Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: Brette searches for a sturdy, resilient baking sheet.
We all have those moments in the kitchen, those moments when our worlds shake, shift, and change for the better. Maybe it was the time you first put an onion in a pan, then watched it get clear and then brown and then soft and then sweet. Maybe it was when you used a sharp knife for the first time, then discovered the simple glee in chopping vegetables.
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For me, it was seeing bacon getting cooked on a baking sheet. (For those who don’t know to do this, try it: lay bacon on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees. It will fry in its own fat.)
Baking sheets, from then on, have taken on this mystical, awe-inspiring quality; how can they do so much? How can you bake cookies on them one day and then fry bacon on them the next? How can you use them for simple prep work – storing prepped vegetables and meats, holding bowls of mise en place – and then roast a chicken on them? (You can even hack a tart pan out of them.)
It may just be a rectangle of aluminum and steel – but for a home cook, it’s magical.
Since my baking sheets will be my work horses – they’ll get roasted and broiled, baked and stacked, made to hold as much weight as their edges can fill – I need resilient ones, sturdy ones. Ones that won’t warp too soon; ones that won’t leak and spill. Ones that, like Amanda’s, will hold their scrapes, scratches, and memories with pride.
My first set of criteria: rims. What’s the point of cooking something delicious if it’s just going to spill everywhere? (Can you tell I’m a jostling, violent, rough-around-the-edges cook?) While cookies, vegetables, and other non-liquid-producing foods are just fine on non-rimmed baking sheets, lots of the good stuff – the bacon fat, the chicken juices, even the nubby brown bits on the bottom of the pan – can be lost without rims. Since I’m starting from scratch, I’d rather have all rimmed baking sheets; that way, I can use them all interchangeably. Cook’s Illustrated recommends the Wear-Ever Half Size Heavy Duty Sheet Pan by Vollrath – and at $21.79, it won’t break the bank.
Another important criterion: thickness. Here, it’s a fine balance between thickness and cost; I want a sheet as thick as I can get for a reasonable price. Thinness leads to burnt stuff: burnt bottoms, burnt bits, burnt juices, burnt fat. (The good stuff.) Plus, if these are going to be work horses, I want to keep the warping at a minimum. A thick, sturdy bottom will prevent that.
Some cooks, these days, debate over nonstick or normal baking sheets. As of now, I’m leaning towards the normal – there’s always parchment to turn to, and nonstick pans are rumored to suck the moisture out of your food.
But I’m young; I’m naïve. I need your help. What kind of baking sheets do you love, and what would you recommend for my first kitchen?