Ever wondered: What is the difference between sheet pans, cookie sheets, and baking pans? Not to mention half sheets and jelly roll pans? Well, we’ll break down all the types of sheet pans, cookie sheets, and baking pans for you so you’re never confused about the differences again.
Whether you’re building your bakeware collection from scratch or just need to replace some things that have seen better days, sometimes knowing exactly what you need can be confusing. If you’re short on space in your cupboards, building a bakeware collection based on items that play several roles can be a space-saver too. And in turn, having the right pan for the job can be a time-saver (pan performance varies with material and other factors).
So do you really need a whole bunch of different flat-ish pans to make a meal or a few batches of cookies? Or can you use one pan for many jobs? We did the research so you know what should take up valuable real estate in your kitchen.
Baking Sheets & Sheet Pans
One of the most multi-functional pieces of bakeware is a baking sheet (aka, a sheet pan). But, to be frank, a baking sheet can also be used for more savory dishes than sweet. These kitchen workhorses can do anything from roast meats and vegetables to create one-pan, multi-layered meals.
A baking sheet or sheet pan has a shallow outer rim around all four sides to keep juices and other liquids from being lost. Additionally, baking sheets and sheet pans play nice with accessories like roasting and cooling racks (handy for making perfect bacon, among other things).
The downside of a baking pan is that acidic ingredients can react to the metal. To avoid that, use parchment paper or a silicone liner on the baking pans when cooking such items (this is still a good idea when making baked goods too, since it prevents sticking and makes cleanup easier as you don’t have to scrub off so much gunk).
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Related Reading: How to Clean Dingy Baking Sheets So They Look Brand New
Another benefit to baking pans is that the category comes in several sizes and aluminum grades.
Quarter sheet pans, half sheet pans, and even full sheet pans or commercial sheet pans are available depending on your needs; quarter sheet pans are typically 9 x 13 inches (a standard size for sheet cakes), half sheet pans are 18 x 13 inches (this is the size of most pans described simply as baking sheets), and full sheet pans are 26 x 18 inches (too big to fit in many home ovens, but the standard commercial size).
Materials used to manufacture baking sheets are just as versatile as the range of foods the product can be used for: There’s professional, heavy-gauge aluminum, stainless steel, hard anodized bakeware, and even more modern silicone with reinforced rims.
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Now, this is where things get interesting. Baking pans are different from baking sheets because they’re deeper and come in a wider range of shapes and sizes. Baking pans come in an array of different materials too—ceramic, stoneware, metal, glass, and reinforced silicone.
Related Reading: Glass vs Metal Baking Pans
The most common baking pan shapes are rectangular and square, with the most common size for a square pan being 8 x 8 inches, and the most common size for a rectangular pan being 9 x 13. (But this category of bakeware also includes things like muffin pans, loaf pans, and Bundt pans.)
Baking pans, as opposed to baking sheets, are much deeper so they can hold runny batters for brownies and cakes, as well as sweet and savory dishes that contain a lot of sauce, like casseroles, lasagnas, and cobblers.
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Cookie sheets differ from baking sheets because of their bottoms, which are designed to be flat, and do not have raised sides. This helps to ensure the cookies you bake on them don’t lose their shape, bake evenly, and are easier to maneuver with a spatula since there are no pan edges in the way (that said, you can definitely bake cookies on a sheet pan).
Traditional cookie sheets have small lips on just one edge for gripping when you need to slide them in and out of the oven and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, thicknesses, materials, and finishes.
You’ll commonly find insulated cookie sheets, non-stick cookie sheets, and other metal cookie sheets.
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An insulated cookie sheet has a 1/2-inch lip around it and should be used for making more delicate cookies, like shortbread. These sheets are designed to help cookies to bake evenly and prevent browning and crisp edges or bottoms. However, one thing to make note of: Insulated cookie sheets will alter baking times since they bake more slowly than regular metal cookie sheets.
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Metal cookie sheets vary in makeup—some may be made from aluminum, while others are made from steel. Aluminum cookie sheets usually carry a lower price point than steel but conduct heat evenly and quickly. Aluminized steel cookie sheets can be more durable (i.e., less likely to get warped, dented, or corroded), but also heat up faster than aluminum and could cause a burned batch if not careful. Stainless steel cookie sheets are another option, but don’t conduct heat as well and can be harder to clean.
Non-stick cookie sheets may be made of aluminum or steel, but (as the name suggests) are coated in a smooth non-stick finish and usually are darker in color. These are best used for cookies that should have a slight crunch or crispiness to them. Additionally, the non-stick properties should make for easy clean up. Don’t use metal spatulas with them, since that can damage the finish.
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Last up on the list, a jelly roll pan has rolled edges inside of a lip and was created to make, well, sheet cakes for jelly rolls. The pans are also helpful for baking bar-type cookies. The sides of a jelly roll pan are usually one inch deep.
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But—sorry to burst anyone’s bubble—a jelly roll pan is really just a smaller version of a baking sheet, so if you have one of those, you don’t need this type of pan too.
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