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Ramekins: Mini dishes, many talents
The true classic: In white, these ramekins are traditional in style, but they also come in a range of bright colors. 6-ounce Emile Henry ramekins, $6.95 each at Cooking.com.Matching baskets for serving protect your guests (and the table) from the dishes’ heat. Set of four 11-ounce “petite ramekins” with baskets, $13.95 at Surlatable.com.Handmade in Italy and glazed in warm hues, these ramekins have a rustic, earthy charm. Set of four Vietri 6-ounce Nature’s Glory ramekins, $84 at Plumpuddingkitchen.com.Clean and modern, these all-purpose ramekins would make a great gift for a new cook. BIA Cordon Bleu 6-ounce Oslo ramekins, $2.99 each at Chef’s Warehouse (650-553-4155).Splashes of pastel blue, green, pink, and lavender make these whimsical hearts a great choice for spring entertaining. Set of four Le Creuset 8-ounce heart ramekins, $39.99 at Amazon.com.With graceful lines and a wide, scalloped edge, these ramekins remind us of open flowers. Casafina 6-ounce Meridian ramekins, $7.95 each at Yvonne-estelles.com.For offbeat style, look to these “crumpled cups.” They’re perfect for hot drinks, but they’re oven safe, too, so go ahead and bake bread pudding in them. Revol 6-1/4-ounce Crumpled Cappuccino Tumblers, from $9.39 at Cheftools.com.We recently spied a set like this in a little French bistro, each ramekin holding a different flavor of crème brûlée. Pillivuyt 4-ounce Quartet ramekins, $7.50 each, and 15×5-1/2-inch rectangular platter, $36 (ramekins and platter sold separately) at 125west.com. We love the dainty pattern on these Portuguese-made ramekins; they come in several other pretty colors, including an understated green and a buttery yellow. Juliska 8-ounce Berry and Thread ramekins, $11 each at Juliska.com.
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.
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.
Chef John’s Chocolate Souffle
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Brush bottom and sides of 2 (5-ounce) ramekins lightly with 1 teaspoon melted butter; cover bottom and sides right up to the rim. Add 1 tablespoon white sugar to ramekins. Rotate ramekins until sugar coats all surfaces. Pour off extra sugar.
- Place chocolate pieces in a metal mixing bowl. Place bowl over a pan of about 3 cups hot water over low heat. Do not let water boil or come to a simmer.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour. Whisk until flour is incorporated into butter and mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in cold milk until mixture becomes smooth and thickens, 2 or 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Transfer mixture to bowl with melted chocolate. Add salt and very small pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix together thoroughly. Add egg yolk and mix to combine. Leave bowl above the hot (not simmering) water to keep chocolate warm while you whip the egg whites.
- Place 2 egg whites in a mixing bowl; add cream of tartar. Whisk until mixture begins to thicken and a drizzle from the whisk stays on the surface about 1 second before disappearing into the mix, 2 or 3 minutes. Add 1/3 of sugar and whisk in. Whisk in a bit more sugar about 15 seconds; whisk in the rest of the sugar. Continue whisking until mixture is about as thick as shaving cream and holds soft peaks, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer a little less than half of egg whites to chocolate. Mix until egg whites are thoroughly incorporated into the chocolate, 1 or 2 minutes. Add the rest of the egg whites; gently fold into the chocolate with a spatula, lifting from the bottom and folding over. Stop mixing after the egg white disappears. Divide mixture between 2 prepared ramekins. Place ramekins on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake in preheated oven until scuffles are puffed and have risen above the top of the rims, 12 to 15 minutes.