What Is A Ramekin And What Is It Used For?

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Ramekins may be small in stature, but they can make a big difference to your culinary adventures, particularly the presentation of your food. Once used mainly in restaurants to serve desserts, ramekins have made their way into the kitchens of home cooks and food enthusiasts. If you cook for your family or regularly host dinner parties, understanding how to use ramekins effectively can help unlock your creativity in the kitchen. Whether you are planning to perfect the art of soufflé making or want creative options to serve savory treats, we will look at the best ways to use ramekins to cook and serve some of your favorite dishes.

Let's explore the variety of colors, shapes, and materials of ramekin that are available and how best to use them to enhance the presentation of your culinary delights. From chocolate fondants to macaroni cheese, there is a perfect set of ramekins out there for every occasion. Join us as we uncover how to use these diminutive dishes to impress your guests at every event you host. 

What is a ramekin?

As an enthusiastic home cook, you may have heard of ramekins but never been sure exactly what they are. Essentially, ramekins are small bowls with a straight side and often a fluted or decorative edge. They are famously used for making the classic French dessert creme brulée, though they have many other culinary uses. A classic ramekin will be white and around 8 centimeters in diameter, but there are many modern designs available.

The versatile nature of ramekins means stocking up on a few sets in your cupboard is a good idea. They are incredibly useful for cooking or serving all sorts of foods, from baking cheese soufflés to serving nuts and storing leftovers. You can buy them in so many different designs that you may become a bit of a collector once you've purchased your first set.

Ramekins can add a dash of flair to your meal or dinner party, visually enhancing the food on display. By using them creatively, you can add a touch of elegance to your culinary ventures whenever you wish.

Types of ramekins – different materials

When you set out to buy a set of ramekins, you're in for a treat — there are a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and materials to choose from. While a crème brulée in a French bistro is still likely to be served in a classic white cylindrical ramekin — for dining in your house — you can be as playful and modern as you'd like.

The classic material for ramekins is ceramic. These dishes are oven-proof and hold their heat well, ideal for baking. If you are planning to cook dishes in the ramekins and also serve in them too, ceramic is a great option as the dish will still be piping hot when it reaches the table. Glass ones have similar properties, with the added advantage of having all aspects of the dish on display — a great option if you want to show off your top-notch layering skills.

Another modern choice is the silicone ramekin. They are non-stick and offer a degree of flexibility — an excellent option for individual frittatas or quiches where you want to remove them from the dish before serving.

Types of ramekins – different shapes and sizes

Though you will probably want to have a classic set of 6-ounce ramekins in your kitchen for making a perfectly airy soufflé, beyond that, you can afford to have fun and pick up pairs of ramekins in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Mini ramekins are available as small as 2 ounces and are excellent for serving tiny portions of sauces and dips. These work particularly well at dinner parties or family gatherings where you can have mini ramekins as part of the serving platter, or each guest can have their own personal one filled with dressings or condiments.

Larger ramekins are also available, generally up to 12 ounces, and can be used for baking larger desserts or quiches. While most ramekins will be available in white, you certainly don't have to stick to the classic color as your only option. Red heart-shaped ramekins are perfect for Valentine's meals or a romantic occasion, whereas other festive options are available in preparation for the holiday season.

No matter what the occasion or decor you want to match, there will be a set of ramekins out there to suit your needs. The challenge might be stopping yourself from buying too many.

Ramekins vs. bowls

Once you venture into the world of ramekins, one question may cross your mind: Aren't ramekins the same as bowls? Well, technically, yes, since they are both high-sided dishes for serving food. However, the difference between the two lies in their function.

Ramekins are the elegant relatives of the standard bowl. Whereas bowls are used to serve a wide assortment of foods, from breakfast cereal to side salads and soup, ramekins excel when it comes to precision and presentation. They are ideal for cooking individual portions of food, particularly if you are looking to serve them in the same dish, too. For cooking desserts such as the notoriously difficult soufflé, they give better control over temperature compared to cooking in a large baking dish.

Another difference between ramekins and bowls is that virtually all ramekins are oven-proof. Given that they are designed for baking as well as presentation, ramekins should be able to withstand high temperatures, whether made from ceramic, glass, or silicone. However, if you are purchasing specialty ramekins, particularly novelty ones, be sure to check the temperature limits before baking, just in case.

Using ramekins for desserts

Without a doubt, the most traditional use for ramekins is to make classic French desserts. Sweet treats such as creme brulée and soufflés can be taken to the next level presentation-wise by baking and serving them in individual ramekins rather than one big dish that is served into bowls. If you have ever tried to cook a soufflé, you will know that they are famously difficult to get right, and having them rise properly is the biggest challenge. The straight sides of a ramekin encourage the egg-white mixture to increase in height, making a successful soufflé more likely.

At a dinner party, dessert is often the highlight of the evening, and serving individual desserts to your guests is a wonderful way to finish the meal on a high. The elegance of a self-contained bowl of sweet delight will have your dinner companions smiling ear to ear, whether you serve a tricky soufflé, a chocolate pudding, or an apple crumble. It will also simplify your hosting duties, saving you from having to portion out dessert for each person. So next time you are planning a big meal, consider what dessert will lend itself well to ramekins, and give individual desserts a try.

Using ramekins for savory dishes

Although commonly used to serve desserts, ramekins are equally adept at cooking and serving savory dishes and can add a unique touch to your presentation. The French classic gratin dauphinoise is a popular side dish that works brilliantly in a ramekin. Thin slices of potato layered with onions and a rich, creamy cheese sauce, an individual portion suits this dish perfectly, creating an elegant way of serving this traditional side.

A wide variety of egg dishes can also be cooked and served in ramekins, from individual quiches and omelets to the classic brunch dish of shirred eggs. A ramekin creates the perfect individual portion for these dishes, allowing them to cook quickly and evenly.

Try serving individual portions of pasta bake or macaroni cheese for a creative alternative. These comfort food classics, traditionally served family style from a large bowl, can get a smart upgrade by serving them up in matching ramekins. Next time you are serving Sunday brunch, get the ramekins out and give your traditional meal a modern twist.

Using ramekins for soups

Soup is not exactly the trendiest of appetizers to serve at a dinner party unless you are having a 1970s theme, but if you serve soup in ramekins, suddenly you've got an elegant, modern starter that will surprise and delight your guests.

If you fancy serving ramekin soup, one of the best options has to be French onion. This comforting, umami-rich dish will look wonderful served in individual dishes, with a cheesy crouton served atop each one. Broiling the cheese before serving them straight to the table will fill the room with the delicious aroma of the soup and get mouths watering before your guests tuck in.

Another sophisticated option is a seafood bisque — the vibrant red color will look stunning in white ramekins, and the individual portions allow you to show your creative side with garnishes such as a swirl of cream or a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Whatever soup you decide to serve, your guests will be impressed by the ingenuity of serving this retro entree in a unique and unexpected fashion.

Using ramekins for sauces

Though ramekins are at their most useful when used for both cooking and serving a dish, they are often used as a fancy way of presenting accompaniments to the main event. Having a selection of ramekins to serve sauces, dips, and condiments can come in useful, especially at a family gathering or dinner parties.

If you are serving sophisticated appetizers or canapés such as seafood, you may need thousand island dressing or aioli to go alongside them. To keep mess to a minimum, serving small portions of the sauce alongside the appetizers in mini ramekins will be a stylish solution.

Similarly, at a family meal or garden barbecue, a selection of ramekins will allow you to offer a variety of sauces and condiments to go along with the burger and chicken wings. The depth of a ramekin is the perfect height to hold enough sauce without it spilling over the side. Yet again, the humble ramekin comes to the rescue to take your presentation up a notch.

Using ramekins for serving snacks

Take your snack game to a new level by serving up your favorite nibbles in ramekins. Whether you are serving olives before dinner, peanuts during the ball game, or pretzels on movie night, using ramekins will allow everyone to have their own portion and avoid contamination. Pairs of matching ramekins are perfect for coupling up chips with dip, hummus with crudités, or tortilla chips with salsa.

One great advantage of ramekin snacks is that they encourage mindful eating and portion control. With everyone eating from the same family-sized bowl, you have no idea how much you have eaten and could easily eat more than you plan to. A study involving school-aged children showed that larger bowls led to them eating 52% more cereal on average than eating from a smaller bowl (via The Journal of Pediatrics). If the same phenomenon applies to adults, eating from small ramekins could have a big impact on the amount of snack food we consume.

Use ramekins for individual pot pies

If you're looking for a way to spruce up your midweek comfort food, try serving individual pot pies in ramekins for an instant upgrade. These personalized bowls of bubbling filling topped with golden flaky pastry are just as comforting as a large pie but with a unique twist on presentation.

Individual pies also allow you to tailor each dish to suit different family members. If one person loves carrots but not peas, adjusting the fillings in each ramekin is easy. Children can even get involved in making their own pie filling, which might inspire them to get interested in cooking from a young age.

The toppings for your ramekin pot pies are also up for variation if the classic puff pastry lid is not a favorite. Mashed potato or sweet potato make great alternatives, or you could even use oats to make a savory crumble. Once your pies have been assembled and cooked in the oven, serve them straight to the table in their ramekins. Just be sure to warn everyone how hot they will be, to protect little fingers.

Where to buy ramekins

Setting out to find ramekins to furnish your kitchen cupboards is an exciting prospect. If you have never bought ramekins before, you will likely want to visit a store so that you can get a feel for the size and weight of them. Local department stores and kitchenware stores are a good place to start — they will have a wide variety of designs to suit all budgets and will allow you to get a feel for what styles of ramekins you like. If you are looking for something more unique, craft or pottery stores may sell handmade ramekins that will add character to your table.

Once you have an idea of what styles of ramekin will suit your kitchen and dining table, there is a huge variety of online options to cater to your every need. Websites such as Amazon and Wayfair sell a range of classic and modern styles and have the convenience of delivering them straight to your door.

For a more bespoke option, Etsy may have what you need and will allow you to support a smaller business in the process. No matter what types of ramekins you are looking for, there are plenty of purchasing options that allow you to kit out your kitchen and start elevating your presentation and dining experience.

Buy Yachi Black Ramekins from Amazon for $15.80.

Buy Le Creuset 7-ounce stackable ramekin from Wayfair for $17.95.