If you’re trying to declutter your kitchen and choose one 13×9 pan (or 8×8, or loaf pan, or…you get the idea) for all your cooking and baking needs, I have some bad news: You might want to consider keeping two. Whether you reach for a glass or metal baking pan depends on a few factors.
When to Use Metal Bakeware
When I was a restaurant chef, everything we used was metal. Glass not only had an increased chance of breaking at our high-volume usage, but the metal pans were just more versatile. Metal bakeware minimizes cleanup on dishes like braised short ribs—you can put the pan directly on the cooktop to sear the meat before adding liquid, covering it with aluminum foil and transferring it to oven to braise. You could also place it directly underneath the broiler to melt cheese on top of your casserole after it bakes.
On the flip side, while metal is a great conductor of heat, it’s not ideal for retaining heat. It will heat up rapidly, but it loses that heat just as quickly when it’s removed from the oven. It’s also important to remember that acidic foods can react with the material, adding a slightly metallic flavor to your meal.
Reach for metal when you’re: making quick-roasted meals, browning food or braising meats.
Skip metal when you’re: making casseroles you want to stay warm in the pan or cooking acidic foods (like fruit cobblers or anything tomato-based).
When to Use Glass Bakeware
Glass is the 13×9 choice of most home cooks (myself included). It might not be great at conducting heat (so it’ll be slow to heat up), but it will retain that heat for significantly longer than a metal pan. This makes it the ideal choice for making tried-and-true casseroles, which may sit on the countertop for some time before serving. In general, glass bakeware is also more dinner table presentable, so it’ll look great if you bring the whole casserole straight to the table.
The one thing you should never do with glass bakeware is put it underneath the broiler. The tempered glass is designed to handle heat but the broiler is too intense; it will definitely crack your dish (or worse). It also can’t be used on the stovetop, so don’t plan on simmering pan drippings in it to make gravy.
Reach for glass when you’re: serving casseroles in the baking dish.
Skip glass when you’re: transferring casseroles from the oven to the stovetop or broiler—even if it’s just to melt cheese on the top of a casserole at the end.
Now that you have the lowdown, try these 13×9 recipes for a crowd. You’ll know just what pan to use.