A flan pan can refer to any type of pan used to cook flan (pronounced flahn), a sweet or savory custard that is now most often associated with Mexico. Actually early flans were probably made in Ancient Rome, and the French are known for a similar dish called crème caramel. As we know it today, most sweet flan recipes from Mexico consist of a baked creamy custard that appears topped with caramelized or melting brown sugar. While the flan is cooking, the sugar topping is actually on the bottom, and the flan must be inverted before being served. This has led to inventions of numerous flan pan types to make the inversion process go smoothly.
For individual sized flan, most commonly people use small ramekins, baked in a water bath. Since they are small, inverting flan onto small plates is easier. For larger flan, people may use anything like tart dishes, pie dishes, and ringed pans like those for angel food cake or a variety of other choices.
One of the more popular choices, made specifically for flan is the flan pan mold. This style may come in several diameters, usually about 7 or 8 inches (17.78 or 20.32cm). It is lidded allowing you to set the pan in a water bath or bain-marie, a common suggestion for flan. The lidded flan pan mold further allows for cooking flan on the stovetop rather than in the oven, by using the bain-marie process with a large pot or accompanying double boiler.
Another frequent choice for the flan pan is the Mary Ann pan. This is essentially a short tart pan with ridges all around it. Some may prefer the two-piece types, where you can remove the ridged part once you invert the flan, prior to taking off the top piece. This two-step process with the tart pan makes inversion easier, and the fluting and ridges provide an attractive look for your flan.
Prices on flan pans are variable. The lidded type can cost as little as $15 US dollars (USD). A Mary Ann pan can be purchased for even less; a simple stainless steel tart pan may be under $10 USD. You may pay in the $20-30 USD range if you are brand conscious or would prefer ceramic cookware.
You’ll find different ideas for the flan pan at cooking supply stores and on the Internet. Cooking or kitchen supply stores are likely to feature a wide range of shapes, not simply sticking to the round flan pan but including fancy shapes like hearts or stars should you want you flan to appear particularly festive. If you’re not able to purchase a flan pan right away, note that you can always use a cake or pie dish at home, though the results might not be quite as pretty.