Something that is often confusing to the beginning cook is the same thing that’s confusing for anyone new to any activity. Jargon. Names of things. What do you call that? What’s that mean? Even to an experienced cook, it can be confusing.
It’s time to continue our discussion of kitchen needs. We’ve tackled the basics (and we’ll be repeating some of those), now we continue our look at what I call the intermediate level, things that are useful but not absolutely necessary.
In the basics, I named a cookie sheet as one of the essentials for bakeware, things that go into the oven. But I also made a mistake in defining the difference between a cookie sheet and a sheet pan by saying the sheet pan usually has a higher lip around the edge. In fact, a cookie sheet is a sheet pan and a sheet pan can be a cookie sheet. See what I mean?
Actually, I wasn’t really wrong. It’s just confusing. A cookie sheet is a type of sheet pan. But not all sheet pans have lips around the sides. A cookie sheet usually has at least one side with a flattened lip made into a handle making it easier to maneuver in and out of the oven.
A sheet pan is basically a single sheet of metal, usually aluminum or stainless steel. They come in a variety of sizes and names. The most common sheet pan beside the cookie sheet is the jelly roll pan. Most professional versions have a one-inch continuous lip around all four sides. A full-size sheet pan, according to common baking conventions, is 26 inches wide by 18 inches long. These are usually used for large pans of rolls, biscuits or sheet cake. A half sheet pan, also the size of the standard cookie sheet, is 18 inches long by 13 inches wide. In between is a two-thirds or three-quarters pan, often interchangeable. The smallest standard size is a quarter sheet pan at nine inches wide by 13 inches deep. You often see these with a lip on only one side.
Additionally, sheet pans can have a variety of surfaces or liners to keep food from sticking or make the pan easier to clean.
In answer to the big question, do you need both a cookie sheet and a sheet pan, the short answer is NO. But the longer answer is if you do a lot of baking, the larger sheet pans with higher lips can be very useful. So, it’s up to you and the type of cooking you do. Whatever your situation, just keep cooking.