If you’re looking for a sturdy cookie sheet, the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet is the best one for baking all kinds of cookies. After spending more than 35 hours testing 13 sheet pans and cookie sheets over the past two years, making 23 batches of cookies, six pizzas, and several pounds of sweet potato fries and oven chips, we found that the Nordic Ware performed every task nearly perfectly—better than sheets twice the price—and without warping at high heat. This rimmed baking sheet also makes a great all-purpose pan for everything from roasting vegetables to preparing bones for stock. It’ll even serve as an impromptu pizza peel or as a tray for transporting pies in and out of the oven.
We chose the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet as our top cookie sheet in our original 2013 review, and after two years of heavy use we’ve found it still performs well. Some aluminum sheet pans may perform on a par with it, but the Nordic Ware offers the best performance for the price that we’ve found. It’s been one of the hardest-working pans in this tester’s home kitchen for two years, and despite some minor discoloration it’s as good as it was on the first day we used it.
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. Better to get the Nordic Ware, if you can.
Our experts mostly preferred the added versatility of a rimmed sheet, but if you like rimless cookie sheets, we recommend the Vollrath Wear-Ever Cookie Sheet. 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, so it won’t warp easily. But it isn’t as versatile for baking or roasting as our main pick.
In researching this guide, I pored over cookbooks like The Gourmet Cookie Book and equipment reviews at sources such as Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, and America’s Test Kitchen (subscription required). I also interviewed baking experts Alice Medrich (who wrote Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies) and Jennifer Aaronson (the former 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).
In addition to editing cookbooks (several sweet and several savory), I’ve reviewed a wide variety of kitchen equipment for The Sweethome, including guides to pie plates, casserole dishes, and food processors. I use sheet pans, like our winner, at least a couple of times a week for various baking and cooking tasks in my own kitchen.
If you cook or bake at all, you should own a solid baking sheet. 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. And that’s unfortunate, because a quality baking sheet costs little and (if it has rims) can serve as a great all-purpose pan for many culinary tasks.
If you find yourself constantly burning or undercooking cookies—and you know that your oven temperature is accurate because you use an oven thermometer—a thin pan may be to blame. “If you go to a cookie party with home bakers, you’re going to get a lot of cookies that are burned on the bottom and underdone on top,” Alice Medrich told us. And a thin cookie sheet is generally the culprit behind this sort of uneven baking. All of our recommended pans are at least 0.0403 inch thick (or 18 gauge) and made of aluminum, a material that heats quickly but also cools quickly, which helps to keep the underside of cookies from overbrowning.
Baking sheets come with or without rims, and each design has its merits. We focused mostly on rimmed sheets because our experts unanimously prefer them due to their versatility for both baking and cooking. Rimless1 sheets are made specifically for baking cookies and can make sliding a batch of cookies baked on parchment directly onto a cooling rack easier. But the lack of a rim means that things that don’t stick to the pan are liable to slide off.
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 pans generally measure 13 by 18 inches (half of a 26-by-18-inch full sheet pan).
Whether you go rimmed or rimless, look for a thick aluminum pan that won’t warp under higher heat. Although sheets come in aluminized steel and even tri-ply 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, and tri-ply sheets may retain heat longer than bare aluminum ones.
As for gauges of metal, the smaller the gauge, the thicker the metal sheet. The well-reviewed heavy-gauge aluminum sheets we found ranged from 18 gauge on the thin end (about 0.0403 inch thick) to 12 gauge on the thicker end (0.0808 inch thick).2 “It doesn’t need to be super-heavy, but it needs to be heavy enough so that it doesn’t warp,” Alice Medrich told us. “I’m very opposed to the things people buy in grocery stores. They’re thin, they’re too dark. Forget about it!”
Heavy-gauge rimmed sheets are also good for tasks beyond cookie baking, such as roasting vegetables, baking bread, and browning granola. And professional chefs use such pans for heavier jobs like 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.
Avoid dark or nonstick sheets. Most of the top-rated pans have natural aluminum finishes. “A lot of the nonstick 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 us 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.
You’ll also find insulated cookie sheets, which consist of two thin sheets of metal sandwiching an air pocket. Such sheets tend to bake cookies much more slowly and will prevent them from burning. These pans can be good for baking delicate cookies such as meringue and tuiles. However, both of our experts say you can just as easily bake delicate cookies on a regular sheet pan (particularly with a sheet of parchment paper).
Some pans have perforated or slightly ridged surfaces to promote even browning. None of the top-rated sheet pans we found have this kind of surface (although we tested a couple).
Although you certainly can purchase high-quality sheet pans at restaurant-supply stores, the inventory isn’t consistent at every shop, so we reviewed only those models that are readily available online or at stores around the country.
After consulting reviews from America’s Test Kitchen, Serious Eats, Cook’s Country, and Kitchen Daily, and looking at user reviews on Amazon, we called in six sheet pans and three rimless cookie sheets for our 2013 review. For our 2015 update, we didn’t find many new aluminum half sheet pans to consider. We called in two, the Artisan Half Size Aluminum Baking Sheet and the Half Sheet Pan by Island Ware, but we also brought in two highly rated rimmed baking sheets made of alternative materials—the 11ʺ x 17ʺ Hybrid Ceramic Nonstick Bakeware Cookie Pan by SilverStone and the carbon steel Bakeware 11ʺ x 17ʺ Cookie Pan by Circulon—to test against our original winner, the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet.
For the 2013 review, I baked sturdy slice-and-bake cookies and monitored for even browning on the tops and bottoms. I also baked honey florentines to see how evenly the pans would bake delicate cookies that can burn easily. To test for warping (and for even browning) we baked pissaladière on whole wheat dough at 450° Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, as well as sweet potato fries at 425°F for 35 minutes.
For our 2015 update, I made sugar cookies and florentines, and I tested for warping by roasting oven potato chips at 500°F. As with our original testing, I baked all of the cookies on parchment paper and rotated the pans front to back. For each test, I baked one sheet pan at a time and placed the sheet on the middle rack. Additionally, I monitored whether the pans developed scratches from regular use and noted how easy they were to clean.
The 18-gauge Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet performed as well as or better than every other pan we tested. It baked cookies more evenly than sheets twice the price and didn’t warp at high heat (an issue with cheaper pans and even a few pricier ones). Although you could find a comparable pan at a kitchen-supply store, the Nordic Ware is the best option that’s readily available online.
In every test, the Nordic Ware sheet baked evenly, with no noticeable hot spots or cool spots. In our 2013 testing, it uniformly browned the bottoms of our slice-and-bake cookies while also evenly browning the tops. Delicate honey florentines caramelized nicely on the Nordic Ware without becoming too dark. The bottom of the pizza crust for our pissaladière also baked evenly with no noticeable dark or light spots. Several other sheets we tried, such as the Chicago Metalworks model and the Vollrath Wear-Ever Standard Duty Half-Size Sheet Pan, both browned the bottom of our cookies slightly unevenly. In our 2015 testing, we did get darker spots on sugar cookies baked on the Nordic Ware, but this result was due to our rolling the dough a bit thinner in some spots than in others.
The Nordic Ware sheet also avoided warping at high heat. During our three high-heat tests—at 425°F, 450°F, and 500°F—the pan didn’t buckle or bend. Both the most expensive pan (Vollrath 13 gauge) and the least expensive pan (Bakers and Chefs 18 gauge) in our tests warped slightly at 450°F.
Overall, the Nordic Ware sheet performed about evenly with three other pans we tested—the Focus Foodservice Commercial Bakeware 13 by 18 Inch 18 Gauge Aluminum Half Sheet Pan, the Half Sheet Pan by Island Ware, and the Artisan Half Size Aluminum Baking Sheet—but it costs less and receives significantly higher user ratings on Amazon (4.7 out of five stars across 2,062 reviews as of this writing). We think the Nordic Ware is a screaming deal.
The Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet is also one of the best-selling cookie sheets on Amazon. In its review, Serious Eats says that “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. In our own testing, we didn’t find that to be the case.
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 scratch the surface a bit, but I found that to be so with all of the pans I tested.
And as with all bare aluminum sheet pans, oils and fats bake onto the aluminum, and they can be annoying to get off. We have a few tricks for preventing and removing such stains in Care and maintenance.
This sheet pan comes with a five-year limited warranty, but it “does not include damage caused by accidents, misuse, [or] overheating.” Nordic Ware isn’t specific about what it means by “overheating,” though.
After two years of heavy use, the Nordic Ware 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. The pan is discolored from baked-on fats, but it functions as well as it did the first time we used it.
We tested several aluminum sheet pans that baked about on a par with the Nordic Ware, but all of them cost more. At the time, the more expensive Artisan Half Size Aluminum Baking Sheet was closest in price to the Nordic Ware, and it’s a good choice if our main pick sells out. Although the Artisan had the same dimensions, in our tests we fit two fewer sugar cookies on this pan, but that may have come down to unscientific cookie positioning on our part.
Some cookies at this pan’s outer edges wound up a little too dark, and we heard some crackling sounds when this pan was hot and sitting outside of the oven, adjusting to the temperature change, but the pan didn’t warp. Also, the mark on the underside of the pan we ordered through Amazon reads “Polar” rather than “Artisan.” As it turns out, Polar and Artisan are both owned by Vollrath (another top maker of sheet pans), and (at least on Amazon) the company seems to be treating Polar and Artisan pans interchangeably. Currently this pan has a rating of 4.7 stars out of five across 2,773 customer reviews.
Although we prefer the rimmed Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet for baking, we know that some people like old-school cookie sheets without rims. If you fit into this category, go with the Vollrath Wear-Ever Cookie Sheet.
This heavy-gauge sheet has two raised handles on the short ends, which makes it easy to rotate in the oven. It baked all of our cookies nicely, if a little more slowly than the other sheets. It also has a small hole on one end if you want to hang it on a pegboard or on a hook inside a cupboard. Like other Vollrath Wear-Ever bakeware pieces, 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 generally require baking at 375°F or below.
Honestly, I found using all of the rimless cookie sheets awkward compared with using the rimmed sheet pans. When I pulled the sheets from the oven, my parchment paper slid off onto the oven rack. However, of the three rimless sheets I tried, the Vollrath was the easiest to use because its two handled ends were better at preventing parchment from sliding than the single handle on each of the other rimless pans.
Cook’s Country chose this sheet as its top pick, and the Vollrath also gets high Amazon reviews (4.7 out of five stars across 348 reviews as of this writing). We still think the Nordic Ware half sheet represents 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.
The best way to clean aluminum sheet pans is to hand-wash them with a nylon pad or some other soft, abrasive scrub pad. Don’t run aluminum sheets through the dishwasher, as the detergent and heat tend to discolor the metal.
Baking on a layer of parchment will keep your pans spotless and create a nonstick finish (as well as a small amount of insulation) for your cookies. Parchment paper that’s 12 inches wide should fit directly into a sheet pan. (You’ll need to fold wider paper a bit at the edges.)
For tough baked-on messes, you could turn to nonabrasive cleansers such as Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami (recommended by the Cookware Manufacturers Association). Keep in mind, however, that all of the instructions for the models we tested recommend only hand-washing sheets with hot, soapy water.
A few simple tips can help you make better cookies. Here are a few from Jennifer Aaronson and Alice Medrich, culled from their combined years of baking:
We featured the Bakers and Chefs Half Size Aluminum Sheet Pan as our runner-up in our 2013 guide. In our tests it baked cookies (and everything else we cooked on it) 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. But since this pan is available exclusively at Sam’s Club stores, it isn’t the easiest to find. If you do happen to be in a store, we recommend snagging a set.
I found no editorial reviews for the Focus Foodservice Commercial Bakeware 13 by 18 Inch 18 Gauge Aluminum Half Sheet Pan, but currently it has high user ratings on Amazon (4½ out of five stars across 77 reviews). In every one of our tests, this sheet performed on a par with the Nordic Ware pan. But because it costs a few dollars more and doesn’t have as many Amazon user reviews for reference, we didn’t choose this model as our top pick.
The Vollrath Wear-Ever Heavy-Duty Half-Size Sheet Pan (13 gauge, model 5314) was America’s Test Kitchen’s top choice for sheet pans at the time we looked, and it currently has a rating of 4.1 out of five stars on Amazon. Surprisingly, this pan warped slightly while baking our honey florentines, when the oven was set at only 375°F. It warped even worse during our sweet potato test at 425°F.
The Vollrath Wear-Ever Standard Duty Half-Size Sheet Pan (18 gauge, model 5303) has no editorial reviews but currently holds a rating of 4.6 out of five stars on Amazon (across 183 reviews). On most of our tests it baked on a 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 has a recommendation from Kitchen Daily, which says: “It’s extremely well made and cookies never seem to stick.” America’s Test Kitchen, however, recommends this sheet with reservations. In our testing, this pan overly browned the honey florentines.
We tested the 12-gauge, very thick Half Sheet Pan by Island Ware for our 2015 update. It baked cookies very nicely and didn’t over-brown roasted potato chips. But it didn’t perform any better than the much less expensive Nordic Ware.
Silverstone’s Hybrid Ceramic Nonstick Bakeware Cookie Pan browned cookies relatively evenly in our tests, but the pan feels a little flimsy. We could wiggle it a lot more than a sheet pan, and we worried that it might buckle over time. We were also not clear on whether the bright (albeit attractive) turquoise finish would chip over the long term. It was a hair wider than the tested sheet pans, too, and barely fit in our oven.
Circulon’s carbon steel Bakeware 11″ x 17″ Cookie Pan baked cookies evenly in our 2015 tests, but our baked potato chips wound up over-browned or burned in spots. It’s a sturdy-feeling pan, but it doesn’t beat the Nordic Ware in price or performance.
The Wilton Jumbo Aluminum Cookie Sheet has recommendations from both Good Housekeeping and Kitchen Daily. It baked cookies nicely in our tests, but we found that with just one handle, it was difficult to rotate in the oven. As its name suggests, this sheet is big—it’s 14 by 20 inches—and it was the only one I tested that didn’t fit into my compact oven (which measures 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 also had no editorial reviews at the time we checked, but as of this writing it is highly rated on Amazon (4.7 out of five stars across 33 reviews). The corrugated bottom of this sheet is supposed to promote even browning. I found that this sheet baked a bit faster than the Vollrath or Wilton cookie sheets. Like the Wilton, however, this sheet has only one handle, and I found it awkward to rotate in the oven.
USA Pan Aluminized Steel Jellyroll Pan with Americoat: Like the USA Pan cookie sheet we tested, this pan has a nonstick surface and a corrugated bottom that 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 recommends this pan, but it didn’t have higher user reviews than other pans we decided to test.
Anolon Commercial Bakeware Jelly Roll Pan: This pan recommended by America’s Test Kitchen appears to be discontinued.
Gourmet Standard Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Jelly Roll Pan: Another America’s Test Kitchen recommendation that 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 Nonstick Insulated Cookie Sheet: Not enough positive user reviews to seriously consider, and it since appears to have been discontinued.
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. But we didn’t include insulated baking sheets in this review due to our experts’ dislike for them.
Calphalon Classic Bakeware 14-by-17-Inch Cookie Sheet: 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 for us to seriously consider for this review.
Originally published: November 11, 2015