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How to Buy the Best Bakeware for the Job

How to Buy the Best Bakeware for the Job

You owe it to yourself to invest in some good bakeware. Your cookies and cakes will thank you!

By FamilyTime

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Are you tired of cookies with burned bottoms? Cakes that aren't cooked in the center? Bread that sticks to the pan?

Chances are the problem can be traced to the bakeware, not the baker.

Inexpensive baking sheets and pans tend to warp with use, which results in poor heat conduction and uneven baking. High-quality bakeware insures even heat conduction and good results.

Although not universally true, a good rule of thumb is to buy heavy, solid-feeling bakeware.

Choose the Right Material
Bakeware, like cookware, is made of various materials: aluminum, cast iron, glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and nonstick heavy-gauge steel and aluminum. Each has its purposes.

Darker materials may require lower heat and shorter baking times than light, shiny ones.

Both anodized aluminum (sturdier than other aluminum) and insulated aluminum are excellent heat conductors and cool quickly. Cast iron, avoided by many home bakers because it's heavy and tricky to care for, absorbs and releases heat slowly. This is great for delicate-crusted cornbread and muffins.

Foods bake and brown more quickly in glass and ceramic. Watch these carefully -- you may have to shorten baking times.

Darkened stainless steel is the first-choice of many professionals because it absorbs and conducts heat so well. Tinned steel promotes browning.

Everyone loves nonstick bakeware. As well as being easy to clean, food releases easily and nonstick aluminum is a good heat conductor. However, these products tend to be less sturdy than others. If you buy it, look for high-quality nonstick items.

Stock the Basics
When you buy bakeware, do so on an as-need basis. No reason to spend hundreds of dollars all at once. Note that measurements provided by the manufacturer (such as 8-by-8-inches or 5-by-9-by-3-inches) are meant for the inside of the pan.

Baking Dishes: These relatively deep glass or metal pans are used for everything from coffee cake to lasagna. Although they come in many sizes, the most useful are a 9-by-13-by-2-inch rectangular pan and a square 8- or 9-inch "brownie" pan.

Baking Sheets: Also called cookie sheets, these are flat metal pans that allow for sliding cookies easily onto cooling racks. They usually have a low rim on one or two sides. Very dark baking sheets can cause cookies to burn on the bottom. Insulated cookie sheets insure against burning, but are not recommended for super crisp cookies.

Baking Pans: The most useful sizes are 10-by-15-by-1/2-inches and 12-by 17-by-½- inches. You may not find these exact sizes -- measurements can be off by an inch or so -- but look for pans that are close to these sizes. Baking pans are handy for sheet cakes, rolls and buns.

A word of warning: If you have a small oven, measure it before you leave the house to buy baking pans. You want anything you purchase to fit in the oven!

Cake Pans: You will need at least two of these pans if you plan to bake layer cakes. The most useful sizes are 8- or 9-inches round and 1 ½ to 2 inches deep. Choose heavy metal pans.

Loaf Pans: These are also called bread pans. The most common size is 9-by-5-by-3-inches, although some are slightly smaller. Mini loaf pans are also available, measuring approximately 6-by-4-by-2-inches.

Muffin Pans: Standard muffin (or cupcake) pans have 6 or 12 cups. These hold about 6 tablespoons of batter. Jumbo and miniature (gem) cups are available, too.

Pie Pans: Metal pie pans and glass or ceramic pie plates measure 9- or 10-inches in diameter. If you bake in a glass plate, you can see when the bottom crust browns, although the quick heat conduction of the glass may cause the crusts to brown before the center cooks. The most useful pie pans and plates have wide rims to hold the crust.

Springform Pans: Useful for cheesecakes and other deep cakes, these deep, round pans have sides that expand when a clamp is released. This makes it easy to remove the cakes. The most common sizes for springform pans is 9- and 10-inches in diameter.

Bundt pans and angel food pans: These round pans have center tubes that help the cakes bake evenly by conducting heat to the middle of the cake. Bundt pans are fluted, while angel food cake pans are straight sided. Both are called tube pans and hold from 1 1/2 to 4 cups of batter. For most uses, buy tube pans that are 10 inches in diameter.

Take care of your bakeware. Wash and dry it thoroughly before storing it away from heat and light. If you shop wisely, you will only have to buy the sizes you need once in a very great while. And these useful pieces of equipment will become trusted kitchen companions.

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Tagged With: bakeware, baking, cake pans, bread, cookies

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