When it comes to baking sugar cookies, your kitchen equipment makes a difference. Cooking sheets and baking pans come in a variety of sizes and finishes. With so many choices for pans out there, it can be daunting to figure out just which type of baking sheet you need. That’s why we turned to Chef Eddy Van Damme for his take on what type of pan works best. After years of testing, he knows exactly how his sugar cookies will turn out based on the type of pan used.
The good news is that you don’t have to purchase the most expensive equipment to get professional results. There’s a wide variety of price points available online and in your local kitchenware stores.
Before we get to the results, let’s clarify the difference between a baking pan and a baking sheet. Baking pans have rolled edges while cookie sheets do not.
Shiny Heavy Gauge Aluminum
Shiny heavy gauge aluminum is Chef Eddy’s top choice as it conducts heat quickly and uniformly and it will resist warping while in the oven. Aluminum pans are durable and easy to clean. They are also great for a variety of uses outside of baking. Shiny heavy gauge aluminum pans come in both rolled edge and non-rolled edge styles. Sugar cookies baked on shiny heavy gauge aluminum pans will come out soft and chewy, with a slight golden color bottom and pale top. Chef Eddy also recommends using parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to prevent sticking and for easy cleanup.
Reasonably priced options include the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet and the Bellemain Cookie Sheet, Pro Chef Quality, Heavy Duty Aluminum Pan.
Insulated bakeware is designed with a cushion of air sandwiched between two layers of aluminum in order to lower the surface temperature of the pan and reduce the risk of burning. Because of their increased air circulation, insulated pans often require a longer bake time. Insulated pans work best for preventing thin or delicate cookies from browning too quickly, and for baking thick, gooey or cake-like cookies.
However, when it comes to sugar cookies, insulated bakeware’s slower bake time allows the cookie dough to spread and results in thin, light colored cookies with undone centers. As with shiny, heavy gauge aluminum, Chef Eddy recommends using parchment paper. Silicone baking mats can add an extra layer of insulation so they often require even more additional baking time.
There’s no denying the allure of a pan that’s easy to clean and doesn’t require parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Sugar cookies on dark nonstick pans will cook faster than those on an aluminum pan. Black or dark pans absorb and radiate heat more than lighter sheets do. As the heat reaches the edges, they crisp up and the bottoms grow dark in color. Additionally, the nonstick surface can allow the cookie dough to spread which can result in thin, overbaked edges. You may find that you’ll need to reduce your oven temperature by 25ºF when baking sugar cookies and using dark nonstick pans.
Dark nonstick baking pans work best for crunchy, dark cookies. Remember the darker the pan, the darker the bottom of the cookie. These pans are great when you get them, as they’re easy to clean and reuse. However, you’ll have to replace most nonstick pans over time as the finish wears off.
When you reach for a baking sheet or cookie pan, take into account what you want your final product to look and feel like. That way, you’ll know just what pan to put into the oven for your perfect cookie.
Want to see our sugar cookie experiment in action? Check out our Tips for Choosing a Cookie Sheet video.