Baking novice or guru, it pays to have a good understanding of the best baking trays and tins to have. Nothing worse than getting super-excited about trying out a new recipe, then finding you don’t have the right baking tray for the recipe.
In this guide we’ll talk you through the different shapes, sizes and materials of baking trays and tins out there. There is a bewildering choice, particularly if you’re just starting out. And of course, the quality and prices can vary significantly. Baking trays can include:
- Basic flat baking trays
- Cupcake or Muffin trays
- Pie dishes
- Casserole dishes
- Bread tins
- Roasting tins
- Round Pizza baking trays
- Specialist baking trays
Best Baking Trays: What to consider
First of all, do your research. With an infinite number of possible things to bake, it pays to give some thought before making a purchase! Don’t rush out and buy the cheapest tins you can find. On the other hand, equally don’t pay over the odds if you don’t have to. Buying the right baking tray or tin can be a very sound investment. I mean, just look at your Granny’s baking tins; she has probably had them for over 40 years! (I know mine has!)
I recommend spending some time checking websites like this. There is a lot of information available and usually cover all the choices (and then some!) you might need.
Don’t forget to take advantage of Amazon’s wish list functionality, particularly in the run-up to Christmas or birthdays. If you’ve done the research beforehand this is a brilliant way of ensuring you are not disappointed. By being organised, you can avoid awkward situations, those fixed grins and wooden “thank yous”! We’ve all been there. It’s usually a present from an Aunt who doesn’t know you very well LOL!
What material are the best baking trays made from?
Simply put, this depends on what you intend to bake, what kind of oven you have, how experienced a baker you are etc. Baking trays, tins and pans can undoubtedly be made from a wide variety of materials. For example, metal, ceramic, glass and silicone, each have their own merits. Ultimately it would make sense to have some of each so you have options and can tackle most recipes.
Metal (Aluminium or Steel)
- Hardwearing, durable and generally scratch resistant
- Non-stick surfaces and PTFE free
- Great value
- Excellent heat conduction
- Can rust if not looked after well
Broadly speaking, metal baking trays are the most common. When most people think about baking trays, they think of black or grey metal baking tins. They can be made of steel or aluminium, and the majority may have a non-stick coating on the inside of the tin. Importantly, the non-stick coating serves two purposes. Firstly it makes it easier to remove your bake after cooking, and secondly it is much easier to clean!
Aluminium and steel trays have good heat conduction and are low cost, and as a result are perfect for beginners. On the whole, most aluminium baking trays are coated with a finish or anodized. This is an electrolytic process which accordingly makes the tray harder and more robust.
In addition, some premium baking trays may have a copper underside, similar to some hob pans. As a consequence, this spreads the heat evenly across the cooking surface. Copper baking or roasting trays can be used on most hobs as well as in the oven. To put it another way, they are super practical 🙂
Pay care and attention
If you choose a non-stick baking tray, take care not to use metal utensils on them. Scratching the surface reduces the effectiveness of the non-stick qualities, and as a result your food will get stuck! Given that, wooden or silicone spoons and spatulas would be more appropriate. Importantly, make sure you store them well in a dry place, otherwise they may rust.
Above all, make sure metal trays are dry when taking them out of the dishwasher before you put them in the cupboard!
When you’re cooking at high temperatures, be careful of thinner trays as they may warp a little. Crucially, if you’re going to be cooking at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius, use a deeper, stronger baking tin. We would recommend either Silverwood or Le Creuset baking trays – a little pricier, but worth every penny.
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Glass or Borosilicate Glass Baking Trays
- Brilliant heat conduction
- Easy to clean – non-stick and non-porous
- Stable in extreme hot or cold temperatures
- Visibility during baking – very helpful!
More often than not, some of the best baking trays are made from glass. By that I mean they are often made by Pyrex or similar manufacturers. Generally speaking they are less common in households than metal trays. They are made from tempered glass so the temperature conducts evenly, and unlike metal, absorbs the heat rather than reflecting it. For this reason, using a glass tray can speed up cooking times.
Grandparents swear by them and have several in their cupboards which they will have had for years. I have fond memories of my Gran’s rice pudding… What’s more they are pretty indestructible and clean well in the dishwasher. Hence, I think everyone should own at least one glass or Pyrex baking tray or casserole dish. Especially students or when you’re starting out in your first new home!
Presentation is everything!
Moreover they also look pretty awesome if you serve at the table. Apple crumble or lasagne, for example, works well, as you can see all the layers in the bake. Assuming you’re a reasonable cook, glass baking trays can make your dish visually very appealing.
On the other hand, the only downside to glass trays or dishes is that they can crack if moved between high temperatures too quickly. So try not to do that!
Also, when removing from the oven make sure you use a cooling rack to avoid it meeting a cold worktop. Once cooled, the amazing thing about a Pyrex-style glass dish is that it can then be put in the freezer!
Ceramic Baking Trays
- Hardwearing and durable
- Versatile – can be used for baking, roasting or casseroles
- Even heat distribution and can handle high temperatures
- Non-stick glazed surface
- Can be served straight from the oven to the table
Baking trays or casserole dishes made from ceramics are very hardwearing and durable, not dissimilar to glass. They can handle really high temperatures and have an even heat distribution. In lay terms, ceramic bakeware is made in clay then fired in a kiln, just like any pottery process. It is then subsequently coated in a non-porous glaze. Simply put, this seals the surface and makes it hygienic for food use. Ceramic baking trays tend to be non-stick thanks to that glaze. What’s more, they require relatively little greasing – making them just that little bit healthier!
Versatility is key
One of the other reasons why ceramic results in the best baking trays is their versatility. They can be used for baking, roasting or casseroling. You can also serve straight from the oven. As well as all that, a good-quality ceramic dish also looks good. For example, you can take it from the oven, put a heatproof mat on your dining table and voila! There’s no need for a separate serving dish, so this saves on the washing up!
Crucially, in the age of Instagram you can do worse than having an attractive baking tray or pie dish! It’s also very practical and reduces your dirty dishes by 50%! For example, in our house we have a set of ‘volcanic’ Le Creuset dishes (given as a wedding present). They are still in mint condition even having been used every month for, gasp, 19 years!
Silicone Baking Trays
- Fast, even heat conductivity
- Lightweight, flexible and available in a variety of colours
- Can handle extreme oven temperatures
- Risk of piercing when using knives or sharp utensils
Considered the rookie, silicone as a material for baking trays is a relatively recent invention. Silicone baking trays have a fast heat conductivity and even distribution, and are safe up to the most extreme oven temperatures. Be wary of the speed at which silicone heats up though. Cooking and cooling times often occur faster, so check your timings! You’ll need to adopt the ‘Great British Bake Off’ squat in front of the oven and keep an eye on them. These trays come in a range of fun, vibrant colours which lift the mood of any baker. They can go in the microwave and are easy to clean – just bang them in the dishwasher.
Plus they are also an extremely light construction. This makes them perfect for lifting – no heavy baking trays – so perfect for kids or the elderly. Unlike glass, they can handle those extreme temperature shifts from freezer directly to oven or microwave.
No sharp instruments please
Conversely, you need to be careful when using sharp knives or other implements. There is obviously more risk piercing than with glass, metal or ceramic. Also, as they are less rigid, you would need to put them on a firmer base. If the ingredients inside are quite dense they’ll start to sag in the oven without something to support them underneath.
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Shape and Size of Baking Trays
There is a baking tray of every size and shape imaginable. You need to be clear on what you want to use it for in terms of recipes or cooking. If you don’t, you run the risk of wasting your money.
Best Baking Trays: Rectangular (or Square)
The classic shape of a baking tray, partly because this makes the best use of your square or rectangular oven shelves! The most common and probably best value baking trays come in this form. The lip of the tray can often be quite low. This is great for getting heat circulating around your baking or joint of meat. Be wary, however, that juices or liquid don’t spill over the edges and splatter over your oven base – you’ll only have to clean it later! Our preference when cooking a joint of meat or roast potatoes, for example, is to use a rectangular metal roasting tin about 2-3cms in depth.
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Best Baking Trays: Loaf Tins
These baking tins are much deeper and tend to be rectangular. They are used for baking bread or loaf-shaped cakes (for example banana, ginger or lemon drizzle cake etc.) Loaf tins come in a range of materials but probably the most common is metal or aluminium. Great for a good consistent heat across the surfaces, but if your non-stick is wearing off then scratches will occur as you extract your loaf from the tin. Greaseproof paper or tailored tin liners can often help here.
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Best Baking Trays: Round
A wide, shallow-lipped baking tray is perfect for baking food like pizzas. You can get pizza trays with small holes in, these allow heat to come directly to the base of the pizza. This means you achieve a crispier base and avoid soggy bottoms. Round trays which have higher sides have a loftier purpose – they are used for baking cakes or quiches.
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Best Baking Trays: Muffins and Cupcakes
These baking trays have several cupcake-sized indents which can hold cupcake or muffin cases in place whilst the mixture has not yet cooked. They are a common style of baking tray and universally recognised, usually with 4, 6 or 12 indents. This will be a crucial piece of kit for your cupcake recipes! They can also be used to make brilliantly-shaped Yorkshire puddings.
It’s worth also considering what utensils you’ll need to bake cupcakes in addition to the tray.
Best Baking Trays: Multi-section and Bespoke
These trays are designed for bakes which can be tricky to get out of the tin after cooking. Springform or loose-bottomed baking trays have sides which release or bases which push up, which make it easy to get your bake out. Some Silverwood baking trays, for example, have multiple sections to make different-sized cakes. There is one downside – they must be well-sealed and not warped or damaged, otherwise you’ll have an unfortunate leakage (and be cleaning the bottom of the oven again!).
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Best Baking Trays: Baking Stones
You might have seen these used in some restaurants or gastropubs, particularly in relation to steak. These are made from ceramic or terracotta with a glazed coating, and allow you to recreate traditional hot stone cooking like homemade bloomer loaves, bread rolls and pizzas.
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Taking Care of the your Baking Trays
There’s no reason why your baking trays shouldn’t last for years – if not decades – if you look after them. This makes then exceptional value for money! What else can you buy in this price range which can still look in mint condition 20 years later?
You should allow your baking trays to cool before you start washing them, particularly in cold water, to avoid warping. Thinking about non-stick surfaces, it is important not to scour or scratch them otherwise you risk losing the non-stick properties. Avoid using metal scourers or knives to scrape off baked-on food.
Importantly, baking trays should be stored in dry places, and not put away wet to avoid rusting on metal trays.
Glass, ceramic trays and casserole dishes are relatively easy to clean. Remember though that they can obviously get chipped or cracked if not looked after well.
How much do baking trays cost?
No matter the budget, you need to get the best value. As already mentioned, make the right purchase, look after it and your tins and trays can last for years. Lower quality, thinner baking trays may warp in hot ovens. Thick, heavier trays can take more punishment and will be more durable. Talk to your friends and family, get recommendations on what works for them. It’s no different to clothes or shoes – don’t be afraid to ask, “Ooooh…that’s lovely, where did you buy that?”.
Check the prices and reviews on Amazon before you buy. Get a sense for the rough price range, then read reviews from existing customers. How are they using the trays? What are they cooking on them? What are the positive or negative comments? Chances are, if the product is working well for many other Amazon customers, it will for you too!