My 9 x 9 pan always burns the bottom of whatever I cook in it...I don't really want to get a new pan (poor college student), but is there anything I can do to keep the food from burning?
What type burner are you cooking on? Gas or electric; grid or coil? Or are you burning it in the oven?
You mean a cake pan, right? What is it made of? You could try lining it with aluminum foil and then buttering and flouring the foil. Also, are you sure it's the pan? It could be that your oven's thermostat is off--check your oven temperature if you can.
Drbabs is right. No two ovens are calibrated equally. You can't simply trust that oven dial. If it's burning at 400 crank it down to 350. Being a poor college student you probably can't afford one of those laser guns which gives you a quick read on surface temperatures.
We had an oven that's thermostat was completely broken. It went from 0 to 500 no matter where you set the dial. You could check that with a cheap oven thermometer. They aren't very accurate, but at least you'll get an idea if you need to make an adjustment as pierino suggested, or if the oven's thermostat just doesn't work at all.
You could try adjusting the level of your oven racks. Unless otherwise specified in your recipe, loaves of bread and pies go on the bottom rack; roasts, braises, brownies and cakes in the middle; cookies, biscuits, rolls on the top. In many recipes, rack placement plays a crucial role in evenly-baked and -browned goodies.
To increase the heat resistance of a pan that's made out of thin aluminum or tin, make a heatproof pad by sandwiching two layers of paper towels between two sheets of aluminum foil, folding the foil over to completely enclose the paper towels. Center this pad on the oven rack and place your baking pan on top. You might have to adjust the baking time somewhat--begin checking for doneness five minutes before the time stated in the recipe. Under no circumstances should the pad be used on a stovetop.
My oven is super hot on the bottom, so anything I put on the bottom shelf burns. I put my baking pans on a heavy cookie sheet before I bake on that shelf. I also use a cast iron skillet - I have a huge one that can hold a 9x9 pan, but my smaller one is great for loaf pans.
You can place the pan on a couple of cookie sheets, which will insulate your pan bottom.
Ideally, go buy an oven thermometer. They're a few bucks at the hardware store, but money well spent. Hang it in the oven and set oven to the temp you desire. Let the oven preheat for like 15 minutes. Check the thermometer temp and adjust heat by decreasing/increasing temp setting, until you get the temp you need.
If it's still too dang hot, you can open the oven door, curse both Sears and the oven, and frantically fan an oven mitt towards the oven, for say 20 - 30 seconds, until the thermometer gets to your desired temp. This is my favorite, highly tested method.
thanks! all of these sound like easy fixes. it could definitely be the oven also. i moved into a new apartment recently.
I had an oven in Cairo that was just too hot from the bottom so I had much the same problem. I solved it by buying an insulated cookie sheet, which I used under most things. worked like a charm. Something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Insulated-16-Inch-Aluminum-Cookie/dp/B0000VMGUQ
I would take a larger baking dish, put in an inch or more of water, then nest the 9x9 inside, to let the water provide a buffer. Adjust the amount of water so there's enough that it doesn't all boil away. You could put a few chopsticks on the bottom to have water under the primary pan.