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Glass vs metal pans is but one great debate in the baking world, where details are of prime importance.
People say baking is more of a science than stovetop cooking: Why? Because exactness matters. The amount of humidity in the air and the altitude of your city can affect how your dish turns out. Yeast and other components create chemical reactions that make dough rise. There’s gluten formation, starch gelatinization, and protein coagulation. And there is just so much more.
One thing many beginner bakers forget to think about is how their baking pan—glass or metal—is going to react with the ingredients.
Related Reading: The Best Baking Cookbooks for Fall
The best bakers are meticulous testers and re-testers. They form a hypothesis, conduct the experiment, and based on the result, come to a conclusion. That conclusion could be that brown sugar rather than white sugar makes your cookies softer and more moist, for instance.
Or it could be that one kind of pan results in crispier cookie bottoms or chewier brownie edges. (Pan material also matters when it comes to making savory dishes, as you’ll see below.)
Metal bakeware can withstand higher temperatures than glass, which makes it ideal for foods that bake for a short period of time at a higher temperature, including baked goods such as cookies, biscuits, cakes, muffins, and breads. Metal baking pans are also preferred when browning foods and quick roasting since it tends to heat up quickly and also cool down relatively fast (so actual sheet pan dinners are generally better than Pyrex glass dish dinners).
You want to use a metal dish when broiling at high oven temperature too, as that can cause glass to shatter. Glass also can shatter if used directly on the stove top, so if you’re planning to start something on the stove before transferring to the oven, consider using a metal pot that is safe for both stovetops and ovens. (This advice usually applies primarily to savory dishes, but sometimes desserts too, like our Skillet Pear Cake recipe that starts on the stove and ends in the oven.)
When baking, it does make a different too whether you dark or light-colored metal pans; darker metal tends to make browning happen faster, so you may prefer lighter pans for cookies, banana bread, cakes, and the like.
Glass bakeware has the advantage that it distributes heat more evenly, which will cause your food to likely cook at an even rate. However, glass is a poor conductor of heat—meaning it doesn’t heat up quickly, but once it has warmed up, it will stay warm long after it’s removed from the oven. (For an example of how that can affect baking in real life, consider a glass pie plate. Because it distributes heat consistently, it will promote even baking of your crust—and as an added bonus, allow you to see the progress instead of guessing if the bottom is brown yet—but because it doesn’t heat up quickly, glass pie pans can cause crusts to shrink and slide toward the bottom more so than metal or ceramic pie pans.)
Use glass dishes when baking with eggs or acidic ingredients (think tomatoes and citrus), as metal pans can react with the acidity and cause foods to discolor or leave a metallic taste.
Another disadvantage to glass bakeware is that it isn’t able to jump quickly with temperature changes and can even break when experiencing extreme temperature shifts. This isn’t common but it’s recommended that you never put your glass bakeware directly on the stove burner or under a warmed up broiler, just in case.
Something to keep in mind is that you should reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees and check the food often as it may be ready up to ten minutes earlier if you are substituting a glass dish for a metal baking pan. This is because glass doesn’t heat up as quickly as metal but will become very hot once heated up.
Now that we know when to use which type of bakeware, try these dishes in them:
You’ll need a metal 9-by-5-inch loaf pan for this recipe, which uses benefits of both white and brown sugars to make the bread a perfect combination of moist and crisp, keeping together the Granny Smith apples and warm spices. Get our Apple Quick Bread with Pecan Streusel recipe.
AmazonBasics Nonstick Loaf Pans, 2 for $11.99 on Amazon
A pair of nonstick metal loaf pans are great for quick breads of all kinds.
Do carrots in a whole new way, in a rich, creamy casserole. There’s really not much to it besides cream, plus some garlic and a crunchy panko breadcrumb topping. That’s all you need. Get our Creamy Carrot Casserole dish.
Gooey, rich brownies are simple to whip up and the perfect weeknight dessert. These easy brownies bake in less than half an hour, which is a relatively quick baking time—so you’ll want to use a metal baking pan that heats up fast and helps them to bake in a relatively short period of time. Get our Easy Brownie recipe.
Bakelicious Crispy Corner Non-Stick Brownie Pan, $19.50 on Amazon
If you prize crisp-chewy edges, this pan promises 48 of them in every batch.
Related Reading: 5 Tips for Perfectly Fudgy Brownies
This savory egg pudding is speckled with sautéed leeks and herbs that make it a delicious and ideal breakfast or brunch item to serve at your next get-together. It’s time to pull out the glass bakeware for this dish as a metal pan may react with the eggs to discolor the final dish, or could even leave a metallic flavor to mar the dish. Get our Savory Egg Pudding recipe.
There is good reason the chocolate chip cookie is the most famous of them all: buttery and full of gooey chocolate, these cookies always hit the spot and are perfect for any occasion, from school bake sale to grown-up potluck (and during the holidays, of course). What baking dish to use may be more obvious than most for this recipe since you don’t ever see shallow baking sheets made out of glass. You’ll want to use metal here, which will help achieve a crispy cookie bottom—but there are still variations in cookie sheets that can affect the texture. Get our Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.
Related Reading: 7 Ways to Get Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies If You Don’t Like Crisp
Cooking for a crowd doesn’t have to be a hassle if you just whip up a big pan full of lasagna! Use glass bakeware so that the acidic tomato sauce can’t react with the metal. A bonus to using a glass dish is that it will stay warmer for longer once you remove it from the oven so you won’t have to immediately race to get it onto the table for your guests. Get our Vegan Lasagna recipe.
Pyrex Deep 9 x 13-Inch Bakeware Dish with Lid, $14.97 at Walmart
The extra depth makes this perfect for lasagna.
Biscuits get a veg makeover here, and a pretty orange hue to boot, thanks to a heavy dose of smashed sweet potatoes. Biscuits ideally cook on metal bakeware (as they bake relatively fast at a high temperature, and the metal dish will also help the bottoms brown). Get our Sweet Potato Biscuits recipe.
— Article updated by Amy Sowder in 2016 & Jen Wheeler in 2019.
Header image by Chowhound, using photos by Chris Rochelle and Apichat Thongmalai / EyeEm / GettyImages