16 Essential Tips for Making the Perfect Cheesecake
Smooth, creamy cheesecake perfection is only a few steps away.
Simple, versatile and unmistakably decadent, the best cheesecakes elevate any occasion to extra special. Our favorite cheesecake recipes are on regular rotation for birthdays, baby showers and you-totally-nailed-it celebrations all year. And while these lovelies will wow a room without a ton of effort on your part, following the tips from our Taste of Home Test Kitchen experts and Field Editor Sue Gronholz will help ensure that your finished product—and your baking skills—are super smooth.
Crush It On The Crust
Finely grind cookies, crackers or nuts in your food processor to make a crust. (Take a cue from our Old-World Ricotta Cheesecake that uses crushed biscotti for its crust!) Feeling creative? Experiment with the flavor by adding herbs or citrus peel.
Go for Full-Flavored Ingredients
Use regular cream cheese and sour cream in cheesecake recipes, unless one specifically calls for reduced-fat or fat-free products. Looking for a light dessert? These recipes will hit the stop.
MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/Shutterstock
Always soften cream cheese at room temperature for about 30 minutes before mixing. If you don’t, the cream cheese won’t smooth out after blending. Make sure the batter is completely smooth and free of lumps before you add eggs.
Add eggs all at once, and beat on low speed just until blended. (Here’s our favorite hand mixer!) Gently fold in by hand any additional ingredients, like chocolate chips. Avoid overbeating. If too much air is beaten into the mixture, the cheesecake will puff during baking, then collapse and crack when cooled. Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape the batter down from the sides of the bowl.
Taste of Home
Prep the Pan
Instead of simply greasing your springform, our Test Kitchen recommends lining the base with a layer of non-stick aluminum foil to help it glide off the pan once ready to serve.
Pro tip: Flip the base so that its convex side is facing upward.
Taste of Home
Pan Within a Pan
Leaky pans are a cheesecake’s arch nemesis. For a foolproof way to leak-proof any springform pan, place your springform inside a slightly larger cake pan before placing it in your water bath—or, ahem, bain-marie—prior to cooking.
Did you know you can cook a cheesecake in an Instant Pot? Here’s how.
Get the Oven Into Gear
Before preheating the oven, arrange the oven racks so the cheesecake will bake in the center of the oven. This will ensure the dessert gets a nice, even bake. Also, make sure the oven temperature is not too high. Use an oven thermometer to verify it’s correct. Find out if your oven is in tip-top shape.
Open the oven door as little as possible while baking the cheesecake, especially during the first 30 minutes. Drafts can cause it to crack.
Do the Wobble Test
Set a kitchen timer to the minimum recommended baking time, and check for doneness only when the timer goes off. You’ll know it’s finished baking when the edges are slightly puffed and when the center (about 1 inch in diameter) jiggles slightly when you tap the side of the pan with a spoon. The retained heat will continue to cook the center while the cheesecake is cooling. A cheesecake cooked in a water bath will be just set across the top. The top will look dull, not shiny.
Pro tip: Don’t use a knife or a toothpick to test for doneness. Do that, and the top might—you guessed it—crack.
Loosen It Up
To prevent cracks during cooling, it’s important to loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan after baking. First, cool the cheesecake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then carefully run a table knife or small metal spatula between the cheesecake and the inside of the pan. Don’t remove the sides of the pan yet. Cool 1 hour longer in a draft-free location.
Cool It Correctly
Refrigerate cheesecake for about an hour; when completely cool, cover with foil or plastic wrap. It needs to be 100 percent cool to prevent condensation from collecting on the underside of the cover. Refrigerate overnight before removing the sides of the pan.
Pull Off A Pretty Pan Removal
Make sure your cheesecake is chilled overnight so it’s very firm. Loosen the latch of the springform pan and carefully lift the rim of the pan straight up.
Taste of Home
Make a Clean Cut
Slice cheesecake while it’s cold. Trust us, it’s a lot less messy. To do this, dip a long, thin knife in very hot water, wipe the blade with a paper towel, then slice. Clean and rewarm the knife the after each cut.
Pro tip: Try cutting your cheesecake with a piece of dental floss, like our genius Taste of Home Test Kitchen cook in our video for how to make Coconut-White Chocolate Cheesecake.
Taste of Home
Patience Is a (Tasty) Virtue
For maximum flavor, let slices stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Don’t Worry If It’s Cracked
If the top of your cheesecake has a crack in it, just cover it up! Scooping on fruit, ganache, a sour cream topping or your favorite jam will offer a delicious disguise. Cheesecake guru and Field Editor Sue Gronholz’s Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake is topped with three kinds of delicious inspiration.
Taste of Home
Avoid Last-Minue Stress
If you’re prepping for a party, you can bake your cheesecake in advance. You can cover and refrigerate it for up to three days. Or freeze it for up to two months by placing the entire cheesecake or individual slices on a baking sheet and freezing until firm. Wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator.
Try these helpful tips on your next creamy, jiggly treat. We bet you’ll be able to taste the delicious difference.