Which Material is Best When I Buy A Muffin Pan?

The choice of material or it's non stick coating when buying a new muffin pan is important  - silicone or metal, dark or shiny -  these choices can affect the browning or crustiness of your muffins and the cooking time, that is, how long you need to leave the muffins in the oven.

There are many options available for a material to make bakeware today: cast iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminized steel, aluminum, insulated (these are made with two sheets of aluminum with an air pocket),  tin plated, non stick coated, and non-metallic (stoneware, glass and silicone).

Baking pan materials need to be chemically unreactive so that they do not alter the flavor or color of the food. Most materials that are conductive enough to heat evenly are too reactive to use in food preparation. So the main choice of material for baking pans are metal or silicone. Metal pans usually have a non stick coating for easy release and clean up.

Generally avoid flimsy metal pans or uncoated aluminum or steel, unless you just want a cheap pan for short term use. These can warp and hot spot, and tend to bake unevenly (burn or toughen the edges and leave the centre raw) and be difficult to clean.

Stainless steel,  and non stick coated aluminum or steel muffin pans are best. High quality and commercial muffin pans combine aluminum and steel with non stick layers. Silicone muffin pans have an advantage with convenience.

Metal Muffin Pans

Metal muffin pans are made from a narrow range of metals because muffin pans need to conduct heat well and be safe for food preparation.

Aluminum Muffin Pans

Aluminum (or aluminium) is a lightweight metal with very good thermal conductivity. Aluminum muffin pans heat immediately and evenly, without creating any hot spots. They do not rust and are resistant to most forms of corrosion.

Aluminum is commonly available in sheet, cast, or anodized forms. Due to the softness of aluminum it may be physically alloyed with magnesium, copper, or bronze to increase its strength.  Although aluminum is known to react with certain acidic foods, influencing the taste of the dishes, this does not apply to muffin pans. In the anodized and cast forms, aluminum is perfectly safe for cooking.

Cast aluminium can produce a thicker product than sheet aluminium. It is appropriate for irregular shapes and thicknesses. Due to the microscopic pores caused by the casting process, cast aluminium has a lower thermal conductivity than sheet aluminium and is both more expensive and less common. Cast aluminium is used for Dutch ovens and heavyweight baking pans such as Bundt pans.

Sheet aluminium is spun or stamped into its form and is commonly used for baking sheets, pie plates, and cake or muffin pans. A layer of non stick surface coating is usually applied to aluminum muffin pans.

Stainless Steel Muffin Pans

Stainless steel is an iron alloy containing a minimum of 11.5% chromium. Blends containing 18% chromium with either 8% nickel, called 18/8, or with 10% nickel, called 18/10, are those commonly used for kitchen equipment.

Stainless steel has a high resistance to corrosion, it does not react with either alkaline or acidic foods, and it is not easily scratched or dented. It can be cleaned without worrying over much about abrasion and metal tools.

Stainless steel's drawback for cooking use is that it is a comparatively poor heat conductor. Most stainless steel cookware is generally made with a disk of copper or aluminium in or on the base to conduct the heat across the base. Muffin pans do not usually have this. However stainless steel muffin pans are still considered a good choice because of their lightness in colour and shiny surface and convenience.

Steel Muffin Pans (With No Coatings)

Carbon steel heats rapidly, which makes it perfect for woks. However steel is unsuitable, as it is with no coating, for cavity trays like muffin pans. Carbon steel pans rust easily unless oiled carefully and regularly, and are kept completely dry and away from damp.

If your mother or grandmother had cavity pans like this, you have probably had the experience of trying to clean one. It's not a pleasant job trying to bring one back to use after it has developed rust spots on it. Compared to a non stick coated pan, as regards easy release of muffins and clean up, uncoated steel pans are not recommended.

Non Stick Muffin Pans

Both steel and aluminum cooking pans are generally sealed with layers of coatings called non stick coatings. Layers of non stick coatings minimize both corrosion and food sticking to the pan surface. The main advantages of non stick coatings are that non stick muffin pans are so much easier to clean than non-coated pans. Non stick muffin pans do not require you to use a paper cup and need little or no additional oil or fat to prevent sticking.

The main difference in the quality levels of the non stick coatings is in the formulas of the liquid coating, the thickness of each layer and the number of layers used. High quality non stick coatings use powdered ceramic or titanium mixed in with the non stick coating, to strengthen them and to make them more resistant to abrasion and deterioration.

Some nonstick coatings containing hardening agents. Some use a silicone coating on the handles of the pan, and you need to take care not to allow these pans near a heat source which could melt them

Non stick muffin pans must not be overheated. Unfortunately, overheating is relatively easy but does not occur at normal cooking temperatures (below about 465°F/240°C). Lesser quality non stick coatings do tend to degrade over time. Heat and abrasion are the main causes of degradation.

TIP: If you do not use all of the muffin cup cavities when spooning the muffin mix into the pan, half fill the empty cavities with water so they won't overheat and smoke in the oven. In order to preserve the non stick coating, it is important to never use metal implements, harsh scouring pads or chemical abrasives when cleaning. Scraping or scouring, scratches or wears away the protective layer that reduces the risk of degradation.

All non stick coatings must pass the strict standards of the National Sanitation Foundation for approval for restaurant use. Additionally, commercial muffin pans are tested for abrasion cycles and generally display this statistical information in the manufacturer details.

Non Metallic Muffin Pans

Silicone Muffin Pans

The flexible rubbery material used for silicone bakeware should not to be confused with silicone resin that is used to make children's dishware and is hard, shatterproof and definitely not suitable for baking. Silicone muffin pans are often blue or other strong primary colors like kids toys, but they are light and flexible.  The flexibility helps in removing baked goods from the pan as you can twist the pan to break the seal and the muffins just pop out.

The highest temperature of the oven for domestic silicone muffin pans is generally limited at 500F. This can vary between manufacturers. Some commercial silicone muffin pans are able to withstand sustained oven temperatures of 675°F (360°C). Silicone bakeware melts like butter around 930°F or 500°C, (depending upon the fillers used).

All silicone bakeware is more than just oven safe. It is safe for use in the microwave, the fridge and freezer, and will not be damaged by the dishwasher. For this reason silicone muffin pans are very convenient and versatile. People use them for making individual refridgerated deserts like custards and cheesecakes, jellies, icecreams and cassatas, as well as for normal baked in the oven and microwave recipes.

If you are a spontaneous chef who likes to use a packet mix and the microwave, to have muffins on the table twenty minutes after deciding to make them, silicone muffin pans are ideal. But opinions on silicone bakeware molds are mixed. There are reports that muffins have more tendency to stick in silicone pans. So use a little spray or oil, even if the instructions may say you don't need to.

Some people have complained that muffins baked in silicone pans have a faint plastic or rubbery taste. So if you have a discerning palate, steer clear of silicone bakeware for baking. If you are a gourmet chef who takes care to use high quality ingredients and prepare the muffin mix correctly, you will want perfectly cooked and browned muffins and a steel or aluminum muffin pan may be better for you.

Stoneware Muffin Pans

These are uncommon and I don't personally see any advantage to using them, but it is possible to get stoneware muffin pans. Some people swear by stoneware for everything. To me no benefit could outweigh the disadvantages of  the weight of these pans (and the risk of breakage) against the convenience of light non stick metallic pans for making muffins.

What are other people saying about non stick baking pans?

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