Whether you’re a seasoned baker or you’re learning how to bake your first batch of homemade cookies, one thing’s for sure: a good set of baking sheets are a must-have for your kitchen.
But with so many options out there, it can be hard to pick, especially if you don’t know what to look for. As someone who’s been using baking sheets for a long time, I wrote this crash course to help you pick the best ones on any budget.
So keep on reading if that sounds like what you came here to find out.
Table of Contents
- What Are Baking Sheets Made Of?
- How Many Baking Sheets Do I Need?
- Where to Buy Baking Sheets
- Are Baking Sheets and Cookie Sheets the Same?
- How Long Do Baking Sheets Last?
- Are Baking Sheets Magnetic?
- Can Baking Sheets Be Recycled?
- In Conclusion
What Are Baking Sheets Made Of?
First things first. Not all baking sheets are created equal, and a steep price tag doesn’t necessarily guarantee high quality. So here’s everything you need to know about the different materials that baking sheets are made of (and why it matters).
Most baking sheets are made of aluminum or stainless steel. Some have a cooking surface of bare metal; others have non-stick coatings. They tend to come in one of three standard sizes: 1/4 sheet pans (9×13 inches), 1/2 sheet pans (18×13 inches), and full-sized sheet pans (26×18 inches).
Aluminum is inexpensive and conducts heat well, which is why it’s the more popular metal of the two. Since full-sized sheet pans are too big for home ovens and will only fit those in commercial kitchens, half-sheet pans are the most common size.
Let’s take a closer look at the three best and most popular options that you can find at any online retailer or department store.
Aluminum Baking Sheets
Aluminum is the most common material for baking sheets. It’s cheap, lightweight, and conducts heat very well, so your sheets will be easy to carry around, and they’ll get up to heat shortly after you’ve placed them in the oven.
Equip your aluminum baking sheets with cooling racks, and you can chill hot foods fresh out of the oven or from the deep frier on an elevated wire mesh that sits above the flat surface so that they don’t durn soggy on the bottom. This, by the way, is the secret to perfectly-textured fried foods of many professional chefs.
Though they’re effortless to clean by hand with soapy water, aluminum baking sheets can’t go in the dishwasher (the main reason behind this is that the chemically aggressive dishwasher detergent will discolor the metal).
One more drawback to aluminum sheets is that they react to acids, imparting a metallic taste and leaching small amounts of the metal into recipes that call for adding citrus fruit, tomatoes, vinegar, and wine. Because of this, some cooks prefer to look at alternatives.
- Heat up quickly and evenly
- You don’t need to worry about scratches
- Aluminum won’t rust, so they’ll last for a lifetime
- Can only be cleaned by hand; will discolor in dishwasher
- Impart a metallic taste and leach dietary metal into to acidic foods
Nordic Ware’s Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheets (2-Pack) are designed for commercial use. But with dimensions of 7.88 x 12.88 x 1.06 inches (length, width, and height), they are compact enough for your home kitchen.
At the price that they sell for, these sheets will exceed your expectations. They’re made in the USA by Minneapolis, MN, company Nordic Ware, which has been making some of the best bakeware on the market since the early 1950s.
Thanks to the reinforced encapsulated steel rim, they’re sturdy and won’t warp as easily as most other products out there. And they’re made of pure aluminum, which will never rust and can last you a lifetime.
All in all, a pretty sweet deal, even if you intend to use them for baking other things than cookies.
Non-Stick Baking Sheets
Most non-stick baking sheets are baking sheets made of steel or aluminum and coated with a layer of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which keeps food from sticking to their surface.
Many of us know PTFE by the brand name Teflon that belongs to The Chemours Company, a spin-off from American company DuPont, whose scientists invented the chemical in the late 1930s.
PTFE and Teflon are two names for the same thing, in case you’re wondering. It’s just that everyone can produce PTFE, but only Chemours can call it Teflon.
Non-stick baking sheets don’t need to be greased to bake with, and they’re absurdly easy to clean. But they tend to warp easily and need to be replaced every one or two years, as the non-stick coating eventually wears out and starts to peel off (that’s how you know when to throw yours away and replace it).
Scratching the non-stick coating will permanently damage it, so you should only use silicone or wooden utensils when transferring food to and from them. Some come with cooling racks, but, in my experience, the metal ends of the rack can end up scratching the coating, too.
Like their aluminum counterparts, non-stick baking sheets must only be cleaned by hand and shouldn’t be put in the dishwasher.
On the upside, these baking sheets won’t leach metals into your food. However, concerns about the safety of non-stick coatings (both PTFE and ceramic) have been lingering around in the cookware community in recent years. If you’re interested, I’ve written a whole article on the topic that I encourage you to check out.
- The slick coating keeps foods from sticking
- Very easy to clean; wiping them down very often does the trick
- The non-stick coating scratches and eventually wears off
- You‘ll need to replace them every 1-2 years, depending on the frequency of use
- Some home cooks have questions about the safety of non-stick cookware as a whole
High-quality non-stick bakeware is hard to find. But Chicago Metallic Professional Non-Stick Baking Sheet is the exception to the rule.
This baking sheet is made from carbon steel, which heats up fast and evenly, and holds on to that heat exceptionally well. It’s light and easy to carry around, spacious (16.75 x 12 x 1 inches) yet compact, and suitable for all types of ovens up to a temperature of 450°F (232°C).
Chicago Metallic is one of the brands of Bundy Baking Solutions, an American family-owned company that’s been making bakeware for more than 50 years. All Chicago Metallic pans are made in the USA.
As with all non-stick baking sheets, you can expect the coating to wear off after 1-2 years, at which point you’ll need to replace it (that’s simply one of the trade-offs you make when going for this type of sheet).
Stainless Steel Baking Sheets
Heavy and durable, stainless steel yields baking sheets that you can count on forever. But steel is a poor conductor of heat, so thin sheets will heat slowly and unevenly.
Another drawback of stainless steel cookware is that foods, especially those high and protein and low in fat, are prone to sticking to it. And while they’re easy to clean and safe to use in the dishwasher, this can make baking with them occasionally tricky.
When shopping for this type of sheet, search for a thick one made of high-quality steel by a brand you can trust. American-made stainless steel baking sheets are significantly more expensive than their Chinese counterparts but come with a lifetime warranty that protects you from manufacturing defects.
So a good stainless steel baking sheet will set you significantly back but, on the other hand, it will last you a lifetime.
- Stainless steel pans are less prone to warping
- They won’t react to acidic foods as much as aluminum does
- You can clean them with steel wool or put them in the dishwasher
- The cheaper ones are unreliable; the good ones are costly
- Some foods are prone to sticking to stainless steel
Take a seat because the 360 Stainless Steel Jelly Roll Pan is as expensive as baking sheets tend to get.
But there’s a good reason. With dimensions of 18 x 1.5 x 11.75 inches, this 0.7-inch thick baking sheet is made of five layers of clad surgical-grade stainless steel (also known as “five-ply”).
It’s safe to use in the broiler or oven at a temperature of up to 500°F (260°C), making it the perfect choice for those of you who swear by their broiled chicken or salmon recipe. And it makes clean up easy as, unlike the rest of the sheets on our list, it’s dishwasher-safe.
360 Bakeware is an American company that makes all of its products, this one included, in its workshop in West Bend, Wisconsin.
How Many Baking Sheets Do I Need?
The answer depends on how often, how much, and for how many persons you bake.
In most cases, you should do fine with two baking sheets in your kitchen. A pair of sheets will allow you to simultaneously bake two meals on your oven’s top and bottom racks or use one while cleaning the other.
If you bake daily or cook for a crowd, it’s probably a good idea to have a few baking sheets in your oven. Only you can determine precisely how many knowing your situation, but anywhere from three to five should be fine.
Some brands will try to tempt you with bargain sets of cheap baking sheets; don’t fall for their traps. They’ll warp all too easily, and their coatings, if non-stick, will peel off quicker than you can imagine.
When it comes to bakeware, a better rule of thumb to shop by is “buy it nice or buy it twice.” Build up your collection piece by piece, adding to it only if and when you need it.
Where to Buy Baking Sheets
Apart from online stores like Amazon, Wayfair, and Overstock, you can also buy baking sheets from brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart and Costco, as well as home improvement stores like Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Me? Thanks for asking! I prefer shopping for cookware at Amazon, as it tends to have the most customer reviews and often gives me the most options. More often than not, I look elsewhere only when a product’s out of stock.
Whichever option you prefer, don’t get tempted by big discounts and sets seemingly on a bargain. Do your due diligence and thoroughly research the make and model of any piece of cookware you buy.
Are Baking Sheets and Cookie Sheets the Same?
Baking sheets are sometimes referred to as “cookie sheets.” But there’s one crucial difference between them, and it comes from the way that these two pieces of bakeware make use of the airflow in your oven.
It’s a fact of physics that hot air tends to rise to the top. When you turn your oven (conventional or convection) on, a continuous stream of hot air will start rising from the heating element on the bottom to the space on the top.
Baking sheets are rimmed, so their rolled edges keep diverting the flow of hot air away from the food and toward the top of the oven. Cookie sheets are flat, so, with no raised lips to block airflow, they typically cook your food faster.
Personally, I consider baking sheets to be the better piece of cookware. They’re simply more versatile. You can make cookies on a baking sheet, but you can’t roast beef or poultry on a cookie sheet (the fats and juices will run off the pan).
How Long Do Baking Sheets Last?
Baking sheets made of aluminum and stainless steel don’t rust, which is why, as long as you care for them well, they can last for a lifetime and even get handed down in your family for generations.
Non-stick baking sheets have a relatively short lifespan because the coating eventually wears out and begins to peel off. As a general rule of thumb, non-stick baking sheets will last for 1-2 years, mainly depending on their quality and how frequently they’re used.
Are Baking Sheets Magnetic?
Iron is magnetic, which is why any metal that contains a sufficient amount of iron, such as cast iron or carbon steel, will attract a magnet. While that makes bakeware such as cast iron Dutch ovens magnetic (and induction-friendly), that’s not necessarily the case for baking sheets.
Baking sheets made of aluminum and stainless steel are not magnetic, unless explicitly stated so on the product label by the manufacturer (in which case they’re made of magnetized aluminum or steel).
The best way to test if a piece of cookware is magnetic is using a horseshoe magnet. If the magnet sticks and holds on tightly to the vessel, that’s a sure-fire sign that it’s magnetic.
Can Baking Sheets Be Recycled?
Whether your baking sheets can be recycled or not depends on the material they’re made from, and the type of products that your local recycling site accepts.
Baking sheets made of aluminum and stainless steel are 100% recyclable. Use Earth911’s search tool to locate a metal recycling site near you and take them there (along with any other old metal products you may have lying around unused in your house).
Non-stick is another story. The metal your non-stick baking sheets are made of is only recyclable once the non-stick coating has completely been peeled off.
That’s the reason why some recycling sites accept this type of sheets, and others don’t. To find out what the case is for you, call the local recycling site and ask if (and how) they accept non-stick cookware.
Now that you read this post, I hope you’ll have an easier time buying your first (or next) set of baking sheets.
Which material and coating did you end up going for? And did I happen to miss any of your favorite bakeware brands? Share your experiences and tips with the rest of this post’s readers and me by leaving a comment below!