Here’s the Biggest Mistake You’re Making with a Dark or Nonstick Pan

Which recipes are best for baking with dark pans? Are light pans preferred? Here's what you need to know before your next baking extravaganza.

Does a recipe call for a light-colored pan, but your cupboard is only stocked full with dark pans? No worries. Read on for tips for baking with dark pans.

It’s all about the heat

Similar to how it feels when wearing light clothing versus dark clothing on a hot day, a lighter pan absorbs less heat and radiation from the oven than a darker pan.

What does that mean for your baked goods? Because a dark metal pan absorbs and spreads heat more efficiently than a lighter-colored pan, it can cause cakes to brown too quickly on the sides and set around the top edges before the cake has completely baked through, often resulting in a domed cake.

Be sure to avoid these other cake mistakes, too.

When to use dark pans vs. other pans

Because darker pans promote browning, they are best used when crispness is an asset, such as with pizza and cornbread (have you tried these mouthwatering recipes?). When baking cakes and cookies, lighter pans are ideal. While you might think adding a sheet of lighter colored parchment paper might help, this is not the case. However, a silicone baking mat can help distribute the heat more evenly when baking with a darker pan.

Tips for using dark pans

There are two rules of thumb when baking with darker pans. First, decrease the baking temperature by 25 degrees. Second, check for doneness 10 to 15 minutes before the recipe instructs you to do so. This will ensure that you don’t overbake whatever’s in the oven.

In general, when it comes to cakes, a lighter pan promotes more even baking. However, if you only have darker pans, wrapping aluminum foil around the outside of the pan can help to absorb some of the heat from the oven and help prevent over-browning.

Overall, it’s smart to have a few light and dark pans in your arsenal, but these tips can help you tackle any recipe no matter what you have.

Not sure if your baking sheet is really light or dark? Here’s how to clean off all that grime.

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Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.