Star shaped cookies

Stock Your Kitchen with These Bakeware Essentials

If you are new to baking, just moved into your first place, or if you are replacing a mishmash of bakeware hand-me-downs, it might feel a little overwhelming trying to figure out what exactly you need.

For most cooks, what bakeware to have on hand depends entirely on their usual cooking and baking habits. However, there are some essentials you can start out with. We compiled this list of bakeware essentials to help you determine what to invest in right now and what to have on your list for the future.

In this guide:

Cookie Sheets | Casserole Dishes | Cake Pans | Loaf Pans | Muffin Tins | Pie Tins


I’m calling these “essentials,” but that doesn’t mean essential for every kitchen! Some of these may not make sense for you right now, and others will be absolute must-haves. However, these are the key categories of bakeware that are essential for particular cooking and baking jobs.

This is probably the most important bakeware piece for any kitchen. The baking sheet (also known as a cookie sheet) is a true multitasker: from cookies to roasted veggies to sheet pan dinners, you don’t even have to be a seasoned chef to put one to work in the kitchen.

While inexpensive and easy to find, it’s good to learn a bit about baking sheets before you buy in order to make the most of your purchase (and ensure even your refrigerated cookie dough comes out perfectly).

Rimmed vs. Unrimmed

Most home cooks find rimmed cookie sheets to be the best option for various tasks. The rim ensures whatever’s on the sheet won’t spill off onto the oven floor. Plenty of bakers love unrimmed sheets, though, as it allows for better air circulation that can be helpful for certain types of cookies.


Many cookie sheets are half-sheets, which means they measure as 13″ x 18″, though there are plenty of other size options.


Aluminum is our top choice for baking sheets. We recommend staying away from darker pans and nonstick pans. Use parchment paper or a baking mat to produce nonstick results.

Our Recommended Products

You really don’t need to spend much to get a quality baking sheet. Our top picks are inexpensive yet durable.

Best Rimmed: Nordic Ware Aluminum Baker’s Half Sheet 

Best Unrimmed: AirBake 2-Pack Cookie Sheet

Casserole Dishes

Cake pans (up next) are often used for casseroles, particularly if you’re just looking for something like a basic 13″ x 9″ pan. However, some casserole dishes have added benefits and can be a useful addition to your kitchen if you anticipate doing a lot of that kind of cooking.


There are several types of dishes you can choose from including cast iron, ceramic, glass, and aluminum. Many are glazed and are ready to go straight from the oven to the table. Casserole dishes are designed to withstand high heat and long cooking times, but it’s still a good idea to double check the specs on the one you’re interested in to make sure it will work for your needs. Different materials can affect cook time, too, so take that into consideration as well.


There are so many different size options out there when it comes to casserole dishes. As I said, 9 x 13″ is pretty standard, but some sizes are measured in quarts and some pans are more about presentation than size. Sticking with that standard size is a good idea if you’re just picking up one dish for now, but definitely check out some of the lovely casserole dishes on the market if you entertain often or plan to do a lot of casserole-making.

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Best BasicPyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish

Best FancyAnolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 4-Quart Covered Casserole

Best LasagnaCuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron 14-Inch Roasting/Lasagna Pan

Cake Pans

Cake pans are obviously a necessity for cake, but there is much more that these bakeware pieces can do. Different recipes will call for various types of cake pans, so before buying, be sure you have an idea about what you need for your favorite recipes. We’ll talk about some of the basic types and sizes here.

essential bakeware: round cake pan

Shape & Type

There are four main types of cake pans: round, square/rectangle, bundt, and springform. Typically these are made of aluminum or steel, and some have nonstick coating. Bundt and springform pans are specialty types that are used in specific recipes — bundt pans are usually for certain types of cakes, while springform is used for goods like cheesecake.


Rectangular cake pans are most often found in that 9 x 13″ size mentioned above, with a typical depth of 2″, though there are smaller and larger sizes available, too. Square pans (most commonly used for brownies) are often 9″, and round pans come in 8″ and 9″ sizes.

Note: If you need to convert a recipe to fit the pan you already own, check out this handy conversion chart.

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Square: Calphalon 8-Inch Square Cake Pan

Rectangle: Nordic Ware Nonstick Aluminum Commercial Cake Pan

RoundUSA Pan 9-Inch Nonstick Round Cake Pan

BundtAnolon Advanced Nonstick Bakeware 9.5″ Fluted Mold Pan

Springform: Nordic Ware 9-Inch Springform 

Loaf & Bread Pans

While loaf pans are most commonly associated with bread baking, you might want to pick one up anyway. Loaf pans are a must for meatloaf, and there are plenty of easy sweets and dinners you can make in them.

If you plan to bake bread, you’ll definitely want to learn about how sizes, shapes, and materials affect the bread you make most often — here’s a great article on choosing the right bread pan. But for our purposes here, we’ll just talk about basic loaf or bread pans that can be handy in the kitchen.


8.5″ x 4.5″ or 9 x 5″ are standard sizes, and those are typically the sizes you would want for meatloaf or banana bread.


The primary types of loafs pans you’ll see are glass, shiny metal, and dark metal. Glass will heat up and transfer heat more quickly, which can affect the outside versus the inside (i.e. the outside can be overdone while the inside can still be undercooked). Depending on what you cook, that might work in your favor. You’ll see similar results with ceramic. Light metal runs a bit cooler, so you’ll often have to increase your cooking time. Dark metal absorbs heat the best, so it’s often the first choice for cooks and bakers. It’s important to keep an eye on whatever you’re cooking in it to ensure it doesn’t get overdone!

Those are just general tips for cooking things, but here’s a good rule of thumb: Use glass for wet goods (like meatloaf) and metal for dry (like breads). Always follow the recipe, though, and do a little research if you need to make a substitution!

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Dark Metal: Chicago Metallic Professional Non-Stick Loaf Pan 8.5 x 4.5 

Light MetalChicago Metallic Commercial Traditional Uncoated 1-Pound Loaf Pan

Glass: Pyrex Basics 1.5 Quart Loaf Dish with Red Plastic Lid

Muffin & Cupcake Tins

For muffins, cupcakes, mini pizzas, mini souffles, and more, you’ve gotta have a cupcake tin. There are a ton of different things you can do with them, plus there’s nothing else around that can make chocolate cupcakes when the craving hits.

There aren’t a ton of different things to talk about regarding this bakeware, with the exception of material. In terms of size, basic muffin tins are going to be the same. There are also mini cupcake pans and jumbo tins, but we’ll just cover the regular 12 cup pans.


The three main types of muffin pans are aluminum, nonstick, and silicone. Aluminum is typically favored by bakers, but it lacks the nonstick quality of nonstick pans. That means liners and butter are necessary, and it means cleaning it can be tough. Nonstick pans are great for releasing your baked goods easily, but they can be sensitive to wear. Silicone has its merits, but it’s not always the best — lots of bakers report issues getting things out and baked goods can become misshapen.

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AluminumNordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Muffin Pan

NonstickWilton Recipe Right Nonstick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan

SiliconeOvenArt Bakeware Silicone 12-Cup Muffin Pan

Pie Tins & Pans

For pie baking, quiches, and pie-inspired dinners, you’ll need a pie pan. Many pie bakers tend to love cheap pie tins for crispy crusts (and for easy sharing, of course), but glass is the clear winner for most. Sturdy aluminum is another good option, though for pies it can’t beat glass.

Thicker ceramic and stoneware look lovely and can work well for meals and things, but they don’t do a great job with pie crust. If you’re planning to bake pies, we recommend spending some time doing research and trying out a few different pans to see what you like. If you’re just picking up one for essentials, grab a glass pan if you intend to make anything with a crust.

Our Recommended Products

GlassPyrex 2-Pack Easy Grab Glass Pie Plate, 9.5″

MetalUSA Pan Bakeware Aluminized Steel Pie Pan, 9″

Ceramic: Emile Henry HR Modern Classics Pie Dish, 9″

This list should help you get started in stocking your kitchen with what you need to create delicious meals and desserts. What are your bakeware essentials? Let me know in the comments below!

bakeware essentials

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