We Tested the Best Cookie Sheets for Better Baked Goods
There's nothing sadder than hauling out your mixer, your rolling pin, and your cookie cutters, then gearing up to dive into a cookie-making marathon, only to find that your baking sheets are in a disgraceful state. Battered, warped, stained, and scratched: You may be able to make do with them, but to what end? Batches of cookies that are unevenly browned, undercooked, or impossible to unstick without crumbling will dampen even the most joyful baker's spirit. With plenty of sturdy, reliable cookie sheets available, there's no excuse not to invest in one that will do the job properly.
In search of the best cookie sheet, we put some of the leading models to the test. Our favorite was the classic, commercial-grade Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet that's also terrifically affordable, though we also liked the heavy-gauge, unrimmed Vollrath Wear Ever Cookie Sheet. Read on for more of our favorite cookie sheets.
Our Top Picks
Overall, our favorite pan is a simple workhorse that doesn't need any bells and whistles. The Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet is durable and versatile, with 1-inch edges that are easy to grab and prevent food from dripping. The uncoated aluminum surface is naturally nonstick, and it yielded consistent results in all of our tests.
Factors to Consider
Rimmed or Unrimmed
In general, baking sheets fall into two categories—rimmed and unrimmed—with further variations in material and design features among them. While some professional bakers swear by unrimmed sheets for their superior air circulation and simple design, most home bakers will find rimmed baking sheets to be more practical. Thanks to their spill-proof edges, rimmed baking sheets are true multitaskers: Just as handy for roasting root veggies, toasting nuts, baking chicken, and supporting a deep dish pizza as they are for turning out perfect sheet cakes and chocolate chip cookies. Place a wire cooling rack inside one, and you have an easy-to-clean setup for draining fried foods and broiling cuts of meat, as well as cooling and frosting cupcakes and cookies. Whether you choose a rimmed model or an unrimmed one, a nonstick surface or a natural one, a good baking sheet should heat up efficiently and quickly without twisting or warping, yield baked goods that are evenly cooked and tender, and clean up easily without sticking or scratching.
While the terms "baking sheet" and "cookie sheet" are often used interchangeably, there are considerable differences between the two. Baking sheets have rimmed edges and are usually about 13 inches by 18 inches in size—a dimension that's known as a "half-sheet" pan and fits perfectly on most oven racks with just enough room around the edges to allow for even air circulation. The workhorses of a commercial kitchen, rimmed half sheets are terrific not only for baking cookies, but also for pastries, shortbreads, and sheet cakes, plus roasting vegetables, meat, or toasting nuts.
Cookie sheets, on the other hand, sport flat edges with small lips on one or two sides that act as handles and assist with maneuvering and gripping. Their large, flat surface area accommodates large batches of cookies and allows for graceful rotating of pans within the oven—and can make it easier to slide cookies off the pan and onto a cooling rack when the baking is through. But versatility is not their strong suit: Without four rimmed edges to contain spills and crumbs, many other tasks—from roasting olive oil-tossed veggies to toasting nuts or breadcrumbs—are out of their reach.
Aluminum is generally the material of choice for baking sheet manufacturers due to its reasonable price, durability, and high heat conductivity and efficiency. Fast to heat up, aluminum is also quick to cool down—which helps prevent inadvertent burns and reduces the wait time between getting batches in the oven if you are reusing the same pan. While it is primarily a cosmetic concern, aluminum's light color can be prone to staining—but slipping a sheet of parchment or a silicone baking mat onto the sheet before baking is a quick and easy way to expedite cleanup and prolong its life.
Thickness and Finish
Whichever type of pan you choose, other vital factors to consider are thickness and finish (natural or nonstick). A baking sheet's relative heft is something you can test fairly accurately by touch, but if you want to double-check the thickness, the specification to look for is "gauge." For instance, most of our favorite picks fell in the 10-18 gauge range. (Note that gauge is a retrogressive scale, meaning the higher numbers indicate lower thickness.) Gauge is important, and not just because a sturdy pan feels good in the hand. Thinner pans are also more likely to warp in the high heat of the oven (which can lead to unevenly cooked or slumped and misshapen results) and burn the underside of cookies before the tops can thoroughly brown.
Nonstick baking sheets can be convenient in terms of cleanup, but they come with a few performance caveats. In general, because of the slickness of their surface, these sheets yield cookies that are flatter and more spread out, with smoother, less textured bottoms. Also, because nonstick pans usually have darker gray finishes, they're apt to bake batches more quickly than their lighter, natural aluminum counterparts. (In other words, keep a close eye on the time when you're using them.) Conversely, insulated cookie sheets, which work with a layer of air sandwiched between two sheets of metal, present some of the opposite issues. Because insulated sheets are slow to warm up, they can result in bake times that run considerably longer than recipes indicate. Their gentle heat conduction tends to produce cookies with edges and bottoms that are evenly browned but not particularly crunchy or crispy. Those properties may be just the ticket if you're working with delicate cookies, like meringues, which are at their best when slowly baked and pale, but they generally aren't universally appealing.
In search of the best cookie sheets, we spent 30 hours in the kitchen with more than a half-dozen options, rimmed and unrimmed, in a range of styles, rolling, cutting, and spooning our way through batches of gingerbread, butter cookie dough, and other treats. What did we learn? This is one category where basic is best. Our favorite pans were workhorses that lacked any bells and whistles beyond their heavy-duty, commercial-grade construction. We favored pans that were easy to stack and store and came at an affordable price that guaranteed they'd more than earn their keep.
With an arsenal of pans curated from expert tips, competitive research, and our own culinary insight, we set off into the kitchen mixing, rolling, spooning, and baking our way through dozens of batches of cookies. We baked everything from crumbly, buttery Brussels cookies to lacey oatmeal molasses cookies, gluten-free peanut butter cookies, glazed Italian oil drops, and peppery, dark gingerbread. In addition to working off recommendations, we did our best to include in our tests as wide a variety of sheet pans and cookie sheets as possible, accounting for the various shapes, sizes, and materials—rimmed and unrimmed, natural and nonstick, aluminum, insulated, and ceramic—that are currently available on the market. For comparison's sake, we also tested many sheets both in their bare state and using parchment paper liners and silicone mats.
What Didn't Make the List
USA Pan Bakeware Half Sheet
Air Bake Natural Cookie Sheet
Anolon Advanced Nonstick Bakeware Cookie Sheet
Farberware Purecook Hybrid Ceramic Nonstick Baking Sheet
Calphalon Nonstick Bakeware Baking Sheet
For this piece, our team of editors sought the advice of baking experts who depend on cookie sheets constantly. Among them were Joanne Chang, the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef/owner of Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts and author of "Flour"; Genevieve Ko, recipe developer, culinary consultant, and author of "Better Baking"; and Dorie Greenspan, the beloved baking authority and award-winning author of more than a dozen cookbooks, including "Dorie's Cookies." Sarah Karnasiewicz is a writer, editor, and cook, who previously worked at Real Simple and Saveur, as well as freelancing for Every Day with Rachel Ray, Epicurious, Food Network, and more.
This piece was updated by expert food product reviewer Laura Denby. Laura is a food writer and former professional chef with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work can be found in Real Simple, FoodNetwork.com, Taste of Home, and more.