There are usually three main considerations when choosing a flan pan: material, size, and price. Flan is a dessert that requires a bit of precision in both construction and presentation, as it’s normally served inverted on a plate after cooking. As such, a pan that is non-stick or that is easily coated in a thin oil is often the best, and pans made of flexible silicone are often preferred for beginners. The thickness and density of the pan may also influence cooking time, which can be important to think about, particularly with traditional recipes; certain choices may mean more or less time baking. Pan choice also necessarily dictates size, and the same thing goes for decorative elements like ribbing, designs, and flourishes. In most places you’ll find a range of different options at different price points. Sometimes a high price indicates heightened quality, but not always. Your best bet is usually to consider all the elements of several pans side by side, then choose based on the combination of factors that best line up with your goals and particular needs. In most cases this determination is pretty subjective. Though getting the advice of a favorite flan cook can be a good place to start, the decision of what’s best for you might be a bit different.
Choosing a Material
Flan pans are made of a variety of different materials. Many of the most traditional flan dishes are made of glass. Some are made of porcelain, though these may prove harder to work with, particularly for beginners, as they are much heavier. Stainless steel pans are also a popular choice. The key to any of these pans is that their surface is smooth and will ensure the easy removal of a flan when it's ready to be plated and served. Adding a bit of oil or butter to the pan before cooking is a common trick, but too much can alter the flavor and presentation.
One of the biggest tasks facing a cook is removing the flan from the pan without ruining it in the process. For this reason, soft and flexible silicone pans have become quite popular. These pans offer a non-stick surface and are very easy to clean. They aren’t usually as attractive to look at, though, which can be a con if you’re hoping to display your pan when it’s not in use.
Perhaps because flan pans are so often used to adorn shelves and kitchen curio cabinets, it is very important to ensure that the pan you choose is actually oven safe and that any decorations that have been added can withstand high temperatures and are food grade. All flan recipes require that the dessert be cooked at a high temperature in the oven. For this reason, any pan which does not clearly state that it is oven safe should not be purchased.
Size and Decorative Considerations
Size matters in most cases, too. Pans designed specifically for flan come in a huge assortment of sizes, as flan can be made in single servings or larger, cake-size rounds to provide dessert for a crowd and a pleasing presentation. Knowing what size flan you will be preparing is an important part of the decision-making process.
Smaller pans can be similar to a traditional ramekin. Some will have very lightly scalloped or fluted edges, and this will create a decorative appearance when the flan is removed from the pan. These smaller pans are often sold in sets. Also, some come with a tray in which they can be set while the flan is baked. A flan pan must generally be set in a water bath while the flan is baked, so trays that fit all small pans together often prove to be good deal when choosing a set.
Price and Budgeting Matters
Price will probably also be a variable, and pans can be found at all points of the spectrum from very inexpensive to quite costly. A pricier pan does not necessarily mean that you will be happier with it. When making your choice, it’s often best to look at all that a product will offer you and make a decision on which pan will best fit your needs and at the same time stay comfortably within your budget.