So you want to make banana bread, but you’re not sure if you need to buy a loaf pan or not. Which one should you buy, and why is banana bread made in a loaf pan anyway? By the end of this article, you’ll feel confident experimenting in the kitchen and embarking on your banana bread baking journey.
Do You Need a Loaf Pan to Make Banana Bread?
Traditionally, banana bread and other quick breads are made into loaves, which would require a loaf pan like this one from Chicago Metallic. Quick breads are a category of breads that are leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda rather than yeast, so they can be baked straightaway.
Although most commonly made in a loaf pan, banana bread recipes are very adaptable. With a couple quick tweaks, you can adapt your banana bread recipe to work in almost any type of pan.
What Other Type of Pan Can I Use to Make Banana Bread?
Quick breads like banana bread tend to be very forgiving. For the most part, you can substitute ingredients and add mix-ins without adversely affecting the outcome of the recipe. You can also take that same exact batter and bake it in many different pans—you’ll just need to adjust the baking time, and in some cases, the oven temperature.
If you don’t have a loaf pan, the next thing I’d recommend is a muffin tin. This is a common modification— many banana bread recipes even include instructions to make muffins instead of a loaf. Muffins cook faster, likely around 18-25 minutes rather than the 40-60 minutes banana bread loaves take to cook. Often times, muffin recipes will start out at a higher temperature around 400-425 degrees Fahrenheit, and the oven temperature is lowered after the first 5 minutes to 350-375 degrees. This helps to create that ideal domed shape and golden-brown muffin top.
Mini loaf pans are another great option. The typical volume of a banana bread loaf recipe will fill three or four mini loaf pans depending on their size, so these fall somewhere in between muffins and a full-sized loaf. Mini loaves will likely take approximately 30 minutes to cook through at a moderate oven temperature. I’d stick with the same temperature as what’s called for in the recipe that you’re using and start checking on it after about 25 minutes.
You can also make banana bread in a cake pan. Cake pans come in all different sizes— round, square, and rectangular cake pans will all work for banana bread. You’ll just need to adjust the cook time accordingly. Seeing a pattern here? A general rule is larger, shallower pans (like a 13 x 9 cake pan) create a shorter bread with more surface area, and therefore, bake faster than a deeper pan such as a 7-inch round cake pan, for example.
How Should I Adjust My Recipe for Other Types of Pans?
I’ve touched on how to alter oven temperature and cook times to modify a loaf recipe to work in the pans above, but if you have another type of pan you want to try, here are some things to think about in order to adjust the recipe accordingly:
Since the bake time will differ from the recipe when you use a different pan than what is called for, try to focus on visual cues instead to tell when the loaf is done. A properly cooked quick bread loaf will have a domed, golden-brown top, with deep golden edges. I also rely on the toothpick test—a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf should come out clean, or almost clean with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Make sure to test in the center and use a toothpick or cake tester that is long enough to get an accurate result.
Additionally, you may need to scale the recipe if using a pan with a significantly different volume than a standard 9 x 5 loaf pan. For example, if you’re trying to make one mini loaf with a banana bread recipe that makes one standard-size loaf, you’re going to want to scale the recipe down. If not, you’ll end up with a bunch of extra batter.
Let me take you back to math class for a minute. Think about surface area and volume of the pan you’re using and of the pan the recipe is designed for. If you’re interested in getting the math just right, Food52 has a great article on how to scale recipes to fit different sized pans. In general, when using a different size pan, keep the oven temperature the same and adjust the baking time.
Can I Use a Glass Loaf Pan for Banana Bread?
Believe it or not, the color and material of the pan is just as important as the shape and size of it! In addition to the things we’ve already talked about— oven temperature, cook time, and the shape and size of the pan—there are a bunch of other factors that affect the final result. Oven rack position, humidity… baking is very much a science in that way.
Let’s talk about the material of the pan: metal vs. glass. Metal is a good conductor of heat, meaning it heats quickly and evenly. Glass, on the other hand, is an insulator which is important in baking for two reasons: first, it’s slower to heat than it’s metal counterpart, and second, it retains heat better than metal. How does this affect banana bread, you ask? The edges of a glass pan will brown more quickly than metal, so it has the potential to start burning on the outside edges before being fully cooked in the center.
So yes, you can absolutely use a glass loaf pan for banana bread, just be aware of the effects it will have. Glass pans can be especially useful for beginners because you can actually see how the bread is progressing and feel more confident knowing when it’s done. If using a glass pan, a good rule of thumb is to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees to give the loaf enough time to cook through without burning on the outside.
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What is the Best Loaf Pan for Banana Bread?
When making banana bread, I generally prefer metal pans to glass because they provide a higher rise. Much like the muffin method I mentioned earlier, since metal heats up more quickly than glass, it helps with that initial rise that contributes to a dome shaped loaf.
Just like glass vs. metal, the color and thickness of the material also come into play. You want to make sure your pan is heavy enough that it promotes even cooking—pans that are too thin such as disposable aluminum pans tend to cook unevenly and have the potential of warping, especially at high temperatures. Heavy-weight aluminum is a great heat conductor, resulting in a perfectly golden-brown crust with an evenly cooked interior.
The color of the pan is important too. Dark metal absorbs more heat than light-colored metal and will brown more quickly. Therefore, if your pan is very dark, you might want to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees just like you would for glass pans.
I recommend the Chicago Metallic Non-Stick Loaf Pan for your banana bread baking needs. The corners are sharp which give the final product a professional look and the non-stick coating helps it slide out with ease. This is my recommendation for the best traditional banana bread, but don’t be afraid to experiment with what you have!