Choosing the right bread pan: size affects rise in a major way

You’ve been baking yeast bread, but you’re not happy with the look of your loaves. They’re not the high-rising, domed beauties you expect, but instead are short and squat, producing slices that are more horizontal than vertical.

The solution to your problem may be as simple as choosing the right bread pan.

Loaf pans come in many sizes – from tiny minis, for your holiday gift loaves, to king-sized pain de mie pans, capable of producing 2 1/2-pound loaves.

Still, the vast majority of yeast bread recipes call for one of two basic sizes: 9″ x 5″, or 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″. Both of these size pans are generally 2 1/2″ tall.

Choosing the Right Bread Pan via @kingarthurflour

Viewed alone, they’re hard to tell apart. Side by side, you’ll notice the slight size difference.

But that 1/2″ difference in each dimension translates to a 15% difference in capacity. Which also might not sound like much… but does, in many cases, mean the difference between a nicely domed loaf, and one that’s barely managed to crest the rim of the pan.

Let’s bake our Classic Sandwich Bread, and I’ll show you what I mean.

Note: I’ve recently rediscovered this recipe and oh, boy, is this bread good! Moist, tender, very slightly sweet, and a very good riser. 

Choosing the Right Bread Pan via @kingarthurflour

Let’s start with a bowl of risen dough. Don’t you just want to lay your head on that smooth, silky pillow? I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to mix up an enormous bathtub-sized batch of dough, then sink into it…

Choosing the Right Bread Pan via @kingarthurflour

I divvy the dough exactly (right down to the last gram) between the pans…

Choosing the Right Bread Pan via @kingarthurflour…and let it rise.

You can see that the dough in the 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pan is slightly taller, which makes sense; it has less volume to fill before peeking over the pan’s rim.

I bake the loaves, and the one in the smaller pan definitely rises higher.

Choosing the Right Bread Pan via @kingarthurflour

In fact, it creates that mushroom-top shape with which all of us Boomers are familiar, having grown up with at least a passing acquaintance with Wonder Bread.

Still, that 9″ x 5″ loaf on the left, though shorter, looks perfectly acceptable, right?

It’s when you bake loaves that use a bit less flour than normal (under 3 cups); or whole-grain loaves, that you might notice a more significant difference.

Choosing the Right Bread Pan via @kingarthurflour

This is our Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. It rises just slightly less high than our Classic Sandwich Bread. But see what a nice shape the 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pan gives it (right), compared the 9″ x 5″ ski-slope loaf on the left? I’d hate to make a sandwich out of either of those 9″ x 5″ loaf’s heel ends.

While there’s no hard-and-fast rule for “use this amount of dough in this size pan for the perfectly shaped loaf,” there are some basics you should know. First and foremost: if the recipe calls for a specific size pan, use it! If the recipe doesn’t call for a specific size pan, but simply says “loaf pan,” use the following guidelines.

Choosing the right bread pan

  • Any yeast loaf recipe using 3 cups of flour (or slightly less) should be baked in an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pan.
  • A recipe using 3 1/2 cups of flour can go either way. If it’s made 100% from bread flour or all-purpose flour, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and bake it in the larger pan. If it’s 100% whole-grain, it should bake nicely in the smaller pan. If it’s a combination whole-grain and white – again, best to select the larger pan.
  • A single-loaf recipe using at least 3 3/4 cups flour – white, whole-grain, or a combination – should be baked in the larger 9″ x 5″ pan.
  • Recipes calling for 4 cups of flour (or more) will usually specify a pain de mie pan, 10″ x 5″ loaf pan, or similar. If they don’t, and you don’t have a pan larger than 9″ x 5″, consider baking part of the dough in your 9″ x 5″ pan (enough for the unrisen dough to fill the pan 1/2 to 2/3 full), and making rolls from the rest.

Do you have questions about yeast bread – or any other baking subject? Our Baker’s Hotline is ready to help: 855-371-2253.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Karen

    can any recipe of bread be made in the round baking bowl that you sell at the store? Or is that bowl used just for certain kinds of bread?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes you can use it for most bread recipes as long as the size of the recipe fits in the bowl. If you were making an Italian loaf or a braided challah, then no, I would not use the baking bowl. I would study your recipe and see what shape the bread is normally and go from there. Hope this helps but if you have more questions, please feel free to call the Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253 to chat. Happy baking! JoAnn@KAF

  2. Ina

    Thanks for an insightful article. However, I bake bread using grams. How would you gauge what pan to use when our dough is measured in grams?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You would have to convert cups to grams. So…
      3 cups of flour = 361 grams = 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 pan
      3 1/2 cups of flour = 397 grams = either pan
      At least 3 3/4 cups of flour = 447 grams = 9 x 5
      4 cups of flour = 482 grams = fill pan 1/2 to 2/3 full and then use the left over dough to make rolls
      Hope this helps. JoAnn@KAF

  3. AnneMarie

    For the 4 cup loaves, you can double the recipe, and bake TWO loaves at once, side by side in a quart sheet cake pan :). Two farm loaves at once. Although I still prefer my giant 5×10″ bread pans for my weekly loaves.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The loaves would probably fit on the sheet pan but will 8 cups of flour fit in your mixer?? If it will, yes you can. Happy Baking!JoAnn@KAF

    2. Annemarie

      Oh yes! With room and power to spare! And not a quarter sheet pan. A high sided quarter sheet CAKE pan!

  4. Monica

    Very informative post. Sometimes if the dough looks really big for its first rise I will weigh it before deciding which size pan to use. If it weighs 2 lbs or more, I will go with the larger pan (9″×5″). Generally, this works pretty well. Made a loaf of Harvest Grains Bread yesterday and used the larger pan – I had even written myself a note on the recipe! If you are very familiar with a recipe you know if it’s a ” high riser” or not, and the Harvest Grains Bread is definitely one of them, so the smaller pan doesn’t contain it as well, and you end up with huge “ears” which are much drier than the rest of the loaf. There are several other recipes which I regularly use that call for the smaller pan, but I find work much better in the larger one. I have learned to do what the dough tells me to!

    Reply
  5. Sue

    Why don’t your recipes give weights of ingredients as well as measures? A lot more accurate.
    I weigh my dough to decide on pan size…less than 1 3/4# goes in an 8 1/2″ pan, 1 3/4-2# gets 9×5″pan. It usually works. Actually, I like 4×10′ and 4×12′ pans for more square slices, used in the same manner as the more common pans.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Sue. All of our recipes give weights in ounces and grams; simply toggle your viewing choice at the top. Susan

  6. Wanda

    I bake my bread in the little disposable mini loaf pans I buy at walmart. My recipe is about 3 3/4 cups flour and I always use fresh cake yeast that I keep in the freezer. The key to bread in a pan is to put the proper amount of dough in the pan, whether it be a muffin tin, larger or smaller loaf pan.
    My mom always told me you have to have the dough touching the sides of the pan about 1/3 of the way up in the pan. I have never had it not rise up, you just have to make sure you have enough dough in the pan.
    Practice makes perfect!

    Reply
  7. KathyT

    I hate to display my ignorance but not all my pans are marked on size. Do you measure from the top or the bottom to get the size? I used an odd sized pan for your Dark Pumpernickel mix (10x 4) measured at the top, and got the prettiest dome I have ever seen and I used the same pan for your Honey Wheat mix with much less impressive results. The bread was still beyond delicious. Your mixes are so forgiving. But still it all seems very confusing. Often I bake big batches and in those cases I could divide the dough to maximize each pan. But what does a 3 cup recipe end up weighting in ounces or grams? That would help me more than cup amount. I don’t measure in cups anymore. I just weigh and then I weigh my dough before putting it in the pan. Thank you for this article. It really came at a good time because I just made those two mixes and was stumped at the differences in how they rose in the same pan.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kathy, pan measurements are taken from the top of the pan, not the bottom. Generally a 3- 3 1/2 cup recipe will weight about 1 1/2 pounds after baking, so more like 1 3/4 pound before baking. Barb@KAF

  8. KathyT

    I went back and looked at my exoglass pan I used for your Pumpernickel mix and your Honey Wheat mix and it says 800 grams on the bottom. That is about 1 2/3 lb. I feel silly that I didn’t ever notice the weight on the bottom. According to the manufacturer that would make it a 10.5″ x 4″ x 3.5″ pan. I was just amazed at how differently the two different doughs behaved in the same pan. I have a ridiculous wealth of bread pans but I often I feel like I am missing the very size I need. I even have one that telescopes so you can adjust it, but sadly it doesn’t stay in place well.

    Reply
  9. Dorine Harris

    I never even thought about the size of pan for my bread. I always enjoyed making bread but I thought the rise in the pan had to do with the yeast. Thank you so much for this article.

    Reply
  10. Debbie

    I appreciate this information! Thank you! I do have a question. How does the type of pan effect the outcome? I have some stoneware bread pans. I never felt my bread rose as I wanted, but maybe it was the size rather than the fact that it is stoneware. Could you comment on the use of stoneware bread pans?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Debbie,
      While the size of the pan will effect the height of the rise more than the pan material would, the texture of the bread and the baking will definitely be different in different materials.
      Stoneware pans are excellent for getting an even bake with a crisp crust, and they can actually bake up to 25% faster than metal pans.
      Also, stoneware pans do tend to be larger than metal or glass pans, so give them a measure to see how they compare.

      Hope this helps. ~MJ

  11. Janet

    I have a recipe I love that uses a 12 oz can of evaporated milk and 6 cups flour (I have been using KA All Purpose flour) to make 2 loaves @ 9 X 5 . I am not getting the height I want. The bottom is stamped ” 9 1/4 by 5 1/4″ but actually measures 8 1/2 X 4 1/4 on the bottom and 9 1/4 X 5 1/4 on the top, 2 3/4 deep. Could that have any effect on my rise problem?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      It sounds like the pans are just a tad bigger than standard 9×5 pans, so that will effect your rise a bit. Try increasing your recipe by 1/4 to start with and see how you feel then. ~ MJ

  12. Margaret

    Question and a comment.

    Question: Do you measure the top or bottom interior of the loaf pan?

    Comment: I’ve found my pans seem to be a big bigger than average. I adapt by making a 1.25 batch of most loaf breads and find I get good results that way.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Margaret,
      We measure our pans upper inside edge to upper inside edge when we test products here in the kitchens. ~ MJ

  13. Lori L. Jensen

    I recently bought several mini loaf pans, made of clay, but varnished on the inside.
    Can you tell me how many of those to use for a standard recipe?
    It is my understanding that I should soak them prior to baking. Is that correct?
    Is the baking time or oven temp different?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Lori,
      Because pans and manufacturing differ, be sure to check the manufacturer’s directions for soaking, max temperature, etc. As for how many loaves you’ll get, it will depend on the size of your pans. If they are around 3″ x5″ you should be able to get 3-4 out of one single recipe. ~ MJ

  14. Carson Wright

    We go through a lot of bread in our home, so I bake 2 – 10×5 loafs at a time because I don’t want to be in the kitchen all the time. When I find a new recipe for a 9×5 loaf I think is interesting, I’ll multiply all the ingredients by 15%, then double it. Fortunately, my KitchenAid Pro 600 (575 watt, 6 qt.) mixer is up to the task. I used to have a smaller stand mixer but unwittingly burned it out thinking it was invincible. Oops!!! Mixers have their limits!

    Reply
  15. Lou Wittmer

    Great article answering quite a few questions I have had recently on rising and pan sizes. Thanks for reading my mind

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That pan is larger than most of our recipes call for, so you would need to make about 1/3-1/2 more dough to fill it properly. You can use it as a regular pan, letting the bread rise it and baking normally, or you could try preheating the pan in the oven and dropping the risen loaf gently in. Overall, we use the cast iron dutch ovens with the lids for a steamy environment to get a good crust. Unless your pan has a lid, you will not get the same results as a Dutch oven would. Laurie@KAF

  16. Linda DV

    I bake at 7000′ and pan size or shape makes a difference in successful loaves. I use the 9x4x4 pan (the pain de mie pan without the lid) because the straight sides support the dough well. Yeast dough rises so quickly at this altitude, it needs the help. The tall lovely loaves remind me of the rows of similar loaves in the Dutch bakeries when we visit the Netherlands.

    Reply
  17. Cindy Crowley

    I bought a cloche years ago but have only used it once. What exactly am I to expect of my bread when I use it? I was hoping it would create a chewy crusty bread. Do I put a pan of water in the oven too while I bake? Also I have your cookbook and want to try to make baguettes. Are forms a must? Or can I just lay the dough on a flat surface? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cindy, you don’t need to add steam to the oven when using your cloche, as the cloche will trap the moisture given off by the bread during the initial part of the baking process. After about 35 minutes you’ll want to remove the lid of the cloche to allow the loaf to finish baking in a dry oven. This should help you get the crusty crust you’re looking for. Our recipe for Crusty Cloche bread might be a good place to start. Barb@KAF

  18. Althea Mastriani

    Love your no knead rusty bread recipe. Easiest to make and it’s absolutely delicious. I bake mine in a cast iron pan with the water beneath. Just wondering if I should be using a ‘bread pan’? Would like to have a dome shape but the dough spreads sideways during rise after refrigeration. No complaints. Best I ever tasted. The recipe is a keeper.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Althea, you can certainly bake this bread in a loaf pan, but I would recommend reducing the baking temperature to 375 degrees and baking it a little longer. The resulting bread should be more domed, but may have a denser crumb. Be sure to grease the loaf pan well to prevent sticking. Barb@KAF

  19. Kathleen

    If I increase my ingredients 25% as follows to fit the pans I already have, how much do I increase the baking time?

    7 1/5 cups flour
    1 1/4 cups powdered milk
    3 1/8 teaspoons salt
    6 1/4 teaspoons yeast
    5 fluid ounces vegetable oil
    5 fluid ounces honey
    22.5 fluid ounces hot water

    This is from King Arthur Flour Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread. Is there a rule of thumb for baking time?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kathleen, the baking time will be slightly longer, but not a whole lot. I would recommend checking at the time recommended in the recipe, and then resetting the timer from there. Barb@KAF

  20. Jenica

    For the “cups of flour” used to determine the size of the bread pan… is this assuming the recipe will use x amount of cups of flour to make one loaf of bread? I often use a recipe that calls for between 12-15 cups of flour and makes multiple loaves. So would I divide the cups of flour by the amount of loaves I’m making? How does this work for recipes that make more than one loaf?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jenica,
      Yes, the information given in this blog assumes the recipe makes one loaf of bread. If you’re using a recipe that makes multiple loaves, divide the total amount of flour called for by the number of loaves it makes. This will give you a rough idea of the pan to choose. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  21. Debbie D

    Thanks for a very informative article, I need to go measure my pans now! I’ve been trying my hand at Italian bread and Kaiser rolls.. after moving from (60+yrs) Long Island to rural VA, we just are not happy with the local breads.. Both came out tasty, but both the bottoms were far more well done that I would have liked. Yesterday I bought an “air bake” sheet to try again. Was that the correct choice? I also bought an oven thermometer to make sure I’m getting good temps in there.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Debbie, The insulated baking sheets may be helpful here, but I would definitely recommend the oven thermometer as well! Baking in a different oven is always an adventure, and it’s not at all uncommon for home ovens to be off by several degrees. Barb@KAF

  22. Jim Averill

    I have several 8″ x 4-1/4″ (maybe 4-1/2″?) x 3″ deep pans. Can you give me an idea how much flour will make a decent loaf in that size pan? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jim, about 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, or 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour are appropriate for that size pan. Good luck — PJH

  23. Helen Ownby

    I just bought your medium size paper pans thinking that your muffin mixes would fit into them…The pans are too small, so was wondering if half a box would work ok..ie 2 pans per mix instead of one?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The medium size paper pans are perfect for muffin mixes. Filled 2/3 full, the KAF mixes should fill 3 – 4 pans. If you’re using a quick bread loaf recipe, a typical recipe that bakes in a 9 X 5 pan will also fill 3 to 4 pans (2/3 full). Let’s get you back to happy baking! Irene@KAF

  24. Anne

    I want to bake a whole wheat bread recipe I have in my dutch oven. It calls for using the 2 smaller loaf pans since it’s 5 1/2 cups of flour. Would my 5 qt dutch be big enough? Thanks! –Anne

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Anne, a 5 qt Dutch oven should definitely be able to hold this much dough–just know that you’ll have a mighty large loaf on your hands! Mollie@KAF

  25. Nichael Cramer

    Many of the (excellent) bread recipes on the KAF site assume the smaller (8.5X4.5) size.
    However, _all_ of my pans are the larger (9X5) size.
    (The loaves always taste great, etc., but as you might expect, the rise/shape are often not what I might hope.)

    Do you see any problem with simply “scaling-up” the recipe (i.e. Increase all the ingredients by 1/4 or 25%) and then just proceed normally?

    (In particular, any thoughts how this might affect baking time?)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is exactly what we’d recommend doing, Nichael. Increase all of the ingredients in the recipe by 25%. You may need to add a few additional minutes to the baking time; many of our recipes include an internal temperature to look for when the loaf has finished baking, so it’s best to use an instant-read thermometer when possible. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  26. Nichael Cramer

    Another bread pan question (not size relate):

    Pyrex/glass vs metal. Any changes I should make to baking time, etc., if I use one or the other?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Nichael, if you bake in Pyrex or glass, we recommend turning the oven temperature down by 25 degrees and checking for doneness 5 minutes earlier than the recipe calls for. You may need to continue baking for a few extra minutes, but it’s best to check early since glass insulates heat more effectively than metal. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  27. Andy

    I think you got that backwards, bake time should be longer if glass is a better insulator.
    I was looking for help here on baking temp, right now I am making my first loaf of sourdough and using a glass loaf pan.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Andy, glass tends to take a bit longer to heat up than metal, but once it’s up to full temperature, it’s hot! Because of this, it can help to turn the temperature down by 25 degrees and also check for doneness earlier than the recipe calls for. It’s better to be on the safe-side than the burnt-side! Kye@KAF

  28. Barb

    This is an informative article, I have many sizes in loaf pans, a big stack of them from my Mother, but what I would like most is to make half sized loaves, not the tiny pans but a full sized half loaf. A whole loaf is wasted because it goes stale, frozen bread in my opinion is a very poor substitute for fresh bread and the tiny loaf pans just make a poor sandwich size. I have seen many requests for a full sized half loaf but nobody seems to make such a pan. The closest soul be a 5×5 , but that is a little long, as you pointed out 1/2″ makes a real difference.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sounds to us like you’ve found the perfect niche, Barb. Let us know if you come up with any creative ways to rig your own–we’d love to hear about it! Mollie@KAF

  29. Pat Burgin

    Barb, I am with you on this one! I too make half loaves since we don’t use any preservatives in our breads, they go stale quickly. Also my husband likes one kind and I like another so a half of each is perfect. I usually make two small loaves or balls of dough and place them in a loaf pan and cut them apart after baking But this leaves one end exposed to getting freezer burned if not used up quickly enough.However I do freeze ours since I make 7 whole loaves of each at a time. So I have just this week written to USA Pans to see what they would charge to make us some half loaf pans. If they have a large minimum quantity order I plan to get them made and put them on our website for sale. Bellflower Mountain Bakery , Pat Burgin. If you would be interested in them please call us at 706-768-1801.

    Reply

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