THE HISTORY OF SHEET PANS
A sheet pan, baking tray or baking sheet is a flat, rectangular metal pan used in an oven. It is typically used for baking bread rolls, pastries and flat products such as cookies, sheet cakes, swiss rolls and pizzas.
The most basic sheet pan is literally a sheet of metal, hence the name. If you have a cookie sheet with no continuous lip around the edges, you have a sheet pan.
One or two edges are rolled to enable easy handling in and out of the oven. The open sides allow you to remove the warm cookies without disturbing their shape.
Modern sheet pans used in commercial kitchens typically are made of aluminum, with a 1 inch lip around the edge.
The Sheet Pan Evolves
The next step in the development of the sheet pan was to include a lip on one or more edges, to prevent food from sliding off. Some pans add handles to aid in placing the pan in, and removing it from, the oven.
A sheet pan that has a continuous lip around all four sides is also called a jelly roll pan. It can be used to make the flat cake layer used for jelly rolls and roulades with other fillings.
Today, there are specialty sheet pans that include a layer of insulation or air (an “air bake pan”), designed to protect delicate food like macarons from burning.
Sheet Pan Sizes
In the U.S.:
A full-size sheet pan is 26 by 18 inches—too large for most home ovens.
A two-thirds sheet pan (also called a three quarter size sheet pan) is 21 by 15 inches.
A half sheet pan, which most of us use in our home ovens, is 18 by 13 inches (photo #2).
A jelly roll pan, typically 10½ by 15½ inches, is a smaller version of a half sheet. The proportions produces a layer of cake size that is ideal for rolling.
A quarter sheet pan is 9 by 13 inches, and can be used for rectangular, single-layer cakes.
Sheet Pans Vs. Cookie Sheets
Cookie sheets are different from baking pans. Baking pans have rolled edges, and cookie sheets do not.
Cookie sheets offer the advantage of a large surface area with no edges to impede removing the baked cookies. But their lack of edges limits their uses:
You can bake cookies in a baking pan, but you can’t cook a roast (or anything else that expels juice) on a cookie sheet.
Baking pans for roasts, called roasting pans, are deeper, to accommodate the size of the roast plus the juices it emits.