Mini Loaf Pans
How we tested
Mini loaf pans make it a snap to churn out petite breads and cakes for homemade holiday gifts. Since most recipes designed for a 9 by 5-inch pan will fill three mini loaf pans measuring roughly 5 1/2 by 3 inches, we homed in on models that size. We found six products, priced from $8.75 to $28.95. They came in sets of either three or four pans, and we also found one tray-style model with four wells. We baked pound cake and loaves of orange-pecan and banana quick breads in each, looking for tall, nicely domed, evenly browned loaves with precise edges.
Just as we’ve found with regular-size loaf pans, the material and weight of the pans were key to the results. One set of light-colored, lightweight aluminum pans produced loaves with flat, browned tops and pale, spongy sides. The rest of the sets, which were medium to dark gray and gold, performed much better. Each one yielded nicely domed loaves, with the darkest pans achieving the most even and most attractive golden-brown coloring. As for the tray-style model, we didn’t love it. Loaves turned out too dark, which we attributed to the fact that this pan has more metal to attract heat than do the stand-alone pans.
As for handling, testers found that all of the pans released the baked goods cleanly. That said, individual pans were more convenient than the tray-style model. When flipping out the loaves from the tray, multiple loaves slid out at once; we preferred the greater control of handling one pan at a time. Ultimately, while we noticed subtle differences in the shape and browning of our breads and cake, we found that several sets passed muster. The best of these, the Chicago Metallic Set of 4 Mini Loaf Pans ($11.99), won top marks for loaves with tall, even doming and the prettiest, most even golden-brown coloring.