When it comes to baking, your tools are as important as your ingredients. Whether you are a beginner, a once-a-year baker, or an experienced baking enthusiast, having the right cookware in your cabinets can be the difference between a perfectly moist cake and an overcooked burnt one. What a tragedy it is to pull a cake from the oven, only to turn it out and find a completely scorched bottom. However, with the power of the right pans and a few pro baking tips from baking maven and Time Inc. Food Studios recipe developer/tester, Pam Lolley, you are well on your way to fulfilling your baking dreams. Lolley’s greatest hits include Elderflower Pound Cake, Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Browned Butter Frosting, and her signature Pam-Cakes pancakes, just to name a few—so rest assured, she’s a baking sensei worth seeking out.
As you take your first steps into the realm of baking (or begin setting up a new kitchen), Lolley suggest that you have at least these 4 staple pans in your arsenal. When you are shopping for pans, opt for the lighter shaded metal pans as opposed to the very dark metal pans. Foods baked in darker pans absorbs more heat, making your baked goods appear darker than they should. You can buy all of these baking dishes, at a fairly low cost, from retailers such as Target or Walmart, as well as online, from stores like Amazon.
Not only can you bake cakes in this pan, it’s incredibly useful for prepping dinner too. This versatile piece of bakeware can be used to make casseroles, lasagna, baked chicken, and baked fish, among countless other savory items. As far baking goes, it’ great for brownies, cookie bars, rice crispy treats, and cobblers. If anything, this should be your first purchase given its versatility.
To achieve any sort of uniformity with your layered cakes, it’s best to have a set of 9-inch round baking pans (they are often sold in sets of 2). If you find yourself taking a serious interest in baking, you may want to expand your collection to include 3 or 4 round baking pans. When it comes to these pans, you want to find baking rounds that have straight sides, rather than tapered. The tapered sides make it difficult to ice stacked cake layers evenly.
While many, if not most, cake recipes you’ll come across call for 9-inch pans, you can also opt for 8-inch here if you prefer slightly thicker layers. If you go this route—which, generally speaking, leads you to taller and smaller (in diameter) layer cakes—just keep in mind that you’ll likely need to add a few minutes to the bake time when preparing recipes that call for 9-inch pans.
A bundt pan is a type of tube pan that has fluted sides with an inner tube, while a classic tube pan has straight sides with a (usually) removable inner tube. Angel food and sponge cakes are typically made in a tube pan, as a bundt pan’s grooves are not ideal for these light, airy cakes, especially when it comes time to remove them from the pan. However, the bundt pan is game for a variety of other cakes, such as coffee cakes, pound cakes, apple cakes, or a basic yellow cake. If you're only going with one (for now, at least), consider what types of cake you're more likely to bake on a regular basis in order to determine which pan you should buy.
You better believe you need a pie pan. You can practice perfecting your pie dough skills by making an intricate lattice top or choose an easier cookie crumb/graham cracker crust for your pie needs. Beyond your sweet endeavors, this essential piece of cookware is also ideal for savory dishes like quiche and pot pie. While glass vs. metal vs. ceramic is largely a matter of preference, Lolley suggests keeping it classic with a glass (9-inch) Pyrex pan. Glass, though not as efficient of a heat conductor as metal, allows you to better monitor your pie crust's browning as it bakes because of its transparent nature, and actually encourages faster browning. (Keep that in mind when you set your timer after popping a pie in the oven). A pie pan is also useful item to have when you are preparing fried foods. The wide and shallow shape makes for easy dredging with flour or breadcrumb mixtures.
This story originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.