Classic cookie sheets are either completely flat or have a slight lip on one or two ends. Baking sheets and jelly roll pans, on the other hand, have raised edges on all sides (typically a half-inch to an inch deep). Cookie sheets have the advantage of a larger surface area, and you can easily slide the cookies off the sheet and onto a cooling rack. However, you'll need a baking sheet or jelly roll pan if you plan to make bar cookies or shortbread. Cookie sheets are typically made of aluminum or steel and are available in different thicknesses. Generally, reviewers say, heavier-gauge baking sheets are less likely to warp under high heat.
Insulated and nonstick cookie sheets
To prevent baked goods from sticking or burning on the bottom, many experts recommend using parchment paper or greasing a cookie sheet prior to baking. Nonstick or insulated cookie sheets are also available, although not all cooks like them. Insulated cookie sheets have two layers of aluminum separated by a hollow middle layer and are designed to prevent the bottoms of cookies from burning. Because they're insulated, however, they require longer baking times, and they don't produce the crispy edges that some cookie fans love.
Nonstick cookie sheets, on the other hand, do produce crispy cookies and because of their dark color tend to require shortened baking times. As with other nonstick cookware, the surface is easily scratched and prone to wear over time. Nonstick baking sheets also can dry out cookies because their water-resistant surfaces don't retain moisture. Want to know more? Both Better Homes and Gardens and MarthaStewart.com have buyer's guides with these and other tips for choosing the best cookie sheet. Speaking of which...
Choosing the best cookie sheet
We found excellent multiproduct cookie sheet reviews at Cook's Illustrated magazine and The Boston Globe. We also found a handful of single-product recommendations at Epicurious.com, 3Luxe.com, Bestcovery.com and Cooking Light magazine, and we read scores of user reviews at Amazon.com and Cooking.com as well. From this pool of resources, a few favorites emerged.
Doughmakers, Vollrath cookie sheets score highly
The aluminum Doughmakers Pebblewear Great Grand Cookie Sheet (*Est. $20) took top honors in The Boston Globe's review of seven cookie sheets. Reporter Jolyon Helterman is skeptical of the sheet's unique pebbled surface, saying it "offered no discernible advantage, neither did it hinder baking." Despite this tepid assessment, she gives the Doughmakers cookie sheet a score of 4.5 out of 5, saying the three kinds of cookies she baked each turned out "beautifully." A smaller version, the Doughmakers Pebblewear Grand Cookie Sheet (*Est. $10) earns kudos from Cooking Light magazine and 3Luxe.com, although neither source discusses how (or if) they tested the bakewear. About a dozen users each at Cooking.com and Amazon.com give the Pebbleware cookie sheet an average score of 4.6 and 4.5, respectively.
Cook's Illustrated doesn't test the Doughmakers cookie sheet as part of its 13-sheet review. But it does test the steel Vollrath Cookie Sheet (*Est. $25), which outperforms the other contenders. Editors sing its praises, saying, "This is the one we've been waiting for." Four other cookie sheets finish slightly behind the Vollrath with "recommended" ratings. You'll need a subscription to read the full report and see how the other cookie sheets performed. The Vollrath Cookie Sheet also is the top-rated cookie sheet at retailer Cooking.com, where it earns a near-perfect score of 4.9 out of 5 from a whopping 110 users -- more reviewers than any other baking sheet has. At Amazon.com, only about 16 users rate the Vollrath, but they give it a perfect score.
Other cookie sheets don't quite measure up
In a single-product review, editors at Epicurious.com ignore both the Doughmakers and Vollrath cookie sheets and instead recommend the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick Cookie Sheet (*Est. $19). However, editors don't discuss whether they actually tested this cookie sheet, and about the worst thing they can says is that the nonstick surface (which they like) scratches easily. Cooking.com lists the Cuisinart cookie sheet among its "recommended" bakewear. Just over two dozen users give this baking sheet an average score of 4.7 out of 5, praising its heavy-duty aluminized steel construction and raised edges. This same cookie sheet earns only a handful of reviews at Amazon.com -- too few to form a clear picture of performance -- and they're divided between positive and negative.
Neither Cook's Illustrated nor The Boston Globe include the Cuisinart Chef's Classic in their multiproduct cookie sheet reviews, but they do agree on the Chicago Metallic Commercial Cookie Sheet (*Est. $15). "This solid sheet handled every baking task we gave it like a dream," says the Globe's Jolyon Helterman. Both sources particularly praise this aluminized steel cookie sheet's smooth surface, which isn't nonstick but nevertheless releases cookies without complaint. Users at Amazon.com are similarly positive, giving it a score of 4.5, while consumers at Cooking.com give it a score of 4.4.
This is a tough call, because the two top performers -- the Vollrath Cookie Sheet and the Doughmakers Pebblewear Great Grand Cookie Sheet -- aren't compared directly in either multiproduct review. The strong endorsement from Cook's Illustrated and the sheer number of positive user reviews at Cooking.com give the Vollrath a slight edge, but it's also more expensive and slight smaller (237 square inches versus 287) than the Doughmakers cookie sheet. We think either cookie sheet is a worthy buy.