Baking in Metal, Glass, or Ceramic: Which is Better?

Do you usually grab the first baking pan which matches the dimensions listed in your recipe? Or do you rely on instinct to choose bakeware for pies, cookies, or brownies? Does it even matter?

No doubt, getting the dimensions of the baking dish right is significantas many of us learn the hard way (sunken cake, anyone?). But selecting a pan to bake, roast, or broil should also be influenced by the material of the baking pan. Materials perfect for some recipes are dreadful for others!

People say baking is far more exact and unforgiving than stovetop cookingand it’s true. While cooking, you can toss in rough estimates of ingredients and experiment freely. But diligence and proper techniques are of utmost importance while baking.

Chemical reactions between ingredients, proper protein coagulation, and even the weather, especially the humidity, determines your final product. And those are just a few of the many variables that govern baking. 

One highly overlooked element is how the baking pan’s materialmetal, glass, or ceramicwill react with ingredients in a recipe. 

The baking world’s ongoing debate over which type of bakeware is the best doesn’t have a clear-cut winner. Similar to a host of things in baking, the winner depends on the type of food you’re baking and the outcome you desire. Crispy, brown cookies, or hot, cheesy lasagna? It makes all the difference.

Each material, metal, glass, or ceramic, has specific, desirable qualities, making it the best choice in some instances, and an inferior one in others. So let’s take a look at the deciding factors.

When to choose glass or ceramic bakeware

Glass is a poorer conductor of heat than metal, but it distributes heat more evenly. In practice, this implies that glass dishes will heat up and cool down more slowly. Consequently, they’ll retain heat for longer, staying warm for longer outside the oven. The same is true for ceramic dishes. 

Thus, glass or ceramic dishes might be ideal for baking savory pies, casseroles, and lasagnas that you want to keep warm for serving. For pies especially, glass containers bake crusts more evenly by distributing heat uniformly.

Metal pans may also react with acidic ingredients in fruit cobblers and crust-less fruit pies, resulting in metallic tastes in foods and discoloring and erosion of pans. Evidently, glass or ceramic bakeware holds a clear advantage over metal for such baking needs.

People often choose ceramic over glass, because ceramic bakeware tends to be more aesthetically pleasing and photogenic. Think crème brûlées and lattice pie crusts. But glass bakeware tends to be easier to clean and store.

Use glass or ceramic bakeware for: casseroles, pies, lasagnas, and fruit cobblers.

A pie in a ceramic dish, topped with ice-cream

When to choose metal pans

Metals pans, especially aluminum ones, are better conductors of heat than glass and ceramic dishes; they heat up and cool down rapidly. Metal can also withstand higher temperatures than glass, which can shatter at high temperatures. 

Reach for metal pans when you’re baking goods that need high temperatures for short periods of time, such as cookies, muffins, biscuits, cakes, and breads.

Analogously, metal pans are ideal for baked goods that need browning or quick roasting, such as loaves of bread or golden potato wedges.

It matters, also, whether the metal pan is dark or light-colored. Dark-colored pans conduct heat faster and brown goods more quickly. Generally, light-colored pans are more suitable for cakes, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, tarts, and muffins that need even, delicate browning, while dark colored bakeware is better for deep shaded breads and pizzas. 

Aluminum is a great choice for metal baking pans but be sure to invest in thicker grades of aluminum; poorer grades of aluminum tend to warp.

You might want to reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees and check on your food 8-12 minutes early if you’re replacing a metal pan for a glass dish. Metal heats up swiftly, and stays very hot in the oven. 

Use metal pans for: cookies, cakes, breads, muffins, and cupcakes.

Muffins in a metal muffin tray

Bakers tend to be avid testers and iterators. The material of the baking pan is just one of the variables they control and tweak. To perfectly replicate a recipe, it’s best to defer to the specifications of the baking pan mentioned.

If you choose to substitute the material of the pan, you’ll generally have to make some adjustments to the baking temperature and baking time.

Do you have any other criteria while choosing the optimal baking pan? Let us know in the comments!

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