, as again, we haven’t used these specific pans too much ourselves. I hope this helps, Connie! Happy baking 🙂

  9. #
    LesnKC — February 1, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing your results. NordicWare it is!

  10. #
    PJ — January 5, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    When she says “unlined” nordicware, does she mean not to even use parchment paper? It seems like she recommends parchment paper elsewhere

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — January 6, 2023 at 11:37 am

      Hi PJ! No, ‘unlined’ refers pans without an added nonstick coating, like these Nordicware pans that are natural aluminum. We always recommend using parchment paper when making cookies or most other baked goods, for best results. I hope that helps 🙂

  11. #
    Rick J. — September 20, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    How do you feel about using silicon baking liners with cookie sheet pans? I like the ease of clean up. Should I adjust my baking time?

  12. #
    Linda Butler — April 27, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    Tessa, You and I must be sharing a brain when it comes to what type of pans to use for baking your cookies. I have been using the Nordic Ware pans you referenced for at least 20 years. And you are spot on that using their pans and following the recipe exactly, no substitutions, gives you a perfect cookie every time.
    Sweet Regards, Linda Butler

    • #
      Haley Wehner — April 28, 2022 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Linda! This is amazing. I was using all the wrong pans before I read Tessa’s articles, so we’re glad to hear you’ve been on the right track!

  13. #
    Leeann Seymour — March 24, 2022 at 5:24 am

    I love USA bakeware pans. They have always been my first choice. Enjoyed this article. I’ve recently been shopping for new bakeware and I’ve wondered which one is the best. I will try nordicware. Thank you.

    • #
      Emily — March 25, 2022 at 2:02 pm

      USA Pan is a great brand! Excited for you to try Nordic Ware as well 🙂

  14. #
    Terri — March 23, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    I love my pampered chef cookie pans. Sturdy and cookies turn out lovely!

  15. #
    Pamela — March 23, 2022 at 5:45 pm

    I use USA brand pans. I really like their pans. Would be curious to see you add them into the comparison

  16. #
    Jillian — March 23, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    Nordicware is my fave too! I’ve switched most of my baking pans/sheets to that after using nonstick for ages with lots of disappointment.

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