You woke up this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about baking the perfect loaf of pumpkin bread. But should you bake this scrumptious, spiced sensation in a ceramic or metal pan? Is there a difference? Does one produce a tastier result?
Let’s take a dive into the world of baking in ceramic vs. metal – exploring the best options for loaves, cakes, and other baked goods.
Is Ceramic or Metal Better for Baking?
The answer to this is pretty simple – it depends. Metal is better for baking anything in need of rich browning or a crisp crust. The darker the pan, the crispier and more golden the result, as darker pans absorb more heat than lighter pans.
Ceramic, on the other hand – like both glass and silicone – is an insulator rather than a conductor, meaning it is slower to heat than metal, although once fully hot, will retain its heat for a longer time. As a result, ceramic is better for baking cobblers, bread puddings, and other crustless desserts. Still, if you’re fresh out of metal pans, most recipes can be adjusted to use ceramic by reducing your bake temperature by just 25ºF.
Conveniently, most recipes will actually tell you which one is optimal to use. As attested by baking authority Better Homes and Gardens, calling for a baking dish generally signifies the use of a ceramic or oven-safe vessel, but a baking pan calls for one made of metal.
Baking Cake in Ceramic vs Metal
Metal appears to be the clear leader when it comes to cake baking. Light-colored metal especially is considered best for even browning. Since ceramic isn’t a great heat conductor, heat is slower to transfer to the batter in ceramic than in metal, which can leave the center underbaked, resulting in a sunken cake that has concaved and shrunk. Adding time can cause an over-browning in the edges which isn’t ideal for cakes.
Additionally, weighty ceramic can be difficult to properly turn out a cake and transport it; lightweight metal and aluminum will be easier to maneuver.
Essentially, the results are in – it is best to stick to metal for baking the ultimate cake.
Ceramic Loaf Pan vs Metal
Okay, but what about loaves? Is it best to bake in a ceramic loaf pan vs metal one? Let’s review these materials to learn which is preferable.
Ceramic pans can be used for baking loaves, especially savory loaves like zucchini bread. Some find the corners to be crispier when baking items with lots of sugar in ceramic, so if crispy edges aren’t your thing, ceramic may not be the ideal choice for sweeter items, but for less sugary baked goods ceramic can be a great choice. The best ceramic loaf pan is one that is thick and heavy-duty.
Feel free to opt for ceramic though if those brown and crispy edges are your thing. No judgment here!
Metal bakeware will always be a classic choice for loaf baking. Its conductivity gives an even bake and lovely, rich browning. But which metal exactly is best for baking loaves?
Aluminum: Lightweight aluminum is a popular choice for loaf baking; it conducts heat well leading to a nice even bake and browning for loaves. However, these pans are not dishwasher safe, so handwashing is a must. Additionally, never slice your loaf in an aluminum pan – aluminum is a soft metal – you’ll likely scratch the finish.
Stainless steel: Stainless steel is more durable and slightly more expensive than aluminum. Unlike aluminum, stainless steel is dishwasher safe, although it conducts heat less well than aluminum so you won’t get as much browning on your loaf. Therefore they are a good option if you like your loaves a little paler.
Additionally, there is aluminized steel, which possesses an aluminum coating. These pans are durable and even conductors, providing the best of both worlds – just be sure to handwash them in order to preserve their aluminum coating.
Cast Iron: Are crispy golden crusts irresistible to you? Then a cast iron loaf pan might be worth the investment. These dark, heavy pans may be challenging to maneuver and are handwash only, but you can truly craft some amazing loaves when baking in cast iron.
Ceramic Coated Baking Pans
Wait, what? There are ceramic-coated baking pans? Indeed, there are! These metal pans come with a ceramic finish giving them a tough nonstick and scratch-resistant surface. These alternative pans have been rising again in popularity – Epicurious even found them to perform better than traditional nonstick pans.
Ceramic pans are generally dishwasher safe, distribute and conduct heat well, and are safe for oven-baking at temps up to 500°F. It is recommended to use them primarily at low or medium heat as the higher heat breaks down their nonstick coating quicker. These ceramic-coated pans must also be allowed to cool completely before washing – warping can occur otherwise due to the shock or cold water meeting these pan’s hot surfaces.
Baking Time in Ceramic vs Metal
If you’re using a ceramic dish in lieu of a metal baking pan, the consensus is that you’ll likely want to reduce your baking temperature by 25ºF to reduce the risk of over-browning. Does your recipe call for a baking dish or baking pan? Remember, baking dish means glass or ceramic – baking pan means metal.
Pros and Cons of Baking in Ceramic
Beautiful ceramic – can’t we use you for everything? Your precious patterns and delightful designs work as table decor in themselves. Unfortunately, as with nearly everything in life, there are pros and cons to these endearing vessels.
Ceramic bakeware possesses many assets – let’s tally the ways.
- Retains Heat: Because ceramic is an insulator, it will retain heat longer than metal, so you won’t have to worry about your goodies getting chilly while traveling from kitchen to table.
- Non-reactive: Unlike some metals, ceramic is not reactive, meaning it won’t react to acidic or alkaline foods, and won’t result in an altered flavor as when you cook these items in certain metals like aluminum or copper.
- Easy to Clean: Ceramic is generally safe to be put in the dishwasher unless it is handpainted. No more handwashing!
- Aesthetics: The aesthetically pleasing ceramic dishes are beautiful to serve at family gatherings. Prepare to have your guests “ooh” and “aah” over delightful ceramic patterns.
There are a few downsides to baking in ceramic. Here’s a rundown of the cons.
- Poor Conductor: As ceramic is a better insulator than a conductor, it is slow to heat and baking may be less even. Overbrowning or uneven baking can occur in some desserts.
- Heat Limits: Ceramic is not recommended to be used at high heat and should not be used under a broiler unless the manufacturer explicitly states it can be. Make sure the ceramic you buy is labeled oven-safe and adheres to any listed temperature limits. Ignoring these can lead to thermal shock after removing your bakeware from the oven, resulting in cracking or even shattering.
- Sensitive to Temperature Changes: Don’t subject those beautiful ceramic dishes to extreme temperature changes either as this can cause cracks. So – that hot ceramic pan you just popped your banana bread out of – let it fully cool before soaking it in water.
Pros and Cons of Baking in Metal
Versatile as it is, metal as a bakeware option holds its own assortment of highs and lows. Let’s quickly review:
- Can Take High Temperatures: When cooking at higher temps, opting for metal is best.
- Heats Quickly: Since metal heats more quickly than ceramic, it can generate a more even browning and better rise.
- Ideal for Sugary Items: Experts agree, metal is best for sugary desserts like cakes, sweet loaves, and brownies.
- Often Handwash Only: Metal bakeware is not always dishwasher safe – this means spending some quality time with your kitchen sponge.
- Cools Quickly: Metal heats faster than ceramic, but cools quicker. Your precious baked goods may be a tad cold by the time they make it out to the dinner table.
- Disparity in Quality: Not all metal is equal – some metals are of higher quality than others. Less durable options can rust, warp, or lose their nonstick coating with time.
- Reactive: Certain metals like aluminum can be reactive to acidic foods leading to a tinny or metallic flavor. This includes citrus and berries, so you best choose another bakeware option rather than metal for that blackberry cobbler!
We’ve overviewed the basics, and the upsides and downsides of baking in ceramic vs. metal are now tucked safely away in your back pocket. Ceramic is best used with cobblers, crustless desserts, and savory loaves. Metal is an effective choice for sugary desserts, providing a consistent and even bake with less chance of over-browning in lighter-colored pans. Love those crispy crusts? Go ahead, and bake your loaf in a ceramic pan but remember to lower the temperature if the recipe calls for a metal baking pan rather than a baking dish.