If you need a basic 13-by-9 baking dish for making gratin, lasagna, or stuffing, or even for roasting vegetables and small cuts of meat, the HIC Porcelain Lasagna Pan represents the best possible value. Though it’s inexpensive, the HIC dish performed in our tests as well as those that cost three times as much. In fact, all the dishes—ranging from $10 to $180—functioned generally similarly, but this dish’s balance of features at such a great price set it apart as the clear winner. With its big handles and classic design, the HIC dish is a snap to take directly from oven to table, and the porcelain is broiler safe and easy to clean.
If you’re looking for a classic beauty that will be a little more impressive for a holiday feast, consider the Revol Belle Cuisine 3.8-quart Rectangular Roasting Dish. Slightly larger and with better handles than the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish, this smooth enameled porcelain dish was the easiest to carry. At its price it’s an investment, but one that you might pass on to your kids someday.
As a budget option, we like Arcuisine’s Luminarc Borosilicate Roaster. The slightly shallower borosilicate glass dish is not as pretty as its competitors (and we don’t love its small handles), but when it came time to bake and roast, it functioned on a par with our other testers. This is a great dish to use if you like to monitor a crust browning, since you can see through the glass. The Luminarc could serve double duty as a cake pan (if you don’t mind rounded corners). But because of thermal shock concerns with glass, we don’t recommend this to everyone.
Casserole dishes come in a variety of shapes—square, round, oval, rectangular—and range in capacity from one to roughly six quarts. It’s nice to have a few sizes on hand, as different recipes call for differently sized dishes.
But the standard rectangular 13-by-9-inch (or 3-to-4.5-quart) dish is the most basic and versatile, because the shape is so great for baked entrées like macaroni and cheese, enchiladas, or even roasted vegetables. Oval and round dishes may be pretty for presentation, but they’re not as practical for making things like lasagna, and they hold less than their squared-off counterparts.
If you have only a metal 13-by-9 pan, consider adding a ceramic or glass one to your arsenal, as the differing ingredients (eggs, cheese, pasta) in casseroles fare better in a vessel that conducts heat a bit more slowly and evenly.
And unlike aluminum cake pans, dishes made of ceramic, glass, or enameled cast iron aren’t reactive, so you can cook acidic foods such as tomatoes in them.
If you have a rectangular dish that you like the shape of, and it bakes evenly, you probably don’t need a new casserole dish. But if you dislike your dish’s shape or find that its handles are cumbersome, or you’re just looking for something more presentable, you might want to upgrade.
If you don’t have a broiler-safe dish (say, you own only a Pyrex dish), getting a porcelain, stoneware, or enameled cast-iron one will free you to crank up the heat.
For a scientific perspective into the factors that make a good ceramic dish, we spoke with William Carty, chair of ceramic engineering at Alfred University. The school has a ceramics engineering program, one of the country’s top-ranked MFA ceramics programs, and is also home to the Whiteware Research Center, which collaborates with ceramics manufacturers nationwide. Carty has worked with nearly every whiteware manufacturer in the country.
To help find the best models to test, we looked closely at user reviews on Amazon and Williams-Sonoma, got a feel for what people like on several Chowhound threads (this and this one, in particular), and considered the only thorough editorial review we could find (on Cook’s Country).
The best casserole dishes bake evenly—there should be no cold or hot spots that leave part of the dish less or more done than the rest. Ideally, the pan will create a delicious browned crust when you want it, while leaving the interior of the food moist and creamy.
Most of the top-rated baking dishes are made of either ceramic (stoneware or porcelain) or glass. These materials tend to be affordable, lightweight, and bake evenly, because they conduct heat more slowly and inefficiently than metal. (Thin metal pans conduct heat much more quickly, which can lead to overdone bottoms and sides of long-cooking casseroles. In a future guide, we’ll look at 13-by-9-inch metal pans for things like brownies and cakes.) Ceramic is more versatile than glass because you can usually use it under the broiler.
You’ll find a number of enameled cast-iron and stainless steel lasagna pans, which are much more durable than glass or ceramic and can be used for high-heat roasting (500°F) or on the stovetop. This is an advantage if you want to use the dish for roasting a bird or other meats, then make a pan sauce on the stovetop.
Overall, though, for making casseroles, ceramic or glass dishes work best. Even Barbara Kafka, the master of high-heat roasting, recommends in Roasting: A Simple Art that oven-safe glass or porcelain is best for roasting smaller amounts of food.
The dish handles should be large enough to be gripped comfortably with oven mitts. It’s easier to negotiate a trip from the oven to the table if you don’t have to hold the dish around the sides or bottom.
We looked at some cast-iron, stainless, and glass models, but we focused our search on porcelain and stoneware dishes since they’re the most popular. Although porcelain is often considered higher quality—because it’s thinner, more dense, and less porous than stoneware—when it comes to baking and the strength of the dish, William Carty, ceramics expert at Alfred University, told us there’s no practical difference between the two. “The problems of the materials, they’re not intrinsic, meaning it’s not guaranteed that porcelain will be stronger than stoneware,” he said. Instead, Carty added, it’s about how the dish is manufactured and how the materials are treated: “The differences are really subtle.”
Porosity doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in how well a dish functions, but it can be bad for a dish that gets microwaved. Because stoneware is more porous than porcelain (which Carty told us is defined as less than half a percent porous) its unglazed foot—or underside—will likely soak up more water when washed. If a dish that’s soaked up a lot of water goes directly into the microwave, the rapid heating won’t give steam enough time to escape and the dish could crack. “It is probably less of an issue in the oven, as the dish heats from the outside, meaning that the water could potentially evaporate from the surface and thus be removed,” Carty said.
In searching for models to test, we wanted a dish that wasn’t too heavy (particularly when fully loaded), had big handles for easily sliding the dish in and out of the oven, was deep enough for lasagna, didn’t scratch, was easy to clean, and looked nice enough to place on the table for a holiday meal.
For our 2014 review, we brought in five dishes to test. For our 2015 update, we tested an additional two—Emile Henry’s Artisan Rectangular Baker and Large Rectangular Baker—against last year’s winners, the HIC Porcelain Lasagna Pan (now called the Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Oblong Rectangular Baking Dish Roasting Lasagna Pan), the Emile Henry Lasagna Baker, the Revol Belle Cuisine BC0234-1, and the Luminarc Borosilicate Roaster.
To see how evenly each pan cooked and how easy they were to take in and out of the oven, we roasted chunks of butternut squash and baked an eggy breakfast strata for our 2014 tests, and we baked decadent mac and cheese for our 2015 update. We noted how much scrubbing it took to clean the dishes and if metal utensils scratched the glaze (none did).
We weighed the dishes empty and filled them to the brim with water to compare how many quarts could fit into each. All of the dishes we tested are advertised as microwave and dishwasher safe, but after we spoke with William Carty, we wanted to see how much liquid the unglazed foot (underside) of the ceramic dishes would absorb. To do this, we dropped fountain ink on the glazed interior and unglazed foot, immediately wiped away the ink, and noted if any staining occurred (the more porous, the more ink soaked in).
In terms of cooking time for each dish, we found that material didn’t matter as much as the size of the dish. All of the dishes baked nicely—there wasn’t a lemon among them. What really set apart the winners was the size and shape of the handles.
The HIC Porcelain Lasagna Pan has the best combination of features of all those we looked at, and at a great price. (This pan is called Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Oblong Rectangular Baking Dish Roasting Lasagna Pan on Amazon, but we’ve confirmed with HIC that it is the same pan. Amazon also often has a white version of the pan in stock.) Its handles are among the easiest to grasp (with an oven mitt or bare-handed); when filled, it was one of the lightest dishes (even holding one-handed); and like the other dishes we tested it evenly roasted and baked everything we made. We also like its simple but elegant design for serving during the holidays, and that it’s not so fancy you wouldn’t want to use it on a weeknight. We found that the HIC was one of the easiest dishes to clean. As it’s porcelain, this dish is less susceptible to thermal shock than glass, and if it does end up breaking, it’s not a biggie, since its cost is low.
Because all of the dishes performed about on a par, it was the size of the handles that really set apart the winners. The HIC dish had the second-largest handles of the dishes we tested (the Revol’s are slightly bigger). They’re very easy to grasp with bulky potholders or oven mitts, without awkwardly holding any of the sides. We found this was an issue with the Arcuisine and all three of the Emile Henry dishes, which don’t have handles with a slot to curl your fingers through—making them harder to hold when full.
The handles on the HIC were cool enough to hold bare-handed about 10 minutes after taking the dish out of the oven, something we couldn’t do for at least 20 minutes with the enameled cast-iron Le Creuset. (The dish itself, filled with the baked strata, stayed warm for about an hour.)
We also preferred lighter dishes, because they’re easier to carry and transport in and out of the oven. The HIC weighs only 4.2 pounds empty, making it the second-lightest dish in our testing. (Porcelain dishes, like this dish, tend to weigh less than other ceramics because the material is thin but strong.) We found that when it was filled with strata we could still transfer the dish one-handed from the oven to the counter. That wasn’t the case with some of the heavier or bigger dishes, like the Le Creuset roaster (6.4 pounds empty) or the Revol (5.4 pounds empty).
As with the other dishes we tested, the HIC dish handled each recipe like a champ. After about 45 minutes at 400°F, squash pieces came out evenly roasted with slight browning throughout the dish. The spinach-and-cheddar strata was nicely browned along the bottom and all of the edges, while the center remained creamy. The mac and cheese formed a browned crust around the edges, but was moist and gooey on the inside.
The HIC dish had the second-fastest strata baking time of the dishes tested (35 minutes), which makes sense given it was also one of the smaller dishes (see comparison chart, below). To be clear, a faster baking time doesn’t necessarily equal better baking, as all of the dishes cooked about on a par given enough time. During the past two years, we’ve also made mac and cheese and roasted vegetables in this dish with beautiful results.
|Base dimensions (inches)||Rim dimensions (inches)||Height (inches)
||Empty weight (pounds)||Quart capacity||Cook time for strata (minutes)
|Arc||6½ x 11||8¼ x 12¼||1¾||3||3||25|
|HIC Mrs. Anderson’s||7¼ x 10¾||8½ x 12¼||2¼||4.2||3½||35|
|Le Creuset||7 x 8½||8⅛ x 11¾||2¼||6.3||3½||48|
|Emile Henry Lasagna Dish||7¾ x 10¾||12¾ x 9¾||2½||5.1||4||53 (maybe a little overcooked)|
|Emile Henry’s Large Rectangular Baker||12½ x 8½||13½ x 9½||2½||5.5||5||n/a|
|Emile Henry Artisan Rectangular Baker||11 x 7¼||12½ x 8½||2½||2.3||3½||n/a|
|Revol||8½ x 12¼||9⅜ x 13¼||2¼||5.4||4½||47|
The HIC dish cleans up beautifully. It is advertised as dishwasher and microwave safe, and it will fit in a standard-size dishwasher. We left the sticky residue from roasted butternut squash on the dish overnight, and it took only a little scrubbing to get it clean. The glaze, which seamlessly covers the entire top of the dish, including the handles, doesn’t seem to hold onto grease and residue in the way we’ve found that glass dishes, like the Arcuisine, do. (However, we have found that the exterior of the dish can hold onto some brown spots after long-term use; see our note below.) The unglazed bottom—or foot—of the dish does scuff slightly from the oven racks, but it doesn’t hold onto oil or food stains.
We really like the simplicity of the design. It has a Shaker-chic look that makes it work as a weeknight serving dish, but it’s also elegant enough that it would look great alongside more formal dinnerware on a holiday table. Although we also liked the colorful dishes like those from Emile Henry and Le Creuset, we think this dish’s simple white design will blend better with a variety of table settings.
Unlike the glass Arcuisine dish we tested, the porcelain HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish is broiler safe. Like all of the other dishes we tested, it can be frozen (useful if preparing meals ahead of time), but you’ll probably want to let the dish thaw before putting it directly in a hot oven to reduce any chance of cracking.
The HIC dish is microwave safe. When we tested its porosity, the glaze didn’t absorb any ink, and the unglazed foot absorbed only a tiny bit. This makes sense, given that porcelain should be about half a percent porous.
The HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish costs about a third of what the Revol does and a sixth of what the Le Creuset does, and we found it performed just as well. It won’t be heartbreaking if it ends up cracking or chipping down the road, since it won’t cost much to replace.
This dish will easily serve a family of four for mains like lasagna or other casseroles, or it’ll serve six to eight sides for a larger gathering. Filled to the brim, it holds 3½ quarts of water. We’d say it comfortably holds about 3 quarts of ingredients. The 2¼-inch sides are tall enough for a nice layered lasagna and flare only slightly, so we don’t think you’d need to trim noodles for the bottom layer.
Although we love the big handles on the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish, we could also see them making this dish hard to store if you have tiny cupboards or if you want your casserole dishes to nest seamlessly.
Although this dish is advertised as 13 by 9 inches and 2½ inches tall, we found that the accurate measurements are 10¾ by 7¼ inches at the base of the inside of the dish, flaring out to 12¼ by 8½ inches at the top of the dish (inside measurement), and 2¼ inches deep. The handles jut out an extra 1¼ inches on each side.
To be fair, all of the models we tested varied from their advertised size. And as we mentioned before, the quart measurement is a more accurate guide of size than inches. If you’re looking to make a really tall lasagna, you might want to get a deeper dish, but overall we think the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s will work for most recipes.
The HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish doesn’t come with a specific warranty, but when we called the HIC customer service line, the rep we spoke to said they try to replace items that break due to manufacturer error. It’s no substitute for a guarantee, of course.
Over the past three years, the unglazed foot of the dish has gotten a little scuffed from sliding it on the oven’s metal racks, but the glaze hasn’t scratched and the dish hasn’t chipped or cracked.
Although the porcelain is really easy to clean, we have found that oils or other residue that have baked onto the exterior of the dish are a bit hard to scrub off. But it’s easier to scratch off these brown bits than it is on the glass dishes we’ve tried.
Although we think the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s lasagna pan is the best value for the money, we really love the design of the Revol Belle Cuisine 3.8-quart Rectangular Roasting Dish. It has roomier handles and a more elegant line overall, but we didn’t find that it did the job any better than the HIC, which costs a third of what the Revol does.
So what’s the difference in quality between a cheap porcelain dish and one that’s around $100 (at the time of writing)? According to William Carty, not much, as long as they’re both manufactured well. “The quality of the plate is not necessarily better than any other well-manufactured plate, they’re just different designs,” he said. Carty does limit this observation to American and European manufacturers, though.
He also points out that price is often reflected by what you expect to pay for a specific brand. The more luxurious the brand, the more you expect to pay. That makes sense for Revol, as it’s one of the most prestigious French porcelain makers (along with Pillivuyt and Apilco). But the physical properties of the dish may not be all that much different than a less expensive dish by a brand like HIC.
We found multiple mentions on this Chowhound thread about people using Revol dishes for years without dealing with any scratching, chipping, or breaking issues.
The Revol is slightly bigger than the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s. We think it would probably serve eight to 10 side dish portions easily. The walls also have less of a steep angle, and we think it would make a nice-size lasagna.
When we spoke with Revol, they told us the handles are cast in one piece with the dish, a process called “slip casting.” This may also be why the dish is more expensive. Carty told us that slip casting is more expensive than molding the dish and the handles separately and attaching them before firing. That said, the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish seems to be slip cast, too. When we showed the interior of the HIC dish to William Carty, ceramics specialist at Alfred University, he confirmed that the dish and handles were made in one piece. He also told us the way the handles are attached doesn’t matter all that much, in terms of quality, as long as the dish is made well.
For its price, we think the Revol is worth it only if you love the design and want a slightly larger dish (it holds 4.5 quarts to the rim). We didn’t find this dish recommended editorially, and it has only three reviews on Amazon. The Revol doesn’t come with an official warranty, but the company says “products are meant to last forever.” Revol says that if a product breaks for some other reason than dropping, they’ll replace the item. When we contacted Revol’s customer service email, claiming a crack in our dish, a rep got back to us the same day, requesting an image of the dish, and said they would replace defective pieces.
If aesthetics aren’t playing into your dish choice, and you just want something that’ll get the job done, Arcuisine’s Luminarc Borosilicate Roaster is the way to go. Its baked strata and roasted squash turned out on a par with both the HIC’s and the Revol’s.
As a glass dish, the Arcuisine isn’t broiler safe, so it’s not as versatile as ceramic or cast iron. We also don’t love the small handles, which are a little hard to grab onto when wearing oven mitts. But we could easily see this dish doubling as an all-purpose casserole and cake pan (as many people do with Pyrex dishes).
The Arcuisine was the smallest dish in our tests—holding 3 quarts to the brim, or roughly 2¾ quarts of ingredients. It’s advertised as 13¾ by 8½ inches, yet we found the interior measured 11 by 6½ inches at the base, and 12½ by 8¼ inches at the rim. It’s also a bit shallower than the other dishes we tested, measuring 1¾ inches deep.
We would have ranked the Arcuisine higher if it weren’t for recent concerns about glass cookware. As we’ve discussed in other guides, in 2011 Consumer Reports reported on problems with glass dishes exploding in the oven or countertop. Most of these issues have been with dishes by World Kitchen (maker of Pyrex) and Anchor Hocking made of tempered soda lime glass. That material is more reactive to extreme changes in temperature than borosilicate (what Pyrex used to make their glassware from). Arcuisine still makes their baking dishes from borosilicate, but in tests, Consumer Reports found that even new borosilicate glass dishes are more prone to exploding or breaking at high temperatures than vintage Pyrex borosilicate.
Because of the potential thermal shock issues with glass, we can’t recommend this dish for everyone. We also found that the glass was harder to get really clean than the porcelain, stoneware, or enameled cast-iron dishes we tested. Brown, caked-on gunk clings to the corners of this dish. William Carty, ceramics specialist at Alfred University, told us this happens because certain impurities in oil or food that don’t decompose when heated end up baking onto the dish.
As Carty told us, glaze on stoneware and porcelain is also glass. “It is likely that the tendency to brown spot on a glazed porcelain or stoneware is the same as on a Pyrex baking dish,” he said. In our own tests, though, we’ve found the glass seems to get a worse buildup. Carty says that a number of oils can create this problem, including canola, olive, and spray-on oils like Pam.
We didn’t find the Arcuisine recommended editorially, and we haven’t found user reviews for this particular dish (although other glass bakeware by Arcuisine gets good reviews at Bed Bath & Beyond’s site). We chose to test it because it’s the only rectangular borosilicate glass dish we found readily available in the US (currently they’re more common in Europe).
Regardless of how resistant they are to thermal shock, any ceramic or glass dish can break under certain conditions. Always avoid putting an empty dish in a heated oven, as this can cause a ceramic or glass dish to crack. For the same reason, make sure foods are evenly distributed on the surface of the dish. If roasting meat, try to keep a little liquid at the bottom of the dish. Never add cold liquids to a hot ceramic or glass dish (use hot liquid instead), and don’t place a hot dish on a wet or cold surface.
Although you can technically freeze stoneware and porcelain dishes and put them directly into a hot oven, it’s probably not the best idea. By waiting for the dish to warm a bit, you’ll avoid potential thermal shock issues, and letting the food defrost first will help it cook more evenly.
If you happen to fill your casserole dish a little too close to the brim and worry about molten ingredients bubbling over the sides, use the old pie-baking trick of placing the dish on top of a sturdy sheet pan. The sheet pan will keep drips contained, and you can also use it to transport the casserole dish in and out of the oven.
The Emile Henry Lasagna Dish was our former runner-up pick, but Emile Henry seems to be phasing this particular model out. It’s slightly larger and heavier than the HIC Mrs. Anderson’s dish, but the enameled stoneware bakes nicely and comes in some lovely colors. Our biggest gripe with this pan is that the handles aren’t as easy to grasp as those on the HIC, a common issue we’ve found with other Emile Henry casserole dishes we’ve tested (see below).
We really liked the Le Creuset Signature 3 QT Roaster that we tested, but at its price, we think this is only splurge worthy if you really like cooking with enameled cast iron. It’s heavy (6.3 pounds empty), but it has nice handles and we feel like it would be a great dish if you’re looking for something for roasting small cuts of meat. We roasted a 3½-pound chicken in this dish, and it was just the right size (although there wasn’t any extra room for potatoes).
In terms of value, we think the Le Creuset is just too expensive to recommend solely as a casserole dish. It didn’t perform better than the other dishes we tested, and we could also see this getting pretty heavy when fully loaded with lasagna. It did retain heat a bit longer than the other dishes (about 1½ hours).
We love the two-toned glaze on the Emile Henry Artisan Rectangular Baker, which is available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. But the dish’s small handles were even more difficult to grasp than those on our runner-up, the Emile Henry Lasagna Baker. All of the Emile Henry dishes we tested baked about on a par, and we found the handles to be the weakest link on all of them. This dish is also a bit more expensive than the Emile Henry lasagna baker, and we think that extra cost is worth it only if you really want the two-toned finish.
Similarly, we didn’t like the handles on Emile Henry’s Large Rectangular Baker. They slant upwards and grabbing them was awkward in the tight space of a hot oven. At 3 inches deep, this is the deepest dish we tested and we do think it would be great for making a really tall lasagna. But loading this dish down with heavy ingredients makes the handles even more awkward to hold.
Other dishes we looked at:
Pyrex Glass 9-by-13 Cake Pan – Although this came highly recommended by Good Housekeeping, and it’s Amazon’s bestselling 13-by-9 dish, we opted not to test because of the thermal shock issues with soda lime glass. Instead, we tested the nearly identical-looking Arcuisine Luminarc dish, made of borosilicate glass.
Emile Henry Urban Colors Large Rectangular Baking Dish – We were curious about Emile Henry’s new, sleeker line of bakeware, but this dish didn’t get better user reviews than the classic lasagna dish, so we decided to test that one instead.
Le Creuset Stoneware Classic Rectangular Bakers – Didn’t receive better reviews than those we opted to test.
Pillivuyt Eden Lasagna Baker Rectangular – We liked the looks of the big handles on this dish, but at the time of testing, stock was limited, so we opted not to test.
Mario Batali Deep Dish 9-by-13 pan – Although this gets some good reviews as a deep-dish lasagna pan, the handles seemed too small and the enameled cast-iron dish too heavy to compete as an all-purpose casserole dish.
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Enameled Cast Iron 14-inch Roasting/Lasagna Pan – Did not receive better reviews than the dishes we tested.
Portmeirion Sophie Conran White Lasagna Baker – No handles and didn’t get better reviews than the dishes we tested.
Apilco rectangular roaster – No longer available.
Staub Rectangular Ceramic Baking Dish – Didn’t receive better reviews than the dishes we tested.
Good Cook 3-quart Square Ceramic Dish – Didn’t receive better reviews than the models we tested.
Bialetti Aeternum Red 7311 Oblong Cake Pan – Didn’t receive better reviews than the models we tested.
BIA Cordon Bleu 904907 3.5-quart Capacity White Porcelain Handled Baker – The small handles on this dish looked like they’d be difficult to grasp.
BIA Cordon Bleu 905387 3.75-quart White Porcelain Ribbed Baking Dish – This doesn’t have handles and doesn’t receive better user reviews than our top pick.
Originally published: November 12, 2015