So what cookie sheet should you buy? Over 120 cookies later, I found out.

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What a difference a cookie sheet can make! [Photo: Caroline Russock]

A few days into my December baking, it occurred to me that my cookie sheets were in pretty abysmal shape: they were warped, discolored, and verging on rusty. I jumped at the chance to sub in for Kenji for a guest equipment post testing out an array of cookie sheets. I gathered up the most popular cookie sheets on the market and headed into the kitchen.

The Testing

Once I had my selection of cookie sheets assembled, it was a matter of deciding on a cookie constant. A basic butter cookie was ideal for a few of reasons. It's a very simple recipe that should reveal any flaws in the baking medium; The pale color of the cookies would make detecting subtle variations in browning more obvious. The recipe also calls for an ungreased baking sheet

Here are the criteria I was testing for:

  • Browning. Do the cookies acquire the proper golden brown base in the expected time, or do they burn or remain pale?
  • Evenness. Every cookie on the sheet should cook at the same rate.
  • Sticking. Do the cookies stick to the sheet? Is it difficult to clean?
  • Ease of Use. Is the handle comfortable? Are there any special design features that make is stand out?

So what cookie sheet should you buy? Over 120 cookies later, I found out.

The Results

20101209-128058-equipment-cookie-sheet-farberware.jpgFarberware Nonstick 10-by-15-Inch Cookie Pan ($14.94): This is the kind of thin, rimmed cookie that you'd pick up at the grocery store along with a log of dough for some impromptu baking. Somehow the pan heated up so quickly that my cookies burned on the bottom seven minutes into the 12-minute bake time (the tops were still undercooked.) Who wants a cookie sheet that's a guaranteed cookie burner?

20101209-128058-equipment-cookie-sheet-nordicware.jpgNordic Ware Bakers 13-by-18-inch Half Sheet ($7.99): Professional, utilitarian, and a great multitasker. This was the only cookie sheet of the bunch that didn't advertise itself as nonstick, but the cookies baked on it slid off easily. The thick aluminum ensured that each and every cookie uniformly browned and pretty much perfect. It's got a great heavy feel, and the high rimmed edges make sure that nothing slides off on the way in or out of the oven, though they do make it impossible to slide cookies off the edges when you actually want to (you'll need a good flexible spatula to go with it).

20101209-128058-equipment-cookie-sheet-williamsonoma.jpgWilliams-Sonoma's Nonstick Insulated Cookie Sheet ($28): Everything from its classy matte gold finish to the price tag made me think that this was going to be the Cadillac of cookie sheets. Unfortunately, this pricey sheet was a total bust. The insulated pan sat unevenly in the oven and warped within seconds of heating up. The cookies slid downward during baking thanks to the wobbly, slanted pan making for all sorts of variations in doneness. The super-slick nonstick surface had me worried that my cookies were going to slide straight to the kitchen floor. My high hopes were dashed with cookies that were both over and under-baked on the same fancy pan.

20101209-128058-equipment-cookie-sheets-airbake.jpgAirBake Ultra Insulated Nonstick 16-by-14-Inch Cookie Sheet ($12.39): It advertises itself as "The Original Insulated Bakeware," and looked and felt very similar to the Williams-Sonoma pan, minus the flashy gold finish. The bottom protrusion (where the insulation happens) meant the pan wouldn't sit evenly on the oven racks. This pan performed really well, though, with cookies that browned fairly evenly and slid off the pan with no problem at all.

201012-128058-equipment-cookie-sheet-calphalon.jpgCalphalon Classic Bakeware 14-by-17-Inch Cookie Sheets ($29.95 for a set of two): This was the roomiest of the bunch—a flat construction with handles on each end and a slight indentation along the edges to keep your cookies in place. The ultra-thin sheet heated up very quickly—the butter cookies were done in almost half of the allotted baking time, maybe a hair overdone but largely consistent. The pan's large surface area and easy to grab rim made this pan ideal for volume baking, but at nearly $15 a sheet, the flimsy construction made them seem not quite worth it.

The Winner: Nordic Ware

Shockingly, none of the more expensive sheets managed to produce cookies as even as those baked on the Nordic Ware sheet. And unlike the other cookie sheets, there are no special care instructions or fear of scratching with the Nordic Ware. While I do have my doubts that it will retain its nonstick qualities after a season of heavy use, these sheets have the weight and thickness to produce lovely, crisp, and most importantly, evenly browned cookies. And since the Nordic Ware just happened to be the cheapest of the bunch, I might take the money saved on these and invest in a few Silpat mats to make sure that your cookies have no chance of sticking.

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