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!

cookies baked on unlined and 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 very similar in color and finish. The 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?

cookies baked on unlined and lined 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.

cookies baked on unlined and lined 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.

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.

cookies baked on unlined and lined baking sheets

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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