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9 Essential Baking Pans for Any Kitchen

May 17, 2022

Nine essential baking pans that anyone should have in their kitchen, plus tips on how to use each one.  |

Find out which pans you need for different types of baking, how to pick the right size and material, plus tips on how to use each one.

COOK + BAKE   |   Updated March 21, 2023

Bundt pan sitting on blue striped towel with measuring spoons.

Whether you are a seasoned baker or just getting started in the kitchen, it can be overwhelming to know what you actually need to buy when it comes to baking pans.

There is a pan specifically made for just about everything and they are available in different materials including aluminum, glass, ceramic, silicone, and nonstick metal. Most pans typically come in more than one size, too. And you can find them everywhere from the dollar store to pricey department stores and everywhere in between.

But what is best for you?

Nine types of nonstick baking pans
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A Few Good Rules of Thumb for Choosing Baking Pans

While you want to be prepared with the correct pan when the urge to bake strikes, you also don't want to buy ones that you rarely, if ever, use. That is a waste of money and creates clutter in your kitchen.

  • The good news is there are basics you can purchase based on what you will most likely be preparing and oftentimes, the pan that you have can be used in many different ways. And be sure to check with friends, family, and neighbors who enjoy baking. If you are wanting to bake something and don't have the proper pan, they may have one they are willing to loan out.

  • And while there are many different sizes available, each type of pan does come in a standard size which is what will almost always work for the recipes you're trying to make.

  • In terms of materials, the best choice for beginners is the nonstick metal options. They are typically inexpensive, lightweight, and what you are baking will brown consistently and bake evenly. The nonstick surface makes removing the baked good from the pan easier.

Is Nonstick Bakeware Safe to Use?

People are becoming increasingly concerned about the possible toxicity of nonstick coating on pans. If that is the case for you, stoneware, ceramic with nontoxic glaze, glass, and cast iron are the best choices for you. While they will be more costly up front, they are generally toxin-free.

If you'd like to continue using nonstick coated pans, here are a few safety tips:

  • Use unbleached parchment paper or silicone baking mats so that your baked good is not in direct contact with the coating.

  • Invest in high quality, heavy-duty pans. The concern is that the coating is released into your food after the pan gets too hot. Cheaper, lightweight pans heat up faster.

  • Avoid scratching your nonstick pans as these scratches may release particles into your food. Do not use metal utensils to remove your baked good from the pan and don't ever put the nonstick pans into the dishwasher.

  • Replace your nonstick bakeware every three to five years if you use it regularly so that the finish doesn't get worn down.

Here are the nine essential baking pans that will help you to be prepared for just about any recipe.....


Martha Stewart Half Sheet Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's Half Sheet Pan


Probably the most useful pan anyone can have at home is a sheet pan. They come in a variety of sizes, but a half sheet size measuring 12"x16" is the most useful. It is a large, flat pan with a shallow rim around the edges ensuring nothing will slide off. (The rim is what makes it different from a cookie sheet which is completely flat.)

Half sheet pans are perfect for cookies (no need to buy the traditional cookie sheet), jelly rolls, scones, or sliding under a juicy pie while baking it in the oven. Outside of the baking realm, they are also useful for roasting potatoes and vegetables, toasting nuts, and making sheet pan suppers.

While you only need one of most baking pans, it is helpful to have two half sheet pans. That way you can have another batch of cookies ready to go in the oven when the first comes out.

Martha Stewart 12 Cup Muffin Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's 12-cup Muffin Pan 


Like sheet pans, muffin pans come in different sizes from 6 to 24 cups as well as mini cup and jumbo cup versions, but a 12 cup muffin pan is standard. It can be used for muffins, as well as cupcakes and popovers. Also, most cake recipes can be adapted and baked in a muffin pan by varying the baking time.

Martha Stewart Loaf Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's Loaf Pan 


Loaf pans are what you will need to make things like banana and zucchini bread, homemade sandwich bread, and pound cake. Meatloaf can also be baked inside of a loaf pan. 9"x5" is the standard size that will work for almost any recipe, but you may also find ones larger and smaller.

Martha Stewart Bundt Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's Bundt Pan


A bundt pan is one solid piece with fluted or grooved sides and a domed bottom. The post in the center is there to allow a deep cake to bake faster and more evenly. When the baking is complete, the bundt pan is flipped over to allow the cake to slide out. It should be greased before adding your batter to ensure that the details come out cleanly.

A bundt pan is great for cakes that don't need frosting, coffee cakes, and pound cake.

You can find very fancy, made in America bundt cake pans from Nordic Ware, but they can be tricky to get the cake out of for beginners.

Martha Stewart Round Cake Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's 9" Round Cake Pan 


Cake pans traditionally are purchased in two different sizes, 8" or 9". While both are useful, it isn't necessary when trying to get started at baking. Take a look at recipes that you like to make and notice which one is more commonly used before purchasing.

The difference you will see is that cake recipes made in an 8" pan will be taller and take longer to cook than those in the 9" pan and you may have to discard some of the batter of a 9" pan recipe because it might not fit in the smaller pan. These pans are used for cakes, layer cakes, cinnamon rolls, and pull apart rolls. They can even be used to make a deep dish pie.

If you plan on making any layer cakes, it is wise to purchase two round cake pans in the same size.

Martha Stewart Square Cake Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's 9" Square Cake Pan 


Square cake pans also come in 8" and 9" options and the same theory applies as with the round pans as to which you should buy first. These pans are what you'll need to make brownies, bar cookies, square cakes, crumb cakes, gingerbread, and cornbread.

Martha Stewart 9x13 Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's 9"x13" Cake Pan with Carrier


A baking pan has sides that are higher than the sheet pan making it a better choice for cakes than cookies. 9"x13" is the standard size you'll need for most recipes. You can use this pan for making cakes, bar cookies, cobblers, or rice krispie treats. They can also be used for casseroles, baked pasta, and roasting meat and vegetables.

If you do not have a 9x13 inch baking pan, the recipe can still be made easily using two eight inch or two nine inch cake pans.

Martha Stewart Springform Pan

Pictured is Martha Stewart's 9" Springform Pan 


Springform pans are made of two pieces: a flat base and removable outer edge that unclasps after baking. It is a pan that is used for any type of recipe that you can't turn upside down to release, which is why it has the removable bottom. In this case, the thicker the walls of the pan the better and 9" is the standard size. Look for ones that have a protruding lip at the bottom which will keep thin batters from leaking through or water from a water-bath leaking in.

A springform pan can be used for cheesecakes, tarts, quiche, torte, regular cake, and icebox cake.

Glass Pyrex Pie Dish

Pictured is a Pyrex Pie Dish 


While metal is a better choice in baking pans for beginners, I recommend glass for pie dishes. Because you can see through them, it is easier to tell when your crust is browned and it has better heat conductivity.

You can buy either a 9" or 10" pie dish. They also come in a deep dish variety that will accommodate more filling than a traditional pie plate. In addition to being what you need to make pies, the pie dish can also be used for meat pies and quiche.

Remember, if you are just starting out, you likely will not need all of these pans. But look over the recipes you'd like to try and see which ones would be most useful to start building your collection.

Watch sales at department stores or take a trip to the local thrift store and search for pans that feel heavy duty and are in good condition. You don't have to spend a lot of money to start baking.

CONTINUE READING THESE POSTS IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN OUR BAKING 101 SERIES:  A collection of posts designed to help you understand the how and why behind baking while improving your skills.

Choosing the Right Oven Rack Location
How to Read + Follow Recipes the Right Way

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