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Unlined vs Lined Baking Sheets

What’s the difference in baking cookies on unlined or lined baking sheets? You’ll see differences in browning, texture, and more!

Unlined Versus Lined Baking Sheets

Most every cookie recipe here on BoB tells you to line your baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. I’m sure many of you have often wondered if that’s really necessary. I don’t know that necessary is the right word, but I’m here to show you the different results with using unlined and lined baking sheets.

For this little cookie baking experiment, I took things a little further and not only compared unlined and lined pans, but I also compared parchment paper and silicone liners.

I started with one cookie dough and three pans. All three pans I used were light, non-reflective pans very similar in color and finish. The only difference was in how the pan was prepared. One pan was lined with a silicone liner. Another was lined with parchment paper. The last was unlined and very lightly greased with a bit of cooking spray.

The dough was chilled for a comparable amount of time before being baked on each kind of baking sheet. I also kept the baking temperature and time the same for a better comparison. So, what did I find out?

overhead view of the bottoms of cookies baked on lined or unlined baking sheets

The cookies baked on the baking sheet lined with a silicone liner came out with lightly browned bottoms. That is consistent with what you should expect from those types of liners. Using parchment paper, the cookies also browned lightly on the bottom. I would have expected a little more browning with the parchment paper, but it’s actually just a little less brown than what the silicone liner provided. With no liner, the bottoms of the cookies were decidedly more brown.

As for the texture, the parchment and silicone liner both yielded a soft cookie. Personally, I think parchment paper provides a slightly better overall texture, but it’s really too close to call. The cookies that were baked on the unlined baking sheet were chewier and denser. They were perfectly edible, but their texture and that extra browning on the bottom made them the least appealing overall.

overhead view of cookies baked on lined or unlined baking sheets

There were only slight differences in how much the cookies spread. The cookies on the unlined sheet spread the most. If I’d used a heavier hand with greasing, I’m sure they would have spread more. The silicone liner resulted in slightly less spreading. Remember that nothing sticks to those liners, so you may see a bit more spreading as your cookies bake. That leaves the parchment paper with the least amount of cookie spreading. Again, the differences were small but worth mentioning.

Other Considerations

Besides the browning, spreading, and texture that these different methods provide, don’t forget about the practical side of things, too. When it comes to cleanup, parchment paper is by far the easiest, as it’s disposable. Of course, being disposable also means you’re using it and just throwing it away. If that’s a concern for you, then silicone liners are a great choice. They’re easy to clean and meant to be used many, many times. (Be sure to measure your pans to get a liner that best fits.) Using an unlined pan means cleaning the pans. Personally, I’m not signing up for that unless it’s necessary. If you line your pans, then cleanup is definitely much easier.

overhead view of cookies baked on lined or unlined baking pans

You can decide for yourself whether you want to line your baking sheets or not. I primarily use parchment paper when it’s cookie baking time. As much as I bake, I make good use of it with pre-cut sheets. I also use silicone liners when I’m not in heavy baking mode. All that being said, keep in mind that certain cookie recipes make work better on one type of liner.

What’s your go-to method for prepping your baking pans for baking?

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    17 Comments on “Unlined vs Lined Baking Sheets”

  1. I lose my cool if my husband puts anything on a baking sheet without a liner of some kind. Guess who has to scrape that stuff off at the end of the day. It isn’t him. 😉

    I prefer parchment over silicone. I just fine that the silicone gets gummed up if I’m doing multiple batches.

  2. Nice experiment Jen thanks for sharing. I often wondered which was best to use for different cookies? Would be interesting to see the difference between shortening vs butter like oatmeal cookies and if certain kinds of butter produced different results baking to color and taste? Interesting the parchment produced the best for a light cookie as I normally use silicone liners vs parchment. I personally did not notice much difference silicone vs parchment a while back except the cookies sometimes sticks a little more to the silicone liner then parchment and wondered what is the baking life of a silicone liner or if one silicone liner produces better results than others?

  3. Great post! I almost always use parchment. I use silicone for specialty items like cream puffs.

  4. Using any parchment or silicone is adding wax or other junk you don’t need just do it the old fashioned way and wash the pan fast and easy isn’t always better is just lazy !

  5. Good morning,

    I have been using the bleach free (it’s brown) parchment by “If You Care”, so next time I bake cookies I will remember to notice if the bottoms are on the lighter or darker side. Thanks for going to the trouble of doing this research. Kindly, Michele

  6. I bought reusable parchment paper from Amazon.  I’ve used it lots of time, and wash it as I would my Silpat.  I also use precut regular parchment, 25 sheets for .99 at my local discount store.  I reuse those sheets once or twice too.

  7. One thing that greatly improved my cookie baking results was pulling the cookies off the cookie sheet immediately when I take them out of the oven. That’s very easy to do with parchment paper. Now I rarely ever have over-baked cookies that are too brown or too hard.

  8. I wash my Silpat silicone baking sheets in the dishwasher on the upper rack. It is working well so far. This is a very interesting experiment, thank you!

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