When you buy cookware, the material it’s made out of makes a big difference.
Most home cooks are very diligent about choosing the right pots, pans, and casserole dishes, but we don’t always pay as close attention to what our baking sheets are made out of.
So what’s the difference between an aluminum baking sheet and a stainless steel baking sheet? Aluminum vs stainless steel? The biggest difference between aluminum and stainless steel baking sheets is how they heat up and how they retain that heat.
Aluminum will heat and cool more quickly, whereas stainless steel takes longer to warm up, but it also retains the heat for much longer.
In this short article, we’ll explain why aluminum and stainless steel heat differently, and what that means for your baking adventures.
Aluminum vs Stainless Steel – Baking
Stainless steel and aluminum both have unique benefits for baking. One is not necessarily better than the other, but most bakers will prefer one over the other for personal reasons or depending on what they bake the most.
Whichever you choose, you may need to adjust your baking habits slightly to get the best results.
Baking sheets are generally quite thin and you need to be strategic so that your baked goods don’t end up burnt, uncooked in the center, or stuck to your baking sheet.
Recipes will tell you how long to bake and at what temperature, but they don’t usually tell you how to adjust the baking time based on the material of your baking sheet.
Many home cooks learn to adjust their oven temperatures for ovens that run hot or cold compared to most recipes, but you should also adjust for your bakeware.
Aluminum Baking Sheets
Aluminum is a very light, thin metal that will heat up very quickly. Aluminum baking sheets are usually uncoated. If you’re used to stainless steel baking sheets, you may find your baked good burning or sticking to the sheet more than usual.
If you’re baking on aluminum baking sheets, you may have to adjust the temperature of your oven down slightly, or possibly take your food out of the oven a few minutes early.
Since recipes don’t usually state what type of baking sheet to use, this will likely be a trial-and-error experience for you.
The first time you bake a certain recipe on your aluminum cookie sheet, start checking 5-10 minutes before the timer goes off to prevent burning.
Since most aluminum sheets are uncoated, you will almost always want to spray your pan with a cooking spray or otherwise lightly coat it in oil or flour before putting your goodies on the sheet. This will help keep them from sticking.
Aluminum may also react with certain foods, especially acidic food. This can change the color of the metal or the food your cooking, and leave a slightly metallic taste to your dish.
It’s best to avoid baking tomatoes or other acidic foods using aluminum sheets unless you cover them with a silicone baking mat first.
You may already know this, but your aluminum sheet belongs in the oven or the toaster oven, and never in the microwave.
If you’re sold on aluminum, this baking sheet from the trusted kitchen brand Nordic Ware is a great option.
Stainless Steel Baking Sheets
Stainless steel baking sheets are usually treated with a non-stick coating, which may eliminate the need for greasing your baking sheet before using it.
Stainless steel is a heavier metal than aluminum, which makes it more durable and likely to last longer. It also means it takes longer to warm up.
If you’re not used to this, and if a recipe was developed using an aluminum pan, your baked goods may not be thoroughly cooked when the timer goes off.
One way to compensate for the longer heating time is to place your pan in the oven as it warms up. By the time your oven is preheated, your pan will be too.
You can then take it out of the oven, place your unbaked goods on the sheet, and return it to the oven.
Since it’s impossible to know whether your choice of baking sheet was the same as the recipe writer’s, it’s a good idea to follow the recipe exactly the first time you bake using your new sheets.
If your baked goods come out undercooked, you can place them back in the oven for slightly longer and make a note to heat your sheets ahead of time the next time you make that recipe.
Stainless steel also retains its heat for longer than aluminum, so it’s important that you’re very careful about using baking racks to protect your countertops and hands, even after the baking sheet has been out of the oven for some time.
If, like so many home cooks, you’re sold on stainless steel, we recommend this option from Checkered Chef. It comes as a pack of two with both a smaller and larger option, which is just extra convenient.
Needless to say, just like aluminum, it’s best not to put your stainless steel in the microwave. However, there is a tentative exception to this rule that we dive into in the following article: Can You Put Stainless Steel in the Microwave?
Below is a chart comparing aluminum and stainless steel for your convenience.
Best Materials for Baking Sheets
|Easier to bend/damage
|Needs to be greased
|Does not need greasing