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February/March 2016

Springform Pans

Have you ever ruined a cheesecake? We’ve been there, too. But never again: We tested every top-selling springform pan to find the best on the market.

How We Tested

Imagine toiling for hours over a cheesecake—the final act in your showstopping holiday meal—only to unmold your perfectly baked, seemingly beautiful cake and find that it is crumbled, mushy, or cracked due to a faulty springform pan. Sadly, springforms are too often the culprit in dessert disasters. Unlike traditional cake pans (which require the baker to unmold the cake by flipping the pan upside down), springforms consist of two pieces: a round, flat base and a circular collar that latches open and closed, allowing delicate cakes to be unmolded upright. Unfortunately, the two-piece design leaves small gaps where water from a water bath (we sometimes place springforms in a roasting pan with water to control heat during baking) can seep in and butter from the crust can leak out.

Despite a decade of searching, we’ve yet to find a completely leakproof springform; even our previous winning pan from Nordic Ware leaks a bit. But we’ve kept an ear to the ground and noticed that a number of major manufacturers recently redesigned their metal springforms. A few also started making pans out of heat-resistant silicone. We tested eight top-selling models, including our old winner, priced from $13.95 to $49.95—two silicone and six metal options with, variously, glass, ceramic, and nonstick bases. We used each to make no-bake cheesecake, oven-baked cheesecake, and water bath–baked cheesecake.

The silicone pans were disastrous: They smelled like burnt rubber in the oven, they let water leak in and butter seep out, they had loose parts that were easily lost (ours went right down the drain), their soft silicone sides squished crusts, and their glass and ceramic bases underbrowned the crusts and wouldn’t release them.

Glass bottoms were problematic in general: One metal pan with a glass base made pale, pallid crusts that were practically glued into the pan. Darker metal makes for darker baked goods, and one pan’s black finish slightly overbrowned crusts (though not enough to affect flavor). We favored pans with light-colored nonstick finishes, which browned slowly and released readily.

A good springform pan should release cakes effortlessly, but a nonstick base wasn’t the only factor; time after time, cakes tore, crumbled, and cracked when we removed them. Some pans tore cakes along the collar, where a protruding seam clung to fragile swaths of crust. Other pans trapped crust on their bases: Springforms with flat or recessed bases were difficult to maneuver a spatula or knife along, and we often lost parts of the crust when we moved the cake or cut slices. We preferred raised bases, which gave us a full view of the cake and more room to leverage our tools. Compared with the mangled slices we had to dig out from recessed bases, slices cut from raised bases looked picture-perfect. The pans themselves also looked better: Flat and recessed bases had large nicks and knife marks from all the awkward stabbing with our tools, while raised bases showed only small scratches by the end of testing.

Testers also disliked pans with bases that were roughly the same diameter as their collar, which were difficult to assemble, maneuver, and release. The bases of our favorite pans extended at least an inch wider than their collar, giving us something to grab on to and making it easier to rotate the pan when releasing a stuck cheesecake or patting in a delicate crust.

Wide bases also tempered leaking. While none of the pans were completely leakproof—every single pan leaked butter in the oven—three pans with wide, ridged bases trapped the butter with their outer edges. By contrast, the five other pans dripped butter all over the oven floor.

Though a wide base corralled leaking butter, it didn’t stop water from seeping in. We saw this when we baked cheesecakes in a water bath that we dyed blue with food coloring—splotchy blue marks bloomed on the sides and bottom of every single cheesecake (though some were leakier and subsequently more blue than others). To avoid a soggy cake, we always recommend wrapping your springform in foil before baking in a water bath.

We couldn’t check off every requirement on our wish list, but we did find a pan that improved on our old winner. While both have wide, rimmed bases for better maneuverability and leak-catching, the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Springform Pan, 9" also boasts tall sides that give us multiple ways to grip the pan when building a crust, moving a hot cheesecake, or cutting cake slices. Best of all, it upped the ante with even more gorgeously golden crusts thanks to its lighter metallic finish. At nearly $50.00, it’s a good investment if you use your springform frequently; for those who want a cheaper pan that works almost as well, the Nordic Ware 9" Leakproof Springform Pan is our Best Buy at just $16.22.


Anatomy of a Winner

These design features helped our favorite pan earn the top spot:

1. LIGHT FINISH: Allows for controlled, even browning.

2. TALL SIDES: Let you maneuver pan with potholders.

3. BASE TROUGH: Catches leaks to help prevent messes.

4. RAISED BASE: Makes cutting and removing slices easy.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.