Think your choice in cookie sheets doesn’t matter? Think again. Most of the ones we tested ruined our cookies.
Published Feb. 1, 2013. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 7: Black and White Desserts
It’s just a flat piece of metal, so you’d think a cookie sheet couldn’t fail. In fact, we’ve seen them bake unevenly and warp, not to mention let cookies burn, stick, or spread into blobs. Cookie sheets come in many materials, sizes, thicknesses, and finishes, insulated or not, with rims or not. What would the best cookie sheets look like? Our previous favorite, bakes beautifully, but you have to buy it online or at restaurant supply stores. Is anybody making a quality cookie sheet for home bakers?
We gathered eight, including our previous winner, priced from roughly $12 to about $24, testing both single sheets and insulated versions. Manufacturers claim that insulated sheets heat more evenly and “allow virtually no chance of burning,” as one puts it. The air pocket between two layers of metal is designed to buffer heat, preventing hot spots and warping.
To test them, we baked three types of cookies (spritz, lemon, and lace) on both unlined and parchment paper–lined sheets, blending batches of dough and using the same oven so that the only variable was the cookie sheet being tested. First, we looked at how evenly the sheets baked. Not very, it turned out. Many produced pale cookies and dark cookies within a single sheet. Surprisingly, one of the insulated sheets bombed this test, not only baking unevenly but nearly burning every batch, too. We got the best results from two single-layer sheets. One baked slightly faster than recipe times indicated, but it baked evenly, creating flavorful deep-golden bottoms and paler tops. Our previous winner produced perfectly even cookies with matched tops and bottoms. As for the nonstick sheets, the slick surfaces encouraged the batter to run and ooze before it set, so instead of tall, distinct edges, these cookies tapered to thin edges that overbaked.
Whether evenly browned or not, all cookies should come off a baking sheet without sticking. To test how well sheets released cookies, we baked spritz cookies, which are so buttery they don’t require parchment paper. It took a little more effort to remove cookies from sheets with traditional finishes, but in every case but one, we managed. (In that case, the anodized matte surface was to blame, we learned. Anodizing, which helps prevent scratching, is also used to prepare metal for pigments or coatings by making the surface rougher and more porous—and more likely to stick, explained Hugh Rushing of the Cookware Manufacturers Association.) We turned to design. Lace cookies should spread into lovely lacy disks. But if your cookie sheet warps, the cookies run together or come out looking like amoebas. While...
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