There are oodles of options when it comes to baking sheets—it can be tough to choose the right one! From airy aluminum to heavy carbon steel, rimmed baking sheet to traditional cookie sheet, each sheet is going to help you achieve different kinds of baking.
That means choosing a baking sheet is all about what you’re using it for. Do you bake lots of cookies? Roast veggies every night of the week? Are you planning to make something fancy in a Great British Baking Show-fueled frenzy? And are you open to owning multiple baking sheets? We’ve found the best all-purpose pan on the market, but as both an avid baker and home cook, I own a couple of different pans so I can pick the best one for the job depending on what’s for dinner that night.
I know that it can seem overwhelming to realize that not all baking sheets are suited to the same tasks, but if you’re not sure where the differences lie, I’m here to walk you through it. Let’s figure out which kind of baking sheet is right for you.
What the heck should your sheet be made of?
Aluminum sheets like our favorite Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet warm up quickly, cool down like a charm, and conduct heat evenly. This is ideal for most things you want to make in the oven, particularly pastries. Just make sure your sheet isn’t too thin, as a thinner sheet will warp at high temperatures and is liable to burn the bottoms of your baked goods while leaving the tops unfinished. However, a silicon baking mat or piece of parchment paper goes a long way toward making baking even and cleanup easy.
One thing to be careful about: Try not to put anything too acidic (like tomatoes or lemons) on your aluminum sheet, as the acidity can react poorly with the metal.
Steel sheets like the aluminized steel Farberware Cookie Pan come in a few varieties: carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminized steel, and tri-ply (stainless steel with an aluminum core). These are all heavier than their aluminum counterparts and don’t conduct heat as evenly. They also retain heat for longer, which leads to crispier or browner goodies. So while this isn’t ideal for cookies, it’s great for breads and pizzas that need a hotter surface. Personally, I love roasting vegetables in a carbon steel pan because of the way they caramelize—but I definitely need two hands to get that heavy pan out of the oven.
What on Earth is an Airbake pan?
An insulated or “Airbake” sheet like the Airbake Nonstick Cookie Sheet is my favorite for cookies. These pans are essentially two sheets of metal with an air pocket between them. This prevents food from burning and is therefore perfect for baking delicate cookies and pastries. Airbake pans aren’t as practical for all-purpose cooking though—they tend to lack rims, which makes it harder to roast vegetables, cook meat, toast granola, or really anything that could easily fall off the side of the pan.
Nonstick, or no?
Nonstick sheets like the Wilton Recipe Right 3 Piece Cookie Pan Set make food removal and cleaning a breeze. That said, you have to be careful not to use anything metal—fork, knife, spatula, Samurai sword—with it so you don’t scratch the coating. Even so, that delicate nonstick coating will eventually wear off, at which point you’ll need to get rid of the pan. These pans aren’t meant to be lifetime kitchen companions… they’re meant to be convenient for a while, then replaced.
Nonstick pans are also thinner on the whole, meaning they’re more likely to warp at high temperatures and struggle with even baking. Still, there’s no denying how nice it is to be able to roast veggies and bake cookies directly on the sheet without the hassle of sticking.
Uncoated sheets will last longer, but your food is more likely to burn onto the pan. This means more elbow grease when it comes to cleaning time—or tossing a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of your tray before throwing in your goodies.
Do you need a rim on your baking sheet?
Traditional cookie sheets such as the Airbake Nonstick Cookie Sheet do not have a rim around the edge, though sometimes they’ll have a lip to act as a handle. This means you can easily slide cookies onto a cooling rack en masse. However, these sheets are impractical for other types of cooking, as vegetables might fall off, and anything that produces juice (chicken, apples, etc.) is going to drip all over your oven.
Rimmed baking sheets like the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet, my friends, are the workhorses of your kitchen. A ½-inch to 1-inch rim around the edge means you can easily move granola or vegetables around for even browning, cook up a chicken and let surrounding food marinate in the juices, and just generally keep food on your pan where it belongs. The only downside is that you have to take cookies and pastries off one-by-one—which is why it’s often convenient to own one cookie sheet and one rimmed baking sheet. But if you have to buy just one, you’re probably going to want the more all-purpose rimmed baking sheet.
So what should you buy?
For all-purpose cooking and baking, try a lightweight rimmed aluminum baking sheet like the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet.
For roasting veggies and baking breads or pizzas, try a sturdy rimmed steel baking sheet such as the Farberware Nonstick Cookie Pan.
For baking cookies or pastries, go for a rimless, insulated cookie sheet like the Airbake Nonstick Cookie Sheet.
For more information about baking sheets and how we’ve tested them, see our roundup of the best cookie and baking sheets of the year.