There’s one major difference we must make clear right at the beginning of our baking rack vs cooling rack comparison.
A baking rack goes in the oven, they’re heat resistant up to a certain temperature. Thus, we use these ones for baking and cooking various foods.
A baking sheet goes underneath to keep the bottom of our oven clean. We can use wire racks to make toast, cook meats and vegetables, etc.
On the other hand, cooling racks are used at room temperature to cool our baked goods that just came out from the oven.
Well, we can also use cooling racks in the fridge, the cold doesn’t affect them. But don’t use them in the oven if the manufacturer doesn’t state that they are heat resistant up to a certain temperature.
We really can’t tell baking racks from cooling racks apart just by looking at most of them, they can look quite similar, especially since we can also come across a third category: cooling racks that are oven safe.
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Baking rack vs cooling rack: Can cooling racks be used as baking racks?
While we have our two fixed categories representing baking racks and cooling racks, we could say that we can also have a third category.
We have the category of cooling racks that are oven safe. And that’s how things just go a bit more complicated for our baking rack vs cooling rack comparison.
The important thing to retain is this: you can skip on getting two separate metal racks for your kitchen by just getting a cooling rack that is oven safe, if that’s what you want. And you don’t want to buy 2 separate products.
Whenever you’re looking for cooling racks just make sure that they’re oven-safe if you also want the possibility of using them in the ovens.
What is a baking rack?
Every oven comes with a wire rack. Even some air fryer convection toaster ovens, like the Cuisinart TOA-70 come with a wire rack.
That’s what a baking rack is.
A wire rack can be used to cook certain foods because they allow the hot air to circulate on top as well as underneath so we can cook our foods uniformly without turning our ingredients.
Baking racks allow uniform heat distribution and air flow during cooking in the oven.
It’s one that goes in the oven on top of a baking sheet. We can cook meat or vegetables on a baking rack but we need the baking sheet underneath to avoid making a mess on the bottom of our oven.
We can also make our toast on our wire rack.
Or we can use them to dehydrate various foods in the oven. We can make our own onion powder even.
Even if the oven doesn’t have a dry or dehydrate function, we can still dehydrate foods by cooking them in the oven at the lowest temperatures an oven can be set at, under 200 degrees F, with the oven door slightly open. The process will take between 6-12 hours.
Baking racks are made of stainless steel or aluminum, which allows them to withstand high temperatures. They will not warp, rust or flake during multiple uses at high temperatures.
What is a cooling rack?
Just as the name suggests, cooling racks allow air to circulate around our baked goods that are fresh out of the oven.
For example, if we bake bread at home, we absolutely need a cooling rack.
After the bread is done baking, if we leave it in the Dutch oven, on the baking stone or in the pan in which we baked it in, then the part of the bread that is trapped in the bakeware will turn soggy as the bread cools down due to condensation. That’s awful.
As soon as our bread is done baking, we remove it from the oven, remove it from the bakeware and place it on the cooling rack.
The spaces in the metal frame of the rack allow air to circulate and to cool down the baked goods without any sogginess.
The same goes for cookies, cakes, etc.
If a cooling rack doesn’t mention that it’s oven safe, then we can’t put it in the oven. It can only go on our table or countertops at room temperature. Or in the fridge, that works, as well.
Cooling racks designs
Most baking racks and cooling racks can look pretty much the same so we can’t always rely on design to identify which is which.
Some cooling racks can be spotted immediately if they come with quite tall legs or if they’re designed in layers, like some are.
These cooling racks on 2 or 3 layers, stackable, can be wonderful for those who bake lots of cookies often. Or for those who bake multiple pies or a cake in many layers.
We can also get round cooling racks for cakes, even stackable ones on 2 or 3 layers.
On the other hand, if you mainly need a cooling rack for bread or for a couple of baguettes or for just a few cookies, then you can get a cooling rack that is designed as a single long wire structure with tiny legs. These ones can also be oven safe and they can be used both as a cooling rack and as a baking rack.
If we get an oven safe one, then we could say that there’s not much to compare in our baking rack vs cooling rack discussion.
Why some cooling racks can’t be used in the oven
If the manufacturer doesn’t mention that their cooling racks are oven safe, then only use them at room temperature, on the table, countertop or in the fridge, freezer.
Those that are not oven safe usually have a non-stick coating and pretty much that’s the part that is not oven safe.
For example, we have the Nordic Ware Copper Cooling Grid that is an awesome product. It’s a cooling rack that also comes in a stackable option. But it’s not oven safe.
It’s made of steel and it’s copper plated. It looks pretty amazing. And they also have a non-stick option.
I should also mention that I especially recommend washing by hand these cooling racks that are not oven safe because the non-stick coating will last longer.
Some are dishwasher safe but some aren’t. It’s another thing to check out if you don’t want to get a model that isn’t dishwasher safe.
Baking rack vs cooling rack: what to look for
In both cases, we need a solid metal construction. We don’t want our metal structures to get warped so it’s important to look for high quality models.
Those that can’t be used in the oven are usually made of steel or iron and they also feature a non-stick coating. That’s why it’s best to wash them by hand, although some can be dishwasher safe.
Baking racks are usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. Both are good metals.
Size is another feature to take into account.
If you plan to use them in the oven, size is absolutely essential.
On the other hand, if we’re only looking for a rack to cool down our baked goods, size is only important if you bake more than one loaf, one pie, one sheet of cookies at a time.
For those who need multiple products or a big quantity of baked goods to cool down, I recommend looking at stackable cooling racks, on 2 or 3 tiers.
What if you don’t have a cooling rack?
If you’re baking and you don’t have a cooling rack around, what do you do? Frankly, I totally recommend getting a cooling rack, it’s just hard to replace it.
It’s much easier to find a baking rack substitute by just using a baking sheet or baking pan or any other cookware that can be used in the oven.
It’s much harder to find cooling rack substitutes.
If you have one, just use the wire rack that comes with your oven to cool down your hot baked goods.
If it doesn’t have any legs to allow air to circulate underneath, use something to prop it up on both ends so that you can create some space underneath.
Some microwave ovens come with a high baking rack. That one can also be a cooling rack substitute but it’s round and small so it works best for a loaf of bread or a pie or a cake. It won’t fit dozens of cookies.
We can use paper towels to cool down cookies. Paper towels can absorb excess fat, as well.
Best baking racks & cooling racks
Now that we’ve learned anything there is to know in our baking rack vs cooling rack comparison, let’s talk about some awesome products.
1. Nordic Ware Cooling Grid
Nordic Ware has a lot of products to choose from when it comes to cooling racks. They’re also some of the best, even though the prices are not that cheap.
We can buy a Nordic Ware Copper Cooling Grid-Large that measures 16.75 x 11.5 x 0.75 inches. This one is copper plated and it’s made of steel.
They also have a round option for cakes.
These are not oven safe and they’re also not dishwasher safe.
A second model is the Nordic Ware Stackable Cooling Rack that consists of 2 pieces. We can get two copper racks with 4 snap-on legs for those who bake a lot.
2. Checkered Chef Cooling Rack
The Checkered Chef Cooling Rack represents that third category that I mentioned in this baking rack vs cooling rack comparison.
They make cooling racks that are oven safe. And they also make some of the best air fryer trays for ovens.
Moreover, we can also choose the ones that are sold in a set of 2 cooling racks that are oven safe.
Given the fact that we get 2 racks, the prices are some of the best.
There are also 3 sizes to choose from: 8 x 11.75, 10 x 15, 11.75 x 17.
Obviously, if you also plan to use them in the oven, you’ll need to measure your oven and determine which size would fit inside.
The grid design is awesome and it looks great.
They’re just as good for cooling cookies as they are for cooking food on them so the fat and grease can drip in a pan and we eat a healthier meal. For example, it’s awesome cooking bacon on a baking rack.
The sturdy construction of stainless steel is exactly what we’re looking for.
They’re also dishwasher safe but I prefer washing them by hand.
3. Silpat Cook N’ Cool Perforated Baking Tray
This is definitely something else, produced by the famous manufacturer for silicone mats.
It’s such an interesting baking tool and a cooling tool at the same time.
However, it’s also very expensive. It’s cheaper to get a baking sheet with a rack.
Just like the name suggests, the Silpat Cook N’ Cool Perforated Baking Tray looks like a baking tray. The difference is that it has a perforate surface.
The perforated surface promotes even heat distribution.
But once we remove it from the oven, we don’t have to transfer our baking goods to another cooling rack because the tiny holes on the entire bottom of the tray will allow the baked goods to cool down without condensation.
It’s also non-stick.
It measures 13.5 x 16 ⅝ inches.
All in all, our baking rack vs cooling rack comparison has outlined the main differences between the two tools but it has also reminded us of the fact that we can kill two birds with one stone by simply getting an oven-safe cooling rack.