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Testing 8-Inch Square Baking Pans

By Emily Phares Published

Four key traits set our winner apart from all the others.

Square baking pans are handy for making cakes and brownies, but that’s not all. We also use them for recipes such as Chocolate Fudge, Honey Cornbread, and Nanaimo Bars. Because we call for them in so many of our recipes, we decided to find out which of the many pans on the market was the best. We chose eight models, ranging in price from about $10 to about $36 and made of various materials. To test them, we made yellow cake and brownies in each, sliced the cooled baked goods in the pans with a knife, and then washed the pans repeatedly to evaluate durability.

What did we discover? Some of the pans produced cakes with minor aesthetic drawbacks, one model couldn’t hide a glaring durability issue, and cleaning these pans was not always an easy task. Happily, we found one model that excelled in all areas.

Most Pans Baked Food Well, Regardless of Material

The materials of the pans in our lineup varied. We tested five metal pans, one glass pan, one silicone pan, and one stoneware pan. Four of the metal pans had nonstick coatings; none of the other models did.

The first thing we noted was the slight differences in baking times. Because metal is generally a better conductor of heat than glass or stoneware is, the nonmetal models required more time in the oven to finish baking—5 to 8 minutes longer for yellow cake and about 5 minutes longer for brownies. Even with these differences, the baking times in all the pans fell within acceptable ranges.

Regardless of material, all eight pans produced appetizing brownies and cakes with golden-brown tops. Two of the cakes had slightly darker exteriors than the others, likely because they baked in darker-colored pans, but they were still perfectly acceptable. And all the baked goods released easily from their respective pans, even the cakes and brownies baked in pans without nonstick coatings. Our recipes called for either greasing or greasing plus flouring the pans, which was sufficient to prevent sticking. Although all the pans performed well, there were other factors to consider.

Straighter Sides Were Preferred

After letting the yellow cakes cool in their respective pans, we turned them all out onto wire racks to cool completely, as called for in the recipe. This gave us the chance to examine each cake’s shape; we wanted cakes that were aesthetically pleasing and properly square, with straight sides and well‑defined edges.

Two of the eight yellow cakes stood out because their sides sloped slightly. The two pans that produced these cakes—one stoneware and one glass—had tapered sides, meaning they were wider at the top than at the bottom. On one pan, the rims measured 8 inches long at the top and narrowed to 6¾ inches long along the bottom edges. The top rims of the other pan measured 7⅜ inches long and tapered down to 6 inches long. We much preferred the appearances of the cakes baked in the remaining six pans, which weren’t tapered. Those cakes were appealingly square and had well-defined edges.

Functional Handles Were Very Helpful

We also noted whether a pan had defined handles. Four models in our lineup featured rolled edges with narrow lips that were sometimes tricky to hold securely, especially when removing the pans from a hot oven or greasing and flouring them. When greasing and flouring the pans, we’d find ourselves gripping the edges of the pans with our thumbs and using our fingers to support the pan bottoms, with our thumbs often smearing the grease-and-flour coatings.

The rest of the models featured defined handles. One had a roughly ½-inch flattened edge that functioned as a handle; another had wider, flat handles; and two more had looped handles. The pans with handles were easier to flour and grease and maneuver into and out of the oven.

The silicone model wasn't durable enough to withstand a paring knife.

Silicone Was Not Durable

To test the durability of the pans, we used a sharp paring knife to repeatedly slice cake and brownies in each pan, checking to see if any scratched easily. All five metal pans showed faint nicks, but nothing that would affect their performance.

One pan, however, was a total letdown. While slicing brownies in the silicone pan, we inadvertently sliced right through the side, leaving a ¾-inch gash and rendering the pan unusable.

One metal model was molded, making it seamless and much easier to clean. Other metal models had a folded construction, which led to trapped crumbs that required extra attention during cleaning.

Pans with Seams Were Harder to Clean

To see how easy the pans were to clean, we washed each pan five times according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Six of the pans we tested were dishwasher-safe, but two weren’t, so we washed those by hand. We didn’t have a strong preference for one method, but a few of the pans were harder to clean than others.

The interiors of the glass, stoneware, and silicone pans were all smooth and seamless and therefore easy to clean. Most of the metal models, though, had seams as a result of the way they were constructed. One metal pan was molded, meaning that a hot sheet of metal was pressed into a mold. The other four metal pans were folded—made by folding a metal sheet into the shape of a pan, creating seams. The folded pans’ seams sometimes trapped food and required extra attention to clean. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but it wasn’t ideal either.

Our winner was the only molded metal pan. Its sides were straighter than those of other molded pans, and its seamless interior trapped no food and was easy to clean (even though it could be washed only by hand).

The Winner: Fat Daddio’s ProSeries Square Cake Pan

Our new winner, the Fat Daddio’s ProSeries Square Cake Pan, had it all: It produced nicely shaped baked goods and featured a ½-inch lip that made it easy to hold and maneuver. It required hand-washing, but its seamless design made it easy to clean. This 8-inch square baking pan excelled at producing aesthetically pleasing baked goods and boasted a low-maintenance design.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.