Published July 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Our favorite springform pan from features handles that make it easy to remove from a water bath and a tempered glass bottom that lets us track browning. Could we find one that was even better?
Update, October 2012
We recently learned that our winning springform pan by Frieling is being substantially redesigned and will be re-launched in the spring. We will test it at that time to see if it still meets our standards. In the meantime, we are promoting the former second-place pan to be our winner.
Our favorite springform pan from Frieling ($49.99) features handles that make it easy to remove from a water bath and a tempered glass bottom that lets us track browning. But like every other model we’ve ever tested, it lacks one essential feature: a leakproof seal to prevent batter from trickling out and (when baking in a water bath) moisture from seeping in. That drawback has kept us on the lookout for the perfect pan, and this time we returned from our shopping trip with four competitor models ($13.95 to $48), baking cheesecake and Summer Peach Cake in each to see if anything could outclass our old standby.
Unfortunately, not one model we tested avoided this flaw. We always bake cheesecake in a water bath, and even after taking our usual precaution of wrapping the pans with aluminum foil before baking, we found dark, damp patches on each cheesecake’s graham cracker crust where moisture had snuck in. Moisture leaking out was also a problem. When we filled each pan with water, they all dripped.
Our evaluations came down to cake release, evenness of browning, and design. Nonstick coatings were a universal feature that helped the sides of the pans to pull away with minimal scraping. But the pans with the lightest and darkest finishes produced under and overbrowned cakes, respectively. We also preferred models that didn’t leave an unsightly seam in the cheesecake where the buckle fastened (as the Kaiser did); sported flat (not rimmed) base surfaces, which allows the bottom to double as a serving plate if the cake is too fragile to transfer to another platter; and cleaned up in the dishwasher. When we still had to chisel peach cake crumbs from the tight seams in two of the models we tested after five dishwasher rounds, we knew that those pans were better left on the shelf.
Until manufacturers come out with a truly leakproof model, we’ll stick with our old favorite and continue to wrap it in aluminum foil when baking cheesecake in a water bath.