Non-stick pans for Baking - Yes or No?
I received this email from Meg, a student at the Benjamin School who wanted to know which non-stick pans work best and what I used for baking cookies and brownies?
Since I don't really do much baking yet, I referred this question to Certified Master Baker, Leslie Bilderback. I say "yet" because I'm in the process of building a wood-burning oven and looking forward to learning how to bake bread in it. And pizza of course! More on that soon.
Here's what Chef Bilderback had to say:
When I bake, I use parchment paper on cookie sheets (what we call sheet pans), cake pans, and loaf pans. My cookware is primarily aluminum, which is the best heat conductor in my opinion.
For cookie sheets, I just lay the paper down on the pan and that's it. For cake and loaf pans with high sides, I spray the pan with pan spray (like "Pam"), lay the paper in (cut to size) then spray the paper too. The paper keeps the food from sticking and the spray ensures that the paper will release.
For smaller molds like muffin pans and decorative, weirdly shaped pans, I use only Pam spray. Some chefs like flour too, but I do not like flour on the outside of my cakes.
I have silicone rubber mats that I use only for delicate candy and wafer cookie work. I never use them for everyday baking. The companies advertise them as a non-stick surface for making cookies, but each time they're used they deteriorate a little more. Those mats aren't cheap, so I reserve them for when I really need them. Besides parchment paper clean up is easier (throw it away!)
Parchment paper also prolongs the life of your pans. The grease from the food does not get on the pan, so it does not need scrubbing, and so it lasts longer. Many supermarkets carry parchment in rolls, but I like to by it at the Smart and Final where they have it in huge boxes. For around $20 bucks I can get enough parchment to last me 3-4 years! (And I bake a lot!)
I do not like non-stick coating on pans. The minute you scrub them, or use a metal utensil on them, they get scratched, and no longer serve the non-stick function. The only non-sticks I have are sauté pans for eggs and I am super careful with them, using only plastic utensils.
I have a couple silicone pans that are flexible and fun, but I have found that they do not brown as well, and if they get filled with dense batter they do not keep their shape. I have to set that pan inside another one for stability. These, too, are touted as non-stick, but once you take a scrubby to it, it sticks.
I'm interested to bake, but it always seems so complex! Anyway, when you use parchment paper in cake pans with higher sides, do you place the parchment paper just on the bottom or do you fold and bend to make it cover the sides too? If you fold and bend and it leaves wrinkles, do your cakes come out with wrinkled sides? I've asked this question elsewhere and never got a clear reply. Thanks in advance.
I use parchment paper in my loaf pans for breads and in my square pans for cakes. If you take the time to make neat folds in the corners you will not have any wrinkles.
It just takes practice.
To line a pan with parchment, I set the pan on the paper, trace it, then cut it out. I do not like creases in the paper, because they do indeed translate to the cake.
For loaf pans, a simple strip running the length of the pan, and up only the two short sides, will suffice. But actually, the sides don't need to be covered at all.
As cakes bake, they contract, especially if you have coated the pan with spray. But they won't contract off the bottom (unless its an anti-gravity cake), so we need paper there. The sides can easily be released by running a knife around the edges.
What about using a cast Iron Pot. Dutch oven type.