A tube pan is a round baking pan with a tube in the middle. Objects baked or molded in the tube pan will come out in the shape of a ring. Tube pans come in a variety of sizes, and they can be useful for many types of baking and cooking projects, ranging from angel food cake to molded savory dishes. Many kitchen supply stores carry these pans, in several different styles, and they can also be ordered from companies which specialize in baking equipment.
Although the products of a tube pan look visually interesting, the tube actually serves a very important function. It ensures that the center of the object being baked will cook through thoroughly, so that the center will be finished at the same time as the rest of the dish. With delicate cakes and other baked recipes, the tube pan prevents the unfortunate baking disaster of a cake with burnt sides and a raw middle. The air circulation through the tube also helps the contents cool quickly and evenly after baking.
Tube pans are classically made from metal, and they may be treated so that they are non-stick, or left unfinished. Some come in two pieces, with a removable bottom which is designed to facilitate the removal of delicate or tricky baked dishes. Others are solid. The tube may taper slightly or form a perfectly straight cylinder, and the sides of the pan usually follow the lines of the tube to create either a tapered or straight-sided cake. Angel food pans also commonly have feet which make it easier to invert the pan for cooling.
Some companies make silicone tube pans which can be used in baking, freezing, and other preparations. Silicone can be a great tool in the kitchen because it is easy to work with, but some cooks find that it causes recipes to behave slightly differently than expected. Cakes baked in a silicone tube pan may not develop the desired crumb, or their sides may fail to brown as expected. It's a good idea to test a recipe in a silicone pan in a low-stress situation before making plans which hinge upon a silicone pan's performance.
Like other baking equipment, tube pans last longer when the manufacturer's care directions are followed, especially if the pan has a special finish. It's also important to make sure that the pan is properly washed to remove all oils and grease after each use, as these can interfere with recipe performance, or become rancid, adding an undesirable flavor to foods cooked in the pan.