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The Best Muffin Tins
Are gold-colored pans the new gold standard?
What You Need To Know
Do you know the muffin man? Well, forget him. Around these parts it’s the muffin woman. Or at least that’s what I’ve been calling myself after making 10 batches of muffins, 10 batches of cupcakes, and 10 batches of single-serve frittatas in a single week.
I was testing muffin tins. Our previous favorite had been discontinued, as had the second-place finisher, so it was time for a fresh look. We also wanted to examine a trend: Gold-colored pans have dominated our recent testings of rectangular baking pans, loaf pans, round cake pans, and square cake pans. Gold pans beat out darker and lighter pans in each category by easily releasing baked goods that had just the right amount of browning. With gold muffin tins now on the market, we wondered if the trend would continue.
To find out, we chose ten 12-cup muffin tins priced from $10.30 to $32.99. Three were gold or bronze, three were light or medium silver, and four were dark. In the past we’ve focused on nonstick muffin tins because easy release is key with tender muffins. But this time we included one without a nonstick coating; instead it had a very shallow snakeskin pattern etched into it, ostensibly to help with release.
We evaluated each muffin tin on its durability, release, handling, and the browning of the baked goods it produced. There were no issues with wear and tear, and only one model had a problem with release. Care to guess which? Yep, the one without a nonstick coating. Its textured pattern left us prying out muffins with a knife. We’ll stick with nonstick.
We noticed an interesting trend regarding the color of the muffin tins: In general, lighter models produced lighter-colored baked goods and darker ones made darker-colored baked goods. And the gold (or bronze) muffin tins produced browning that was right in the middle.
To understand why, we looked at the way heat works. In an oven, heat radiates out in waves. When the waves hit a pan, its atoms and molecules move faster, which heats everything up. But different materials absorb heat waves at different rates. In general, darker objects absorb more heat waves than lighter objects because lighter things reflect some of the waves. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve worn dark clothes on a hot, sunny day—black absorbs heat waves, so you feel hotter. Conversely, if you’re wearing white, you’re likely to feel cooler because the lighter fabric reflects some of the waves and thus absorbs less heat.
So the muffins from darker muffin tins were darker and had thicker crusts because they’d been subjected to more heat. And muffins from lighter muffin tins were paler and softer because they had been subjected to less he...
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