Ramekins have had the same classic shape for centuries. But is traditional best?
Published Dec. 1, 2017.
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.
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 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 the...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.