Four Keys to the Perfect Cheesecake

(Updated From August 13, 2016)

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Cheesecake is my ideal treat in the summertime, but cheesecakes can be finicky creations, and it can be hard to create the perfect cheesecake. That’s why I’m going to help you make the perfect cheesecake this summer. Here are four keys to never forget to make the perfect cheesecake.

Key #1: Bake Your Cheesecake Precisely.

Baking is a game of precision. This couldn’t be more significant than with baking cheesecakes and custards (a pumpkin pie is a custard). If it is under-baked, it’s not set properly. If it’s over-baked, it’s burnt or dry or tough.

There are two elements to correctly baking a recipe: Time and temperature. Both must be correct.

Temperature is critical for successful cheesecakes! Time and oven temperature is important. The internal temperature of your cheesecake should reach 150°F. You need a good oven thermometer and a reliable kitchen thermometer. If you’re in need of a recipe, here is our perfect cheesecake recipe.

  • Most cheesecakes should be baked at 325°F.
  • The target temperature, the internal temperature of your cheesecake, should be 150 to 155°F.
  • At 325°F–with the same recipe, ingredients, and pan—there is a perfect baking time. Find that time and with a reliable oven, you should be able to set your timer for the same time every time. Find that time and record it with your recipe. The specified time in your published recipe is a good starting point.
  • Your oven loses heat when you open the door and it takes time for the heat to recover. When you open the door, adjust your baking time. Get to know your oven so you know how many minutes to add each time you open your oven.

Problem! Your Oven is Not Accurate!

If your oven is set to 325°F, it’s not likely to be at 325°F.

  • Ovens are inaccurate, surprisingly so. You don’t know what the temperature really is without an oven thermometer.
  • The digital readout on your oven that indicates that your oven has reached 325°F does not work. It runs on a timer, not a thermostat. The only way you can know is with an oven thermometer.
  • It will surprise you how long it takes your oven to recover after you open the door. An oven thermometer will tell you.

We consider an oven thermometer essential!

It’s smart to invest a few dollars to know what’s really going on inside your oven. Protect your investment in time and ingredients with an oven thermometer.

Key #2: Know How to Tell When Your Cheesecake is Done

How do you tell when the internal temperature of your cheesecake has reached 150°F? Jiggle it.

  • When the cheesecake is baked, it is jiggly but not soupy. The top of the cheesecake will jiggle as a whole and the center two inches will look softer.
  • If the top is doing anything but just starting to blush a golden color, you have probably over-baked the cheesecake.

It’s not as hard to jiggle-test as you might think. It just takes a little practice.

You can stick a knife or a toothpick near the center to see if it comes out clean. It’s not that reliable and sticking a probe in the cheesecake may start a crack

When do you use a kitchen thermometer to make sure it’s done?

You’ll quickly learn when a cheesecake it perfectly baked but for that first few times, check yourself with a kitchen thermometer. True, you may start a crack in the cheesecake—it’s still perfectly usable—but it’s the only way to know for certain what that jiggle looks like.

Key #3: Don’t Beat Air into Your Filling

Bubbles in the batter cause problems. They expand and then contract causing an uneven texture and surface. Often the bubbles cause cracks.

  • Slowly beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth.
  • It’s easier to make a smooth mixture of the cream cheese if you start with softened cream cheese.
  • Take the cream cheese from the refrigerator at least an hour before mixing or warm it until it is soft in the microwave.

Mix the cheese with the paddle attachment, not the whip.

Key #4: Cool the Cheesecake Properly

Cheesecakes are easier to remove from a pan and there is less chance of damage to the cake after they have cooled slightly.

  • It’s much easier to remove the flexible ring of a silicone pan: Wait ten minutes and peel it off like a candy wrapper.
  • If you are using a metal-ringed pan, let the cheesecake cool for ten minutes and then run a spatula or thin-bladed knife between the cake and the pan to free any sticking spots.
  • If you let the cheesecake cool for any longer than ten minutes, the sugar will set up and tend to stick to the pan. As the cheesecake cools, it will contract slightly. If it sticks to the pan, it may cause cracks.

A slow cool down after baking is best. Some bakers turn the oven off just before the cake is baked and set the oven door ajar to cool more slowly. We don’t believe that is necessary. Just set it on a cooling rack, take ring after it’s cooled for ten minutes and let it cool at room temperature.

Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.

Do not put a warm cheesecake in the freezer or refrigerator to cool. It should cool slowly and a warm cheesecake is likely to sweat in the refrigerator.

Before serving, remove the cheesecake to the counter and let it warm until it is barely cool, just above room temperature.

Return leftovers to the refrigerator. Place bowl or cake cover over the cheesecake. Since the cheesecake is high in fats, it is prone to absorb food odors in the refrigerator.

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