If our main pick sells out, the Artisan Half Size Aluminum Baking Sheet is a decent runner-up. Like the Nordic Ware, it’s made of strong, uncoated 18-gauge aluminum that stands up to high heat.
In our tests it browned oven chips a little darker than the Nordic Ware, and it costs more than our main pick, a price bump with which we saw no increase in performance. In our testing, this two-handled sheet was easy to rotate in the oven, capable of baking cookies evenly, and simple to clean.
Made of 10-gauge aluminum, it’s even thicker than our main pick, which is necessary to keep it from warping without the structural support of rims. It isn’t as versatile as our main pick, because it can’t contain roasting vegetables or the juices from a sheet pan dinner.
A good baking sheet needs to do just two things: It needs to cook your food evenly, and it needs to withstand the abuse that comes with regular kitchen use. The rim keeps oils and juices from roasting meat or vegetables contained, and allows you to stir food around without having it slide off onto the bottom of your oven.
Rimless sheets are made specifically for baking cookies and can make it easier to slide a batch directly onto a cooling rack. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) also found that rimless sheets will bake your cookies a few minutes faster, because they allow for better air circulation.
Although sheets also come in aluminized steel and even triply construction (an aluminum core sandwiched by stainless steel), bare aluminum conducts heat more efficiently, especially for baking ; it heats up quickly and evenly and will cool down quickly once you take it out of the oven. Steel tends to heat unevenly, causing hot pockets on the sheet.
Triply sheets are expensive, and may retain heat longer than bare aluminum ones, meaning you risk overtaking cookies after you’ve pulled them out of the oven. Our rimless cookie sheet pick is made of thicker 10-gauge aluminum, which helps it stay flat without the added structural support of rims.
If you do need a nonstick surface for, say, baking cookies, it’s much better to line your pan with a sheet of parchment paper. This method is not only foolproof, but it also makes cleanup nearly effortless and adds a little insulation to the sheets, which helps prevent burnt bottoms.
Standard sizes are most useful Although you’ll find plenty of rimmed “jelly roll” baking sheets at grocery and kitchen-supply stores, they’re often thin and wobbly. The best rimmed baking sheets are the aluminum half-sheet pans used in commercial kitchens and adopted by many home bakers and cooks.
Many rectangular cooling racks are also designed to fit snugly in a half-sheet pan, which is a great setup for roasting meat or glazing a bunt cake. Some baking sheets come with special features meant to promote even baking, but these often cost more and don’t make a huge difference for most tasks.
These pans can be good for baking delicate cookies such as meringue and tools, but for anything else they’re unnecessary. Without that coating, things like oven fries do inevitably stick to a baking sheet in spots (the same is true of all bare aluminum pans), and it’s a pain to scrub residue out of the ridges.
Photo: Michael HessionOver the years, we’ve run numerous tests on our baking sheets. For the most part, each test helped us evaluate one of two things: how durable a pan is, and how evenly it bakes.
To test the latter, we always bake cookies, because they require some precision and are quick to show hot spots. In 2013, we also baked sturdy slice-and-bake cookies and monitored for even browning on the tops and bottoms.
For each test, we baked one sheet pan at a time and placed it on the middle oven rack. Most manufacturers advise against putting bare aluminum pans in the dishwasher because doing so can tarnish the metal, so it’s important that they clean up relatively easily.
That said, we put our sheet pans in the dishwasher in the Wire cutter test kitchen, and although it has discolored them, it hasn’t affected their performance. Although you might find a comparable pan at a kitchen-supply store, the Nordic Ware is the best option that’s readily available online.
It also happens to be one of the most consistently inexpensive aluminum pans we’ve found in our years of research. The bottom of the pizza crust for our pissaladière also baked evenly with no noticeable dark or light spots.
Photo: Michael HessionThe Nordic Ware sheet also didn’t warp at high temperatures. And even after several years of use, all the Nordic Ware pans in our test kitchen still lie flat.
They’re good for little things like toasting nuts or baking a few pieces of fish, and they’re easier to wrap up and fit in your fridge. I found that a regular nylon scrub pad slightly scratched the surface of the aluminum.
The metal is also soft enough that utensils could scratch the surface a bit, but that’s the case with all the pans we tested. The surface of the Nordic Ware pan quickly accumulates light scratches, but these don’t affect its performance at all.
Also remember that if you throw the Nordic Ware pan in the dishwasher, it will turn dull and tarnished. That won’t affect its performance, but if you want to keep the pan gleaming you should wash it by hand or line it with foil before roasting vegetables.
While Nordic Ware pans used to have a completely smooth surface, they now include a slightly raised logo on one end. Since it’s just a small patch, we don’t think it’s a deal breaker, especially given that Nordic Ware’s pans are consistently the most affordable and high -quality baking sheets we’ve found.
After years of heavy use both at home and in Wire cutter’s test kitchen, all our Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet pans still perform really well. If our main pick is unavailable, the Artisan Half Size Aluminum Baking Sheet is a great alternative.
It was one of several aluminum sheet pans we tested that baked about on a par with the Nordic Ware, and of those, it tends to be the closest in price to our top pick. Like the Nordic Ware, it baked cookies evenly to a nice golden brown, and never warped in our battery of high -heat tests.
We did, however, hear some crackling sounds when this pan was hot and sitting outside the oven, suggesting that it moves slightly as it adjusts to the temperature change. Photo: Michael Sessions it turns out, Tolerate (another top maker of sheet pans) owns Artisan.
We’ve run our aluminum sheets through the dishwasher without any effect on their performance, but the detergent and heat do tend to discolor the metal. Baking on a layer of parchment will keep your pans spotless and create a nonstick surface (as well as a small amount of insulation) for your cookies.
It tends to be a little more expensive than our picks, however, and we also noticed that most of the negative reviews on Amazon complained of pans arriving dented. It was tough to clean all the stuck-on bits of potato off of the Nordic Ware Prism’s ridged surface.
Photo: Michael Session 2018 we tested the Nordic Ware Prism Half Sheet to see how its ridged surface compared with the smooth aluminum bottom of our top pick Nordic Ware pan. Unfortunately, they both also have a nonstick coating, which is fine for cake pans but not great for baking sheets (which need to withstand higher temperatures and more frequent abuse from spatulas).
We featured the Members Mark Half Size Aluminum Sheet Pan from Sam’s Club as our runner-up in our 2013 guide. In our tests, it baked cookies (and everything else) as well as the Nordic Ware, and you get two for the price of one of our main pick.
The pan did buckle in high heat, which isn’t a big deal if you use it only for making cookies. Surprisingly, this pan warped slightly while baking our honey Florentine, when the oven was set at only 375 °F.
We were also not clear on if the bright (albeit attractive) turquoise finish (it also comes in red) would chip over the long term. Marguerite Preston is a senior editor covering kitchen gear and appliances at Wire cutter, and has written guides to baking equipment, meal kit delivery services, and more.
The winner was clear: the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baker’s Half Sheet. Like other bare aluminum sheet trays, it conducts heat efficiently, which means food cooks evenly and the pan itself warms up and cools down quickly.
Its light color makes it less likely to produce too-dark cookies or cakes, yet its thickness and sturdiness can turn out crispy, well-risen crusts. While aluminum is prone to staining and scratching (and acidic ingredients like vinegar and tomato can cause discoloration, pitting, and corrosion), the Nordic Ware pan is easy to clean.
Whereas rimless cookie sheets are good for maximizing space if you’re baking an army of gingerbread men, trays with rims are all in all more versatile: They prevent spillage and drip page on everything from roasted fish to granola. We baked the dough on oiled sheets, pulling the focaccia out when it was deeply golden brown on top.
We checked how easily the focaccia slid out of the pan (i.e., stick age factor) and flipped the cooled bread to look for evenly colored bottoms. We compared how fast the food cooked on the various trays: whether the trays warped at high temperatures and which remained hot after coming out of the oven (not optimal when you’re looking to reduce the carryover cooking that can lead to too-crisp cookies or tough fish fillets).
We also looked at how many sticky brown bits remained on the tray after transferring the food to serving dishes. We then handwashed all the baking trays with warm soapy water and a nonabrasive sponge, paying attention to how easy cleanup was (or wasn’t) and whether the basic tasks had left stains and scratches.
Stainless steel is widely known to be a poor performer in this category, which explains why the stainless-steel baking sheet we tested was so unreliable. This may not affect whether your veggies get a nice char, but if you’re cooking in a small oven, it could determine whether the sheet fits inside.
The Tolerate pan is much thicker than the Nordic Ware (13 gauge) and pricier too ($23 per unit compared to $12), but produced middle-of-the-road results. The USA Pan and Chicago Metallic both produced nicely browned vegetables and focaccia but cookies that erred on the too-crisp side; the Holy Sheet made some the best focaccia of the bunch, with no stick age whatsoever, but was less successful in the other tests, under-browning vegetables and over-browning cookies.
Neither the Holy Sheet nor the Chicago Metallic are intended to be used above 450°, per the manufacturers’ instructions, which could become a problem if you really need to bring the heat; also, as with all nonstick pans, there is the risk that the coating will deteriorate with use. That said, if focaccia is a staple in your repertoire, the Holy Sheet might be a worthwhile investment (it’s $25 for one unit) for that baking project alone.
The sheet warped after just 15 minutes at 450° and was the least reliable in terms of even or consistent cooking: cookies were too dark, focaccia was brown on the bottom before its interior was cooked, and roasted vegetables left stains that we couldn’t scrub off. Skip the nonstick surface and instead simply line the pan with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat if you’re cooking something delicate.
At an affordable price, there’s really no reason not to buy the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum tray. It’s solidly constructed, made in the United States, and bound to be your best friend all year long.
For extra-crisp roasted vegetables, put the sheet tray in the oven while it preheats so it’s nice and hot. The fact that the sides are only an inch high means that more direct heat can circulate around what you’re roasting, yielding crispier surfaces all around.
Line a sheet tray with a clean dish towel and spread freshly washed herbs, greens, veggies, or berries out to dry. And whenever you’re deep-frying, that sheet tray fitted with a wire rack is your best friend: have it ready right next to the stove to let freshly fried chicken drip and cool without getting soggy.
If you want to cook a big batch of whole grains that will keep in the fridge for cold salads or other meals throughout the week, we recommend lining a sheet tray with parchment paper and spreading the hot grains out over the tray to cool faster, so they don’t overcook.