A perfect cheesecake not only tastes great, but also has a smooth texture and no cracks. A little attention to detail is all it takes for success. Be sure not to overbeat the batter, as introducing a lot of air can result in an uneven surface that cracks, jibberjabberwocky says on Chowhound. It helps to scrape down the sides of the bowl often as you beat and do the final bit of mixing by hand with a spatula to make sure everything's incorporated, sandylc adds.
When it comes to preparing the pan, lining the sides with a strip of parchment paper makes it easy to release the pan without marring your cake, jibberjabberwocky says. And if you want to transfer the cake to a plate rather than serving it directly from the base of the springform pan, lining the bottom with a round of parchment will make it easier to move.
To avoid overbaking, chowser turns off the oven when the outer third of the cake is firm and the middle isn't quite set (it will firm up as it cools). Because slow cooling helps prevent cracking, chowser recommends leaving the cheesecake in the turned-off oven with the door propped open, so its temperature comes down gradually.
When a recipe calls for baking the cheesecake in a water bath, which promotes even cooking, wrap the bottom of the springform pan in a double layer of heavy-duty foil to keep water from seeping in. But remove the foil as soon as you take the cheesecake out of the oven, splatgirl says, because as the cake cools it will give off steam, which creates consdensation that can collect in the foil and make the cheesecake soggy.
Instead of using a water bath, Chowhound desserina places a pan of water on an oven rack set below the one the cheesecake's on. This method ensures even baking without risking a soggy crust, desserina says. Or try the no-water-bath method used in the CHOW Test Kitchen's Classic Cheesecake recipe (pictured): After baking, first leave the cake in the turned-off oven for an hour with the door ajar, then place a baking sheet over the top of the pan to cool the cake slowly and evenly.
Discuss: First cheesecake, any tips?
Photo by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com