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Baking Sheets (Jelly Roll Pans)

Thursday, 24 September 2009 | Tags: ,

Not just for cookies, baking sheets are a versatile tool for anyone who likes to cook. With many different styles and materials to choose from, we find out which one turns out the best results, from cinnamon twists to chocolate chip cookies to Florentine.

The Basics

  • While cookie sheets are rimless, making it easier to slide the finished cookies off the sheet, the rim of a baking sheet allows you to bake or roast a wider range of recipes, including jelly roll cakes, tarts, brownies, dessert bars, oven fries, croutons, asparagus and other vegetables, free-form baked items, and cookies, of course!

  • Some pans even come with a metal rack (which can be purchased separately) to use for roasting meats, allowing the fat to drip away.

  • Not all baking sheets are created equal, as we found out in our test. The material it’s made from makes a big difference:

    • Aluminum conducts heat quickly and evenly, and is also inexpensive, rust-proof, and light to lift. It can, however, react with acidic foods, discolouring it and affecting its taste). It’s also soft and prone to scratching or warping. Aluminum-surfaced sheets darken over time, which is considered normal, and actually helps improve heat conduction, giving the pan a slightly nonstick property.

    • Anodized aluminum pans are more expensive but less reactive to acidic food and more resistant to scratching and warping.

    • Aluminized steel pans have a steel core for durability and strength, coated with an aluminum alloy for heat conduction and rust resistance.

    • Stainless steel with aluminum core pans are desirable for the aluminum core, which heats the pan evenly and quickly, while the stainless steel exterior provides durability and is also rust-resistant.

    • Non-stick coatings are most often applied to steel pans since aluminum is soft, which can make the coating prone to scratches. Coatings can be light or dark in colour; dark is more common because it distributes heat better.

    • Insulated air pans have a layer of air sandwiched between the top and bottom layers of metal. Manufacturers claim this reduces the temperature of the metal, which helps food to cook evenly all over, preventing burning and drying out.

  • Commercial baking sheets are normally 1 inch deep, but many non-commercial, inexpensive models are ¾ inch deep. Look for 1-inch depth if you want optimal versatility and durability. Also be sure the rim is wrapped under for better reinforcement and to prevent warping as the temperature changes.

  • The term “jelly roll pan” is sometimes used a catch-all term by manufacturers to refer to rimmed baking sheets. The classic jelly roll size is 10 x 15 inches, while many non-commercial baking sheets are 9 x 13 inches.

  • When it comes to size, buy the largest sheet that will fit in your oven with 2 inches of clearance on all sides. Your recipe may call for a specific smaller size, however, but a standard large size should suit most recipes.

  • Look for a thick, heavyweight pan that doesn’t wiggle or twist when you grab both ends and try to twist it.

Other Considerations

  • If you like the non-stick idea but prefer more even cooking, use parchment or wax paper underneath your items. Parchment paper tends to work better since it doesn’t become sticky when heated and has a higher smoke point. Wax paper may smoke if exposed to high heat.

Be Aware

  • Even though some manufacturers of non-stick pans are now claiming they’re safe to use with metal utensils and to put in the dishwasher, in the long term, this increases wear and tear on the pan.

  • Non-stick coatings are not designed to be used at high temperature, which may cause the coating to peel and flake, e.g. if used for roasting asparagus or broiling a tray of bruschetta

  • Because nonstick pans are designed for home cooks rather than commercial uses, the overall quality of these pans tends to be lower.

TEST CRITERIA

We tested four different kinds of 10” x 15” rimmed baking sheets (aka jelly roll pans) to see which cook the best.

  • Fox Run Preferred (heavy-gauge steel with non-stick coating, 5-year warranty): $11.98
. . Amazon.com
  • Baker’s Secret (air-insulated steel with silicone non-stick coating, dishwasher-safe): $13.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Chicago Metallic Commercial(aluminized steel, uncoated, dishwasher-safe): $19.00
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Wilton Performance (anodized aluminum, dishwasher-safe): $23.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Baking Test

We made two types of dessert on our four test pans: a cinnamon twist (full of butter and sugar) and a Florentine.

  • There was a huge difference from one pan to the next!

  • The two non-stick pans didn’t fare well:

    • The Fox Run heavy-gauge steel with non-stick coating warped while in the oven, pushing the Florentine into the centre and burning the edges.

    • The Baker’s Secret air-insulated steel with silicone non-stick coating also warped a bit and burnt the edges.

  • The aluminized steel pan from Chicago Metallic Commercial was closer to the commercial quality used by our baker expert. It cooked our items perfectly. The Florentine was evenly browned, didn’t shrink, and the pan didn’t warp. It also has a good heft to it but is not too heavy.

  • The Wilton Performance anodized aluminum pan seemed to burn the most. Perhaps the aluminum was too conductive.

OUR TOP PICK

Even though it’s a bit pricier, the aluminized steel pan from Chicago Metallic Commercial really did a good job of cooking our recipes evenly. We think the extra few dollars is worth it, especially if you do a lot of baking.

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