Muffin Tins

Published February 1, 2011. From Cook's Country.

Does a hefty price tag guarantee million-dollar muffins (and cupcakes)?

Overview:

Bad muffin tins are a nuisance. They can warp, rust, or cause sticking, tearing your baked goods to shreds. If there is nowhere for your oven mitt to hold on to, it will get gummed up with batter or dent your fresh-baked cupcakes. And have fun scrubbing out each one of those little cups afterward.

Six years ago, we tested muffin tins and decided on two "must-have" features: a nonstick coating and handles—or at least extended rims—for easy gripping. At that time, many muffin tins lacked handles or broad rims. This time around, I found eight models, priced from $14 to $30. Over the next few weeks, I turned into a muffin-making machine, cranking out more than 300 muffins (blueberry streusel and corn) and cupcakes (vanilla).

I watched how deeply and evenly the tins browned, how easily they gave up the goods, and whether form—how the muffins and cupcakes looked—reflected function. None of the muffins would have embarrassed us on a brunch table, but some looked more professional than others, with straighter sides and sharply defined… read more

Bad muffin tins are a nuisance. They can warp, rust, or cause sticking, tearing your baked goods to shreds. If there is nowhere for your oven mitt to hold on to, it will get gummed up with batter or dent your fresh-baked cupcakes. And have fun scrubbing out each one of those little cups afterward.

Six years ago, we tested muffin tins and decided on two "must-have" features: a nonstick coating and handles—or at least extended rims—for easy gripping. At that time, many muffin tins lacked handles or broad rims. This time around, I found eight models, priced from $14 to $30. Over the next few weeks, I turned into a muffin-making machine, cranking out more than 300 muffins (blueberry streusel and corn) and cupcakes (vanilla).

I watched how deeply and evenly the tins browned, how easily they gave up the goods, and whether form—how the muffins and cupcakes looked—reflected function. None of the muffins would have embarrassed us on a brunch table, but some looked more professional than others, with straighter sides and sharply defined bottom edges. The lightest-colored tins did not brown the muffins and cupcakes, forcing us to extend baking times and hover by the oven to get the color we wanted. Other tins browned muffins unevenly, indicating that they were poor heat conductors. 

How nonstick were these tins? With cooking spray (something our muffin recipes require), corn muffins fell right out. Blueberry streusel muffins can be sticky with fruit and sugary topping, yet all of the tins released them fairly easily (a few required a couple of brisk shakes, which wasn’t a deal breaker for us). Cupcakes, with ample sugar in the batter, proved more of a challenge, even though the cups were greased and floured. Only one tin released cupcakes perfectly.

A few tins sport silicone handle tabs, which we assumed would be the easiest to grip. Actually, tins with wide, angled rims or raised lips all around proved easier to grab and hold with thick mitts than tins with small silicone tabs. One tin covered both bases: It had a raised lip plus large silicone handles.

You would never pry a muffin out of a nonstick pan with a metal utensil, right? Just in case, we simulated such scratching by running a dinner knife around a cup in each tin 25 times. While light scratches were apparent, the damage was minimal and didn’t affect any tin’s ability to release baked goods. We shocked the pans by heating them empty to 500 degrees and then plunging them into ice water. A few pans warped slightly, indicating less sturdy construction. To simulate a long stay in the sink without washing (hand washing is recommended for all of the tins), we smeared them with thick white sauce (bechamel) and let it harden overnight. The next day, testers had to scrape and scrub two tins, yet on two other models, the hardened sauce came right off.

I had hoped to find a tough, slick tin that produced perfect muffins and cupcakes. Instead, there were trade-offs. No tin scored high enough for us to rank it Highly Recommended, nor did any score low enough for us to rule it out. We found that you can economize on a tin without shortchanging your muffins: In other words, the expensive tins didn’t wow us. For its handsome muffins, reliable release, durability, affordability, and excellent handles, we do recommend one model—which happened to be our winning tin last time, too.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

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

    Wilton Avanti Everglide Metal-Safe Non-Stick 12-Cup Muffin Pan

    Wide extended rims and raised lip make this tin very easy to grip even with thick oven mitts. Its durable construction withstood abuse, and its non-stick coating conistently released. Browning was acceptably even, though not stellar—but the price is sure right.

    • Release ★★★
    • Browning ★★
    • Durability ★★★
    • Handle Design ★★★
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★

    $13.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Norpro Nonstick 12-Muffin Cupcake Pan

    This tin had one big drawback: a single extended rim, on a long side, which sloped downward, making it hard to hang on to. However, it browned deeply, baked relatively evenly, and released perfectly.

    • Release ★★★
    • Browning ★★★
    • Durability ★★★
    • Handle Design
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★★

    DISCONTINUED

  • Recommended

    Anolon Advanced Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan

    This comparatively expensive tin was a respectable performer, with good “grab-ability” thanks to generous, well-placed silicone handles and a raised lip around the perimeter.

    • Release ★★★
    • Browning ★★
    • Durability ★★★
    • Handle Design ★★★
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★

    $24.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Bonjour Commercial Nonstick Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan

    Two-toned finish (dark bottom, light top) earned high honors in the cupcake competition, turning out pert little cakes with well-defined edges and even tops. It stumbled releasing blueberry muffins (some berries burnt on), and the handles were not generous.

    • Release ★★
    • Browning ★★
    • Durability ★★★
    • Handle Design ★★
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★★

    $24.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Farberware Soft Touch Nonstick 12-Cup Muffin Pan

    This tin was one of two pans to emerge from the thermal shock abuse test with a very slight warp. Its cupcakes were not impressive and the muffins a bit squat, although they baked fairly evenly and released well.

    • Release ★★★
    • Browning ★★
    • Durability ★★
    • Handle Design ★★
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★

    $13.95

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Pyrex Metal Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan with Cover

    Browning was inconsistent. “They look boiled,” one tester said about the mottled, pale cupcakes. A ridge line (described by the manufacturer as a “fill” line) marred the shape of the muffins and cupcakes. Too bad, because the wide, four-sided upturned rim was easy to grab. The optional carrying cover is too low to fit our blueberry muffins and frosted cupcakes.

    • Release ★★★
    • Browning
    • Durability ★★★
    • Handle Design ★★★
    • Baked Goods Shape

    $25.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Rachael Ray Oven Lovin' Nonstick 12-Cup Muffin Pan

    When the going got tough, this tin couldn’t take it. Muffins released without incident, but cupcakes stuck. Hardened béchamel stuck so tenaciously we had to use a scraper. Heat discolored the orange silicone handle tabs. Very uneven performance.

    • Release
    • Browning ★★
    • Durability ★★
    • Handle Design ★★
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★

    $19.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    USA Pans 12-Cup Muffin Pan

    The highest-priced pan proved among the least durable. It warped slightly after thermal shock and clutched béchamel crusts for dear life in spots. The light-colored metal led to very light browning, so if you like deeper color, you will have to extend baking times in this tin.

     

    • Release ★★
    • Browning
    • Durability
    • Handle Design ★★
    • Baked Goods Shape ★★

    $29.95

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