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Selecting cookware can be confusing, especially if you're new to the joys of cooking and baking—or rediscovering them. So much to bake and so little time!
But selecting a loaf pan is pretty easy once you know how you want to use it. Sure, you can go all specialized and have a different pan for each task. The options are endless. But before getting fancy, make sure you have the basics of a good loaf pan down.
This pan can cover many bases, from meatloaf to monkey bread. If you have the space and the bucks for many different loaf pans, that’s great—but think like the inimitable Julia Child: Find your favorites, stick with them, and keep things organized. We say that goes for loaf pans, too.
But to find your favorite loaf pan, there are several questions to consider when it comes to its design, the quality of construction, how well it bakes loaves according to the recipe, ease of cleaning, and more. So we've sorted through the materials and features of the options out there to pick the best ones on the market—and sent them to a home cook to put to test. Using either a banana bread and zucchini bread recipe, as well as a vanilla pound cake, she examined each loaf's rise, how evenly it baked and browned, how easy it was to take the pan out of the oven, and how easy it was to remove the loaf from the pan and clean it afterward. In the end, it was the even baking ability of the USA Pan 1-Pound Loaf Pan that stood above the rest.
Below, our list of the best loaf pans, tested by a home baker.
Best Overall: USA Pan 1-Pound Loaf Pan
What We Love: Good rise and even baking, satisfying weight, corrugation and nonstick coating add to easy release
What We Don't Love: May be prone to rusting
Finding a loaf pan that can successfully bake both loaves of bread and cakes may seem like a lofty goal, but this pan makes those dreams a reality. USA Pan's 1-Pound Loaf Pan wins top marks as our best overall loaf pan due to its reliability and versatility. This pan is made of aluminized steel and features a corrugated surface that helps promote an even airflow when baking for an evenly baked end product. Product tester and writer Kelsey Graham enjoyed the pan's ridges, thick sides, and sturdy weight, which made it easy to move it in and out of the oven, even one-handed.
Overall, both the banana bread and the vanilla pound cake she made in the pan turned out well. "It was nice to compare using parchment paper with the pound cake in this pan versus not using it with the banana bread. The cake browned but did not burn around the sides. It rose well and baked for about the estimated amount of time," she notes, adding that both loaves were easy to remove from the pan.
The pan is covered with a nonstick coating that's free of PTFE, PFOA, and BPA. The company claims this coating helps make hand washing the pan and removing leftover residue a breeze, and Kelsey agrees after hand washing hers with soap and water.
She did note, however, that some online reviewers noticed the pan started to rust if not completely dried after cleaning, so it's best to place the pan back in the oven while it's cooling down to dry out completely. Kelsey tried this trick after washing the pan and is happy to report there was no rust in sight.
Overall, this multifunctional, commercial-grade loaf pan is sure to make your baking dreams come true.
"I enjoyed this bread loaf pan and would use it for future baking adventures. I like that it’s sturdy and easy to hold. It’s a reliable pan that I would definitely recommend." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Weight: 1 pound | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches | Material: Aluminized steel with nonstick silicone coating | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Best Overall, Runner-Up: Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 1-Pound Loaf Pan
What We Love: Affordable, scratch-resistant, durable, easy to slide loaf out of pan
What We Don't Love: Edge creases make it hard to dry
If you're looking for a dependable and economically priced loaf pan, Chicago Metallic's Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 1-Pound Loaf Pan is an excellent option. Not only is it our runner-up for Best Overall, but it's also the pan of choice for Simply Recipes Editor in Chief Emma Christensen, who says, "I've been using my Chicago Metallic loaf pans for over a decade and love them. The nonstick coating makes it easy to slide loaves out of the pan, and I've found them very resistant to scratching."
This sturdy, uncoated loaf pan is made from aluminized steel that helps promote an even baking process and makes it easy to remove your loaf once fully baked, which was in keeping with Kelsey's findings. The zucchini bread Kelsey made with this loaf pan fared very well, with the loaf showing an even rise on top. It also browned evenly and nicely around the sides. It was easy to remove the finished bread from the pan: "I was able to turn the pan upside down and easily slide the bread out," she notes.
The zucchini bread took a few minutes longer than recipe said, but not too much more time overall, Kelsey says. The pound cake, on the other hand, seemed to take a little longer, especially in the center, to bake than other pound cakes in the different pans she tested. But, "it browned evenly on all sides and rose evenly on top."
Though it's dishwasher-safe, the manufacturer recommends hand washing the pan for longevity, and after cleaning it, our tester agrees. Her only caveat is that while the folded edges of the pan help prevent warping over time, "they make it a bit tricky to hand wash and dry fully, but I put it in the oven while it was cooling down and that helped." We recommend putting the washed pan in the warm oven for 10 to 20 minutes after rinsing.
Weight: 1 pound | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 5 x 2.75 inches | Material: Aluminized steel | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Best Glass: Pyrex Clear Basics 1.5-Quart Glass Loaf Pan
What We Love: Time-tested glass, great price, as versatile for cooking as for baking
What We Don't Love: Prone to chipping and breakage
Many loaf pans are made with metal, but it's not the only option. If you're looking for a robust and dishwasher-safe pan, Pyrex's Clear Basics 1.5-Quart Glass Loaf Pan is your perfect match. No more guessing if your cake or bread is done; with this clear pan, you can actually watch it as it bakes. Even better, since glass is more stain-resistant than metal, it won't show signs of wear and tear from grease and butter stains. It's even safe to use in the microwave.
The banana bread our tester made in this pan turned out well, with the sides evenly browned and the center rising well. However, "because the pan is wider, the bread took a little longer than the instructions said to bake," she observed. It was, however, easy for her to remove the bread from the pan after it cooled. The pound cake also took a few minutes longer than the recipe indicated, with the center taking the longest to bake, but the cake rose like it should, Kelsey says. "The edges were a little crispy, especially where the parchment paper was not lining it, but nothing major," she adds.
Though this pan is great for sweet and savory foods like lasagna, it's quite heavier than other loaf pans tested, due to its glass construction, and thus requires two hands to remove from the oven. "The glass also made it a bit slippery, so I made sure to be extra careful so I wouldn’t drop it," she notes, adding, "It wouldn’t be my first choice since I have smaller hands," says our tester. Still she thinks it's a solid product overall.
Fortunately, there are top handles on the sides to prevent slipping. To avoid chipping or scratching, make sure to use extra care and not stack it when storing. While this is dishwasher-safe, though Kelsey hand washed it. She noted that it was a bit more difficult to remove residue from this pan after baking than the others she tested.
"This is a good bread pan loaf that is trustworthy and does what it’s supposed to. I like that it’s dishwasher safe and I don’t have to worry about it rusting." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Weight: 2.5 pounds | Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.5 x 6 x 3.25 inches | Material: Tempered glass | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Oven Mitts
Best Nonstick: Wilton Recipe Right Medium Loaf Pan
What We Love: Easy to handle, affordable, extended edge handles make gripping easy
What We Don't Love: Light weight and thin sides, prone to corrosion and scratching
If you're looking for a quality pan to use in a college dorm room or a reliable companion to start your journey in baking with, Wilton's Recipe Right Medium Loaf Pan is a solid choice. You've probably seen Wilton products in stores and know it makes well-trusted bakeware products, and this pan doesn't disappoint. Not only is it a quality nonstick pan you can use to make cake and meatloaf, but it's also sold at a low-cost price your wallet will appreciate.
Its nonstick coating prevents food from sticking, and the curved inside corners make it easy to clean because batter doesn't get stuck, our tester notes. This lightweight pan also has extended edge handles on both sides to place and remove it from the oven easily.
Kelsey first tried this pan with zucchini bread, to great results: The bread rose and browned well during baking. It was also evenly browned around the sides without being burnt. Plus, the pan was simple to take out of the oven with one hand, she says. "It was easy to take the loaf out of the pan after baking; I just flipped it and the bread load came out easily," she added.
She had mixed results when she tried the vanilla pound cake, however. This one also baked evenly and the top rose appropriately, but the center was difficult to bake completely. "I ended up taking it out of the oven and letting it sit when it was mostly done for fear of burning the edges even more," she says, adding that they ended up being "super crispy." She also noted that this cake seemed to take longer to bake in this pan than others she tried.
While it's an excellent nonstick pan, Kelsey noticed during testing that it quickly acquired grease stains, so while it may not be the longest-lasting pan, she thinks that it's definitely worth it for the price.
"I think it’s a decent loaf pan, especially for the price. I like that it was light and the top edges came out so it was easier to grip and take out of the oven." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Weight: 8.5 ounces | Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches | Material: Heavy-gauge steel with nonstick coating | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Baking Sheets
Best Budget: Simply Essential 9-Inch by 5-Inch Nonstick Loaf Pan
What We Love: Affordable, makes nicely shaped loaves, very easy to remove loaves from pan
What We Don't Love: Lighter weight than others, prone to rust
This pan takes the cake for the best value loaf pan on the market. It's designed with carbon steel and a nonstick interior that can withstand heat up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. This pan is a fantastic low-budget option that product tester Kelsey says she would willingly use over some pricier loaf pans. Its width is slightly larger than others on this list and creates a photo-worthy loaf of bread you'll be proud to share.
Both the zucchini bread and the pound cake our home baker tested in this pan turned out well, both rising well and browning evenly, though the latter got a little burned on one end, she reports. It was also simple to take the pan out of the oven and remove both the bread and the cake out from the pan, especially the bread: "I just flipped it over and the bread came out," she observed. Kelsey adds that the zucchini bread did take a little longer to bake than the recipe called for, likely because it's a little larger than the other tested pans.
One note Kelsey made was that while this is a reliable loaf pan, make sure to keep an eye on the edges while baking to ensure they don't burn. This handwash-only pan is also simple to clean with soap and hot water, so you can spend more time indulging in your baked goods rather than cleaning.
"I think this is a good pan, especially for the price. I’d definitely keep an eye on recipes to make sure the sides don’t burn but overall a solid choice." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Weight: 0.5 pounds | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.5 x 5 x 2.4 inches | Material: Carbon steel with nonstick interior | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Gifts for Bakers
Best Specialty: USA Pan Large Pullman Pan with Cover
What We Love: Perfect for sandwich bread and pound cakes
What We Don't Love: Lid can be stubborn, pan's shape is a little awkward
Do you ever worry the top of your bread loaf will burn before it's finished? Then USA Pan's 9-Inch Pullman Loaf Pan (also known as a pain de mie pan) is your match! This commercial-grade pan is designed for baking the perfect loaf bread for sandwiches, but it's also great for specialty sweets, like pound cake.
Kelsey again baked vanilla pound cake and zucchini bread in each pan. Her verdict? Hands down, this pan baked up the best pound cake, as we predicted: It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, the way a perfect pound cake should taste. "It was dense but still light and rose well," she adds. This recipe also cooked more quickly compared to the other pans, likely because of the lid.
Speaking of the lid, this was Kelsey's only concern: "It was a bit difficult to put the lid on and take it off, especially when I was checking to see if the cake was done, because I was worried I was going to burn my hand when taking the lid off," she says. She advises to have your oven mitts at the ready.
The zucchini bread, on the other hand, was still a bit doughy at the top when she took it out due to the lid. "I’d recommended putting in for a minute or two without the lid on to finish it," she explains. After she did so, the bread ended up browning evenly around the sides and boasted a nice golden color.
If our home tester's review isn't enough, this pan is also a favorite of King Arthur Baking Company for making the perfect loaf of bread.
Similar to our Best Overall pick made by the same company, this pan features corrugated ridges for even heating. Though the lid is convenient for baking bread loaves, the awkward shape of the pan ("it’s taller and thinner than most bread pans," Kelsey says) makes it a little tricky to maneuver without using both hands.
"This is a nice pan, especially if you’re worried the top of your cake or bread is going to burn. The pound cake I made in it was probably the best tasting of the bunch I made." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Weight: 1.4 pounds | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 4 x 4 inches | Material: Aluminized steel | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Cake Pans
A good loaf pan is a kitchen necessity, and chances are you’ll decide that you need more than one. You don’t have to stuff your cupboards with specialty pans, but get at least two of the same size from either USA Pan (view at Amazon) or Chicago Metallic (view at Amazon). Keep a good glass loaf pan like Pyrex (view at Amazon) handy for the occasional quickbread. And when you want to get fancy, get a pain de mie pan, like this one by King Arthur (view at King Arthur) for sandwich loaves or freezing.
What to Look for When Buying a Loaf Pan
Size and Adaptability
A single, good-quality “American standard” 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 loaf pan may be all you need, as long as you keep the pan clean between pumpkin bread and meatloaf. But you may need two because many bread recipes make two loaves.
This tried-and-true size is what most recipes call for but check the instructions. There can be a big difference between the result you’ll get with a 1-pound loaf pan and what happens in a 1.25-pound or 1.5-pound one, especially when rise is a factor. Think: smaller loaf pan equals higher rise.
Rise isn’t a factor with things like meatloaf casseroles, and this standard pan is perfect for those, but whether batter or beef, don’t overfill, or you risk having a mess in the oven. Level up to about 2/3 from the top, max. If your recipe calls for more than the pan can handle, re-pan the extra to make a mini loaf.
Material and Construction
Glass and ceramic will have greater heat retention, as will cast iron; they'll bake differently from a metal or silicone pan, especially at high altitudes. Some people just like the look of glass and ceramic, but heavyweight, high-quality metal pans hold plenty of heat for home and commercial ovens.
Aluminum and paper aren’t materials of choice unless you plan to gift the baked goods right in the pan. Plus, paper will require a keen eye to be sure you don’t over-bake.
The desirability of coatings—whether labeled generically “nonstick,” “ceramic,” or Teflon—is up for debate. Most professionals dislike coated pans, the finish can degrade, and even home bakers often find that the coating gets scratched far too easily. But the occasional use of a coated non-stick loaf pan is probably not an issue.
Silicone is still a bit of a novelty for professional bakers, but home bakers like it for its (literal) flexibility. Be careful to buy silicone pans that have some kind of supporting framework, though, lest you have to try to figure out how to get a squiggly pan full of bread batter into a hot oven.
Durability and Ease of Cleaning
Bakeware needs to be cleaned between uses. Yet metal pans still like to be seasoned. How to accomplish that?
One hint comes from DeBauche at Camas Country Mill: Never use butter to grease a pan, use oil instead, and “if you wipe it out when it’s still a bit warm, with maybe a degreaser soap and warm water, then you’re in pretty good shape.”
Porter handwashes baking pans, too; his team at Evergreen Bread & Cocktail Lounge makes sure that their metal bakeware never goes through the dishwasher.
It wouldn’t hurt to handwash glass and ceramic as well, to help avoid chips and slips. And avoid harsh abrasives at all costs.
DeBauche and Porter agree that loaf pans that work for the professional baker can work at home as well. “Just get the best quality you can,” take care of it, “and you’ll be happy about it,” Porter says.
Are metal or glass loaf pans better?
Metal, hands down, for baking yeast breads. Save your glass pans for roasting and other cooking, and maybe the occasional batter bread. Never rely on a glass pan when the recipe calls for any abrupt change of temperature, ice bath, or other, because even tempered glass is prone to thermal shock, and no one wants broken glass in the kitchen.
What are other uses for a loaf pan besides bread?
Lots. A Pullman pan is nearly perfect for making ice cream or sorbet because the lid helps protect against burn and off-flavors from the freezer. Glass pans work for all sorts of roasted meatloaves, pate, and for naturally dense pull-apart breads where rise is less of an issue and corner shape matters less. Or a terrine—but use a metal pan here because a glass pan could shatter in the water bath (see above).
Do glass loaf pans take longer to cook?
No, exactly the opposite. Glass will take a tiny bit longer to heat up, but once hot, it will hold that heat better than thin metal pans. That retained heat will also brown surfaces faster, making whatever you’re cooking or baking a bit darker. That’s one reason glass is not preferred for yeast baking: The blast of extra heat on the exterior of the dough can prevent the desired oven-spring. In general, if you are baking in glass and the recipe is calling for a metal pan, you should adjust the temperature down by 25 degrees, then keep a good eye on it to be sure it’s not browning faster or more than you’d like.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Catherine Russell is a writer and editor specializing in food, culture, and home and garden. Grandma’s kitchen was a favorite place for Catherine growing up, and that’s where she first learned to bake, roast, broil, and cook most anything from scratch. And that’s also where she learned —especially in the kitchen—that the right baking pan or the right utensil can make all the difference. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Bon Appetit, and in film and video.
Kelsey Graham, who tested these pans and udpated this piece, is a freelance writer specializing in food, kitchen, and restaurant topics. She loves spending her free time baking in the kitchen and adding an extra splash of vanilla to any recipe. She enjoys whipping up banana and zucchini bread (always with chocolate chips) for her daughter on the weekend, and is regularly looking for reliable and well-priced bakeware to take her recipes to the next level.
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