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Tart Pans

Published March 2017

How we tested

Shallow, fluted tart pans can give a home baker’s quiche or fruit tart a professional look. But does it matter which tart pan you buy? To find out, we made a savory tomato tart with a pat-in-the-pan crust and a classic lemon tart with a pâte sucrée (traditional French sweet pastry) using five different models priced from $8.99 to $27.00.

We considered only pans with removable bottoms—and if you’ve ever tried chiseling a delicate tart out of a solid pan, you understand why. Pans with removable bottoms allow the baker to remove the rim before sliding the tart off the disk base and onto a serving plate. As for nonstick tart pans, our past tests showed that their slick surfaces were a slight disadvantage when pressing dough into the crevices of the pan because the dough slumped down and didn’t adhere as well. But with formulas for nonstick coatings always changing, we decided to reconsider nonstick tart pans to see if new models would perform better than their older cousins. We ended up with three nonstick steel pans and two traditional-finish pans (one made of tinned steel and one aluminum).

As we rolled pastry dough into the pans, we were in for a surprise: Whether the pans were nonstick or not, they were all equally fine to work with, and the doughs more or less stayed put and didn’t slump. The traditional-finish pans had a tacky surface that was a bit easier to use, really holding on to the dough as we pressed it in place. But in the end, none of the pans presented problems for rolling or pressing dough into the fluted grooves.

Not only were the nonstick pans not a problem, but there were several areas—browning and release—where they performed better than traditional-finish pans. A good tart pan should give you golden, even browning—any dark-brown or too-pale spots mar presentation as well as texture and flavor. For even, golden browning on both savory and sweet crusts, pans with dark nonstick coatings outperformed the shiny, lighter finishes of the traditional-finish pans. This makes sense because darker pans hold heat better.

Though removable sides make removing a tart from the pan easier, the final shimmy of the tart off the disk bottom and onto the serving plate takes some finesse. Here the nonstick coating on three of the pans helped reduce the potential for tart breakage. The sticky finish on the aluminum pan, which had been a small asset when rolling out the dough, made removing the tart from the base a little harder than it had to be (although it still released adequately).

The wavy edges on a tart pan’s rim, called flutes, give the finished tart its professional, polished appearance. As the tarts cooled, we noticed that the one that was baked in a pan with sharply fluted sides looked best. The tarts we baked in two pans that had wide, shallow flutes were less impressive, lacking the crisp detail of our winner. As for durability, although we would never suggest using a knife to cut slices directly on a tart pan (we always remove the bottom first), we held our breath and made multiple slashes on the pans with a paring knife to see how they held up. All the pans withstood this punishment at least fairly well and were fine to use afterward.

With all that butter, tart crusts sure leave a greasy mess to clean up. Only one pan was dishwasher-safe; the rest needed a good scrubbing to get the grease out of the grooves. Our favorite pan, the Matfer Steel Non-Stick Fluted Tart Mold, $27.00, is hand-wash only, but it excelled in all other respects, flawlessly releasing sweet and savory crusts alike with even browning and crisp, polished edges.

Methodology

We tested five tart pans, all 9 or 9 1/2 inches in diameter and made with removable bottoms, in a range of metals (steel, steel alloys, and aluminum). We rated them on their ability to bake tarts to an even golden brown, release the tarts easily, and produce crisp, professional-looking edges.

BROWNING: The degree of browning, underbrowning, and overbrowning present

TART APPEARANCE/EDGES: How crisp and professional the edges of the tart appeared after final baking

RELEASE: How easy it was to slide the tart from the pan’s bottom onto a serving plate

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

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.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*