Bake

The Case for Lining Brownie Pans

August 26, 2013

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

 

27 Comments

Sara B. July 17, 2016
There is a subtle footnote about using nonstick aluminum foil and that is the key. It is amazing and works perfectly. I rinse it off, store it and reuse it each time I make brownies.
 
tamater S. September 26, 2016
That's what I would do. I try not to use 'products' as much as possible. I don't think greasing the pan is any big deal at all; two fingers, what the heck is the fussin' about? But what I do is grease and flour, and that can be messy, so I just do that part over the sink. I use a T or two of flour, and just turn the pan around to coat the sides. If there's a bit too much flour, I slide it into the refuse. But thanks for your admission, because I have been known to wash off the foil and take it home from my MIL's house. At first I used to sneak, but it's been out in the open for years now. ;-)
 
Laura415 March 26, 2016
A long time ago I saw Jacques Pepin line a pan this way and I've been doing this ever since. Rip a piece of parchment paper and lay it over the top edges of pan you're using. Center and make sure the parchment is covering the whole top of the pan. In order to get the paper to conform to the corners of the pan simply cut a diagonal cut with scissors at each corner. Then as you press the paper into the pan the cut parts will slide one behind the other conforming perfectly to the corners of any pan you are using. One trick is to eyeball the height of the sides and make your diagonal cut about that long. It doesn't have to be perfect but the cut has to be long enough to make it fit in the pan. Try it, it's awesome and I usually wash the parchment and save it for use in that pan again.
 
TwoScissors August 30, 2013
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.
 
Author Comment
Alice M. August 27, 2013
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.
 
Tiffany August 27, 2013
Do you still need to butter the foil after you line the pan? Thanks!
 
SandyM August 26, 2013
I believe Diane was commenting about Alzheimers and aluminum, not balling up aluminum foil and putting into the land fill.
 
wallflowerart August 26, 2013
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.
 
Diane M. August 26, 2013
foil has been associated with alzheimers, use parchment paper instead.
 
Robbie June 20, 2014
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.asp)
 
tamater S. September 26, 2016
I don't care if I'm answering a 3 yr. old post, I had to say thanks for caring and sharing. I like how you think. There are new cooks coming up all the time, and it never hurts to mention these things. Food for thought @ Food 52 - it's all good!
 
Author Comment
Alice M. August 26, 2013
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!
 
AntoniaJames August 26, 2013
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)
 
AntoniaJames August 26, 2013
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? <br /><br />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.<br /><br />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. <br />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.)<br /><br />I do think that we should be mindful and intentional in our kitchen practices involving one-time uses of anything. ;o)
 
lisina August 26, 2013
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.
 
wallflowerart August 26, 2013
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!
 
wallflowerart August 26, 2013
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!
 
Laura415 March 26, 2016
Antonia James please check out the method for fitting one sheet of parchment into a pan I just posted. I think you will appreciate it. I saw Jacques Pepin do it when I was a kid and it works so well I never forgot it.
 
kim_e August 26, 2013
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
 
Lynn C. August 26, 2013
I've made those cocoa brownies before - and added spicy potato chips! http://theactorsdiet.com/2011/07/03/special-brownies/
 
Renee B. August 26, 2013
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!
 
ChefJune August 26, 2013
That IS genius, except I bake brownies in a half-sheet pan. The foil doesn't come big enough!
 
lisina August 26, 2013
you can get 18" rolls of foil on amazon! :)
 
Michelle A. August 26, 2013
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!
 
Dana S. August 26, 2013
The trick of turning the pan upside down and molding foil? Pure genius. What a great bunch of tips!
 
lisabu August 26, 2013
I have been using this tip ever since i got her cookies and brownies book. What a game changer...as are all her recipes!
 
carswell August 26, 2013
I hate cleaning cooking pans - and so I line my baking sheets with foil whenever I use them too.