Rimmed Baking Sheets

From America's Test Kitchen Season 9: The Best Blueberry Pie

Overview:

Many times a day, our test cooks reach for a rimmed baking sheet. We use them for baking cookies, biscuits, scones, and jellyroll cakes, as well as for roasting oven fries and asparagus. With a wire cooling rack set inside, they're good for broiling or roasting meats and in prep work such as holding breaded cutlets before frying. Our baking sheets aren't just for baking—they are true kitchen workhorses.

But you'd be hard-pressed to find these essential pans in most cookware stores. Known as a half-sheet pan in restaurant supply stores, the real thing is made of heavy-gauge metal and measures 18 by 13 inches with a 1-inch rim all around. The closest thing you'll usually find in retail stores is a flimsy, too-small 15 by 10-inch "jellyroll pan."

Once we assembled several pans, a close look revealed that these pans are not identical. Rimmed baking sheets are formed by a machine that presses a flat metal sheet into a predetermined shape, maintaining consistent pressure so the metal will flow in without wrinkling or cracking. They… read more

Many times a day, our test cooks reach for a rimmed baking sheet. We use them for baking cookies, biscuits, scones, and jellyroll cakes, as well as for roasting oven fries and asparagus. With a wire cooling rack set inside, they're good for broiling or roasting meats and in prep work such as holding breaded cutlets before frying. Our baking sheets aren't just for baking—they are true kitchen workhorses.

But you'd be hard-pressed to find these essential pans in most cookware stores. Known as a half-sheet pan in restaurant supply stores, the real thing is made of heavy-gauge metal and measures 18 by 13 inches with a 1-inch rim all around. The closest thing you'll usually find in retail stores is a flimsy, too-small 15 by 10-inch "jellyroll pan."

Once we assembled several pans, a close look revealed that these pans are not identical. Rimmed baking sheets are formed by a machine that presses a flat metal sheet into a predetermined shape, maintaining consistent pressure so the metal will flow in without wrinkling or cracking. They can be made from different alloys and gauges of aluminum, aluminized steel (a thin coat of aluminum over steel), or a tri-ply sandwich of shiny stainless steel with an aluminum core.

After testing, we found that solid construction is more important than the choice of materials. A too-flimsy pan warps under high heat. We observed this when the oil pooled at one end of a warping baking sheet as we made fries in the 475-degree oven, resulting in uneven browning of the potatoes. And the thicker the pan, the better. A pan that is too lightweight can transfer heat too intensely, burning batch after batch of cookies.

These rimmed baking sheets were originally designed for baked goods such as cookies and jelly rolls, although the Test Kitchen has found many uses that go beyond their original design, including cooking meats (with a wire rack inside) and oven fries.

While we experienced varying levels of warping with our pans during testing, warping can happen with any sheet pan, even a heavy-duty one, under certain conditions. Abrupt temperature changes are likely to result in warping, for example, if an empty, cold baking sheet goes into a hot oven. Similarly, having only a few scattered pieces of food on a baking sheet creates different temperature zones on the metal, with some spots where the pan is shielded from heat under the food, and others where it is fully exposed to heat. Different temperature zones contract or expand at different rates as they are heated, which causes warping.

Slight warping does not affect the pan's cooking performance, however, to help prevent warping in your baking sheet, cover the pan's entire surface with food as uniformly as possible, and heat the pan gradually rather than abruptly. Using a wire grid cooling rack inside the sheet pan can help distribute heat better than cooking meats directly on the pan surface. We found a few brands of cooling racks that fit well inside our winning baking sheet (See related testing of cooling racks for details).

* Note: One of our recommended brands, Gourmet Standard, is no longer in business.

Methodology:

We tested eight brands of rimmed baking sheets, using the following criteria:

COOKIES

We preferred pans that produced evenly golden brown cookies with a domed shape.

JELLYROLL

We preferred pans that made a moist, evenly golden cake of a level thickness, released the cake easily, and produced a cake that rolled without cracking.

OVEN FRIES

Made with high heat in the oven, the fries were a good test of the pans’ ability to cook without warping and evenly brown the potatoes.

PORK

Chinese Barbecued Pork was roasted on a wire rack set into the baking sheet. We preferred pans that held a standard wire rack; could be easily maneuvered into and out of the hot oven; and could be carried across the kitchen without bending and splashing or dumping hot drippings on the cook.

WIGGLE AND WARP

We attempted to twist the pans while grasping them along the short ends, preferring pans that could not be twisted or wiggled. After cooking tests were completed, we placed the pans on a level surface and tapped them hard on one corner to see if they rocked; if so, the pan had warped.

DESIGN

We preferred pans whose interior dimensions were a standard half-sheet size, so wire racks and parchment paper fit without gapping or adjustment; had a rolled edge that did not trap water; and had a durable finish.

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