The term muffin tin is reminiscent of old-fashioned muffin pans made from tin. Some vintage pans are still available, often on auction sites or in antique shops, and there are also reproductions. Vintage pans and reproductions often have patterns on the bottom of each muffin cup.
Besides tin or aluminum, there are various other finishes currently available. These include non-stick, stoneware, cast iron, and even silicone muffin tins. In addition to being available in a variety of materials, muffin tins also come in different shapes and sizes.
Muffin tins treated with a non-stick coating are handy, because muffins slide out easily and there is no need for paper muffin cups or non-stick cooking sprays. Non-stick options tend to cost a little more, but they are worth the extra cost, especially for the serious baker. Muffin tins can also be used for other recipes besides muffins or cupcakes, and non-stick options are perfect for foods like cinnamon rolls, egg dishes such as mini quiche, and even individual servings of meatloaf. It is advised that separate muffin tins are reserved for baking muffins, rather than using the same pans used for preparing meats or similar dishes.
Stoneware tins give the texture and flavor of items baked on a stone hearth or in a brick oven. The more you use these muffin tins, the better your baking will be. They darken and season with use, and foods will attain a richer flavor and will not stick to the pan.
Cast iron muffin tins also mimic baking pans from the past. These used to be placed directly over a camp or hearth fire, and many people enjoy the charm, texture, and flavor achieved by cooking or baking in seasoned cast iron pans. Cast iron muffin tins are also available in different shapes. Probably the two most popular are cactus and corncob shapes, often used for baking corn muffins.
Silicone muffin tins are unique. They look and feel like rubber, and you might assume that they are intended for making muffins in the microwave. However, silicone muffin tins and other baking pans can withstand oven temperatures and are even dishwasher safe. One drawback to silicone muffin tins is that they are quite flexible, and you may need to slide a cookie sheet beneath them when transferring them into or out of the oven. High quality silicone pans can go in the microwave, conventional oven, toaster oven, dishwasher, and freezer without being damaged, and they are non-stick and easy to clean.
Most muffin tins are very affordable, and any of the great options listed above will help make baking a breeze.