What’s the Proper Way to Prepare a Baking Pan?

By Dennis Weaver

When a recipe tells you to place the batter or dough into a prepared baking sheet, we all know that the recipe is threatening to stick to the pan like glue if we don’t prepare the pan. But what does a “prepared” baking sheet or pan really mean? Here’s how to grease, dust, and line a pan.

Preparing the Baking Sheet: Grease the Pan

To lightly grease a baking pan, place a small amount of vegetable shortening on a paper towel and spread the shortening inside the pan until all surfaces are coated. The coating should be evenly spread, though a few narrow streaks of heavier shortening will not hurt.

For a heavier coating of grease, use waxed paper instead of a paper towel to spread the shortening.

Using Butter to Grease the Pan

Often bakers use butter instead of shortening to grease their pans. If it is a butter-rich recipe, we do so too. Because butter burns at a lower temperature than shortening and because butter contains 15% water, we prefer to use shortening in most applications.

Beware Leftover Water When Greasing Pans

Whenever you are greasing a pan, make certain that it is dry. Wet areas on a pan will tend to cake with the flour in the batter and cause the cake to stick. This is especially important with fluted bundt pans. Water caught in the crevices of the pan can make removal particularly difficult.

Beware Leftover Grease Between Batches

As certain recipes bake, cookies for example, excess butter or shortening may be left on the pan. Too much grease on the pan will cause the recipe to spread until it’s flat and practically frying on the pan instead of baking. So be sure to wipe excess grease from the pan in between batches to avoid unnecessary spread.

When Not to Grease the Pan

There are some recipes where greasing the baking sheet or pan is unnecessary because there is a high enough butter content. These types of recipes usually are the ones that you cream together, like cookies. If you’re unsure and the recipe doesn’t specify, you can very lightly grease the pan for the first batch and adjust accordingly for future batches.

Preparing the Baking Sheet: Dust the Pan

To dust or flour a pan, drop a heaping tablespoon of flour into the greased pan. Shake the flour about the surfaces of the pan, tapping the pan against the heel of your hand, until all surfaces are coated. The flour will not adhere to any missed areas. Regrease those missed areas and tap flour over the new areas. When complete, turn the pan over and tap it on a work surface to discharge any extra flour.

Preparing the Baking Sheet: Line the Pan

The most reliable way to prepare a pan is to line it with parchment paper. For a layer cake, trace the pan on the parchment paper and then cut the parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan.

For bar cookies, we like to use a large sheet of parchment paper and allow the edges of the paper to extend beyond the edges of the rectangular pan. After baking, we grab those edges and lift the entire cake of cookies from the pan and place it on a large cutting board. On the cutting board, we trim and carefully cut the cake into uniformly-sized bar cookies.

When lining a pan with parchment paper, spread a little butter or shortening in the pan before placing the parchment paper. The grease will hold the parchment paper in place while you fill the pan with batter.

Considering Wax Paper

When I was a child, my mother lined her baking pans with waxed paper. (I’m not sure that there was parchment paper in those early days.) I think parchment does a superior job but you can certainly get by with waxed paper though I’m not sure that waxed paper is strong enough to lift a cake of brownies from the pan.

A Quick Baking Tip

Even when you have properly prepared a baking sheet or pan, it’s important to remove your baked goods from the pan as soon as possible. If your baked goods have enough time on the pan that the sugar in the recipe sets, it will become nearly impossible to remove it from the pan.