Friday, December 10, 2010

Things I Love: Food Network Store and My Half-Sheet Pans

     Confession time:  I drool over kitchen gear the way a child drools over the holiday window displays at a toy store.  More than once I've been asked to stop loitering when passing the local restaurant supply.  So, to say that I spend a lot of time surfing cooking gadgetry online is a bit of an understatement.  (In fact, after Ravenwood Fair on Facebook, it's probably my second biggest obsession.)

     I remember when the Food Network store went online.  I'd spent weeks before that scouring the internet for certain dishes and utensils I'd seen used in various shows.  (I particularly loved Alton Brown's salt cellar and Nigella's measuring cups.)  The Food Network store, which is obviously based as a companion to Food Network's website gave me a place where most of these items could be found- in one place! 

     While glancing through it today- in a blatant attempt to find holiday swag to suggest to the Husbeastie- I came across a familiar item.  In fact, with the Cookie Caper only two days behind me, I have to admit it's VERY familiar since I pulled it out of the oven no less than 80 times.
Baker\'s Half Sheet Pan with Storage Lid
This, for the record, is NOT a cookie sheet.  It's a half-sheet pan.  This one happens to come with a lid, an idea I find highly appealing.

      It seems as if I've been asked a lot of questions recently about baking and making cookies.  A LOT.  I never thought it was that difficult (if you were a mad chemist like myself) to come up with cookie recipes that really worked.
     However, it became quickly apparent that the most common question on everyone's mind is: Do you use some high tech cookie sheet?  

Well, that is certainly a fair question. 

The truth is, I've tested almost every cookie sheet on the market at some point or another.  Things promising non-stick, air-filled layers, even heating, and NASA-space-technology have all been tried and tossed on the wayside.

I use half-sheet pans.  In fact, I use the half-sheet pans shown above (long ago purchased from the then-new Food Network store with a great discount code).  I don't just use them for cookies, though.  I use them for EVERYTHING: drip pans for pies, individually quick freezing items, baking brownies and layers for cakes, to line fridge shelves on meat market days, a tray to catch glitter when I craft... so many uses.

-multi-taskers: These pans are amazing for just about every use I've ever put them through.
-even cooking:  The shallow 1-inch rim helps stabilize the pan and reduce warping.  Warping is the bane of bakers because it causes uneven cooking patterns.
-Easy to clean: hand wash them or toss them in the dishwasher... they'll take a beating. (And hand-washing is the preferred cleaning method.)
-Durable:  My oldest sheet pan I bought over 8 years ago.  It performs just as well as the newer ones from only a few years back.

-Get Ugly Fast:  I hate to say it, but gunk gets baked on easily- especially in the corners and the backside.  However, from my years in a professional bakery, I know that the baked on ugliness in NO WAY affect performance of the pans.
-Size:  Typically, I'd put this under pros, however, if you live in a place with a tiny oven, these may be a bit too large for you.  However, you can also purchase these as Quarter Sheet Pans which fit in even the smaller ovens.

So, if you're like me or plan to become the family's Cookie-ista, a serious investment in half-sheet pans will go far.


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