After testing four new loaf pans, the Rachael Ray Yum-o! Oven Lovin' Loaf Pan remains our top pick. We've also added the Staub Enameled Cast Iron Loaf Pan, the Le Creuset Heritage Stoneware Loaf Pan, and more to this guide.
Wonder why your banana bread doesn’t come out so great? Maybe the problem is your pan. In a good loaf pan, your quick breads will bake within the time called for in your recipe. They’ll come out rounded on top with crispy (but not thick or tough) crusts, with moist and tender interiors. In other words, they’ll bake perfectly.
So, we spent several weeks making lots of white bread, banana bread, and meatloaf to find the best loaf pan for your baking needs. Our winner, the Rachael Ray Yum-o! Oven Lovin' Loaf Pan(available at Amazon for $11.99) is reasonably priced and super easy to use in addition to giving great baking results. However, if you prefer a pan for tender cakes with a light-colored crust, you might like the USA Pan Loaf Pan—they also make one of the best pie pans we tested—(available at Amazon). And, if you’re trying to avoid a pan with a nonstick finish, our top choice is the Pyrex Easy Grab Loaf Dish (available at Amazon).
To help you spend wisely, we first tested eight loaf pans, each roughly 9-by-5-by-3 inches, and compared their grip, ease of use, and how well they baked our recipes. In the second round of testing, we added four more popular loaf pans to this guide.
These are the best loaf pans we tested, ranked in order:
Rachael Ray Yum-o! Oven Lovin' Loaf Pan
USA Pan Loaf Pan
Pyrex Easy Grab Loaf Dish
Wilton Perfect Results Loaf Pan
AmazonBasics Nonstick Carbon Steel Bread Pan
Staub Enameled Cast Iron Loaf Pan
Williams Sonoma Traditionaltouch Pullman Loaf Pan
Nordic Ware Naturals Loaf Pan
Le Creuset Heritage Stoneware Loaf Pan
Emile Henry Ruffled Loaf Pan
Chicago Metallic Textured Loaf Pan.
Great Jones Breadwinner Loaf Pan
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It has a silly name and it doesn’t look like a professional tool, but when it came to results and ease of use, we liked everything about the Rachael Ray Yum-o! Oven Lovin' Loaf Pan for loaf baking. First of all, the handles are large and have silicone inserts in Rachael’s signature orange color that make it super easy to get a firm grip on the pan. The nonstick finish never faltered, even when we didn’t grease the pan. And because the nonstick finish is dark, it gave a nice deep crust to white bread. The Rachael Ray is roomier than some of the others we tested, so meatloaf juices never bubbled over onto the oven floor. As it’s safe up to 500°F, you can quickly brown off a crumb topping, if need be.
When you’re baking a lemon pound cake, bread loaf, or a blueberry quick bread, you probably don’t want a thick and deeply browned crust. For those times, it’s best to choose a pan with a light-colored finish. Our top performer in this category was the USA Pan Loaf Pan, which is made of steel coated with aluminum. It has a colorless silicone nonstick finish that helped everything we baked pop right out of the pan and made hand washing a cinch. The downside to this pan is that it has no handles so you have to grasp it firmly on the sides.
Hi, I'm Valerie Li Stack, Reviewed's senior staff writer on the kitchen team. I've tested a range of kitchen gadgets from espresso machines to mini food processors since joining Reviewed. As an avid baker, I'm always on the hunt for better tools and equipment that make the process stress-free.
And I'm Sharon Franke. I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for more than three decades. Before that, I cooked and baked professionally in New York City restaurants for seven years. I know that as simple as quick breads and pound cakes sound, they’re not that easy to get right. A good loaf pan can help you get Instagram-worthy and delicious results.
We tested eight loaf pans in the first round of testing and added four later. In each pan, we baked two banana breads from two different recipes, two white breads using store-bought dough, and a classic meatloaf. As we worked, we noted if we could get a good grip on the pans, how well-baked items released from the pans, how easy the pans would be to transport, whether or not they were dishwasher safe, and how much effort needed to be put into cleaning them by hand. We noted if the pans could withstand a high temperature if you wanted to brown off a crumb topping on a coffee cake or a glaze on a meatloaf.
How to Choose the Best Loaf Pan
Loaf pans come in a variety of sizes, colors, and materials. For best results, it’s important to use the size called for in your recipes. If you use a different size, your baked goods may not come out with the texture and/or height that you expected and may also take more or less time to bake than specified in the recipe.
Dark-colored pans hold in more heat and consequently give a darker, thicker crust, which makes them excellent for breads. However, you may also want to have a lighter colored pan in your collection for those times when you’re baking cakes and prefer a lighter, more tender crust.
For ease of use, you can’t beat metal pans. They’re lightweight and easy to handle and of course, pretty much unbreakable. If you plan to serve right from the pan, ceramic or glass pans are more attractive. However, they may not brown as deeply or evenly as metal pans.
Our tests proved that nonstick pans really help when it comes to releasing baked goods and cleaning up. But even when you use a pan with nonstick finish, it’s best to grease the pan as extra insurance against sticking.
Other Loaf Pans We Tested
Best Non-Nonstick Loaf Pan
Pyrex Easy Grab 1.5-qt Loaf Pan
If you’re hell-bent on avoiding nonstick, consider the Pyrex Easy Grab Loaf Dish. Just be absolutely sure to grease the glass well before using it for baked goods. With its large handles, the Easy Grab is a great upgrade on the classic Pyrex glass pan as it lives up to its name and lets you get a really good grip even with bulky oven mitts. Unlike many of the metal pans, this one can be cleaned in the dishwasher and can also be used for microwaving meatloaf.
The measurements are embossed right on the handle of the Wilton Perfect Results Loaf Pan so you never have to wonder if you’re using the right size pan for your recipe. With its dark-colored nonstick finish, it gave our white bread beautiful crusts. But we did get some sticking, so make sure you grease this pan well. When it comes to clean up, the nonstick finish does come in handy.
You can’t beat the price on the Amazon Basics Nonstick Carbon Steel Bread Pan which is sold as a set of two. If you’re baking pumpkin or zucchini bread to give as a gift you can gift the pan right along with the loaves or if you bring one to a party, not worry if you forget to bring home the pan. The dark nonstick gave a nice dark crust to bread but occasionally failed to release cleanly. While the pan does have handles, they’re small and can be hard to grasp with bulky oven mitts.
This enameled cast iron loaf pan doesn’t require seasoning. It made a perfect loaf of banana bread with a superbly browned exterior and evenly cooked interior. Though it weighs 6 pounds, making it the heaviest loaf pan we’ve tested, its two handles make lifting and transporting the pan to and from the oven a lot easier.
For people who cook a lot in loaf pans and expect a perfect outcome each time, the Staub won’t disappoint. Thanks to its cast iron construction, it can be brought up to a temperature higher than other pans we’ve tested and maintains that temperature so the food gets evenly cooked.
However, in terms of cleaning and maintenance, the dark color made it harder for our tester to see the food bits that got stuck in the pan.
The Williams Sonoma Pullman Loaf Pan is a durable, solidly made choice for those who regularly bake a loaf of sandwich bread. It’s made of aluminized steel, which is known for even and quick heat distribution. It has a sliding lid that helps rising dough to swell and form into a perfectly square-shaped loaf.
The banana bread had a nice shape and was exceptionally tasty, but the exterior didn’t obtain much browning. The sandwich loaf was airy and soft. However, if you prefer a crusty bread, this loaf pan may be too gentle for that—the loaf had a light golden finish.
Cleaning the pan is straightforward in most cases. If you make a loaf of bread, there won’t be too much scraping for you to do. However, if you make a meatloaf, the corner construction makes reaching leftover grease difficult and may encourage grime build-up over time.
This is a simple light-colored aluminum pan without a nonstick finish of any kind. By using the Nordic Ware Naturals Loaf Pan, you’ll avoid over browning which you’ll appreciate when you’re baking a pound cake but might miss if you’re the kind of person whose favorite part of a loaf of sourdough is the crispy chewy crust. You will definitely want to hand wash the Nordic Ware or the aluminum will discolor and could skew your results.
This stylish ceramic loaf pan has two large, flared handles and the iconic Le Creuset color scheme. It made a soft, creamy loaf of banana bread despite the exterior being on the paler side of all the banana bread we baked. We like the smooth ceramic construction with curves, which made cleaning much easier than the straight-sided pans.
However, the pan isn’t without flaws. This pan was the slowest in our tests to reach the optimal temperature for bread. As a result, the bottom of the sandwich bread didn’t fully expand and the top grew much bigger than the bottom, leading to a final product that was too wobbly to stand on its own. It also doesn’t retain heat well, as evidenced by the sloppy shape of the banana bread.
Made in France, the ceramicware Emile Henry Ruffled Loaf Pan comes in several sophisticated colors including burgundy, charcoal, and oak and has a decorative edge which makes it a smart choice if you opt to serve whatever you bake right from the pan. While it’s not really a good idea to cool breads and cakes in the pan, you could use the Emile Henry for a twist on the usual mac ‘n cheese or a lasagna. Plus, it’s microwave and dishwasher safe. However, it has no handles and it’s heavy so it’s not easy to maneuver in and out of the oven. In addition, it has a smaller capacity so the juices from a two-pound meatloaf boiled over onto the oven.
Chicago Metallic Uncoated Textured Aluminum 1-Pound Loaf Pan
While white bread rose high and beautiful in the Chicago Metallic Uncoated Textured Loaf Pan, our loaves came out with barely any browning on the sides or the bottom. In addition to not having a nonstick finish, this pan has very sharp corners where food gets stuck and is hard to get off. Plus, the pan has no handles so you have to grasp it by the sides to take it out of the oven.
The Great Jones Breadwinner loaf pan comes in a set of two and is available in green and blue. The pan is made in the U.S. of aluminized steel and finished with a layer of nonstick, ceramic coating. Similar to Great Jones’ cake pan, the bottom of the pan has a wavy, corrugated pattern.
Performance-wise, it baked a loaf of quick bread with a crispy exterior and a moist, soft interior. However, the unevenness was noticeable on the loaf—the side closer to the heating element was more cooked than the side close to the oven door. The uneven heat distribution caused more problems when baking the white bread, as part of the loaf domed more than the rest.
We also deducted a few points because of some usability issues. It has no handles, which makes transferring the pan inconvenient. Cleaning is also difficult—it was really hard for our tester to reach the corner crevices due to its depth and the straight sides. We don’t recommend making meatloaf or wet food in this pan because you won’t be able to get the grease out.
Valerie Li Stack is a senior staff writer for Kitchen & Cooking. She is an experienced home cook with a passion for experimenting with the cuisines of countries she's visited. Driven by an interest in food science, Valerie approaches the culinary scene with a firm grasp of cooking processes and extensive knowledge of ingredients. She believes food speaks to all people regardless of language and cultural background.
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