It’s a common opinion that the best part of a muffin is the top. The crispy edge and soft, pillowy inside make you wonder if the rest of the muffin should even be there. If you think the answer is no, treat yourself to a muffin top pan so you get only the best part of the muffin every time.
For a high-quality muffin top pan that consistently provides you with perfection, we recommend this one from Wilton. But there’s more to good muffin tops than just the pan, so we’ve gathered all the basics of muffin top pan buying and listed our top picks.
Most muffin top pans will be made from the same materials as regular muffin pans: aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel and silicone.
Aluminum: Affordable, lightweight and easy to maintain, aluminum heats quickly for a more uniform coloration of your muffin tops. Keep an eye out though, because aluminum can warp when subjected to sudden temperature changes.
Stainless steel: Long-term, stainless steel pans hold up better than other materials. They are naturally scratch and rust-resistant, and they tend to be easy to clean. Unfortunately, stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat as well as aluminum, leading to less-even bakes.
Carbon steel: Durable and good at conducting heat, carbon steel seems to be the best of both worlds. Be aware, though, as maintenance can be fairly labor-intensive. Similar to cast iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned with oil or some other fat before and after use. It also needs to be thoroughly hand-washed and hand-dried to prevent rust.
Silicone: A favorite of busy bakers, silicone pans are naturally nonstick and highly flexible so they release baked goods quickly and easily. They are typically dishwasher and freezer safe for added convenience. However, silicone takes a long time to heat compared to other materials, and its flexible shape can make handling filled muffin cups a messy endeavor.
Light-colored pans absorb less heat, meaning your muffin tops won’t brown as much. Light-colored pans tend to be preferred for baking eggs, cookies and cakes. Dark pans, on the other hand, tend to absorb and distribute heat fairly quickly, producing browner and crispier products.
In terms of muffin top pans, there are two different sizes: cup size and tray size.
Cup size: This is exactly what it sounds like: how big each individual muffin top will be. Mini muffin top pans aren’t very versatile, but they are cute and fun for bite-size pastries and goodies. Standard muffin top pans are about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch deep. They are extremely versatile — they’re great for eggs, pancakes, taco bowls and more. Large muffin top pans are great for making breads, cake layers and other large treats.
Pan size: This refers to the dimensions of the pan itself, irrespective of the cup sizes. Average muffin top pans are between 11 and 17 inches long, and 6 and 11 inches wide. Measure your oven before buying a pan to ensure your muffin top pan will fit.
Capacity refers to the number of cups in a muffin top pan. Large and jumbo muffin top pans may have as few as four cups, while mini muffin top pans will have as many as 24 cups. Standard-size muffin top pans tend to have 12 cups. Consider how many muffin tops you want to make at a time before choosing the right pan for you.
Whether your muffin top pan will be filled with muffin batter, eggs, taco shells or anything else, pans with nonstick coating ensure your goodies are easily released from the pan. Nonstick pans also allow you to minimize the amount of butter or oil you use to grease your pan. Be aware though: Some nonstick coatings require special usage and care, so you should always follow manufacturer guidelines.
If you’ve ever heard the oven beep and scrambled to find your oven mitts, consider a muffin top pan with side grips or grab handles. Many handholds still require some heat protection, but some are designed to replace mitts entirely. The primary function of these grab handles, however, is to keep you from poking into the cups as you grip the pan.
Your typical muffin top pan ranges between $10-$40. On the lower end, you’ll find aluminum or silicone pans that have six or fewer cups. On the high end, you can find high-quality pans with better heat distribution or increased durability for $20-$40. Between $10-$20, you’ll find good-quality steel nonstick pans or silicone pans in a variety of sizes.
A: Conventional wisdom says to fill your muffin cups roughly ¾ of the way. You can safely fill muffin cups higher with thicker batters, whereas thinner batters should be kept low.
A: The easiest way to ensure you’re caring properly for your muffin top pan is to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. However, the biggest tip is to hand-wash aluminum pans, carbon steel pans and pans that have a nonstick coating. If you want a dishwasher-safe pan, opt for stainless steel or silicone.
A: It isn’t as necessary as for other pans, but even silicone pans can benefit from a squirt of baking spray. Better safe than sorry when it comes to greasing pans.
What you need to know: Nonstick and heavy duty, this is a top choice for serious bakers.
What you’ll love: This is a high-quality steel pan equipped with 12-cup capacity, grip handles and nonstick coating for easy removal. It is durable and dishwasher safe.
What you should consider: Despite being dishwasher safe, it is always safer to hand-wash to maintain the nonstick coating.
Where to buy: Sold by Bed Bath & Beyond
What you need to know: This is an inexpensive product great for large baked goods, buns, fillings for breakfast sandwiches and more.
What you’ll love: This is a well-constructed and sturdy pan equipped with 4-inch cavities, nonstick coating and handles for easy removal. It includes recipes to get started.
What you should consider: This pan is not dishwasher safe, and it only has six cups.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: This is a European-grade pan with all the easy-release flexibility you expect from a silicone pan in a more durable form.
What you’ll love: This six-cup muffin pan is made from European-grade silicone, which is thicker and sturdier, and also maintains flexibility and nonstick properties longer than other silicone types. It is safe for the dishwasher, freezer, oven and microwave.
What you should consider: Flexibility comes at a cost. To avoid spills, you should place this pan on an oven tray before filling.
Where to buy: Sold by Bed Bath & Beyond
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Collette Bliss writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.