In hands-on tests at Cook's Illustrated magazine, metal muffin pans with a dark finish produced more evenly browned muffins than tins with a lighter, shinier metal finish. Furthermore, editors say you can skip pricey professional muffin tins, which didn't make any difference in the resulting muffins. Pans with handles make it a lot easier to move muffins in and out of the oven. We also looked at user reviews on Amazon.com, Cooking.com and other websites to see how well muffin pans perform for everyday users.
Among standard muffin pans, the Wilton Avanti Everglide Metal-Safe Non-Stick 12 Cup Muffin Pan (*Est. $14) meets all the right criteria. This nonstick pan has a sturdy design, a dark finish that promotes even browning and it includes handles -- surprisingly hard to find on muffin pans. This standard-sized muffin pan is dishwasher safe and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
The Wilton Avanti Everglide Muffin pan gets good reviews from owners on Cooking.com. Several users say it is strong and sturdy, with one reviewer noting that its construction makes it good enough "to hand down to the next generation." Its nonstick coating also earns positive comments. Users praise the handles too, noting that they are easy to grab onto and make the pan easy to maneuver in and out of the oven. The Wilton muffin pan is a bit heavier than some other pans, which a few owners say took some getting used to. In general, owners say cleanup is easy. One user says she is disappointed that the pan is not constructed of one sheet of metal, but has seams between the cups and the base, where batter can lodge.
For a bit less money, the Baker's Secret Basics Nonstick 12-Cup Muffin Pan (*Est. $10) also earns a recommendation from one top cooking review site. This nonstick pan has a dark finish, which helped with even browning. This Baker's Secret pan gets good marks from reviewers posting to Amazon.com, but it's worth noting that it doesn't have handles -- so getting it in and out of the oven isn't quite as easy. We did read two comments that the pan rusted.
We also found a good professional commendation for the Wilton UB3 12-Cup Muffin Pan (*Est. $10), a Target exclusive. This pan looks a lot like the aforementioned Wilton Avanti Everglide Metal-Safe Non-Stick 12 Cup Muffin Pan, with a nonstick interior and handles. It sells for a bit less, however, so if you live near a Target store, this pan is worth a look.
Another handled muffin pan that's a bit less expensive is the Farberware Nonstick Bakeware 12 Cup Muffin Pan (*Est. $10), which has a lifetime warranty and receives excellent reviews from about 40 owners posting reviews to Amazon.com. Users say it is a heavy-duty pan that bakes muffins evenly to a golden brown and is easy to clean, although one user complains that the seamed cups could trap residue over time. One owner finds that the pan conducts too much heat so that the muffin outsides are more done than the insides.
If you prefer a muffin pan without a nonstick coating, several reviewers on Cooking.com recommend the Chicago Metallic Commercial Muffin Pan (*Est. $15). This pan, which makes 12 regular-size muffins, earns an average 4.8 stars out of 5 from its almost 20 reviewers, who say the pan feels sturdy, cooks evenly and washes easily despite the lack of a nonstick coating. It has a 25-year warranty. One reviewer notes that the cups on this pan are slightly further apart than the cups on other pans, which makes for nicely shaped muffins with large tops. Another reviewer notes, however, that the pan discolored in the dishwasher, and one user at Amazon.com says that it rusted.
We didn't find any specific professional evaluations for specialty muffin tins, but if you like muffin tops, mini muffins or jumbo muffins, you should look for the same features experts recommend in regular muffin tins: a dark finish for even browning and handles.
Muffin-top pans are shallow pans that you are designed to bake only the domed top part of the muffin. The Chicago Metallic The Original Muffin Top Pan (*Est. $15) earns good reviews from owners. The pan has six shallow cups with a nonstick coating. It is dishwasher-safe and has a 10-year warranty. The nearly 90 users posting to Amazon.com give this pan an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5). Reviewers say the pan is truly nonstick, with muffins sliding out very easily. Some users say they also use this pan to make crust-less quiches, hamburger buns, rolls, biscuits and cookies. Some users, however, express disappointment with the shape of the finished muffin tops, with one complaining that the cups produce muffin tops that are more flat than domed (we found this comment about many muffin-top pans). Unfortunately, the Chicago Metallic muffin-top pan doesn't have handles; in fact, we had a hard time finding any muffin-top pan with handles.
Mini-muffin pans usually make 24 bite-sized muffins. Quite a few owners have co-opted their mini-muffin pans for other uses, such as making appetizers or mini quiches. The Baker's Secret Basics Nonstick 24-Cup Mini Muffin Pan (*Est. $10) earns an average score of 4.5 out of 5 from nearly 30 users posting to Amazon.com. Owners say they like the low price, and also the way mini muffins easily pop out of the pan. There are a few complaints, however; one user says the cups are too deep, while another says they are too small. One user says the nonstick coating scratches easily. And this pan doesn't have handles.
The Wilton Avanti Everglide Metal-Safe Non-Stick 24 Cup Mini Muffin Pan (*Est. $18) costs more, but does have handles. It has the same nonstick dark interior as the full-sized version of this Wilton muffin pan. It gets only rave reviews at Cooking.com but it's up to you whether the handles are worth an extra $8 over the less expensive Baker's Secret mini-muffin pan, which has more owner feedback.
As for jumbo muffin pans, the Baker's Secret Basics Nonstick 6-Cup Texas Muffin Pan (*Est. $10) gets the largest number of reviews (more than 50) at Amazon.com. These users generally say that muffins are nicely baked and the pan's price is good. However, a couple of users complain that muffins tended to stick, despite the nonstick coating. This pan lacks handles.
The Chicago Metallic 6-Cup Giant Muffin Pan (*Est. $20), which comes with a lifetime warranty, also earns good reviews, achieving a 4.9 rating from the more than 40 users posting to Cooking.com -- practically a perfect score. Reviewers say the pan evenly bakes giant muffins and the nonstick coating works well. One reviewer complains, however, that muffins were doughy on the bottom when she cooked a recipe that called for canned fruit as an ingredient. Again, no handles on this pan, so we're not sure it's worth spending double the price of the Baker's Secret jumbo muffin pan.