What the heck is a ramekin? It’s typically a circular glazed ceramic dish with a fluted exterior. Like so many other culinary terms, it comes from the French and refers to the tiniest version of the souffle dish made in the same style. These dishes may be little, but they are made to take the heat. You can bake directly in them, which is why they are often used to make custards, souffles—even individual servings of macaroni and cheese. You’ll often find them mentioned in cookbooks by icons like Jacques Pépin and Julia Child.
Ramekins are also the only vessel in which you should make a creme brulee. The torch used to brulee those cremes gives off serious heat, and the ramekin won’t break even under a direct flame. While you can prepare the above-mentioned dishes without a set of ramekins, the end results are far from pretty. A glob of souffle or a blob of brulee is nowhere near as appealing as a neatly served, individually prepared dish. So if you like to entertain, you may want to pick up a set. Ramekins are inexpensive: You can get six for under $10. Typically a ramekin can hold about 4 ounces, so on their off nights from cradling creme brulee you can use them for portion controlling everything from ice cream to pudding.