Rogue Baking Tips with Alice Medrich

The Case for Lining Brownie Pans

By • August 26, 2013 • 22 Comments

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Listen up -- here are the many reasons why you should be lining your brownie pan.

Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies on Food52

I line brownie pans with foil -- across the bottom and up all four sides. This may seem like a time-consuming extra step. But it's actually an elegant trick and a time saver too.   

An unlined pan needs to be greased -- a messy activity that I avoid whenever possible. And then the brownies must be cut in the pan, which scratches your pans, dulls your knives, and deforms the first brownie out of the pan (arguably a plus if you need an excuse to eat it yourself). Of course the pan must be washed before you put it away.

More: Get Alice's genius Best Cocoa Brownies recipe -- and don't forget to line that pan.

The Case for Lining Brownie Pans on Food52

Lining the pan is quicker and less messy. The brownies are easier to remove when cool, and you can cut them all perfectly (if you care about such things). If you pour the batter carefully, you can even put the pan away without washing it, because it won’t be dirty!

There is just one thing: Never ever lay the foil across the pan and try to press it in. It will always tear, and you will always be annoyed.

The Case for Lining Brownie Pans on Food52  The Case for Lining Brownie Pans on Food52

Here's the secret: for an 8- or 9-inch square pan, tear off a square piece of foil* from a 12-inch roll. Turn the pan upside down on the counter. Center the foil on the pan: you should have 1 1/2 to 2 inches extending on each side. Fold the excess down the sides of the pan. Fold and crease the corners as though wrapping a present (I kind of enjoy this part). Slip your neat, tailor-made liner off of the pan. Turn the pan right side up and ease the liner into it. That's all! Clean, neat, quick. When the brownies are completely cool, grasp the edges of the foil and lift the brownies out and onto a cutting board.

*Nonstick foil is even easier to detach from the cooled brownies...


Alice's most recent book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, doles out delicious dessert recipes that don't take hours of prep (a lot of them don't even require turning on the oven) -- everything from lattice-free linzer to one-bowl French chocolate torte.

Photos by James Ransom

 

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Tags: rogue baking tips, alice medrich, lining, foil, lining pans, brownie pans, baking

Comments (22)

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11 months ago TwoScissors

I cut 2 parchment sheets the width of the pan and lay them in opposite directions. No messy corners and easy to lift the brownies out of the pan.

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11 months ago Alice Medrich

I don't butter or grease the foil. When the brownies are completely cool, I turn the the whole thing over and peel the foil off of it.

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11 months ago Tiffany

Do you still need to butter the foil after you line the pan? Thanks!

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11 months ago SandyM

I believe Diane was commenting about Alzheimers and aluminum, not balling up aluminum foil and putting into the land fill.

__susan

11 months ago wallflowerart

I bake quite a bit and am not one for new gadgets or one trick ponies, but I actually won one of those new "As seen on TV" brownie pans that have an insert somewhat like an old fashioned ice tray that bakes cut brownies. Anyway, the thing is a MARVEL! I can't believe I love this thing after I gave it the eye roll so many times. It is in 3 pieces. The 9x13 pan, a liner that is basically a metal version of the "sling" and then the grid. It truly does make perfect brownies, and other foods, like little meatloaves. But even if you didn't want to use the grid (which makes them cook evenly too) you still get the sling to lift out the brownies without the waste of foil! Sorry, you do have to wash it.

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11 months ago Diane McGuire

foil has been associated with alzheimers, use parchment paper instead.

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about 1 month ago Robbie

The Aluminum-Alzhiemers connection is inconclusive, at best. Most major health organizations including Alzheimer's Association indicate that no recent study has been able to support the connection. (http://m.alz.org/myths...)

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11 months ago Alice Medrich

I do not have a comparison of foil v parchment but I appreciate your concern for the environmental impact. You actually can line a pan fully (bottom and all four sides) with recycled parchment if you want to (and I often do this especially for loaf pans when I make poundcake) using the same method that I use for the foil, only taking extra care to crease all of the folds. Otherwise the sling method that you described is time honored!

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11 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you. I've been using the sling method since I baked my first batch of brownies, a very long time ago. I learned it from my mother, who probably learned it from her grandmother, so yes, it is indeed time honored! It's never occurred to me to do it any other way . . . and I really don't mind the quick clean up of the two unlined sides, especially given the minimal clean up required with your (truly outstanding, best ever) brownie recipe. ;o)

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11 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

This tip is useful, but do you have any information on the environmental impact of using foil a single time -- even if it can be recycled, which may be true in some places, but certainly is not true everywhere -- compared to using parchment paper, which is a renewable resource that can be composted?

Yes, I realize that you can't get the same shape with paper, i.e., you cannot make it go up all four sides. I've made your brownies many times since the recipe was first posted here. I made them this weekend in fact for a party. I always create a sling with parchment (not hard to get right, and you can always fold it under on one edge if you eyeball it wrong) and then lightly butter the non-lined edges. After letting the brownies cool, I gently slide a fine-edged plastic spatula (the hard one that came with my Cuisinart several decades ago) to release the brownies from the unlined sides. If you do it slowly and attentively, you can remove the brownies using the sling without any ill consequences whatsoever.

But getting back to the environmental point . . . . if you assume that 135,000 people (less than the number of users who have signed up as users of FOOD52, and far less than the two million unique visitors here every month) make four batches of brownies a year and use a square foot of aluminum foil each time, which they then ball up and throw away, that would produce 2,500 cubic feet of metal (a non-renewal resource) going into landfills. If aluminium foil absolutely must be used, I urge readers to purchase a recycled brand.
And finally, I don't pretend to know whether the environmental impact of foil is greater than the parchment paper . . . which is how this rather long post. (Maybe I'll take this question over to the Hotline.)

I do think that we should be mindful and intentional in our kitchen practices involving one-time uses of anything. ;o)

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11 months ago lisina

i use the parchment sling method too, leaving a bit of slack on each side for lifting, and i really prefer it to foil because it's so much stronger! maybe i don't have the delicate touch, but foil always seems to tear or stick. parchment comes clean every time, the brownies lift right out, and there is still hardly any cleanup. also, cooking on aluminum makes me a little uncomfortable, but that's a different issue.

__susan

11 months ago wallflowerart

I bake quite a bit and am not one for new gadgets or one trick ponies, but I actually won one of those new As seen on TV brownie pans that have an insert somewhat like an old fashioned ice tray that bakes cut brownies. Anyway, the thing is a MARVEL! It is in 3 pieces. The 9x13 pan, a liner that is basically a metal version of the "sling" and then the grid. It truly does make perfect brownies, and other foods, like little meatloaves. But even if you didn't want to use the grid (which makes them cook evenly too) you still get the sling without the waste of foil!

__susan

11 months ago wallflowerart

I bake quite a bit and am not one for new gadgets or one trick ponies, but I actually won one of those new As seen on TV brownie pans that have an insert somewhat like an old fashioned ice tray that bakes cut brownies. Anyway, the thing is a MARVEL! It is in 3 pieces. The 9x13 pan, a liner that is basically a metal version of the "sling" and then the grid. It truly does make perfect brownies, and other foods, like little meatloaves. But even if you didn't want to use the grid (which makes them cook evenly too) you still get the sling without the waste of foil!

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11 months ago kim_e

Great tip!,,I use a larger pan so I rip 2 sheets of foil and double fold lengthwise to make a large sheet of foil

Stringio

11 months ago Lynn Chen

I've made those cocoa brownies before - and added spicy potato chips! http://theactorsdiet.com...

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11 months ago Renee B Fraser

Great tip....I do hate to clean the pans...my daughter gave me a tip about turning a plastic knife upside down (serrated edge up) to slice brownies, so they will have a smooth edge. It works!

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11 months ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

That IS genius, except I bake brownies in a half-sheet pan. The foil doesn't come big enough!

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11 months ago lisina

you can get 18" rolls of foil on amazon! :)

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11 months ago Michelle Ardillo

Absolute genius. I always line my pans when making brownies or bar cookies but I never thought to flip it over and make a mold of the foil first! Brilliant! Thanks so much!

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11 months ago Dana Staves

The trick of turning the pan upside down and molding foil? Pure genius. What a great bunch of tips!

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11 months ago lisabu

I have been using this tip ever since i got her cookies and brownies book. What a game changer...as are all her recipes!

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11 months ago carswell

I hate cleaning cooking pans - and so I line my baking sheets with foil whenever I use them too.