No Cracks or Soggy Crusts: These 4 Tips Will Help You Make a Perfect Cheesecake Every Time

Make sure your cheesecake looks as good as it tastes.

New York Style Cheesecake
Photo: Bryan Gardner

Few desserts are more show-stopping and crowd-pleasing than the cheesecake, especially one that is baked perfectly. The ingredients in cheesecake are pretty straightforward—lots of eggs and cream cheese in the filling and graham crackers, butter, and sugar for the crust—so you really need to pay attention to the technique.

Mastering the ultimate method is worth it, since cheesecakes are endlessly riffable in terms of flavor and presentation. You can serve this dessert year round, transitioning seamlessly from spring and summer into fall (Pumpkin-Chocolate Cheesecake, anyone?) and the holiday season and back again—so use these tips to steer clear of common pitfalls and make a cheesecake that looks as good as it tastes.

Prevent Soggy Crust

One of the most challenging things about making cheesecake is that the biggest blunder only reveals itself at the time of serving—presumably when guests are excitedly crowded around the dessert table. We're talking about a soggy crust, which is a heartbreaking thing; this can happen when water from the water bath seeps into the crevices of the springform pan.

Wrapping the springform pan in foil is known to help, but take it a step further and use plastic wrap (which will not melt!) or slow cooker liner bags as an additional seal.

Skip the Water Bath

If a water bath can have such a disastrous effect, why use one at all? Baking a cheesecake in a pan of hot water theoretically helps it cook evenly and prevents cracks, but when a method harms more than it helps, it leaves us wondering if there isn't a better way.

The answer is quite simple: Cook the cheesecake at a low temperature and eliminate the bath altogether. Baking at 250ºF simulates the gentle heat of the bath, without the anxiety-inducing suspense of the crust reveal.

Eliminate Cracks

If you have ever broken a hot glass by running it under cool water, you unknowingly understand the (basic) science behind why a cheesecake's surface cracks. Thankfully, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid this unsightly issue.

Room Temperature Ingredients

The biggest risk factor for a cracked cheesecake is a drastic change in temperature. So, make sure your cream cheese and other ingredients are room temperature when you mix the filling. Once the cheesecake is in the oven, avoid the temptation of opening the door—just one peek could let the heat and steam escape.

Mix on Low

When swirling the cheesecake batter in your mixer, use medium to low speed to prevent excess air from getting whipped into the batter. The more air bubbles, the more likely the cheesecake is to crack. Using a food processor for the cheesecake batter is actually better than using your mixer; the blades cut air out of the mixture rather than whip air into it.

Cool It Slow

Cheesecakes require a gradual cool down, so once your dessert is finished baking, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest there for 30 minutes. Afterward, prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon, and allow the cheesecake to continue cooling for another 30 minutes.

Let it sit on the counter until fully room temperature (at least three hours) before refrigerating. Luckily, cheesecakes are better the day after they're made, so this process should not and need not be rushed.

Play With Flavors

To balance out the richness of the cream cheese filling, many cheesecakes involve an acidic ingredient. Some recipes use sour cream, while others call for lemon juice. If you opt for the latter, add the zest, as well, for an even brighter lemon flavor that doesn't add moisture (which might affect the consistency of your cheesecake). Don't stop at lemon—all citrus zest does well in cheesecake for this exact reason.

While fruit-based or fruit-topped cheesecakes benefit from citrus, chocolate and other iterations with more intense flavors are best without it. Chocolate cheesecake, then, should get a boost from coffee flavors. Use instant espresso powder (as opposed to liquid coffee or espresso) to ensure your batter doesn't become too thin. Lean on extracts for the same reason—they offer maximum punch with minimal liquid footprint.

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