Skip to content

Salty, Deep-Dark Chocolate Brownies

One of the best ways to ensure that baked goods will come out of a pan, especially sweet treats that tend to have sticky edges, it to line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Bar cookies and brownies are very good candidates for baking in foil-lined pans. I recommend using the heaviest aluminum foil you can find as the flimsy stuff tears easily. Here’s how I do it:

Salty, Deep-Dark Chocolate Brownies

1. Find the pan that the recipe calls for. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil that’s large enough, that it will allow for the foil to go up the sides and leave a good-sized overhang, enough to grab when the baked item is finished. So you can use the overhang as handles, to lift the baked item from the pan with.

Salty, Deep-Dark Chocolate Brownies

2. Overturn the baking pan on the counter. With the shiny side up (see Note, below), press the foil over the outside of the pan, gently smoothing it to contour it with the corners and edges of the pan. Sharp-edged pans tend to tear aluminum foil, so be especially careful not to tear it.

Salty, Deep-Dark Chocolate Brownies

3. Lift off the foil and turn the pan over. Carefully guarding the form of the foil, gently press the foil into the inside of the pan, smoothing it into the corners and edges as well as smoothing any creases where batter can flow into and get caught.

Salty, Deep-Dark Chocolate Brownies

4. If the recipe calls for it, grease the inside of the pan with melted butter or nonstick spray. Use the pan as directed by the recipe.


-Reynolds makes an aluminum foil lined with parchment paper, which gets good reviews, but I haven’t tried it.

-For more on the safety of using aluminum foil, check out articles from Real Simple, The Washington Post, and the National Institute of Health.

-If you don’t want to line pans with foil, brushing them with melted butter, or spraying them with nonstick spray, dusting them with flour, tapping out the excess, and lining the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, will perform nearly the same function but may be a bit trickier to remove from the pan, depending on the recipe.

-Out of force of habit, I put the shiny side out when lining pans with aluminum foil, although America’s Test Kitchen and the Argon National Laboratory of scientists says it doesn’t matter much.



    • Sam

    Actually, I’ve tried the Reynolds product that is aluminum foil on one side and parchment paper on the other. I was not impressed. It’s difficult to tear in a clean line and does not mold well and act truly as aluminum foil, nor does it lay flat and act truly as parchment paper. I would recommend buying each as a separate product.

    • Jackie

    i agree with Sam. The combo on that parchment/foil paper does not work well at all. The worst (besides the inability to tear straight pieces) is how all the edges will crimp up and come up over food in the oven.

    • Tim Donahue

    I learned this trick from one of Maida Heatter’s cookbooks. It makes the whole process much easier.

      • MGRSER

      Was it the Palm Beach Brownies Recipe?

    • Susie

    Don’t know why I didn’t think of turning the pan over to fit the foil before putting it in the pan. Thanks for the great lesson, David

    • olga

    love that you have the Trader Joe’s spray in the picture ;-) – and kind of a genius trick, too!

    • Rachel

    Duh! I always struggle with getting the foil smooth and not ripping – never thought of shaping it to the upside down pan first! Thanks for the tip! (Also FYI, when “Pinning” the pics the description that comes up is “salty, deep chocolate brownies” instead of something about how to line a pan in foil).

      • Rena

      How do u get the cake out of the pan with foil, in detail please

    • Linda

    I almost always use glass pans to make brownies and they never stick. I butter them first too. I think my brownies have so much butter in them that they slide right out without a problem.

    • Doreen Shea

    Reynolds also makes a nonstick foil that I LOVE!

      • Karen H

      I can’t live without the stuff, especially for roasting vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts!

    • Catherine

    Wow! This is such a good idea. It’s so simple, I’m almost embarrassed I never thought of it myself. I like to slow roast bacon in the oven, and EVERY time I line my sheet cake pan, I get holes in the corners where the foil can’t quite fit. When I read this, I said right out loud, “GENIUS!” Thank you!

    • Patty

    Costco sells pre-cut squares of foil to line baking pans — each piece is perfect for lining a 9 inch pan in which to make brownies (recipe by Alice Medrich, dark chocolate by Scharffenberger).
    This is a way-of-life in our house although it may take the rest of my life to use the entire box of foil.

    • Karen Hall

    I have never lined a baking pan with foil!
    I use parchment paper (needs some artful folding for a 9x13x2 pan, or cutting and snipping for a round one) and have never had a problem with sticking, either to the baked goods, or the pan.
    I think most, if not all, parchment sold in the US is made in France.
    Recipes in England used to talk about lining pans with “greaseproof paper” – don’t know how this compared to parchment. Definitely not to be confused with American wax paper!

    • Sandi

    Thank you! I’ve just been planning to make a cheesecake brownie as a gift for someone and this looks better than other recipes I’ve found. Also, just saw Ovenly’s Blondies recipe on line & want to make them but had never heard of Ovenly’s. I’m timid at using un-rated recipes, so I’m really glad to see your opinion of them!

    If I haven’t said this before, I want you to know that yours is the most eagerly awaited email I get (and I get a LOT!) Yours are always interesting & informative, and I save & re-read them several times. LOVE the pictures, too! You are so honest and amusing in your writing and I never fail to wonder that you take such time and trouble with the post to us followers…THANK YOU SO MUCH and HAPPY HOLIDAYS! (Your life in Paris sounds so much fun!) PS No reply of thanks is necessary!

    • Rebecca W

    Why did I never think to wrap the foil from the outside??? All those years of struggling. This tip is marvelous.

    • Adriana

    Using the outside as a mold is sheer genius, Merci! Reynolds nom-Stick foil is the best, it has probably fallen into your expat “culture gap”. I find that the nonstick foil is as good a , or better, (Mon Dieux!) than le Silpat for cookies.

    • Sallie D.

    I have been using the flat sheets of parchment paper from King Arthur. Very pleased with the results with 9×13 pans of brownies , blondies and sheet cakes. I just fold it into the pan as evenly as I can. Pour the batter in and bake. If the baked goods are cooled and firm enough, you can lift all of it out of the pan to cut even pieces. If you leave the pieces on the paper you can lift it all back into the pan. Keeping them safe when they have to travel to parties.

    • Ronda Chesser Porter

    I have been doing this for years! However, I use non-stick foil. It’s heaven. I have not seen the foil lined with parchment paper, but I think I’m going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing David.

    • Natalie @ In Natalie’s Shoes

    Lovely tips! I regularly use foil when oven roasting chicken. It makes clean up a breeze!

    • Sandra Myers

    I made your brownies from Ready for Dessert late this past week. I debated about lining the pan between foil and parchment paper, which ultimately won out. I gave it a quick spray with a non-stick and the finished brownies lifted out very easily–even to Emily’s amazement watching me!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad they worked out!

    • pdxknitterati/michele

    Thanks for this. I’ve been using parchment paper for my brownies, as directed, but perhaps I’ll just use foil from now on. It’s hard to fit parchment paper inside a pan; it doesn’t hold a fold very well. I did try working it from the outside first, and it was slightly better, but foil looks like a better bet.

    • Barbara

    Great recipe, Ty! Do you bring the Trader Joe’s nonstick spray back to France?

    • berit

    Just an extra suggestion: I use Dutch cocoa powder instead of flour for dark baking goods to prevent having rests of white flour on it after baking.

    • Aurora

    Don’t you guys have ‘baking paper’? –
    I haven’t used foil since.
    It maybe is an Oz thing ?

    • Dyana

    I too prefer parchment paper to line my baking pans, never had any trouble.

    I’m somewhat sensitive to using aluminium in the kitchen because it raises some health concerns – there are theories that exposure to aluminium may lead to Alzheimer’s disease (not sure if they have actually been confirmed scientifically, but I guess it’s best to be a little cautious). Also, there’s the environmental factor: Aluminim is extracted from the soil of rainforests using sodium hydroxide solution. The remaining red mud is hazardous to plants and animals. Of course, compared to the industry’s aluminium demand, my consumption is negligible at best, but why use it when there are more environmentally friendly alternatives…

    • Bebe

    I use Reynolds’s Release Foil, which is treated on one side. I form it to my pan much as described here. Release is sufficiently sturdy. Heavy duty foil is much too stiff to make a pan liner, IMO.

    I have a hunch that there are chemicals involved in the making of parchment paper. I find it difficult to use in baking pans, it is rather stiff, although I do use it when I make loaf cakes and breads.

    My Mother used aluminum foil until she passed on at age 85. Worries about disease are unsubstantiated rumors. And people have been cooking in aluminum pans for eons.

    • Bebe

    Should have mentioned my Mother had no dementia of any kind when she passed on.

    Re toxins in products, there are masses of websites that will try to convince you that almost everything you use in your home is toxic. The only person I ever knew who worried about this a lot had severe anxiety problems. And ended up with cancer in fairly early middle age. Anxiety can be toxic, too.

    Here is a site that talks about – among other things – the toxins in bleached parchment paper. I have never seen any other kind in the markets here.

    • Chris M

    I echo what people have already said about the non-stick foil. It’s phenomenal! Yes it’s more expensive but there’s no need to use it for every need, but for something like lining a pan of sticky squares or a super moist cake, you can’t find anything better. It may not be available in Europe but you should import some for yourself (or have visitors import some for you…)

    • Lynnee

    a digression, but, congratulations on My Paris Kitchen making NPR’s Best Cookbooks of 2014 list! Soon it will be in my Oslo kitchen. Now back to reading about brownies.

    • redbird

    In regards to the parchment paper/foil combo product: you will save yourself a lot of tears and frustration in not using it. It is incredibly difficult to use and will not lay flat at all, and the edges have an annoying habit of curling up with the introduction of heat. It usually results in the edges embedding themselves into your cookies/cake/brownie/etc and there will be areas where browning is inhibited. Long story short, it will make whatever you’re making not very pretty to present.

    I would also like to add that I have tried the little trick of using a small dab of batter in the corners to secure it, and it really doesn’t work for some reason. I would recommend using straight-up foil or parchment paper. Both in the same product do not work very well.

    • a

    I wouldn’t sell the NIH link as an official National Institutes of Health statement. PubMed is merely a database of journal articles, many of which have nothing to do with NIH.

    • Jessica Hasler

    In response to Karen Hall (08/12/14) – grease-proof paper in England is the same
    thing as baking parchment as far as I am aware.

    Happy Christmas!

    • Gavrielle

    I’ve never even heard of lining anything with foil – I’d always use baking paper (parchment to Americans) for that. Love the technique, though. Re the question about greaseproof – it’s not the same as baking paper. Greaseproof is like wax paper, whereas baking paper has a nonstick finish.


Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!


Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...