Cooking and serving food in uniform single-serve portions is the beauty of the small cylindrical dishes known as ramekins. Most commonly used for preparing baked items such as soufflés, crème brûlée and mini-casseroles, ramekins also can be used to serve soup, dips, condiments and small servings of just about anything.
With volume sizes ranging from four to eight ounces, ramekins (or ramequins) are generally wider than they are tall. They are available in various shapes and colors, but the most traditional designs are round, white and have a fluted texture on the exterior. The steep and straight sides of this hallmark design allow for the even "rise" one expects in a soufflé.
Ramekins can be purchased anywhere from high-end culinary shops to department stores and dollar stores. Traditionally made of glazed ceramic or porcelain, ramekins are also available in glass. Any high-tempered, heat-resistant material should withstand the high temperatures of an oven and direct heat from a cooking torch; however, ceramic ramekins tend to be thicker than the glass versions. While higher quality material may cost a bit more, ramekins made of cheaper, thinner material are more prone to cracking.
Besides baking single-serving breakfast casseroles, soufflés or chocolate molten lava cakes, ramekins can be used for a variety of cooking and serving purposes. These tips will help you get started:
- To help prevent food from sticking, generously butter or oil ramekins prior to adding ingredients.
- If working with a batter, avoid filling ramekins to the top. As ingredients cook they tend to rise, so it's best to fill bowls about two-thirds of the way to avoid spills.
- Place ramekins on a cookie sheet for easier handling in and out of the oven. This also makes for easier clean-up if there happens to be any spillover.
- For a clean, plated look, use ramekins for molding foods such as potatoes, risotto and quinoa. To make the perfect mold, spritz the bowl with cooking spray and gently pack your ingredient with the back of a spoon. Turn the ramekin upside down onto a plate and allow food to slide out.
- Use ramekins to separate condiments, dips and sauces on a plate or serving platter.
- Portion out small pieces of fruit such as grapes, blueberries or diced apples, and cooked or raw vegetable sticks. This looks nice and works especially well for serving foods to children.