Straight the Point
The LlyodPans Kitchenware Custom 8x4-Inch Cheesecake Pan, designed according to Stella Parks's specifications, will help you make a towering, New York-style cheesecake.
One of the most frustrating aspects of writing a book, particularly a cookbook, is the lag between finalizing the manuscript for print and actual publication. In this long window, websites referred to in the text can shut down, recommended products can be reformulated, and, unfortunately in my case, essential equipment may be discontinued.
That was exactly what happened with the New York-style cheesecake recipe from my cookbook, and the extra-deep, loose-bottomed pan I recommended for it. I searched and searched for something equivalent to recommend, but found nothing even remotely comparable. That made it almost impossible for anyone to follow my recipe as written, forcing bakers to adapt the timing to suit larger, shallower pans or else scale the recipe down to fit smaller, shallower pans.
Either way, the cheesecake remained delicious, but its impressive stature was no more. Which is not to say the loss was strictly cosmetic. Ultra deep pans create a different volume–to–surface area ratio, resulting in a cheesecake with more real estate devoted to that creamy interior.
So while I continued to write equipment recommendations here on Serious Eats over the years—for my favorite muffin pans, cake pans, pie plates, and even whisks—I remained conspicuously silent on the subject of cheesecake pans.
I couldn't bring myself to write an article about a pan I wouldn't use myself, nor could I write about a pan that no one else could use.
Developing the Perfect Cheesecake Pan
Earlier this year, I had a chance to connect with the folks at Lloyd Pans—makers of Kenji's favorite pan for Detroit-style pizza. I told them about my problem, and the exact specs I was looking for in a cheesecake pan, hoping they might have something similar in their product line, but of course they didn't. No one did.
So they decided to make it for me.
Without any sort of contract or formal agreement in place, Lloyd Pans made note of all my requirements, put a brand new pan into production, and sent some prototypes my way for testing. Soon enough, I gave them the thumbs up, and the pans went into true production, and can now be found in their shop online..
Aside from sheer depth—a whopping 4-inches—the most important detail is that it's not a springform pan. Rather, it's a loose-bottom pan, consisting of a solid outer ring and a flat bottom insert. That means there are no moving parts to rust, break, gunk up, stretch out, harbor moisture, or otherwise fail. There's no risk of bumping the latch with a clunky oven mitt, and watching liquid cheesecake batter explode across the floor (admittedly, I did this as a 14 year old and am now #ScarredForLife). The bottom piece is also smooth and flat, no grooved lip, textured patterns, or beveling involved.
And unlike a springform pan, the construction is totally seamless; the bottom piece simply drops into the pan, which has a wide but perfectly flat lip to catch it (and give your fingers a safe place to grip the bottom of the pan). After adding the cheesecake, the weight of the batter itself will hold the pan in place, creating a nice, tight seal. And, for those concerned, after baking dozens of cheesecakes in the testing process, I can confirm that not a single one has sprung a leak.
The pan is also made from non-reactive aluminum, via a proprietary anodization process, for an easy-release surface won't ever peel, crack, chip, or flake away. This treatment also makes the pan steam-resistant, so there's no hurry to de-pan the cheesecake; its heat, warmth, and acidity can do no harm. By that same token, the pan is also safe to soak in water, and easy to dry as there are no moving parts or deep grooves where moisture could fester (again, I'm looking at you, springform pans). Plus, it has all the other benefits of baking with aluminum, which cooks so gently and evenly that it's my top pick for virtually anything that goes in the oven.
All this to say, I'm obsessed with this pan. And, admittedly, a little biased; it was designed to my exact specifications, after all!
But I do think it's an incredible investment piece for any baker, both for jaw-dropping cheesecakes that literally tower above the rest, as well as for more delicate recipes such as mousse cakes, charlottes, and other freestanding desserts traditionally made with springform pans or large ring molds.
What does a water bath do for a cheesecake?
Since a cheesecake is essentially a set custard, the water bath acts as a buffer to the heat and helps it cook slowly and maintain a delicate, creamy texture. If you were to just bake the cheesecake without water, it would cook faster and likely puff up, collapse, and look rather unsightly. It also might not get that luscious, creamy-but-light texture of a water bath-baked cheesecake.
Why did my cheesecake crack?
A cheesecake can crack for multiple reasons: changes in temperature (drafts from opening the oven too often—resist the urge to peek!); over-baking; and over-mixing. Over-baking dries the cheesecake out, which can cause it to crack, while over-mixing adds air bubbles that expand during baking (also causing cracks). A water bath can help prevent cracking, since it prevents the cheesecake from drying out too quickly, and gently cooks it.
What is a Basque cheesecake?
Unlike a perfectly-smooth and lightly golden New York style cheesecake, a Basque cheesecake is meant to look more rustic; it's baked at a high temp, yielding a (intentionally) scorched top, and a thick, dense interior.