I was asked “how do you grease a pan?” the other day by my friend Molly. She was embarrassed because greasing the pan is the first step of 99.999% of baked recipes, and every recipe blogger mentions to grease the pan but doesn’t actually say HOW to grease the pan. So, she felt silly that she didn’t know how to do something that seems to be such a simple foundational step in baking.
Growing up I always took a stick of butter or vegetable shortening and rubbed into all surfaces of the pan, and then took flour and sprinkled it onto the pan, turning the pan all over so that the flour coats the whole pan evenly. I did this for every bake that I made.
Sometime in the past few years, I discovered cooking spray. It is so quick and easy to grab it and spray up the pan. I stopped flouring altogether unless the recipe really urged me to do it. I mean, does it really matter?….
So, with Molly asking me that question leads me to wonder. Does it really matter HOW you grease a pan?
There are so many ways and methods to grease a pan. You can use shortening or butter, add flour or even use parchment paper after you grease. Let’s talk about this some more so that you can see the importance of greasing your pans, and how you can choose the best way to grease your pans for your recipe.
Which is the BEST way to grease a pan?
The best way to grease a pan is to follow the recipe. If the recipe calls for a specific way to grease the pan, add flour or a parchment paper layer, then that is the best way to grease the pan. It’s not to say that the other ways won’t work, but the recipe creator has already done the leg-work to determine that their way is the best for their recipe.
When do you need to grease a pan?
Greasing a pan is only for cakes, quick-breads, and bars or brownies to prevent your bakes from sticking in the pan.
You will never grease the pan for cookies, pizza or pie. Greasing your cookie pan could cause your cookies to burn easier, spread out more and affect how it rises. Greasing a pie or pizza pan will change the texture of your crusts.
Do you need to flour a pan after it’s greased?
The purpose of adding a flour layer to the pan after being greased isn’t to prevent sticking. The flour actually provides a barrier to prevent the oils of the butter from seeping into your cake as it is baking, and allow the butter to release from the pan easier. However, the flour can often give your bakes a tougher crust, which may not be ideal.
Bakes with high sugar content are important to flour after greasing. This will prevent the sugars from caramelizing and seeping through the grease and sticking to the pan.
If you are baking like sponge cake, souffle or angel food cakes that don’t have any leavening agents (like baking powder or baking soda) but uses whisked egg whites to create a sponge cake, souffle or angel food cakes it will need a flour or sugar layer to allow the batter to rise or climb up the edges of the pan.
You will also want to flour and grease a bake in a bundt pan. There are so many nooks and crannies in a bundt pan that it is hard to release it from the pan without the extra help.
Should you line your pan with parchment?
It is a good practice to line the bottom of your pan with parchment. You can always run a knife around the edges to loosen up the cake from the edges, but when your cake sticks to the bottom of the pan there isn’t much you can do to remedy it. The simple layer of parchment will allow the cake to be removed easily and maintain the cake’s shape.
Should you use butter or vegetable shortening to grease your pan?
In most cases, it does not make much difference in whether you use butter or vegetable shortening. Butter leaves behind a little bit of flavor and can complement your baked goods nicely. It may also leave your bakes with more browning than vegetable shortening.
However, butter is more prone to having your cakes stick to the pan, but if you make sure to apply it liberally and that all surfaces are well coated, including the corners, you should minimize the risk for your baked goods sticking to the pan.
Vegetable shortening (and vegetable oil) has a higher fat content and will provide a better barrier between the pan and your baked goods, allowing it to release from the pan easier. Most bakers prefer to use vegetable shortening for this reason.
How to grease your pan – in 4 steps
- Choose the pan size based on your recipe instructions, and check to see if there is a preferred way to grease the pan listed in the recipe.
- Grease your pan with one of the following methods.
- Stick of butter- open the end of the stick and rub the open end all over the pan, being sure to liberally coat every space of the pan including the corners. Your fingertips, or a small piece of parchment paper will help spread the butter into those tight places.
- Vegetable shortening – Use a small piece of parchment paper to scoop out the vegetable shortening, and rub into the pan, ensuring all surfaces are thoroughly covered.
- Vegetable Oil – Pour in a small amount into the bottom of the pan and rotate the pan until all surfaces are covered. Or, pour some onto a paper towel and rub all around the pan.
- Cooking spray – Spray liberally over all surfaces. You may want to spray over the sink as it can make a bit of a mess. If you are using cooking spray with flour combined you can skip onto step 4.
- If you are adding flour to your greased pan, you will pour in a small amount. Rotate the pan around so that the flour moves and covers all surfaces.
- Add your parchment paper to the bottom of your pan after cutting it down to size. The easiest way to cut it down to size is to lay the pan on top of the parchment paper, trace around the base of the pan and then trim it down to size. Place the parchment paper into the bottom of the pan. I like to do a final spritz of cooking spray on top of the parchment paper, but I am not sure if that is necessarily needed.