Rimmed Baking Sheets

Published November 1, 2007. From Cook's Illustrated.

The flimsy jellyroll pans sold in most stores are useless. But a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet is an unheralded workhorse every cook should own.

Overview:

Many times a day, our test cooks reach for a rimmed baking sheet. We use them for baking cookies, biscuits, scones, and jellyroll cakes, as well as for roasting oven fries and asparagus. With a wire cooling rack set inside, they're good for broiling or roasting meats and in prep work such as holding breaded cutlets before frying. Our baking sheets aren't just for baking—they are true kitchen workhorses.

But you'd be hard-pressed to find these essential pans in most cookware stores. Known as a half-sheet pan in restaurant supply stores, the real thing is made of heavy-gauge metal and measures 18 by 13 inches with a 1-inch rim all around. The closest thing you'll usually find in retail stores is a flimsy, too-small 15 by 10-inch "jellyroll pan."

Once we assembled several pans, a close look revealed that these pans are not identical. Rimmed baking sheets are formed by a machine that presses a flat metal sheet into a predetermined shape, maintaining consistent pressure so the metal will flow in without wrinkling or cracking. They… read more

Many times a day, our test cooks reach for a rimmed baking sheet. We use them for baking cookies, biscuits, scones, and jellyroll cakes, as well as for roasting oven fries and asparagus. With a wire cooling rack set inside, they're good for broiling or roasting meats and in prep work such as holding breaded cutlets before frying. Our baking sheets aren't just for baking—they are true kitchen workhorses.

But you'd be hard-pressed to find these essential pans in most cookware stores. Known as a half-sheet pan in restaurant supply stores, the real thing is made of heavy-gauge metal and measures 18 by 13 inches with a 1-inch rim all around. The closest thing you'll usually find in retail stores is a flimsy, too-small 15 by 10-inch "jellyroll pan."

Once we assembled several pans, a close look revealed that these pans are not identical. Rimmed baking sheets are formed by a machine that presses a flat metal sheet into a predetermined shape, maintaining consistent pressure so the metal will flow in without wrinkling or cracking. They can be made from different alloys and gauges of aluminum, aluminized steel (a thin coat of aluminum over steel), or a tri-ply sandwich of shiny stainless steel with an aluminum core.

After testing, we found that solid construction is more important than the choice of materials. A too-flimsy pan warps under high heat. We observed this when the oil pooled at one end of a warping baking sheet as we made fries in the 475-degree oven, resulting in uneven browning of the potatoes. And the thicker the pan, the better. A pan that is too lightweight can transfer heat too intensely, burning batch after batch of cookies.

These rimmed baking sheets were originally designed for baked goods such as cookies and jelly rolls, although the Test Kitchen has found many uses that go beyond their original design, including cooking meats (with a wire rack inside) and oven fries.

While we experienced varying levels of warping with our pans during testing, warping can happen with any sheet pan, even a heavy-duty one, under certain conditions. Abrupt temperature changes are likely to result in warping, for example, if an empty, cold baking sheet goes into a hot oven. Similarly, having only a few scattered pieces of food on a baking sheet creates different temperature zones on the metal, with some spots where the pan is shielded from heat under the food, and others where it is fully exposed to heat. Different temperature zones contract or expand at different rates as they are heated, which causes warping.

Slight warping does not affect the pan's cooking performance, however, to help prevent warping in your baking sheet, cover the pan's entire surface with food as uniformly as possible, and heat the pan gradually rather than abruptly. Using a wire grid cooling rack inside the sheet pan can help distribute heat better than cooking meats directly on the pan surface. We found a few brands of cooling racks that fit well inside our winning baking sheet (See related testing of cooling racks for details).

* Note: One of our recommended brands, Gourmet Standard, is no longer in business.

Methodology:

We tested eight brands of rimmed baking sheets, using the following criteria:

COOKIES

We preferred pans that produced evenly golden brown cookies with a domed shape.

JELLYROLL

We preferred pans that made a moist, evenly golden cake of a level thickness, released the cake easily, and produced a cake that rolled without cracking.

OVEN FRIES

Made with high heat in the oven, the fries were a good test of the pans’ ability to cook without warping and evenly brown the potatoes.

PORK

Chinese Barbecued Pork was roasted on a wire rack set into the baking sheet. We preferred pans that held a standard wire rack; could be easily maneuvered into and out of the hot oven; and could be carried across the kitchen without bending and splashing or dumping hot drippings on the cook.

WIGGLE AND WARP

We attempted to twist the pans while grasping them along the short ends, preferring pans that could not be twisted or wiggled. After cooking tests were completed, we placed the pans on a level surface and tapped them hard on one corner to see if they rocked; if so, the pan had warped.

DESIGN

We preferred pans whose interior dimensions were a standard half-sheet size, so wire racks and parchment paper fit without gapping or adjustment; had a rolled edge that did not trap water; and had a durable finish.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Wear-Ever Half Size Heavy Duty Sheet Pan (13 gauge) by Vollrath (formerly Lincoln Foodservice), model 5314

    "Perfect" cookies, oven fries, and jellyroll in this "flawless" pan. Pork produced "lots of fat but no worries about spilling—pan is solid as a rock." Jellyroll browned and released perfectly. Pan can't be twisted and doesn't warp easily. "The search is over."

    • Pork ★★★
    • Design ★★★
    • Cookies ★★★
    • Jelly roll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★★
    • Wiggle and Warp ★★★

    $14.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Norpro Heavy Gauge Aluminum Jelly Roll Pan

    Oven fries were evenly browned, as were cookies and jellyroll cake, and pan felt solid when we barbecued pork. However, while it felt sturdy, pan could be wiggled and had warped slightly by end of testing.

    • Pork ★★★
    • Design ★★★
    • Cookies ★★★
    • Jellyroll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★★
    • Wiggle and Wrap ★★

    $17.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Gourmet Standard Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Jelly Roll Pan

    Performed all cooking tests well, but this "pretty but pricey" pan's nonstandard size was a handicap: At just 16 inches long (15 inches once rims are discounted), it's too short for standard wire rack to fit inside, and parchment paper sheets must be trimmed.
    * Note: Gourmet Standard is no longer in business.

    • Pork ★★★
    • Design ★★
    • Cookies ★★★
    • Jellyroll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★★
    • Wiggle and Wrap ★★

    DISCONTINUED

  • Recommended

    Anolon Commercial Bakeware Jelly Roll Pan

    "Sturdy" pan produced crisp, evenly cooked fries, released jelly roll easily, and was steady with hot pan full of barbecued pork and drippings. However, cookies baked up too dark, due to thinness of pan.

    • Pork ★★★
    • Design ★★
    • Cookies ★★
    • Jellyroll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★★
    • Wiggle and Wrap ★★★

    DISCONTINUED

  • Recommended

    Vollrath Jelly Roll Pan

    Cookies baked well, as did jellyroll, but fries were "a little uneven and not very crisp." Pan bent when full of hot barbecued pork, but did not spill. Was slightly warped after testing.

    • Pork ★★
    • Design ★★★
    • Cookies ★★★
    • Jellyroll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★
    • Wiggle and Wrap ★★

    DISCONTINUED

  • Recommended

    NordicWare Natural Commercial Bakeware Baker's Half Sheet

    While cookies baked evenly, they were too dark. Oven fries in middle of pan were "soggy, wimpy," and underdone, but those around edges of pan were too dark. Pan was stable with hot drippings. Soft surface scratched too easily: Butter knife used to loosen cake left deep hatches all around the pan.

    • Pork ★★★
    • Design ★★
    • Cookies ★★
    • Jellyroll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★
    • Wiggle and Wrap ★★★

    $18.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Chicago Metallic Commercial Cookie/Jelly Roll Pan

    Cookies and fries browned unevenly. Oil pooled at one end of pan after it warped under high heat while making fries; pan buckled at bit with pork, causing some hot fat to splash out as we moved pan. Rolled rim trapped dishwater.

    • Pork ★★
    • Design
    • Cookies ★★
    • Jellyroll ★★★
    • Oven Fries ★★
    • Wiggle and Wrap ★★

    $13.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Wilton Jelly Roll and Cookie Pan

    Light and "flimsy, bendy" ("It's flapping like a sail") pan transferred heat too rapidly: Cookies burned; jellyroll baked very quickly; oven fries were still uncooked inside when exteriors were deeply brown. an was "quite warped" by end of testing.

    • Pork ★★
    • Design
    • Cookies
    • Jellyroll ★★
    • Oven Fries
    • Wiggle and Wrap

    $19.99

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