When attempting to choose between different baking pans, the most important factor to consider is what you are tying to make. The three main characteristics of baking pans that you will need to pay attention to are size, shape, and construction materials. It is typically important to use a pan that is not only made from the material called for by a recipe, but which also has the proper dimensions. Both metal and glass can be used to make high quality baking pans, but using a glass pan in a recipe that calls for a metal one can throw your baking times off. The size and shape are also important, since a pan that is too large can result in burnt or overcooked food, and one that is too small could result in food overflowing into the oven.
Baking pans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and each design is made specifically for one or more purposes. Some pans are meant for roasts, while others are designed to bake cakes, brownies, or entrees such as lasagna. Specialty baking pans are necessary to make certain items, while others are more general purpose in nature. Metal and glass are two popular materials to make pans from, though ceramics and various non-stick materials are also used.
When choosing a baking pan, you need to consider the item that you want to bake. This is best done by consulting your recipe to see what it calls for in terms of a pan. Recipes typically specify the necessary dimensions, and it can be very important to follow that instruction. A baking pan that is too large can allow whatever you are baking to spread out, which will reduce the cooking time and may cause it to burn. The reverse is also true, as pans that are too tall and narrow may result in an unbaked center in some cases.
Recipes also suggest the material a pan should be made of in some cases. If no specific type of material is mentioned, then you may be able to tell from the context. In many cases, a recipe will specify "baking pan" if a metal pan is necessary and "baking dish" if glass or ceramic is preferred. Baking in a glass pan typically requires less time than metal pans, which can affect the consistency and taste of the finished product.
The shape and design of a baking pan can also be important to consider. If you plan on baking bread, or similarly shaped foods, then you may want to obtain a loaf pan. These pans are typically taller than they are wide. Cake pans tend to be the other way around, and come in many shapes and sizes. There are a few standard dimensions of cake pans that recipes usually call for though, and you will typically get the best results from those. You will need a springform pan to make cheesecakes, tarts, and other baked goods, while tube pans are necessary for making items such as bundt cakes.