Pullman Loaf Pans

Published March 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.

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Another unnecessary gadget, or a new kitchen staple?

Overview:

A Pullman loaf pan is a bread pan with a slide-on lid that produces a squared-off loaf with a firm, compact crumb that’s perfect for sandwiches. Though this style of pan (and bread) existed long before, these vessels are commonly associated with the cramped kitchens of 19th-century Pullman railcars, where the flat-topped breads that the pans produced were easier to stack than the domed loaves baked in traditional pans. We purchased three models—all 4 inches deep and 4 inches wide, with lengths ranging from 13 inches to 15 inches—and baked off a round of sandwich breads to see how each performed.

We can’t recommend two of the pans—both made from uncoated steel—at all. Both reacted with the canola-based cooking spray we used: Their surfaces discolored and gave off a fishy odor, and the bread in one pan actually stuck to the metal. (We later learned that the fishy smell came from iron in the steel that was reacting to the unsaturated fatty acids in the canola oil.) Moreover, because of their darker surface color, these two pans… read more

A Pullman loaf pan is a bread pan with a slide-on lid that produces a squared-off loaf with a firm, compact crumb that’s perfect for sandwiches. Though this style of pan (and bread) existed long before, these vessels are commonly associated with the cramped kitchens of 19th-century Pullman railcars, where the flat-topped breads that the pans produced were easier to stack than the domed loaves baked in traditional pans. We purchased three models—all 4 inches deep and 4 inches wide, with lengths ranging from 13 inches to 15¾ inches—and baked off a round of sandwich breads to see how each performed.

We can’t recommend two of the pans—both made from uncoated steel—at all. Both reacted with the canola-based cooking spray we used: Their surfaces discolored and gave off a fishy odor, and the bread in one pan actually stuck to the metal. (We later learned that the fishy smell came from iron in the steel that was reacting to the unsaturated fatty acids in the canola oil.) Moreover, because of their darker surface color, these two pans produced crust that was darker than we liked.

Neither pan came with care instructions, but we later learned that uncoated blue steel pans like these should be carefully and continuously seasoned and kept dry—like cast iron—lest they stick, discolor, and/or rust. We might have been willing to take the trouble, but the nonstick aluminized steel model in our lineup produced perfectly baked bread that released easily, with no fishy odor, plus it cleaned up in a snap.

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  • Product Tested

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    USA Pan 13 by 4-inch Pullman Loaf Pan & Cover

    The bread from this pan emerged with the proper tight crumb and golden-brown crust. The lid slid on and off easily, and the nonstick coating released perfectly, making the pan a snap to clean. Created with lightweight material, it was simple to maneuver in and out of the oven.

    $33.95

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  • Not Recommended

    Matfer Bourgeat 15.75 by 4-inch Bread Pan with Cover

    This French-made professional-quality pan was slightly longer than its American counterparts and required extra dough. Its dark surface baked the bread faster and darker than our winner, though it was still acceptable. The canola spray reacted with the iron in the steel, giving off a slight fishy smell. Furthermore, the pan became mottled after one use. While this pricey pan did not come with instructions, we later learned that it requires extensive seasoning and careful handling to prevent discoloration and rust.

    $71.95

  • Not Recommended

    Paderno World Cuisine Blue Steel Bread Pan with Cover

    The moment we opened the oven door to remove this pan, we were hit by the strong smell of fish. Despite a coating of nonstick spray on the pan, the bread stuck in some places, making it difficult to remove, and the stuck bits of bread that were jammed into the sharp corners were nearly impossible to extract. The pan came with no care instructions, but we later learned that blue steel requires seasoning and extensive care for best performance.

    $48.88

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