Boxers or Briefs? Coke or Pepsi? Rimmed baking sheets or unrimmed? It’s up to you!
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. Why? Thanks to their spill-proof edges, rimmed baking sheets are true multitaskers: just as handy for roasting root veggies, toasting nuts, baking chicken, or 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.
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″ by 18″ 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 just for baking cookies but also pastries, shortbreads, sheet cakes, and roasting vegetables, meat, or toasting nuts. Aluminum is generally the material of choice for manufacturers due to its reasonable price, durability, and high heat conductivity and efficiency. Fast to heat up, aluminum is also fast 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. Its 18-gauge, commercial-quality construction can stand up to high heat without warping or bending, the generous rimmed edges keep crumbs and spills neatly contained, and though uncoated, the natural aluminum surface is still quite nonstick (and neatly fits a sheet of parchment or a silicone baking mat, should you want to be extra safe). In batch after batch of cookies, it yielded bottoms that were evenly browned and insides that were well-baked, without requiring excessive tweaking with recipe times. Whether lined with parchment or left bare, cleaning the pan was simple, and when stacked, it was unobtrusive and easy to store for later use.