Baking and Roasting

Choosing your bakeware

A little technical knowledge goes a long way

At the Cookcraft Kitchen Shop we swear by our anodised aluminium (rather than swear at it, which is what you do with inferior bakeware and roasting tins). I’m not even remotely embarrassed that 80% of the bakeware we sell is made by Alan Silverwood Ltd. Silverwood bakeware is simply the best around for lots of very good reasons. First and foremost it is a British product – conceived and crafted in Britain for over 40 years. It was first developed in the 1960s for education authorities and can still teach us a thing or two.

All Silverwood products are made from an aluminium alloy which gives fast, even heat distribution. Most of us have forgotten all the things that are supposed to cause memory loss, but although it’s been disproven, a lot of people still worry that aluminium will cause dementia quicker than you can say “Who am I?” Fear not! ‘Silver anodising’ seals the aluminium in (so, brain damage or not, the aluminium cannot react with your food) and gives a smooth, easy to clean surface. This surface seasons over time and becomes more and more ‘easy-release’ – it can’t be called ‘nonstick’ because it’s not an applied coating. Anodised pans are not only efficient and lightweight, they are fairly damage-proof as they can’t peel, burn, warp or rust.

‘Hard anodising’ creates a really hard surface, which is scratch-resistant with a soft charcoal grey finish. But it is more expensive, so be prepared to pay a little extra. In the Pots and Pans section of this website we talk a little about hard anodised saucepans.

To my mind, the most utterly fabulous thing about anodised aluminium bakeware is that it HATES to be overcleaned. Clearly you want to wipe off any actual food residue, but scrub it back to shop-bought newness at your peril. Should your inlaws come to lunch and zealously wash up (as mine have now been banned from doing), a little groundnut oil or butter wiped round before the next use will help the surface build up again. However, put it in the dishwasher and you begin to destroy the surface altogether. Your pan will still be efficient in terms of heat spread, but it will have lost its sealed-in easy-release surface.

If Silverwood is not for you (though I really can’t think why not), there are lots of other good names on the market. For basic tinplate, we really like Invicta – again because it’s British made and does its job well, and it’s astonishingly affordable. Invicta also makes heavy-duty steel cake tins, in a range of sizes (e.g. 4-inch to 14-inch for wedding cakes) as well as special shapes like numbers – we hire these out for special occasion cakes (this is an in-store service only; see Cake Tin Hire).

Chicago Metallic is an American heavy duty product, either nonstick (Professional) or uncoated (Commercial). This stuff, made from what the Americans call ‘aluminized steel’, is for people who like weighty materials and large portions. Prestige makes a few ranges of nonstick baking and roasting products which are durable and easy to clean. For specialist patisserie pieces (like madeleines, panettones, bundts or guglehofs), Gobel and Kaiser are always trustworthy names. Nordicware is American-made cast-aluminium, platinum nonstick bakeware. These are extraordinary pans – more like sculptures than baking tins – in a startlingly imaginative variety of shapes. Think sandcastles, butterflies, tractors, trains, seashells and Nigella Lawson Christmas cake bundt… and you’ll begin to get the picture.

Why pay more?

One of the most clued-up things a customer ever said to me was “I can’t afford to buy cheap”. At the Cookcraft, we strongly believe that poor quality is not a serious option for baking. Especially not those flimsy baking trays that you put in the oven and go ‘ping’ immediately as they curl up at the corners.

A lot of cooking you can get by on a wing and a prayer, but not with baking. Baking is more science than art: how different ingredients react with each other when mixed and cooked in different ways. For best results, you need all these three factors to be in place:
(1) a sensible recipe with well-proportioned ingredients,
(2) an oven that cooks at a steady temperature (and you know what that temperature is), and
(3) decent bakeware with even heat spread.

It’s a waste of the cost of the food you’re attempting to cook otherwise, and it’s worse than frustrating when the quality of your bakeware compromises the quality of your baking.

Ask yourself these questions when you’re buying a roasting tray or a cake tin: How often do you intend to use it? What will you be cooking in it? Is it really unreasonable to spend £20-£30 on a roasting which you might use several hundred times when each time you use it, you might put a £20-£30 joint of meat in it? Is £10 too expensive for a cake tin that will last you out, when £10 (and rising) is about the total cost of the ingredients for three home-baked Victoria sponges at today’s prices?

Furthermore, very often a higher price on an item reflects not just the quality of the materials, but also of the workmanship. And I tend to bang on about the British stuff partly because I know that it’s made by proper craftspeople being paid proper wages for a properly skilled job. (Not by exploited, poverty-stricken families elsewhere in the world; and not leaving a Yeti-sized carbon footprint across the planet.) ... (There. I’ve got that off my chest.)

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