How, Why, and When to Grease Your Baking Pans

chocolate cake batter being poured into a pan

MARTÍ SANS/Stocksy

The number of times I’ve heard someone who’s into cooking make it clear that they aren’t into baking is oddly high. Baking is more precise than most cooking, yes, but it can also be so much more gratifying and, let’s face it, fun.

It’s true that most bakers have their fair share of horror stories, moments when mistakes were made and tears were shed, but I guarantee that those “failures” never happen twice to the same baker.

One of my more treasured learning moments in baking came when I decided not to grease, flour, and line a baking pan, only to have the cake stick like glue to the sides and bottom of the pan.

One of my more treasured learning moments in baking came when I decided not to grease, flour, and line a baking pan, only to have the cake stick like glue to the sides and bottom of the pan; I basically had to scrape the entire cake out of the pan into a mess of crumbs on a plate. Now, when I’m reading or working on a recipe, I never underestimate the power of a slick of butter, a drizzle of oil, a fine layer of flour, or a perfectly cut sheet of parchment paper to help cakes or batches of brownies pop perfectly out of their pans.

But when is greasing really necessary, and what’s the best way to do it for whatever dish you’re baking? Here’s what you need to know about how, why, and when to grease baking pans.

How and Why to Grease Your Baking Pans

Greasing a baking pan or cake tin means slicking the surface with a thin layer of fat, be that butter, shortening, baking spray, or vegetable or coconut oil.

  • Grease a pan with melted butter using a pastry brush to swipe the fat all over the bottom and sides of the pan. Use this same method if you grease the pan with vegetable or coconut oil.
  • To use softened or room temperature butter, simply take a bit (about half a tablespoon) and use your fingertips to spread it all over the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Sometimes I’ll even just unwrap a whole stick and use the buttery leftovers on the inside of the wrapper, just rub it butter-side down all over the pan.
  • Baking spray is the simplest method, just a light even spray will do the trick as long you make sure to get both the bottom and sides of the pan.

No matter what fat you choose, this thin layer usually serves two purposes: it helps release your cake from the pan cleanly and it helps promote an even, golden brown crust.

In addition to greasing a pan, many recipes call for flouring it as well. This requires sprinkling flour (or cocoa powder for brownies) into the greased pan, then swirling it around and tapping the excess around the sides and out to create an evenly floured surface all over the pan. This is most often not a necessity, but a precaution, and helps loosen tricky bundt cakes from their intricately formed pans.

To Line With Parchment or Not to Line With Parchment?

While greasing goes a long way, there are bakers who avoid it whenever and wherever they can—opting instead for a mess-free sheath of parchment paper to line the bottom of their pans. This has the same clean release effect as greasing, but without the extra browning. Run a knife or offset spatula around the edges to loosen them before turning the cake out. There’s no need to grease underneath or over the top of parchment, even if the recipe calls for it, you’re fine without it!

What to Make Now

Now that you know the various methods to greasing baking pans, it’s time to put that knowledge to good use. From decadent desserts to authentic Italian sweets, New Year’s Eve treats to brownies that are too good to be true, rest assured that any treat you make will pull cleanly away from the pan—no questions asked.

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