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Muffin Tins

Published April 2017

How we tested

Do you know the muffin man? Well, forget him. Around these parts it’s the muffin woman. Or at least that’s what I’ve been calling myself after making 10 batches of muffins, 10 batches of cupcakes, and 10 batches of single-serve frittatas in a single week.

I was testing muffin tins. Our previous favorite had been discontinued, as had the second-place finisher, so it was time for a fresh look. We also wanted to examine a trend: Gold-colored pans have dominated our recent testings of rectangular baking pans, loaf pans, round cake pans, and square cake pans. Gold pans beat out darker and lighter pans in each category by easily releasing baked goods that had just the right amount of browning. With gold muffin tins now on the market, we wondered if the trend would continue.

To find out, we chose ten 12-cup muffin tins priced from $10.30 to $32.99. Three were gold or bronze, three were light or medium silver, and four were dark. In the past we’ve focused on nonstick muffin tins because easy release is key with tender muffins. But this time we included one without a nonstick coating; instead it had a very shallow snakeskin pattern etched into it, ostensibly to help with release.

We evaluated each muffin tin on its durability, release, handling, and the browning of the baked goods it produced. There were no issues with wear and tear, and only one model had a problem with release. Care to guess which? Yep, the one without a nonstick coating. Its textured pattern left us prying out muffins with a knife. We’ll stick with nonstick.

We noticed an interesting trend regarding the color of the muffin tins: In general, lighter models produced lighter-colored baked goods and darker ones made darker-colored baked goods. And the gold (or bronze) muffin tins produced browning that was right in the middle.

To understand why, we looked at the way heat works. In an oven, heat radiates out in waves. When the waves hit a pan, its atoms and molecules move faster, which heats everything up. But different materials absorb heat waves at different rates. In general, darker objects absorb more heat waves than lighter objects because lighter things reflect some of the waves. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve worn dark clothes on a hot, sunny day—black absorbs heat waves, so you feel hotter. Conversely, if you’re wearing white, you’re likely to feel cooler because the lighter fabric reflects some of the waves and thus absorbs less heat.

So the muffins from darker muffin tins were darker and had thicker crusts because they’d been subjected to more heat. And muffins from lighter muffin tins were paler and softer because they had been subjected to less heat. The gold muffin tins produced muffins (and frittatas and cupcakes) with browning right in the middle, sporting crusts that were browned and flavorful but still tender.

Muffin tin color also affected the shape of the baked goods. Because dark models conduct heat faster, the sides of their baked goods set faster, leaving the rest of the batter to rise upward, sometimes into oddly conical or bulbous shapes. Lighter- and medium-colored models, on the other hand, made more-consistent, appealingly shaped baked goods because their sides set more slowly, in step with the rest of the batter, allowing a more controlled rise and resulting in more normal shaping.

The shape of the muffin tins was also hugely important. We included only models that had some sort of handle or extended rim, as experience has taught us that without a spot to grab, maneuvering a hot muffin tin can feel like slow dancing in middle school—you never know where to put your hands.

At first glance, muffin tins with handles seemed promising because they had clear, dedicated spots to hold on to. But the handles were mostly too small; we repeatedly dented the top of muffins with our oven mitts. It soon became clear that oversize rims were a better option. Models with a broad rim around all sides were the easiest to maneuver and gave us multiple spots to grip, so we could hold the muffin tin whichever way was most comfortable in the moment. They also facilitated one-handed maneuvering. And if a muffin tin had only handles, we sometimes had to reach all the way into the oven to rotate it, but with a good oversize rim, we could just grab any corner and turn.

The muffin tin with the biggest rim was downright luxurious to move around. It also had a gold nonstick finish that made perfectly browned baked goods. Those factors combined made the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro 12-Cup Muffin Pan ($24.99) our clear winner.


We tested ten 12-cup muffin tins, rating them on the shape and browning of their muffins, cupcakes, and frittatas, as well as how easy they were to handle and clean. To test their durability, between baking tests we washed the muffin tins 10 times by hand and then scrubbed each individual cup 25 times with an abrasive sponge. We also ran a paring knife around the inside of each cup 25 times to simulate prying out a stuck muffin. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

RELEASE: We coated muffin tins lightly with vegetable oil spray before each test and rated how well they relinquished their contents after baking.

BROWNING: We evaluated the color of the baked goods produced by each muffin tin; we awarded the most points to those that were an even golden brown.

FOOD SHAPE: We evaluated the shape of the baked goods produced by each muffin tin; we awarded the most points to those that were tall, with crisp edges and consistent shapes.

HANDLING: Wearing our winning oven mitts, we moved the muffin tins in and out of the oven and rotated them halfway through baking; we rated them on how comfortable, easy, and secure they were to hold and move.

The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.