How we tested
Seven years after our last testing, we wanted to see if anything new could best the bargain loaf pan we had previously chosen as a winner, (which is still available for $6 in supermarkets). Seven pound cakes, seven loaves of sandwich bread, and hours of baking later, we had a motley crew of baked goods and some new thoughts about loaf pans.
Size was one primary factor that made a difference. Bigger pans allowed the sandwich bread to bake up a bit fluffier than did smaller pans but yielded dense, square pound cakes. Narrower pans were the only correct choice for pound cake and fine for sandwich bread.
Our other primary concern was browning. Light-colored aluminum finishes yielded pale, anemic-looking baked goods. On the other hand, the dark nonstick surface on our previous winner actually browned the bread and pound cake a shade too much. Despite its wide availability and low price, it's no longer our top choice. Glass Pyrex browned nicely, but the real star of the show had a gold-colored nonstick surface that yielded baked goods with a perfectly even, honeyed-copper crust.