6 Best Loaf Pans, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
We baked a dozen loaves of pound cake to find the best loaf pans.
Our Top Loaf Pan Picks:
- Best Overall: Great Jones Breadwinner
- Runner-Up: Food Network Textured Performance Series Nonstick Loaf Pan
- Best Budget: Chicago Metallic Traditional Uncoated Loaf Pan
- Best Glass Loaf Pan: OXO Good Grips Glass Loaf Pan with Lid
- Best Microwave-Safe Loaf Pan: Pyrex Easy Grab Glass Loaf Dish
- Best Mini Loaf Pan: Silpat Nonstick Mini Loaf Mold
Tested by Jill Novatt for Food Network Kitchen
A good loaf pan is an essential part of any well-equipped kitchen. They are great for banana bread, pound cakes, crumb cakes, breads and even cross over into meal territory with meatloaf, stratas and smaller lasagnas. We tested a variety of glass, metal, ceramic, silicone and mini loaf pans by baking a classic pound cake. Overall, glass and ceramic pans seemed to brown the cake more quickly than the other materials — silicone barely browned the loaves — making them less ideal for sweet baked goods. However, we could see glass or ceramic loaf pans being the ideal vessel for savory loaves or dishes like meatloaf.
Read on to find out which loaf pan is right for you kitchen.
What to Know About Loaf Pans
The main differences between loaf pans are the material they are made of and the size.
- Loaf pans can be made of aluminized steel, with or without various nonstick coatings, cast-iron, glass, ceramic and silicone.
- Different materials affect the cooking in different ways — metal will cook faster but can give a darker crust on baked goods, especially darker metals. Glass and ceramic are great heat conductors which can cause naked good with lots of sugar to get darker than you’d like.
- A real advantage of glass and ceramic is that they are great for storing leftovers (many even come with a lid) and can be pretty enough to go right from oven to table.
- Silicone is great for its nonstick properties — you don’t even have to grease or flour — but it doesn’t brown well, so if you’re looking for that golden crust, this is not the material for you.
- As far as size, most pans are either 9-by-5 inches or 8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inches. There is very little difference between the two sizes, but a 9-by 5-inch pan may cook a little more quickly so set the timer to a few minutes before the recipe calls for and check.
Almost all of the metal pans we tested has the same almost folded metal design. The Great Jones pan has the same design, but came with two pans and was bright blue with a wave design on the bottom. This pan performed really well and yielded a great, evenly-browned pound cake that released very easily. This pan is fun and has style, yet is metal so is lighter than a glass or ceramic pan and easy to store. This pan did not come with instructions, although the website says it’s dishwasher safe with no caveats and can bake at high temperatures. The one downside is price — you are definitely paying for design here. They are pricier than some of the more basic pans below, but bring joyful color into baking if that is what you are looking for.
The Food Network loaf pan was the only no-seam metal pan in our test group. It was also 9-by-5 inches, making it the largest of the metal pans. Like the Great Jones pan, It also has a textured bottom and the pound cake baked up easily and was nice and evenly browned. The edges did get slightly darker than some of the other cakes, but it did not negatively affect the cake. This pan cooked out pound cake the fastest at 70 minutes and the resulting cake was super moist. What we really love about this pan is how easy it is to clean. Because it doesn’t have any of the seams of the other metal pans, it took minutes to clean up perfectly. This loaf pan is slightly larger than some loaf pans so it cooks just slightly faster than other pans.
The Chicago Metallic pan is a no-frills basic loaf pan that will get the job done well and without breaking the bank. This was the lightest of our metal loaf pans and had the same size and construction as many of the others. This pan does not have any textured bottom or sides but yielded a moist poundcake with very evenly browned top and sides. The Chicago Metallic pan doesn’t make any fancy claims but is just a solid loaf pan. Because there are no textured bottoms or sides it’s also slightly easier to clean. The packaging notes that this pan is dishwasher safe, but it doesn’t recommend doing so.
The OXO loaf pan is made of borosilicate glass which means it can go right from the fridge or freezer to your preheated oven. This loaf pan is great for people who love to prep ahead. It comes with a lid so it can easily go from fridge to oven and back to the fridge with leftovers. Because this pan is made of glass, it is heavier, but comes with fairly substantial handles to make going in and out of the oven feel effortless. Our one real caveat with glass loaf pans is that they are not great for high-sugar, dense breads like pound cake as the outside gets very dark before the inside can cook. This pan would be great for more savory breads, meatloaf, or a small lasagna. While we loved this pan for it’s versatility, the lid is not microwave safe, so if you are a heavy microwaver, this might not be the pan for you.
The Pyrex pan is very similar in looks to the OXO pan but is made of oven safe glass, not borosilicate glass. This means you lose the versatility of being able to go right from cold to hot (or fridge/freezer to oven). What you gain with this pan is a microwave safe lid. This pan is less for the preppers and more for the leftover lovers. This pan also has large handles that make it very easy to maneuver and are pretty enough to be able to go right from oven (or microwave) to table. Again, if your main objective for a loaf pan is sugary cakes, metal might be a better bet, but if you use a loaf pan for all kinds of things, this is a great, versatile loaf pan.
The Silpat loaf pan makes nine mini loaves. The mini loaves perfectly fit a recipe for a regular loaf pan. This pan is made of glass fiber textile with silicone coating. It needs to be on a baking sheet to be able to be moved and baked. The bonus of this material is that it is nonstick and because it doesn’t really conduct heat, you don’t have to worry about baked goods overbrowning. The instructions specifically said not to grease this pan, so we didn’t and the loaves still easily popped right out. The mini loaves were much lighter in color than all of our other loaves, but were super moist. This pan felt slightly harder to fill than other pans because of the material and the loaves didn’t mound as beautifully as some of our other loaves.
How We Tested
We tested 11 loaf pans in a variety of sizes and materials including aluminized steel, cast-iron, glass, glass, ceramic and silicone. We evaluated the size, weight, how comfortable it was to get in and the oven, how much information came with the pan and how easy it is to clean. We also looked at the range of oven temperatures and uses listed on the pan to see how versatile the pan is outside of sweet loaves. We also recorded if the pans had any special claims or came with any accessories.
For each pan we made Food Network Kitchen’s Classic Pound Cake. We noted how long it took to cook, how brown the cake got and if it was evenly browned, how moist the cake was and how easily the loaf came out of the pan.
Lastly, we evaluated how easy it is to clean the pan. We noted if it was dishwasher safe and if that came with any restrictions. We noted if there were initial use cleaning instructions. We then actually cleaned the pans after using them and noted how easy it was.