May 5, 2011
Ramekins and custard cups are vehicles for dishes such as crème brûlée, soufflés and custards. They are typically single-serving dishes that go directly from a heat source to the table. For all practical purposes, ramekins and custard cups are interchangeable. There are subtle differences, but they essentially perform the same tasks with slight variations.
A ramekin, or ramequin, is a small ceramic or porcelain vessel used for food preparation and serving. Most are white glazed with ribbing around the exterior. Ramekins may have straight sides or a slightly fluted edge. Soufflé ramekins come in various sizes. They are deep cups with a small surface area that allows soufflés to puff and rise during baking. High-sided ramekins are also commonly used for serving condiments and other small accompaniments to a meal. Ramekins for dishes like crème brûlée are shallow with a large surface area that facilitates the burning of sugar with a torch.
Cooking with Ramekins
The ceramic used in making ramekins allows exposure to high heat. They are able to withstand the high heat of a brûlée torch, for instance. Glass or Pyrex cannot tolerate direct flame. Most ceramic ramekins are oven-, microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe, but always check the manufacturer's label.
A custard cup is a small glass or Pyrex bowl used for food preparation and serving. Most are clear glass with smooth exteriors. Custard cups are rounded and have fluted edges, much like a teacup without a handle. Like ramekins, they come in various sizes, though most are single-serving sized and hold about 6 ounces. Custard cups are deep and well-suited to baking gelatinous dishes like custard and flan.
Baking in Custard Cups
Pyrex is a durable, tempered glass product commonly used in bakeware. It is more resistant to breakage than blown glass, and can withstand relatively high heat. Glass custard cups can be baked as well, but Pyrex is generally preferred because it is less breakable. Custards are best baked in a bain-marie, or water bath, to prevent burning on the bottoms and crust forming on the outside before the center is cooked. To make a bain-marie, place filled custard cups in a high-sided baking pan and fill the pan midway up the cups with boiling water before placing in the oven. Like ceramic ramekins, many Pyrex custard cups are oven-, microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe, but check the manufacturer's label.
Pyrex: About Pyrex