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December/January 2018

Ramekins

Ramekins have had the same classic shape for centuries. But is traditional best?

How We Tested

Though they might not seem like essential kitchen equipment, ramekins—small round baking dishes—are surprisingly versatile. They’re perfect for individually portioned soups, desserts, pies, and soufflés; for serving nuts, dips, and small snacks; and even as a stand-in for a mini prep bowl or a salt cellar. Though the straight-sided fluted white dish is still de rigueur, ramekins now come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials.

We tested eight ramekins priced from $1.98 to $16.00 per ramekin. We bought enough to assemble a set of eight of each ramekin—the maximum number we usually call for in recipes. We focused on ramekins that could hold 6 ounces, which appeared to be the most widely available size and is the one we call for most often in recipes. We used them to make chilled summer berry puddings, sticky crème caramels that we baked in a low-temperature water bath, delicate chocolate soufflés, and quick-cooking baked eggs. We evaluated the food as it was meant to be served: unmolded for puddings and crème caramels and in the ramekins for soufflés and baked eggs.

Measuring Ramekin Capacity

Preliminary capacity tests revealed that each manufacturer was using a different benchmark for its advertised capacity—likely so that a little headroom remained after filling. To standardize, we measured and reported the capacity of each ramekin when it was filled to the brim, which we found was the most accurate way to compare how much they could hold.

Using this method, the ramekins’ true capacities ranged from 6 to 8 ounces—slightly larger than their advertised capacities. Surprisingly, ramekins that were a true 6 ounces struggled to hold all the filling for our recipes. Their smaller stature also turned out puddings and crème caramels that looked squashed and squat. Ramekins with a true capacity of 7.5 or 8 ounces, however, easily held all the fillings with room to spare, and they produced the best-looking food: tall and crisp, with clean lines and distinct layers.

The Best Ramekin Is a Modified Take on a Classic Shape

The ramekins’ outisde rim-to-rim measurements ranged from 3.3 to 4.3 inches. Ramekins with flared sides or wide openings rattled and rubbed when we loaded six or eight of them into a baking dish to transport to the oven, as our recipes often call for. One model was too wide to fit even six ramekins into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish for baked eggs, so we had to lug out a roasting pan. Even then, they bumped and eventually chipped, and the food they produced was unattractively wide, squat, and flared.

Narrow ramekins fit easily in a baking dish and made food that was tall and pristine, but their small openings made them hard to fill. We preferred ramekins with classic straight sides and a width of about 3.7 inches; six of them fit comfortably in a baking dish, they were easy to fill, and they produced the most attractive food.

Our favorite ramekins were classically shaped, but one model offered an innovation we really liked: an inner ridge that allowed for stable stacking and storing.

Ceramic Bakes Better Than Glass

To really put the ramekins to the test, we made baked eggs, a temperamental recipe that calls for cooking the eggs for a short time in an extremely hot oven. Our goal was creamy cooked whites and runny yolks.

Most of the ramekins turned out acceptable eggs, with two exceptions: The eggs baked in both of the glass products were overcooked, with rock-hard yolks. Experts told us that glass and ceramic usually perform similarly, but we found that the ceramic models we tested were preferable to glass, at least in our baked eggs recipe.

We also discovered that the thicker and heavier the ceramic, the better. All the ceramic ramekins produced decent baked eggs—at least four of the six baked eggs we made in each set had creamy, runny yolks—but the heaviest and thickest models provided more insulation and gave us six perfectly cooked yolks.

Heavy, Thick Ramekins Bake Best

Our winning ramekin, the Le Creuset Stackable Ramekin, was the heaviest and the thickest of the bunch, weighing in at 10 ounces, with 0.3-inch-thick walls. Everything we cooked in these ramekins emerged from the oven pristine, pretty, and evenly baked. There were also some bonuses: The ramekins come in a variety of colors and were the only model that was truly stackable.

Unfortunately, at $16.00 per ramekin, they’re also the most expensive in our lineup. If you don’t mind monitoring cooking times a bit more closely and aren’t bothered by ramekins that don’t stack, our Best Buy, the Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Souffle, also makes pristine soufflés, puddings, and crème caramels at just $3.75 per ramekin.

Methodology

We tested eight ramekin models, priced from $1.98 to $16.00 per ramekin and advertised with capacities of about 6 ounces. We purchased enough of each model to make a set of eight ramekins and used each set to make full batches of our Individual Summer Berry Puddings, Chocolate Soufflés, Classic Crème Caramel, and Baked Eggs Florentine. We also baked New England Pork Pies in our winning and Best Buy models. Capacity, dimensions, and thickness were all measured in the test kitchen. Prices shown were paid online, and products appear in order of preference.

EASE OF USE: We evaluated how easy the ramekins were to fill; load into an oven, refrigerator, baking dish, or water bath; maneuver in a hot oven; and unmold. We awarded points to straight-sided ramekins with large openings, which were the easiest to handle, fill, fit into cooking vessels, and maneuver. We also gave an edge to models that stacked securely for safe and convenient storage.

COOKING: We examined the appearance and doneness of food cooked in each ramekin, awarding points for soufflés that rose tall, crème caramels that cooked evenly, and eggs that had set whites and runny yolks within the recipe’s stated time range.

DURABILITY: Since food is often served in ramekins, appearance matters. We noted any scratches or chips after each use and docked points accordingly. Our favorite products were still pristine after testing.

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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.