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One of the most important things you must do when baking is grease the pan. If you don’t know how to grease a pan your baked goods will stick! There are several easy ways you can prepare your pan for cakes, brownies and all baked goods, so just choose the method that’s easiest for you!


cake pans with flour and spray and Crisco

My mom taught me how to grease a cake pan when I was young; it’s actually one of my very first baking memories. She taught me about using a paper towel to butter the pan and then how to add flour and pat it around the bottom and sides so the cake wouldn’t stick. To this day, that lesson was and still is one of the most important and best things I learned about baking.

If you don’t know how to grease a pan it’s super important to learn, otherwise your cakes will stick and not release. And it’s not just for cakes! Brownies, bars and cookies also need some sort of nonstick surface to bake on otherwise you’ll have a mess to clean up.

There are several ways to grease your pans for baking:

  • With butter/shortening and flour
  • With butter and sugar
  • Using nonstick cooking spray
  • Using foil or parchment

Let’s talk about each method, what they’re good for, and why they work.

can of crisco

The traditional way to grease a pan is with shortening or butter and flour.

This is the way our moms and grandmas did it, before PAM invented their miracle spray. It’s the way I learned and while it’s not the easiest way, it’s the foolproof one. Plus, if you’re baking, you probably have everything you already need on-hand to grease your pans.

You can use butter or shortening for this method.

  1. If you’re using butter, you can just run it around the pan, bottom and sides, using the stick.
  2. If you’re using shortening or a tub of butter, I like to use a paper towel to wipe it all over the pan.
  3. Add a tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour into your pan. Rotate and tap the pan until there is flour covering every greased surface. Discard remaining flour.

That’s it! If you ever wondered how to keep a cake from sticking to the pan, that’s the way to do it.

PRO TIP: if you’re making a layer cake, I often cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan so I know it’ll come out for SURE.

Just cut a round or square of parchment and put it in the pan after you’ve greased it, but before the flour. Grease the parchment, then flour it, and continue as normal. Once the cake is done it’ll pop right out!

You need to grease your pans even if they’re nonstick if you want to be sure your cake will come out of the pan.

My mom also taught me a cool (and delicious) way to grease pans for quick bread (like banana bread): she greases the pan with butter or shortening and then uses sugar instead of flour. Sugaring the pan gives a nice crunch to the outside of the quick bread!

Note: this doesn’t work with cooking spray, and I wouldn’t do it for a cake!

What happens if you forgot to flour a cake pan?

It happens! I know I’ve done it. Now, I’m going to be honest: it might not come out right. I’m going to give you some things to try to loosen it, but there is a chance it’ll be stuck.

If you forgot to grease your pan, try these methods to release your cake:

  1. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, gently pulling up in a few places. You can also try to run an offset spatula under the cake too.
  2. Invert the pan on a cooking rack or cutting board. Tap the bottom a few times.
  3. Leave it to sit upside down in the hopes it’ll pop out (if it didn’t in step #2).
  4. If those didn’t work, then try shaking the cake pan. Chances are it’ll come out…or at least part of it will.

Broken cake? Make cake pops!

can of cooking spray

Back in the 90s or so, PAM invented nonstick cooking spray. That invention revolutionized how we cook today: I rarely use oil when I cook dinner, instead I use nonstick spray.

Then they came out with nonstick baking spray, which is like the regular spray but it has flour in it. GENIUS!

How to grease a pan without flour: use cooking spray!

  1. Spray it with spray.
  2. …that’s it.

Haha, right? Cooking spray is SO easy!

Whenever I bake a cake, if I don’t grease and flour my pans, I use the nonstick spray with flour in it (and I try to say that in my recipes). This especially works when you’re greasing a bundt pan because it’s not flat.

I also use cooking spray for pancakes and skillet recipes!

What can you use to grease a pane for brownies or bars:

Normally, when you make brownies or blondies, you don’t necessarily need them to pop completely out of the pan. Most people, I think, just slice and eat them from the pan, so using nonstick cooking spray is easy and fast.

However, if you want to lift an entire recipe of brownies out of the pan to slice them easily and display them – with clean cuts and no mess – then I suggest lining your pan with foil or parchment paper.

Line the pan then spray it with nonstick cooking spray and you’ll have nonstick brownies, easy peasy.

cake pans with flour and spray and Crisco

Can you use vegetable oil to grease a pan? Can you grease a pan with olive oil or coconut oil?

Yes, I’ve used all of those for greasing pans before. I wouldn’t use oil and flour but for sure you can use oil for brownies, bars and cookies. I’ve also used oil on pans for potatoes and vegetables too.

What about baking cookies?

When it comes to cookies, most older recipes call for a greased cookie sheet. Newer recipes, like mine, say to use parchment or a silicone baking mat.

I find that parchment paper or silicone baking mats cook cookies so much better than greasing the pans. Often cookies don’t need much more fat in them, but they just need something they won’t stick to.

Parchment paper can be found at the regular grocery store near the foil and baggies. If you want a reusable option, try Silpat Baking Mats, which are my favorite way to bake cookies.

Learning how to grease a pan is such an important part of learning to bake! With these tips your cakes and other baked goods recipes will turn out – literally – every time.

Last Updated on March 6, 2021

Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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  1. Shaking with laughter. Um, sorry, PAM was not invented in the 90s. It was invented in the early 60s. Not really sure why you would think it’s only been around such a short time.
    Also as far as brownies, surprised you didn’t mention the lift ’em out method of lining with foil.
    Turn over the pan. Mold a piece of foil that is bigger than the pan and will hang over the sides. Turn the pan right side up and now the piece is shaped to the pan. Fully insert it and smooth it. Grease it with preferred method. After brownies cool, lift out foil and place on cutting board. Brownies can be cut into sharp-cornered squares using a large knife such as a bread knife. The “they don’t stick to a plastic knife” rumor is not true, in my experience.
    Also just so you know you have a typo in the brownies line, you spelled “pan” with an “e.” Also “baggies” is a registered trademark.

  2. Thank you for the great tips! Congratulations on your anniversary!!
     Happy Birthday!!! Wishing you a happy and healthy year ahead to you and your family! Your posts and recipes add a bright spot to my day.