If your loaf pan is too big, your loaf may not rise as tall as you’d like. If your pan is too small, the batter may overflow. Learn how to choose the best pan for the bread you’re baking, plus how to make successful pan substitutions.

Poilâne CEO Apollonia Poilâne teaches the renowned Parisian bakery’s philosophy and time-tested techniques for baking rustic French breads.

What Types of Bread Can You Bake in a Loaf Pan?

Loaf pans are essential for brioche, babkas, quick breads like banana bread and zucchini bread, and sandwich breads like pain de mie. But bread isn’t the only thing you can bake in a loaf pan. These versatile rectangular pans are also great for cakes like pound cake, as well as savory foods like lasagna.

How to Choose the Right Size Loaf Pan for Bread

In most cases, your recipe will specify the appropriate pan size. But if your recipe doesn’t provide this information, or you’d like to substitute a different size of pan, there are a few ways to do it.

1. Measure pan volume. An easy way to determine the volume of a pan is to fill it with water and then carefully pour the water into a large liquid measuring cup. Alternatively, you can measure the inside of the pan using a measuring tape, then plug the pan dimensions into the mathematical formula for volume (volume = length x width x height). You’ll get a number in square inches, which you’ll then need to convert to cups or milliliters.
2. Measure batter volume. To determine the volume of a quick bread batter, you can simply pour the batter into a large liquid measuring cup. For yeasted breads, you’ll have to eyeball it. For most breads, you’ll want the batter to go two-thirds of the way up the side of the pan.
3. Use a pan size chart. You can use a pan size chart to compare common pan volumes and determine which is best for your recipe.

Loaf Pan Size Chart

When choosing and substituting pans, keep in mind that a small difference in dimensions can amount to a substantial difference in volume. The best way to determine the actual volume of a pan is to fill it with water and then pour the water into a liquid measuring cup.

Pan shape and size Pan shape and size Useful for
Mini loaf pan, 5¾" x 3¼" (per loaf) 2 cups Mini quick breads
Loaf pan, 8" x 4" x 2½" 4 cups Yeasted loaves made with 2 cups of flour
Loaf pan, 8½" x 4½" x 2½" 6 cups Yeasted loaves made with about 3 cups of flour
Loaf pan, 9" x 5" x 3" 8 cups Yeasted loaves made with about 3¾–4 cups of flour
Pain de mie pan (Pullman loaf pan), 9" x 4" x 4" 10 cups Flat-top yeasted loaves made with 3 cups of flour
Pain de mie pan (Pullman loaf pan), 13" x 4" x 4" 14 cups Flat-top yeasted loaves made with 3¾ –4 cups of flour
Round pan (round cake pan), 8" x 2" 6 cups Cakes
Square pan (square cake pan), 8" x 8" x 2" 8 cups Cakes and brownies
Muffin tin, 2¾ " x 1½ " ½ cup Muffins and cupcakes

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3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Loaf Pan

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Poilâne CEO Apollonia Poilâne teaches the renowned Parisian bakery’s philosophy and time-tested techniques for baking rustic French breads.

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When it comes to loaf pans, size isn’t the only thing that matters. Loaf pans can be made of all kinds of materials, and the choice of materials typically affects the thickness and shape of the pan, as well as ease of cleanup. Some things to consider:

1. Corners: Pans with rounded edges make for easy cleanup, while right angles give loaves a cleaner look.
2. Durability: Glass pans are long-lasting and generally microwave-, freezer-, and dishwasher-safe. Most metal pans scratch easily and need to be hand-washed. Pans with a nonstick coating are easy to clean, but the nonstick coating can deteriorate over time. Lightweight silicone pans are easy to unmold, store, and clean, but they tend to absorb odors over time.
3. Heat conduction: Metal pans conduct heat, while glass pans insulate heat, meaning that pans made from aluminum or stainless steel will heat faster than those made of glass. While this might not make a big difference with quickbreads, yeasted breads may not experience that crucial “oven spring” (an increase in volume that happens at the beginning of a bake) in a glass pan. Dark metal pans will conduct more heat than light metal pans, resulting in a darker crust.