The Best Cookie Sheet
If you’re in the market for a sturdy cookie sheet, the Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet ($11) is the best one for baking all kinds of cookies. This rimmed baking sheet also makes a great all-purpose pan for everything from baking pizza to roasting vegetables. We tested nine baking sheets and this one performed every task perfectly, without warping at high heat and at a fraction of the price of some of the other top-rated sheets.
If you’re not planning on roasting stuff at higher temperatures, these sheets from Sam’s Club (available in-store only) are a cheaper option. You get two for the price of one Nordic Ware and they performed just as well on most of our tests, but they’re prone to warping at higher heat.
Our experts mostly preferred the added versatility of a rimmed sheet, but if you’re a fan of rimless cookie sheets, we recommend the Vollrath Wear-Ever Cookie Sheet ($21). It’s a thick, two-handled sheet that’s easy to rotate in the oven. In our testing it evenly baked cookies and was easy to clean, and its heavy gauge means it won’t warp easily.
I came to these conclusions after 12 hours of research, interviews with baking experts and more than 30 hours testing sheet pans and cookie sheets, making 18 batches of cookies, six pizzas and roasting pounds of sweet potato fries.
Who needs this?
If you cook or bake at all, you should own a solid baking sheet. And too many kitchen cupboards house a hodgepodge of clunker cookie sheets. You know the kind. Warped. Wobbly. Dented. So thin they’re apt to char the undersides of cookies before browning the tops. This is unfortunate, because a quality baking sheet is inexpensive and (if it has rims) can serve as a great all-purpose pan for many culinary tasks.
Rimmed or rimless?
You can get baking sheets with or without rims and each has its merits. We focused mostly on rimmed sheets because rimless sheets are basically only good for cookies and not much else, though we did test some rimless options for the sake of comparison and completeness.
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. These generally measure 13 by 18 inches (half of a 26 by 18 full sheet pan).
Heavy-gauge rimmed sheets are good for tasks beyond cookie baking, like roasting vegetables, baking bread and browning granola. Professional chefs also use these pans for heavier jobs, such as cooking meat and roasting bones for stock. The rim 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 of cookies baked on parchment directly onto a cooling rack. But the lack of rim means that things that don’t stick to the pan are liable to slide off.
One argument for using a cookie sheet without rims is that it may promote more even browning because hot air can circulate more freely around the cookies than with a rimmed sheet. However, Cook’s Illustrated did a head-to-head test of their top-rated cookie sheet against their top-rated rimmed baking sheet. They found that the rimless cookie sheet baked the cookies about 3 minutes faster than the rimmed baking sheet, but that the cookies on both pans came out perfectly browned. Ultimately, Cook’s seems to like the rimmed baking sheet for its versatility. In our own testing, we also found that the rimmed baking sheets baked a tad slower than the rimless sheets, but ultimately both did a great job at browning the cookies on the tops and bottoms.
In my research, I found that my sources split about halfway on who prefers cookie sheets versus rimmed baking sheets. Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, the Gourmet Cookie Book and the Sweethome’s Lesley Stockton prefer specific cookie sheets. However, America’s Test Kitchen (and Cook’s Illustrated by extension), and both experts I interviewed—Alice Medrich who wrote Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies and Jennifer Aaronson, the head food editor at Martha Stewart Living and the lead food editor on Martha Stewart’s Cookies (which I also worked on, as an editor)—all prefer rimmed baking sheets.
What to look for
Quality sheet pans are made of heavy-gauge aluminum. Although sheets come in aluminized steel and even triple-ply construction (aluminum core sandwiched by stainless steel), bare aluminum conducts heat more efficiently than steel; it heats up quickly and evenly and will cool down quickly once taken out of the oven. Steel tends to heat unevenly, causing hot pockets on the sheet.
You want heavy-gauge sheets because these are less likely to warp in a hot oven (and won’t buckle or wiggle out of the oven). When we talk about gauges of metal, the smaller the gauge, the thicker the metal sheet. The well-reviewed heavy-gauge aluminum sheets I found ranged from a gauge of 18 on the thin end (about 0.0403-inch thick) to 13 on the thicker end (0.0720-inch thick). “It doesn’t need to be super heavy, but it needs to be heavy enough so that it doesn’t warp,” Medrich told me. “I’m very opposed to the things people buy in grocery stores. They’re thin, they’re too dark. Forget about it!”
Avoid dark or nonstick sheets. Most of the top-rated pans have natural aluminum finishes. “A lot of the non-stick pans are dark and I find that dark pans get cookies too dark on the bottom before the top of the cookie is done,” said Medrich. “The regular color of aluminum is much better for letting the top get done before the bottom and edges get too done.” Nonstick finishes also inevitably scratch over time and lose their efficacy. Both Medrich and Jennifer Aaronson told me that it’s better to use a sheet of parchment paper to create a nonstick surface every time you bake. This method also adds just a little insulation to the sheets, which helps prevent burnt bottoms.
When you start looking at the fine print on the specs of sheet pans, you’ll see some advertised as “open bead” and others as “closed bead.” This term refers to the way the rims are constructed. I called Vollrath, maker of restaurant-quality sheet pans, and they explained that pans with closed bead rims are generally made of a thinner gauge of metal, so they need a wire that runs through the crimped edge of the rim to help reinforce the pan, reducing the risk of warping. It’s basically an economical way to provide strength to a lower-grade baking sheet. Thicker gauge sheets are generally open bead, because they don’t need the reinforcement of an added wire. These are the only type of sheet pan that can be certified by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) for use in restaurants and are generally more expensive.
The majority of the highly reviewed sheet pans I found were closed bead 18-gauge aluminum sheets. America’s Test Kitchen’s top pick (subscription required) is an open bead 13-gauge aluminum sheet.
You’ll also find insulated cookie sheets, made of two thin sheets of metal sandwiching an air pocket. These tend to bake cookies much slower and will actually prevent them from burning. One Martha Stewart article said these pans can be good for baking very delicate cookies, such as meringue and tuiles. However, both of my experts say you can just as easily bake delicate cookies on a regular sheet pan.
Some pans have perforated or slightly ridged surfaces to promote even browning. None of the top-rated sheet pans I found have this kind of surface.
A range of companies make sheet pans. Some, like Vollrath, are targeted primarily at restaurants and commercial-grade kitchens. Others, such as Calphalon and Chicago Metallics, are more targeted toward the home baking market. Nordic Ware makes both industrial and household lines. Based on my research, it’s worth seeking out the restaurant-grade sheets. They’re affordable and usually rated higher by users and editorials.
How we picked
We found two good reviews of sheet pans, in America’s Test Kitchen and Serious Eats, and they each chose a different pan as their top pick. We decided to do our own testing to compare these sheets, as well as several other highly-rated models. Although you certainly can purchase quality sheet pans at restaurant supply stores, the inventory isn’t consistent at every shop, so we only reviewed models that are readily available online or at stores around the country.
For sheet pans, we ended up testing one 13-gauge sheet and five 18-gauge sheets, including: the Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Heavy Duty Sheet Pan (13 gauge, model 5314) ($25), the top pick of America’s Test Kitchen; the Vollrath Wear-Ever Standard Duty Half-Size Sheet Pan (18 gauge, model #5303 ) ($13), which has high Amazon user reviews; the Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet ($11), recommended by Serious Eats ; the Bakers and Chefs Half Size Aluminum Sheet Pan (2 for $11) sold at Sam’s Club and recommended on a few threads on Chowhound and The Kitchn; the Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated Large Jelly Roll Pan ($15), recommended by Kitchen Daily; and the Focus Foodservice Commercial Bakeware 13 by 18 Inch 18 Gauge Aluminum Half Sheet Pan ($15.50), which also received high Amazon user reviews.
We also tested three rimless cookie sheets that were rated highly either in editorial reviews or on Amazon. We turned to reviews in Cook’s Country and Kitchen Daily, which recommended the Vollrath Wear-Ever Cookie Sheet ($21) and Wilton Jumbo Aluminum Cookie Sheet ($17); we also decided to test the favorite sheet of the Sweethome’s Lesley Stockton, the highly rated USA Pan Aluminized Steel Cookie Sheet ($19).
How we tested
We wanted to determine which sheet pans could handle the delicate task of evenly browning cookies (on the top and underside) and would also stand up to high heat without warping.
For the cookie test, I baked sturdy slice-and-bake cookies and monitored if the tops of the cookies browned before the bottoms got too dark. I also checked how evenly the pans browned the bottoms to see if there might be any hot spots. Next, I baked honey florentines to see how evenly the pans would bake delicate cookies that can overbrown easily.
I baked all of the cookies on parchment paper and rotated the pans front to back. For each test, I only baked one sheet pan at a time and placed the sheet in the middle rack. For a previous Sweethome review on pie plates, I’d mapped the hot spots in my oven, so I knew the middle rack had fairly consistent heat.
To test for warping (and even browning) we baked pissaladière on whole wheat dough at 450°F for 30 minutes, as well as sweet potato fries at 425°F for 35 minutes. I used a kitchen scale to measure out the pizza dough and sweet potato fries to make sure I was using equal amounts on each pan (1 pound of dough and 300 grams of potatoes, respectively).
Additionally, I monitored whether the pans developed scratches from regular use and how easy they were to clean.
We opted not to test roasting meat on the pans, as America’s Test Kitchen did in their review. Although many professional chefs do use sheet pans for roasting meat, personally I prefer doing this sort of task in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan. We were more concerned with whether the sheets baked evenly and if there were any warping issues at high heat.
The 18-gauge, closed bead Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet ($11) did everything we needed without warping and at less than half the price of the most expensive model we tested.
The Nordic Ware sheet also didn’t warp at high heat. During our two high heat tests—at 425°F and 450°F—the pan didn’t buckle or bend (both the most expensive and least expensive pans we tested did).
Overall, the Nordic Ware sheet performed about evenly with two other 18-gauge closed bead pans we tested, but it’s less expensive and receives significantly higher user ratings on Amazon (4.7 stars of 513 reviews).
The Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet is also the best-selling cookie sheet on Amazon. In its review, Serious Eats said “these sheets have the weight and thickness to produce lovely, crisp, and most importantly, evenly browned cookies.” America’s Test Kitchen, on the other hand, found that cookies baked slightly unevenly on this pan. Yet we didn’t find this to be the case in our own testing.
Of course, the Nordic Ware sheet pan isn’t perfect. I found that a regular nylon scrub pad slightly scratched the surface of the aluminum. The metal is also soft enough that utensils could minorly scratch the surface. However, I found this to be the case with all of the pans we tested.
This sheet pan comes with a 5-year limited warranty. The warranty “does not include damage caused by accidents, misuse, overheating” and Nordic Ware recommends only using this sheet at temperatures up to 400°F so you’re likely out of luck if the sheet buckles while roasting.
Long-term test notes
After six months of heavy use, we’ve found the Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet still performs really well. We’ve roasted vegetables at 500°F without it warping and used it to support casseroles and pies. Oils and fats do bake onto the aluminum, which can be annoying to get off. We’ve found the best trick for keeping this sheet sparkling is to line it with parchment paper before placing food on it and cooking. Cleanup is as easy as discarding the paper and wiping the sheet clean with a soapy sponge. A sprinkle of Barkeeper’s Friend and some elbow grease should take care of any baked-on splatters.
The step down
Up until the sweet potato test, I thought this budget pack would be our winner. However, the pan I tested warped after 35 minutes in the 425°F oven.
Still, it’s a great price for two pans—and two is what you want when baking cookies. These pans were not rated by any publications, but I read good user reviews about them on Sam’s Club, The Kitchn and Chowhound.
These sheets don’t have a specific warranty, but do come with the Sam’s Club Member Satisfaction Guarantee so you can return them if you’re not happy with them.
We think if you’re only planning on using these pans at lower temperatures (below 400°F) for cookies, you’ll probably be perfectly happy with them.
Rimless cookie sheets
This heavy-gauge sheet has two raised handles on the short ends, which make it easy to rotate in the oven. It baked all of the cookies nicely, if a little slower than the other sheets. It also has a small hole on one end if you want to hang it on pegboard or a hook inside a cupboard.
Cook’s Country chose this as their top pick and the Vollrath also gets high Amazon reviews (4.8 stars of 129 reviews).
As with other Vollrath Wear-Ever bakeware, this sheet comes with a limited lifetime warranty that doesn’t cover “misuse”—so no overheating. Warping, however, probably won’t be a problem with this sheet, since cookies are generally baked at 375°F or below.
We still think the Nordic Ware half sheet is a better overall value, but if you don’t mind storing a single-use pan and don’t want rims, the Vollrath won’t disappoint.
I found no editorial reviews for the Focus Foodservice Commercial Bakeware 13 by 18 Inch 18 Gauge Aluminum Half Sheet Pan ($15.50), but it has high user ratings on Amazon (4.5 stars of 77 reviews). In every test, this sheet performed on par with the Nordic Ware pan. But because it’s a few dollars more and doesn’t have as many Amazon user reviews for reference, we didn’t choose this as our top pick.
The Vollrath Wear-Ever Half Size Heavy Duty Sheet Pan (13 gauge, model 5314) ($25) was America’s Test Kitchen’s top choice for sheet pans and receives 4.1 stars on Amazon. This is the only model we tested that is NSF certified. Surprisingly, this pan warped slightly while baking the honey florentines, when the oven was only set at 375°F. It warped even worse during the sweet potato test at 425°F. I revisited Amazon reviews of this sheet and found at least 14 complaints of warping at temperatures over 400°F. The honey florentines browned more slowly on this pan, which makes sense because the thicker-gauge aluminum conducts heat a bit more slowly than 18-gauge aluminum. In their review, America’s Test Kitchen liked this heavier gauge sheet because they found it was sturdier for roasting meat. Yet for simply baking and roasting vegetables we can’t think of any advantages of going with the thicker, more expensive 13-gauge material—particularly since the pan warped anyway.
The Vollrath Wear-Ever Standard Duty Half-Size Sheet Pan (18 gauge, model #5303 ) ($13) was not reviewed in editorials, but it gets 4.4 stars on Amazon (of 75 reviews). On most tests it baked on par with the other 18-gauge sheets, but I found that it browned the bottom of the slice-and-bake cookies unevenly.
The Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated Large Jelly Roll Pan ($15) was recommended by Kitchen Daily, saying “It’s extremely well made and cookies never seem to stick.” America’s Test Kitchen only recommended this sheet with reservations. In my testing, this pan overly browned the honey florentines.
The Wilton Jumbo Aluminum Cookie Sheet ($17) was recommended by Good Housekeeping and Kitchen Daily. It baked cookies nicely, but we found that with just one handle, it was difficult to rotate the sheet in the oven. As its name suggests, this sheet is big—14 by 20 inches—and it was the only one I tested that didn’t fit into my compact oven (which is only 18.5 inches deep and about 14 inches wide). Instead, I tested this sheet in a friend’s standard size oven.
The USA Pan Aluminized Steel Cookie Sheet ($19) also didn’t have editorial reviews, but is highly rated on Amazon (4.7 stars of 33 reviews). The corrugated bottom of this sheet is supposed to promote even browning. I found this sheet baked a bit faster than the Vollrath or Wilton cookie sheets. Like the Wilton, this only has one handle and I found it awkward to rotate in the oven.
Other sheet pans and cookie sheets we looked at
USA Pan Aluminized Steel Jellyroll Pan with Americoat: Like the USA Pan cookie sheet we tested, this has a nonstick surface and corrugated bottom, which is supposed to promote even browning. I read multiple Amazon reviews about this pan warping at high temperatures.
Norpro Heavy Gauge Aluminum Jelly Roll Pan: America’s Test Kitchen recommended this pan, but it didn’t have higher user reviews than other pans we decided to test.
Anolon Commercial Bakeware Jelly Roll Pan: Recommended by America’s Test Kitchen, but appears to be discontinued.
Gourmet Standard Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Jelly Roll Pan: Also recommended by America’s Test Kitchen, and also appears to be discontinued.
AirBake by WearEver Ultra Shallow Baking Pan: Recommended by Kitchen Daily. Not more highly rated than other sheets we decided to test.
Farberware Nonstick 10-by-15-Inch Cookie Pan: Too flimsy looking and not more highly rated than other models we tested.
Williams-Sonoma’s Nonstick Insulated Cookie Sheet : Not enough positive user reviews to seriously consider.
Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Cookie Sheet: Not rated higher than other sheets we tested and too expensive to seriously consider for this review.
AirBake Ultra Insulated Nonstick 16-by-14-Inch Cookie Sheet: Serious Eats reviewed this pan and liked it. However, we didn’t include insulated baking sheets in this review, based on our experts’ dislike for them.
Calphalon Classic Bakeware 14-by-17-Inch Cookie Sheets: Expensive and not more highly rated than the other sheets in our test.
Doughmakers Grand Cookie Sheet: Recommended by Kitchen Daily, but not better reviewed than the other cookie sheets we decided to test.
All-Clad Cookie Sheet: Positively reviewed by Kitchen Daily, but appears to be discontinued. It was also too expensive to seriously consider for this review.
Care and maintenance
Baking on a layer of parchment will keep your pans spotless and create a nonstick finish (and small amount of insulation) for cookies. Some types of parchment paper will fit directly into a sheet pan. (Mine, however, was a little too wide for all of the pans and needed to be folded slightly at the edges.)
Roasting inevitably causes oils and other fats to bake onto sheets, which can take a bit of elbow grease to scrub off. I found that all of the sheets we tested were scratched a little by the scrub pad and regular wear-and-tear.
For really tough baked-on messes, you could turn to non-abrasive cleansers, such as Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami (recommended by the Cookware Manufacturers Association). I tried Bar Keepers Friend, and it didn’t seem to scratch up the Nordic Ware sheet any worse than my scrub pad. However, keep in mind that all of the instructions for the models we tested recommend only hand washing sheets with hot, soapy water.
A few expert cookie tips
Both Alice Medrich and Jennifer Aaronson stressed that cookies taste best when allowed to brown on the tops and bottoms. “Don’t be afraid of browning your cookies,” Jennifer Aaronson told me. “They will taste better with a bit of color.”
Here are a few other helpful tips they shared:
Before mixing your ingredients, double check that your baking soda and baking powder haven’t expired. These have a long shelf life, but if you use old stuff you’re likely to get dense baked goods. Here’s a quick test for determining if your leaveners are still good.
Coax the best out of ingredients through proper mixing. “Add sugar slowly to butter when creaming to get it to incorporate best in the butter,” says Aaronson. “When adding zest, add it with the sugar so that the oils cream into the sugar.”
Make cookie dough ahead of time. “Lots of the different doughs we use for cookies benefit from a rest overnight,” says Medrich. “Any butter cookie or chocolate chip or slice-and-bake type of cookie is going to taste better if that dough has rested in the fridge overnight.” (This NYTimes article explains why.)
When making many batches of cookies, load up parchment with your next batch. “You can make endless cookies with only two sheets,” says Medrich. “While cookies are in the oven, you’re scooping more cookies onto more parchment. When the first two pans come out of the oven, you slide the parchment sheet onto racks right away, and now you have the hot sheet. We’re always told you can’t put cookies on a hot sheet, but that’s not true if you already have a piece of loaded parchment. You can slide the next batch of slide-and-bake or drop cookies on the parchment, directly onto the hot sheets and then right into the oven.”
For even browning, rotate sheets back to front, top to bottom. “Rotate cookies halfway through baking,” says Jennifer Aaronson. “If baking multiple sheets at once, rotate them in the oven, top to bottom, bottom to top.”
Wrapping it up
Affordable, sturdy and reliable, the Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet ($11) browns cookies evenly and makes a great all-purpose pan for a variety of cooking tasks. If you’re planning a holiday baking blitz, pick up two.
Rimmed Baking Sheets, America's Test Kitchen (Subscription required)
The Secret to Perfect Cookies, Good Housekeeping, December 5, 2010,
What cookie sheets work best for baking cookies?, Better Home & Gardens
So what cookie sheet should you buy? Over 120 cookies later, I found out., Serious Eats, December 14, 2010,
Cookie Sheets, Cook's Illustrated, February 1, 2013
Choosing the Best Cookie Sheet, Kitchen Daily,
Cookie Sheet Bake-Off, Cook's Illustrated, September 1, 2010
Originally published: December 8, 2013