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Nordic ware half sheet

My world and Super Bowl collide in the kitchen. What to make for Game Day? Delicious food that’s not distracting to eat. Enter my MVP of food prep for a crowd: the sheet pan.

The Good Stuff is a place where Good Housekeeping editors share the things they love, so you can shop smarter.

Whether you know it as a jelly-roll pan, a cookie pan, or a half sheet, this workhorse will make your party prep a breeze. My favorites are roughly 18 x 12 inches with 1-inch sides. Heavy weight is key as you’ll want to crank the oven for some of your snacks, and you don’t want the pan to warp. In our testing in the Good Housekeeping Institute, we also found that lighter color pans cook more evenly.

I prefer aluminum over nonstick finishes because it browns better — and when you want to bake or do something with a sticky glaze just line the pan with foil or parchment.

Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet

For the amount of use you’ll get from them, sheet pans are a steal. This two pack from Nordic Ware, a made-in-the-USA fave, meets all my requirements: light colored finish, commercial grade aluminum and reinforced steel rim to prevent warping. It costs about $25 and will halve your time for big batches.

Put those sheet pans to work with 60+ ultimate Super Bowl recipes — or you can find tons of great baking sheet recipes (70, to be exact!) in the Good Housekeeping Sheet Pan Cooking cookbook. While you’re shopping, consider a few kitchen utensils under $20 that are MVPs in my kitchen!

Under $20 Kitchen Favorites

Kuhn Rikon 3-Set Swiss Peeler amazon.com $7.99 ZYLISS Serrated Paring Knife amazon.com $8.84 OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoop amazon.com $12.99 GIR Silicone Ultimate Ladle GIR: Get It Right amazon.com $15.99

The Best Bundt Pan

Is there such a thing as a best bundt pan? After narrowing the field based on online reviews, articles published by other sites and the recommendations of our favorite bundt-obsessed pro bakers, we assembled a lineup of five promising pans to test. After baking a bevy of bundt cakes, we found a clear favorite. Read on to discover what made one bundt pan better than all the others.

Our best bundt picks:

  • The Best Bundt Pan: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Bundt Pan, $28 at amazon.com
  • Best-Value Bundt Pan: Wilton Recipe Right Fluted Tube Pan, $12 at amazon.com

In Search of the Best Bundt Pan

Image zoom Sarah Karnasiewicz

Invented around 1950 by a young husband-and-wife team in Minnesota, and popularized during the 1960s by a Texas bake-off contestant, the bundt cake has since become an all-American classic—and the bundt pan, a modern kitchen essential. Originally conceived as a lightweight, modern alternative to the heavy cast iron cookware traditionally used to make the central European cake called kugelhopf, the pan’s basic design was simple: a round tube-shaped loaf with a hollow center and a decorative, fluted pattern around the body.

Related: Bundt Cake Recipes

Today, variations on the form abound—bundts come in the shape of rosettes and castles and even pine forests—but from the simplest design to the most elaborate, the requirements of a quality bundt pan remain the same: it should be well-constructed to stand up to repeated use without denting or warping (which might mar the decorative shape); it should be generously-sized to accommodate the large batches of dough needed to feed a crowd (the name bundt is actually an adaptation of the German word bund, which loosely means “an alliance or gathering”); it should yield a cake that is evenly browned and shapely, with the well-defined curves that are the hallmark of the form; and it should be non-stick, allowing the cake to release effortlessly from the pan’s ridges and crevices without cracking or sticking.

Image zoom Sarah Karnasiewicz

Hoping to single out a pan that best meets those criteria—and earns a place in every baker’s arsenal—I spent hours baking my way through a bevy of of bundts, comparing their design, functionality and ease of use. What did I learn? While the competition may be stiff, most classics become classics for a reason—and in the case of bundt pans, the original remains the gold standard.

The Tests

Image zoom © Sarah Karnasiewicz

To hone in on the best bundt pan, I scoured the web, taking notes from culinary and consumer sites including King Arthur Flour, Food 52, Cooks Illustrated, Fine Cooking, The Sweethome, and the Kitchn, as well as user reviews on Amazon and conversations on forums like Real Baking with Rose Levy Berenbaum. I also went straight to the experts, interviewing Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the authors of Baked Explorations, Baked Occasions, and self described “bundt enthusiasts” who put dozens of bundt pans to the test day in and day out at their bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Using the recommendations gleaned from that research, I narrowed the field to five commonly available and classically shaped bundt pans with capacities ranging from 10-15 cups and a price of $12 to $31. To keep the variables the same, I baked the same recipe—this moist, orange-scented, olive oil bundt individually in each pan, in the same oven, for the exact same amount of time. Then I compared the results, checking to see how comfortable the pans were to handle, how evenly the cakes baked and browned, how well they kept their shape, how easily the cakes released from the pan, and how cumbersome the pans were to clean.

The Bundt Pans

Image zoom Sarah Karnasiewicz

While it’s possible to find bundt pans made of glass, stoneware and silicone, the overwhelming consensus among professional and amateur bakers is that metal—either aluminum or coated steel—is the best material in which to bake a bundt cake, thanks to both its sturdiness and its even and efficient heat conductivity. Silicone bundt pans, in particular, get routinely poor reviews—and just mentioning them can get professional bakers all worked up. “Never, ever, ever use a silicone bundt pan,” Lewis and Poliafito told me. The reason? Silicone is squishy and unstable—a bad match for hefty bundt batters, which may spill or sag when not properly contained. Also, due to the material’s poor conductivity, batters baked in silicone will never brown deeply—a must for a properly-baked bundt cake. Considering this, in the end I chose to test only metal pans.

Never, ever, ever use a silicone bundt pan.

I also found that most cooks agree that when it comes to bundts—with their elaborate whirls, curves, and crevices that seem tailor made for trapping cake—a nonstick surface is indispensable. Indeed, even when using a nonstick surface, most professional bakers and cookbook writers recommend buttering and flouring your pan, or coating it thoroughly with a nonstick cooking spray before filling.

The color of a bundt pan’s surface will also play a role in the texture and attractiveness of the final product: In general, light-colored surfaces perform better than darker ones, as the dark surfaces may produce a crust that is dry is overly browned before the cake’s interior has had enough time to bake properly.

The market is littered with mini bundt pans of assorted shapes and sizes, but because the most common size for bundt pans is between 10 and 12 cups, I confined my experiments to models that fell in or near that range. Generally speaking, if you want a larger pan, it’s smart to seek out one that looks taller, not wider—wider pans produce squatter, less dramatically architectural cakes.

Image zoom Sarah Karnasiewicz

Most recipe developers design recipes for 10-cup bundt pans, so home bakers will be best served by a pan that accommodates that amount at a minimum. If you want to adapt a non-bundt specific recipe, the form is fairly forgiving—in general, a cake recipe that yields enough batter for two 9″ rounds or one 9″ x 13″ pan will also fit a typical bundt pan. One rule of thumb that Lewis and Poliafito recommended: any sturdy cake batter or quick bread that is typically baked in a loaf pan will also do well in a bundt—but avoid delicate, airy cakes, which will just fall apart. When you are filling your bundt, ideally the batter should come ⅔ up the sides of the pan before baking. Overfill it and you’ll have a mess on your hands, underfill it and you’ll wind up with a thin, squat cake. If you are unsure of the capacity of your pan, you can measure it by filling it with water one cup at a time.

Finally, when ranking the pans I kept in mind the small design features—like easy-grip handles, a satisfying weight, and attractive proportions—that can add up to a big difference in the experience of baking and the aesthetics of the finished cake. And while today’s makers produce bundt pans in a dizzying array of creative designs, I limited my tests to the “classic” shape: a ring-shaped series of peaks and rounded curves that Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito call Bundt 101, and is beginner friendly, always beautiful, and easy to glaze. The more elaborate shapes, they warn, can be trickier to turn out of the pan and—while Instagram-friendly—don’t take as well to a variety of frostings or glazes.

Our Favorite Bundt Pans

The good news? It’s hard to go wrong with bundt pans—and no matter which one you buy, you’re likely to produce a cake that your friends and family will be thrilled to tear into. Every model I tested except one produced an evenly browned cake with a tender crumb, and released from the pan without incident. But when it came to ease of use, caliber of construction, and the aesthetics of the final product, one contender still stood out from the pack.

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

The Best Bundt Pan: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Bundt Pan, 10-15 cups

Nordic Ware is the company responsible for introducing the bundt pan to America and, more than half a century later, their products are still the baker’s gold standard. With a sturdy cast aluminum body that was taller and narrower than its competitors, and deeply defined curves and ridges, the Nordic Ware bundt pan I tested produced a cake that was elegant and shapely, with clean lines and eye-catching architectural edges. I loved how easy the generous handles made maneuvering the pan into and out of the oven, and was glad to have something to grip when it came time to turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. With a capacity of 10-15 cups—the largest of all the models I tested—it would be large and versatile enough to accommodate an array of recipes. And though, at $30, it is considerably pricier than the other models, it comes with a lifetime guarantee and, given its superior performance, feels worth every penny. What’s more, Nordic Ware is still a family owned company and produces all of its products in the USA. Ultimately I had to agree with Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who put it this way: “Nordic Ware pans are just special. You can still feel the enthusiasm about the product from the company—it’s still got a mom and pop feeling, even though it has grown to a global scale.”

To buy: amazon.com, $28

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

Best-Value Bundt Pan: Wilton Recipe Right Fluted Tube Pan

I was impressed by the even golden color of the bake in this simple, inexpensive pan, and appreciated the durability and reliability of the nonstick surface. Also: aside from the Nordic Ware pan, this was the only other model to produced a cake with decent height and somewhat well-defined fluting. It also cleaned up easily.

To buy: amazon.com, $8

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

Runner-Up: Anolon Advanced Nonstick Bakeware 9.5″ Fluted Mold Pan

I enjoyed the feel of the soft, easy grip handles on this sturdy pan, and was pleased by the consistency and depth of color of the cake it produced. The nonstick surface also worked well, and the finished cake slid out readily after just a few minutes of cooling. My only qualms? The surface of the cake seemed a bit artificially shiny in comparison to the matte texture of the Nordic Ware cake, and the decorative ridges and curves were considerably less pronounced, resulting a less visually interesting cake.

To buy: amazon.com, $22

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

Our favorite was easy to use and produced a cake that was elegant and shapely, with clean lines and eye-catching architectural edges. Plus, it comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Courtesy of Amazon Courtesy of Amazon

Runner-Up: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 9 1/2-inch Fluted Cake Pan

This basic pan was a serviceable contender, producing a uniformly browned cake that was well baked all the way through and slid neatly from the pan with cracking or crumbling. But I was unimpressed by the lackluster looks of the under-defined decorative curves and ridges, especially considering that such features are one of the defining hallmarks of the bundt cake form.

To buy: amazon.com, $7

Also Tested: Bakers Secret Basics Nonstick Fluted Tube Pan

The only model I tested that did not produce an evenly browned cake, this inexpensive pan was the weakest performer of the lot and its decorative curves were too shallow to produce a dramatic silhouette. Still, to its credit, the nonstick surface worked well, and the cake was tasty if not as pretty as the others.

To buy: amazon.com, $10

We compared how fast the food cooked on the various trays; whether the trays warped at high temperatures; and which remained hot after coming out of the oven (not optimal when you’re looking to reduce the carry-over cooking that can lead to too-crisp cookies or tough fish fillets. We also looked at how many sticky, brown bits remained on the tray after transferring the food to serving dishes. We then washed all of the trays by hand with warm soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge; we assessed the difficulty of cleaning each one and whether the basic tasks had left stains and scratches.

Of all the materials we tested, aluminum yielded the most evenly browned results.

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell

Factors We Evaluated

Because a sheet pan serves so many purposes, it has to be sturdy, reliable, and easy to clean. It should survive some wear and tear—this isn’t a piece of kitchen equipment we want to be delicate with—and deliver the results we’re looking for, whether that’s a crisp, brown bottom on a grandma-style pizza, a golden-hue on tender sugar cookies, or charred florets on broccoli blasted at high heat.

Below are the features we took into consideration when searching for the best sheet pan, and what we recommend you look for before purchasing:

Material

When it comes to heat conduction, bare aluminum is queen. It heats up quickly and cools down fast, which means your food will start cooking when it goes into the hot oven and stop cooking when it comes out. It’s also light in color, which gives you more control over just how brown the bottom of your cookies, cakes, or pizzas become. Aluminized steel, which is essentially steel sandwiched in aluminum, is more likely to heat unevenly, and stainless steel is widely known to be a poor performer in this category, which explains why the stainless steel baking sheet we tested was so unreliable.

Size

While a standard “half sheet” tray is 18×13, not all rimmed half sheets have these exact dimensions. Of the sheets we tested, one was 16×12, another was 17×11¼ , and some were a true 18×13, with more sizes in between. This may not affect whether your vegetables get a nice char, but, if you’re cooking in a small oven, could determine whether the sheet fits inside.

Nonstick coating

Nonstick coatings are occasionally more trouble than they’re worth. Many are not super effective or will wear away over time. They also tend to be darker in hue when compared to bare aluminum models. These darker trays absorb and radiate more heat, producing—no surprise here—darker results (cookies that were more brown than golden brown, for example).

Rolled edges

Superior to flat rims, rolled edges reinforced around a steel rim, like those on the Nordic Ware and Bellemain pans, reduce the risk of warping with dramatic changes in temperature.

Gauge

When it comes to thickness, a lower gauge indicates a thicker pan. We preferred the 18-gauge Nordic Ware to the 19-gauge Bellemain.

Other Pans We Tested

In addition to the Nordic Ware, we tested three other bare aluminum sheet pans with the same dimensions and coloration: the Bellemain Heavy Duty Aluminum Half Sheet Pan, the Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pan, and the Artisan Professional Classic Aluminum Half Sheet. While all were comparable, the Nordic Ware had its advantages. The Bellemain pan, comparable in price to the Nordic Ware, is a bit thinner (19 gauge as compared to 18) and of the bunch, produced the blondest cauliflower and the focaccia with the lightest bottom. The Vollrath pan is much thicker than the Nordic Ware (13 gauge) and pricier, too ($23 per unit compared to $12), but produced middle-of-the-road results. As for the Artisan (18 gauge), it yielded average browning for the focaccia and cookies, but got a deduction for being difficult to clean; a bunch of browned bits from both the bread and the vegetables stuck and held on, even with vigorous scrubbing.

Nordic Ware Natural Prism Half Sheet Pan Review

Product Description: A new style of baking sheet pan from Nordic Ware, which comes in one smaller as well as one larger size as well. “Natural Aluminum; Interior Dimensions: 16.50″L x 11.375″W x 1.00″H; Exterior Dimensions: 17.88″L x 12.88″W x 1.06″H; Product Weight: 2.35; Lifetime Warranty; Made in the USA.” The “Prism” line also includes two sizes of high-sided baking pans – a 13 x 18-inch and a 9 x 13-inch.

Company description: “Embossed grid pattern enhances the performance of our supremely functioning baking pans. Exclusive Natural Prism grid adds strength, durability, scratch-resistance, easy release and improves air flow for crisping.”

Test Kitchen Overview: We immediately noticed the textured ridges on this pan. We wondered if they would make a difference during baking so we made cookies both directly on the pan as well as on parchment paper laid on top of the pan; we also made granola spread out directly on the pan. The hefty weight and general high quality construction was immediately apparent as well – as we have come to expect from Nordic Ware.

As you can see in the images, the bottoms of the cookies baked directly on the pan were perfectly and evenly browned. They even picked up a bit more caramelization than the ones baked on parchment, and we liked that very much.

The slight texture to the pan encouraged very even browning with our granola as well – and even though the sticky oat mixture was directly on the pan, clean up was a breeze.

Pros: Standard half-sheet pan, which is a size we reach for often. Large enough to hold a bunch of cookies but will fit in standard sized ovens, taking advantage of the rack size. Priced very well for such a great piece of equipment that will last for years.

Cons: Not a necessary item, but a solid addition to your equipment.

Suggested Use: Anytime you need a baking sheet pan with great heat conductivity. Would also make a great holiday gift for the bakers in your life.

Where to Buy: From Amazonor Nordic Ware directly. Ranges from $17.95 to $22.50

Have you tried this product? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Bakepedia received this product as a gift for review. All opinions are the reviewer’s own.

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Rimmed Baking Sheets

How we tested

Rimmed baking sheets, also called half-sheet pans, are true workhorses in the test kitchen. We have stacks of them that we use every day for obvious tasks like baking cookies or roasting oven fries or root vegetables. But we also use them for baking chicken or fish, toasting nuts and seeds, roasting vegetables such as green beans and asparagus, and baking jelly roll cakes. More unusually, we use baking sheets for sorting dried beans or spreading out cooked rice or pasta to cool before making salads. In a pinch, an inverted baking sheet can even stand in for a pizza peel or baking stone. And that’s just the start. Slipping a wire cooling rack inside (to elevate food for increased air circulation and also to contain mess) makes these pans even more versatile—it’s our go-to setup for roasting and broiling meats, holding breaded foods before and after frying, and drizzling chocolate over desserts.

To find the best rimmed baking sheet on the market, we selected eight standard-size models, all priced around $25.00 or less, to put through their paces in the test kitchen. We baked our way through jelly roll cakes and dozens of sugar cookies and then roasted 30 pounds of chicken thighs and more parsnips than anyone should ever have to look at. For each recipe, we examined how evenly foods browned across the surface of the pan, as well as how cleanly they released. Throughout testing, we kept a close eye on warping and evaluated how comfortable each pan felt when loaded with heavy foods.

Sizing up the Competition

First, some good news: It’s possible to bake, roast, and broil using all of the pans we tested. Most cookies and cakes baked to an appropriate pale golden brown. Meanwhile, chicken thighs and parsnips browned and cooked evenly in most of the pans and didn’t stick to any of the pans. But some pans made it harder to achieve good results.

We selected pans that either listed their dimensions as approximately 18 by 13 inches or that called themselves “standard” size; the dimensions refer to the lip-to-lip measurements, and the actual usable cooking surface on most of these pans was about 16½ inches by 11½ inches. There was one noticeable outlier. Its cooking surface was 18 inches by 12 inches, so a jelly roll cake made in this pan was too thin, which threw off the ratios of the filled and rolled cakes. Even more damning was that this irregularly sized pan wasn’t compatible with our favorite wire cooling rack. The rack slid around precariously and left swirls of scratches. Racks sat snugly and securely in most other models.

The style of the pans’ edges also mattered. One had low, sloped sides; when we walked around the kitchen with it, liquid threatened to spill over the edges, which were just 7/8 inch tall. Another pan had unique ridged edges. The cakes that emerged from these pans tasted fine, but they looked odd. We much preferred models with straighter, smooth sides that were 1 inch or taller. They not only contained liquid and produced straight-sided cakes but also gave us something sizable to grip—especially important when carrying a hot pan using a bulky potholder.

The Heat Is On

Over the years, we’ve learned some tricks to get the most out of our baking sheets. When roasting meats and vegetables, more browning generally means more flavor. Much as you preheat a skillet before searing, say, a pork chop, we like to preheat baking sheets in a hot oven to create increased browning on roasted beef, chicken, root vegetables, cauliflower, and so on. That said, this preheating puts stress on the pan and can lead to warping. In fact, every pan we tested warped at least a little.

Happily, only one sheet in our lineup permanently warped enough to have an actual impact on cooking. In this model, the oil ran away from the center of the pan and pooled in the lower corners. As a result, some parsnips sizzled in a deep layer of oil, while others never made contact with the fat and emerged from the oven dry and leathery.

All of the pans we tested warped at least a little bit during testing—the result of metal expanding as it heats. When relatively cool food (like chicken thighs or parsnips) is placed in a hot pan, the metal directly below the food cools and starts to contract. The combination of expanding and contracting areas on a single pan creates a sort of twisting effect. Though most pans spring back into place when the hot and cool spots across the pan equalize, the pan will remain warped if the thermal stress is too great and the pan twists too much—what people in the metal industry refer to as exceeding its “elastic limit.” If you ever see a pan that won’t sit flat on the counter but instead rocks back and forth when you tap on it, that’s why. That’s what happened to the Fat Daddio’s ProSeries Jelly Roll Pan: It became dramatically warped and stayed that way, which contributed to its last-place ranking.

Superior Sheets

In the end, we were able to recommend nearly all of the baking sheets we tested. Most were good for both baking and roasting and cooked food uniformly. Cooling racks fit snugly, and jelly roll cakes came out perfectly. Still, two jumped ahead of the pack. Their cooking surfaces were the right size for a wire rack to fit snugly, and both boasted straighter, taller sides that contained food and offered us a good grip. They were also hard to scratch and turned out to be the most warp-resistant pans in the lineup. Even if warping doesn’t have much of an effect on cooking, given the choice we’d still rather have a pan that lies flat than one that doesn’t. The inexpensive Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet was slightly sturdier, which gave it the edge over our old favorite from Vollrath. This is a workhorse baking sheet we’ll be happy to use for years to come.

Setting a wire rack inside a baking sheet promotes air circulation, encouraging crisping and preventing sogginess when roasting or broiling meats. This setup can also hold breaded foods before and after frying and desserts while drizzling with chocolate or icing.

Perfect Fit

Our favorite rack—the Checkered Chef Cooling Rack—fits snugly in our winning baking sheet from Nordic Ware.

Methodology

We tested eight rimmed baking sheets, all measuring roughly 18 by 13 inches from rim to rim, using each to bake a jelly roll cake and lemon sugar cookies, roast parsnips, and roast and broil chicken thighs. We evaluated how evenly the food cooked and how cleanly it released from the sheets. We also rated their handling, strength, and resistance to warping and measured the dimensions of their cooking surfaces. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

BAKING: We baked a jelly roll cake and cookies in each sheet, giving higher scores for appropriately light golden-brown baked goods that baked evenly across the entirety of the cooking surface.

ROASTING: We preheated the sheets and roasted parsnips and chicken thighs on them, observing how evenly foods cooked across the entirety of the cooking surface. Those that browned and cooked foods evenly scored the highest.

WARPING: We preferred sheets that withstood high-heat ovens and rapid temperature changes with minimal warping.

HANDLING: To test comfort and ease of use, we fitted each sheet with a wire rack, prepared a mock roast (placing a 5-pound bag of flour atop the rack and 1/2 cup of water underneath it), and did a lap around the test kitchen. The best sheets felt comfortable and secure in hand, with tall, straight sides that were easy to grip and helped contain liquid.

RACK COMPATIBILITY: We often use wire cooling racks inside baking sheets. We deducted points if standard-size racks moved around inside the sheets or didn’t fit inside them completely.

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