Tips for Pan Handlers

There’s a moment of faith required when making French macaroons (macarons), the delicate almond meringue sandwich cookies completely unlike American coconut macaroons. As soon as they’re done, you whisk them from the oven, lift an edge of the parchment paper on which they’ve baked, pour water into the pan, and then set the parchment down again. You hold your breath because you want to get it right the first time. The cold water needs to hit the hot pan and create steam to gently release the pastries. You want to slide the paper off, then cleanly pluck every single one of the fragile cakelets, leaving them intact.

The best pan for this sensitive job is one of the most inconspicuously versatile tools in any kitchen: the sheet pan. It’s a shallow rectangular pan with sides, oven and broiler safe, that can also withstand freezing cold, scrubbings, and machine washings.

But say you’re finishing one small piece of fish in the oven—sometimes you don’t need a whole sheet pan. That’s when a little pizza pan comes in handy.

Then there’s the sizzle platter—think fajitas or tandoori. This is a pan designed to go from a hot oven, broiler, or even grill directly to the table. Not something you’d use every day, but it makes quite an impression at dinner parties.

Oven and broiler pans should be durable, and warp and rust resistant. Don’t bother with unpredictable nonstick coatings; just do as pros do and use butter or oil, parchment paper, or silicone liners.

Bun Pan (One-Half Size)
By Vollrath, $9.95

If you’re confused by the name of this pan, you’re not alone. Almost no one except for cookware manufacturers calls it a bun pan. In pro kitchens it’s known as a sheet pan or a jelly roll pan. The size I recommend because it fits in home cooks’ ovens, 13 by 18 inches across the top (sheet pans taper slightly at the bottom) with four 1-inch-deep sides, is called a half sheet pan.

This one, by Vollrath, is made of impact-resistant aluminum. It’s stackable with a slightly concave bottom that flattens out when heated for even cooking and resistance to warping. The bend is subtle—not concave enough to rock on the counter when you’re prepping. The Silpat Jelly Roll Liner fits perfectly inside. The pan can also slide sideways into a speed rack or bun rack, essential in pro kitchens for separately stacking pans safely and efficiently.

Vollrath’s sheet pans are dishwasher safe, but they may discolor. They don’t fit into my home machine but scrub off well by hand, and there’s no nonstick coating to worry about.

Pizza Pan (CTP Series)
By American Metalcraft, $1.95

These pizza pans are used not only in pizzerias but also in fine restaurants, for broiling or oven-finishing. You no longer have to wonder whether your sauté pan is ovenproof—simply brown your surf or turf stovetop, then transfer it to a pizza pan to oven-finish.

One of American Metalcraft’s specialties is pizza-making gear, with more than 4,000 different shapes, sizes, and materials of pans, all the way up to a mob-feeding 29 inches in diameter.

I recommend keeping on hand a stack of the little 6-inch aluminum CTP Series Coupe Style discs, which are inexpensive and lightweight yet sturdy. You’ll grab them for all the small jobs that don’t require a sheet pan—and you’ll save yourself some time when washing up.

They’re even good-looking enough to use as very casual plates. But CTP Series pizza pans are not dishwasher safe.

Sizzling Platter
By Vollrath, $25.87

You might recognize sizzling platters—more commonly known simply as sizzle platters—from those steakhouse cast iron cow shapes on thick wooden bases.

They’re meant to keep food warmer longer at the table. But they make a dramatic presentation device, with, say, herb butter noisily spattering, the aroma of grilled steak and wild mushrooms wafting across the dining room.

These sleek, modern models by Vollrath are made of heavy-duty stainless steel. They nestle safely in heat-resistant polyester underliners. Built-in handles provide extra protection.

Both the sizzle platters, available in oval and rectangular shapes, and the underliners are dishwasher safe.