Skip to main content
Recipes

For Perfect New York Cheesecake, Blast the Heat

Start low, then crank the temperature to brown the surface and puff the edge.

Cheesecake can be uniformly sleek and dense; airy and wobbly like souffle; or burnt on the outside and molten within. But there’s nothing quite like the New York kind: Dark brown at the surface with a gentle downward slope from edge to center, which acts as a map of the interior’s texture. Its slightly puffed-up perimeter gives way to a more luxurious, plush core that lingers on the palate like rich suede.

The textural and visual contrast that defines this style is typically produced by a high-to-low oven method: an initial blast of heat that puffs the sides and browns the top before the temperature is turned way down for the remainder of baking to ensure just the right velvety interior.

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

But baking cheesecakes in a variety of test kitchen ovens made me realize that this method works only in ovens that lose heat at a particular rate. If the oven is more thoroughly insulated and the temperature falls too slowly, the cheesecake will overcook; if the oven is less well insulated and the temperature falls too quickly, the beautifully browned exterior of the cheesecake is likely to hide a soupy, raw interior.

I confirmed this theory after monitoring the time it took three different ovens in the test kitchen to fall from 500 to 200 degrees. The results were all over the map.

chart
Baker beware: Ovens cool down at different rates.

My solution: Eliminate the drop in oven temperature as a variable by reversing the typical high-to-low method. I baked the cake in a 200-degree oven until it was completely set, removed it, and then cranked the heat to 500 degrees. Once the oven came up to temperature, I placed the cake on the upper rack, where in just 10 minutes the top browned and the edges puffed, creating that characteristic slope from edge to center.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.