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Selecting cookware can be confusing, especially if you're new to the joys of cooking and baking—or rediscovering them. So much to bake and so little time!
But selecting a loaf pan is pretty easy once you know how you want to use it. Sure, you can go all specialized and have a different pan for each task. The options are endless. But before getting fancy, make sure you have the basics of a good loaf pan down.
This pan can cover many bases, from meatloaf to monkey bread. If you have the space and the bucks for many different loaf pans, that’s great—but think like the inimitable Julia Child: Find your favorites, stick with them, and keep things organized. I say that goes for loaf pans, too.
I’ve sorted through the materials and features of the options out there to come up with this list of the best loaf pans.
Best Overall: USA Pan 1-Pound Loaf Pan
What We Love: Affordable, satisfying weight, lasts forever, choice of the pros, corrugation adds to easy release
What We Don't Love: No handles (negligible)
Everything about these folded-steel pans just cries out that you know what you’re doing (even if you’re a novice) and love doing it.
The solid structure provides support for the yeast rise of an Anadama bread or heavier quick-bread batters and gives those nice, sharp loaf corners. The aluminized steel offers great heat transfer, resists corrosion, and is effectively nonstick but not coated. For utility and versatility, you need this loaf pan.
Dillon DeBauche, head baker at Camas Country Mill, on the outskirts of Eugene, Oregon, looks first for a pan with satisfying weight to it. So, they use the USA Pan pans at the bakery (which is also a farm and traditional grain miller, specializing in mostly organic whole grain flours): both the open loaf pans and the USA Pan Pullman pan.
These folded-steel loaf pans will last through your lifetime as a baker, and if properly cared for, can be passed on to your kids.
Weight: 1 pound | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.1 x 5.1 x 2.75 inches | Material: Aluminized steel (aluminum-silicon alloy) | Dishwasher-safe? No
Runner-up, Best Overall: Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 1-Pound Loaf Pan
What We Love: Affordable, good structure, durable, choice of the pros
What We Don't Love: No handles (negligible)
Picking the best overall loaf pan was a tough call, thus this runner-up. Each company makes a well-respected product and has a long history of happy bakers. (USA PAN has been around since 1959, and Chicago Metallic since 1893.) The folded-steel designs are similar, but Chicago Metallic’s steel has a flat surface, where USA PAN’s has slight corrugation. Pan to pan, it’s a matter of choice, not utility.
John Porter, the owner and lead baker at Evergreen Bread & Cocktail Lounge in Evergreen, Colorado, prefers these pans over others. (Don’t let “cocktail lounge” fool you; this is no novelty shop. It’s serious baking, but with a twist.) Long-lasting quality is what Porter says he (and other pro bakers) looks for in loaf pans, and these Chicago Metallic pans stand the test at his bakery.
Note that the lack of handles on any loaf pan shouldn't be an issue: The best way to carry any pan is by holding it fully and securely at the sides and bottom while wearing good oven mitts or gloves.
“I've been using my Chicago Metallic loaf pans for over a decade and love them. The nonstick coating makes it easy to slide loaves out of the pan, and I've found them very resistant to scratching.” — Emma Christensen, Editor in Chief
Weight: 1 pound | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches | Material: Aluminized steel (aluminum-silicon alloy) | Dishwasher-safe? Yes
Best Glass: Pyrex Clear Basics 1.5-Quart Glass Loaf Pan
What We Love: Time-tested glass, great price, dishwasher-safe, as versatile for cooking as for baking
What We Don't Love: Prone to chipping and breakage
A glass loaf pan lends itself as much to cooking (lasagna, meatloaves, etc.) as it does to baking. It heats evenly and is nice and heavy, which helps provide that “oven within an oven” effect by retaining heat even when the oven door is opened for a peek. There’s a version with a nice lid, too, which makes this loaf pan perfect for potlucks.
If you like having a glass loaf pan around, go for it with this Pyrex, but with slanted sides and rounded corners, it won’t create the professional loaf shape most people have come to expect with yeast breads. And you need to keep a glass pan safe from chips, so avoid stacking.
Weight: 2.5 pounds | Dimensions (LxWxH): 10.3 x 5.1 x 3 inches | Material: Tempered glass | Dishwasher-safe? Yes
Related: The Best Oven Mitts
Best Nonstick: Wilton Recipe Right Medium Loaf Pan
What We Love: Easy to handle, reliable
What We Don't Love: Lighter weight, prone to corrosion and scratching
Wilton is a go-to, reliable brand for bakeware and accessories for the home baker. This loaf pan comes at a good price, and the nonstick coating can be an advantage, especially when baking meats or stickier quick breads. High sides help yeast loaves rise, and people love the heavy rolled edges.
But this isn’t a lifetime loaf pan. You have to be extra careful not to use sharp stools, which may scratch the nonstick surface and scrape off the coating. The resulting scratches are permanent, and that will just make stuff stick to the pan anyway.
Weight: 8.5 ounces | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches | Material: Heavy-gauge steel with nonstick coating | Dishwasher-safe? Yes
Best Budget: Simply Essential 9-Inch x 5-Inch Nonstick Loaf Pan
What We Love: Affordable, makes nicely shaped loaves
What We Don't Love: Lighter weight than others, prone to rust
This loaf pan is consistently well-reviewed, and at $5 or less, you can buy several and not worry if you give away a loaf of banana bread and the pan never comes home. It’s not the workhorse that a folded-steel pan would be, but it’s reliable, sturdy, will heat fairly evenly, and comes clean as a whistle—as long as you keep it free of scratches. While it says it’s 9 x 5 inches, it’s really closer to the standard 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches, which is fine for general use.
Weight: 8 ounces | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches | Material: Carbon steel with nonstick interior | Dishwasher-safe? No
Related: The Best Toaster Ovens
Best Specialty: USA Pan 9-Inch Pain de Mie Pullman Loaf Pan
What We Love: Perfect for sandwich bread
What We Don't Love: Lid can be stubborn
Manufactured by USA Pan, the King Arthur baking crew swear by it. It’s elegant and practical at the same time. “Pain de mie” is French for “soft bread loaf,” and a lidded loaf pan is the only way to get that consistently soft texture, square shape, and crisp-less coloring that’s so desirable for sandwich loaves.
“Pullman” comes from the fact that this style was favored in kitchens of the early Pullman train cars here in the U.S., so you get a bit of history, too. A pain de mie is worth owning to help you perfect recipes and experiment with others. The lid will slide smoothly if the pan is kept clean, unbent, and scratch-free.
Weight: 1.3 pounds | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 4 x 4 inches | Material: Aluminized steel | Dishwasher-safe? No
A good loaf pan is a kitchen necessity, and chances are you’ll decide that you need more than one. You don’t have to stuff your cupboards with specialty pans but get at least two of the same size from either USA Pan (view at Amazon) or Chicago Metallic (view at Amazon). Keep a good glass loaf pan like Pyrex (view at Amazon) handy for the occasional quickbread. And when you want to get fancy, get a pain de mie pan, like this one by King Arthur (view at King Arthur) for sandwich loaves or freezing.
What to Look for When Buying a Loaf Pan
Size and Adaptability
A single, good-quality “American standard” 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 loaf pan may be all you need, as long as you keep the pan clean between pumpkin bread and meatloaf. But you may need two because many bread recipes make two loaves.
This tried-and-true size is what most recipes call for but check the instructions. There can be a big difference between the result you’ll get with a 1-pound loaf pan and what happens in a 1.25-pound or 1.5-pound one, especially when rise is a factor. Think: smaller loaf pan equals higher rise.
Rise isn’t a factor with things like meatloaf casseroles, and this standard pan is perfect for those, but whether batter or beef, don’t overfill, or you risk having a mess in the oven. Level up to about 2/3 from the top, max. If your recipe calls for more than the pan can handle, re-pan the extra to make a mini loaf.
Material and Construction
Glass and ceramic will have greater heat retention, as will cast iron; they'll bake differently from a metal or silicone pan, especially at high altitudes. Some people just like the look of glass and ceramic, but heavyweight, high-quality metal pans hold plenty of heat for home and commercial ovens.
Aluminum and paper aren’t materials of choice unless you plan to gift the baked goods right in the pan. Plus, paper will require a keen eye to be sure you don’t over-bake.
The desirability of coatings—whether labeled generically “nonstick,” “ceramic,” or Teflon—is up for debate. Most professionals dislike coated pans, the finish can degrade, and even home bakers often find that the coating gets scratched far too easily. But the occasional use of a coated non-stick loaf pan is probably not an issue.
Silicone is still a bit of a novelty for professional bakers, but home bakers like it for its (literal) flexibility. Be careful to buy silicone pans that have some kind of supporting framework, though, lest you have to try to figure out how to get a squiggly pan full of bread batter into a hot oven.
Durability and Ease of Cleaning
Bakeware needs to be cleaned between uses. Yet metal pans still like to be seasoned. How to accomplish that?
One hint comes from DeBauche at Camas Country Mill: Never use butter to grease a pan, use oil instead, and “if you wipe it out when it’s still a bit warm, with maybe a degreaser soap and warm water, then you’re in pretty good shape.”
Porter handwashes baking pans, too; his team at Evergreen Bread & Cocktail Lounge makes sure that their metal bakeware never goes through the dishwasher.
It wouldn’t hurt to handwash glass and ceramic as well, to help avoid chips and slips. And avoid harsh abrasives at all costs.
DeBauche and Porter agree that loaf pans that work for the professional baker can work at home as well. “Just get the best quality you can,” take care of it, “and you’ll be happy about it,” Porter says.
Are metal or glass loaf pans better?
Metal, hands down, for baking yeast breads. Save your glass pans for roasting and other cooking, and maybe the occasional batter bread. Never rely on a glass pan when the recipe calls for any abrupt change of temperature, ice bath, or other, because even tempered glass is prone to thermal shock, and no one wants broken glass in the kitchen.
What are other uses for a loaf pan besides bread?
Lots. A Pullman pan is nearly perfect for making ice cream or sorbet because the lid helps protect against burn and off-flavors from the freezer. Glass pans work for all sorts of roasted meatloaves, pate, and for naturally dense pull-apart breads where rise is less of an issue and corner shape matters less. Or a terrine—but use a metal pan here because a glass pan could shatter in the water bath (see above).
Do glass loaf pans take longer to cook?
No, exactly the opposite. Glass will take a tiny bit longer to heat up, but once hot, it will hold that heat better than thin metal pans. That retained heat will also brown surfaces faster, making whatever you’re cooking or baking a bit darker. That’s one reason glass is not preferred for yeast baking: The blast of extra heat on the exterior of the dough can prevent the desired oven-spring. In general, if you are baking in glass and the recipe is calling for a metal pan, you should adjust the temperature down by 25 degrees, then keep a good eye on it to be sure it’s not browning faster or more than you’d like.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Catherine Russell is a writer and editor specializing in food, culture, and home and garden. Grandma’s kitchen was a favorite place for Catherine growing up, and that’s where she first learned to bake, roast, broil, and cook most anything from scratch. And that’s also where she learned —especially in the kitchen—that the right baking pan or the right utensil can make all the difference. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Bon Appetit, and in film and video.
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