These compact muffin tins fit easily in toaster ovens and kitchen cabinets. Which one is best?
Published Apr. 15, 2021. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 22: Flavor-Packed Chicken Dinner
If you bake muffins, cupcakes, or mini versions of baked goods such as pies, cheesecakes, and brownies, you need a muffin tin. We've always used 12-cup muffin tins, and we love our winner; it produces evenly baked, golden-brown food. Six-cup muffin tins, however, make half the number of baked goods. Their compact size means that they fit into smaller ovens, including our favorite countertop toaster oven, and are easier to store, a real plus in kitchens with limited space.
To find the best six-cup muffin tin, we gathered six models, priced from about $11 to about $26. The pans in our lineup were made from either metal or porcelain and ranged in color from white to gold to silver. All but two had nonstick coatings. We used each tin to bake Basic Muffins, Easy Birthday Cupcakes, and Muffin Tin Frittatas. We examined how easily food released, as well as the food’s overall shape and how evenly it browned. We also evaluated how comfortable the tins were to hold while moving them into and out of the oven and how easy they were to clean.
While we were happy with the foods produced in most of the tins, our results varied. The cups were shaped differently from pan to pan. Some were taller and narrower, while others were shorter and wider. Those differences affected the shapes of the baked goods they produced. Only one pan was a real problem, turning out unacceptably squat baked goods. Because the cups were shaped differently, capacites varied slightly from pan to pan, ranging from about 5 tablespoons to about 6½ tablespoons per cup. (For comparison, the cups of our favorite 12-cup muffin tin each hold roughly 7 tablespoons.)
The two models that had the smallest cup capacities offered less than ½ inch of space between the cups. As batter rose in each cup, the expanding tops of the cupcakes ran into each other. When we pulled one of these tins from the oven, we had what looked like one giant cupcake instead of six. Our favorite tins had larger cups as well as about 1 inch of space between the cups, giving us baked goods that were separated and distinct.
The dimensions of the pans also affected how easy they were to handle. Some of these pans had very little space around their rims. The rims on the smallest tins were just ½ inch wide, so we didn’t have a convenient place to put our hands. With these tins, we had to pay special attention to avoid accidentally dropping them or poking the baked goods with our oven mitt. Pans with rims that were at least 1 inch wide were easier to handle. We liked that we could securely grab them without inadvertently...
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Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.