Light Baking Pan vs. Dark Baking Pan

Whether to choose light baking pans or dark baking pans comes down mostly to personal preference. Vintage pans are usually dark to begin with, and may have darkened with age. With the exception of nonstick baking pans, most bakeware sold today is made of aluminum, and light in color.

A baking pan with pudding inside. (Image: Szakaly/iStock/Getty Images)

Baking Success

Light baking pans reflect heat, while dark pans tend to absorb it, which can make a difference in your baking. Dark pans cook faster and are more likely to burn baked goods than light pans. If you opt to use dark pans, reduce the heat and the baking time by 25 percent. Place the pan on the center rack and check it frequently. Once you're accustomed to the differences in how the two types of pans work, you can make any necessary adjustments and use either type successfully. It's probably best to stick with one type of pan or the other, though, to avoid mistakes.

The Durability Factor

Shiny, light baking pans are almost always made of aluminum, which conducts heat evenly, and is durable. Aluminum pans are usually inexpensive and widely available, as well. Dark baking pans may be made from aluminum or tin, and may be coated with a nonstick coating. Nonstick coatings seem like a good idea in theory, but they require extra care, and don't always prevent baked goods from sticking. Use the wrong spatula or utensil and you risk scratching them. Some cooks find it simpler to use parchment paper or silicone mats to prevent sticking. Another thing to consider is how easy it is to wash the pan. You can't use abrasives or scouring pads on nonstick bakeware so if food does stick, it can be tricky to remove.

Special Features

In addition to the color of the pan, pay attention to special features. Some light baking pans are insulated, meaning the pans have two layers of aluminum with air in between. These pans were designed to bake cookies and other baked goods more evenly, but they don't brown particularly well. Baking sheets have no edges so cookies slide off easily. Large baking sheets with 1-inch rims, though, are more versatile. You can use them for cookies, cinnamon rolls, brownies or deep-dish pizzas. Think about your baking needs and choose bakeware that best fits your situation.

Choose Quality

Light and dark bakeware both have potential benefits and drawbacks, but regardless of the type you choose, look for durable, high-quality products that will last for years. Restaurant supply stores often carry heavy-duty bakeware that you can't find anywhere else.

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