Cheese Storage 101: How to Store and Serve Cheese

How you store your cheese can make a difference between a moldy wedge and a fabulously funky serving.

a variety of cheese on a red backdrop with parchment paper and a food container
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The cheese board has been a party food superstar for a while now, and it’s easy to see why. Whether it’s the centerpiece of your appetizer table or the main course, a good cheese board is easy to assemble (no cooking required), gorgeous, and a great excuse to try a bunch of delicious dairy. But should you serve cheese straight from the fridge or let it warm up a little bit? And what to do with the half-eaten chunks after the party is over? We spoke to four cheese experts to get the lowdown on serving, storing, and enjoying cheese. 

How to Choose Cheese for a Cheeseboard

a variety of cheese on different wooden cheese boards
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

When planning a cheese board, select a diverse array of cheeses that complement each other. “I always think about balance,” says Julia Hallman, owner of Formaggio Kitchen, a Boston-area cheese shop once frequented by Julia Child. “You have to expect people to eat the cheeses in different orders so nothing can overpower everything else.” 

a variety of cheeses on a wooden board
Serious Eats / Liz Thorpe

The next rule of planning a great cheese board is to look for a variety of cheeses (but don’t go overboard; remember you have to store the leftovers). If you’re planning for just a few guests, pick out one hard cheese and one soft cheese for your board; that’s all you need, says Kate Truini of New Curds on the Block, a cheese shop in Connecticut. Adding a few more guests? Add a blue cheese or a washed rind. As you add cheeses, look for a variety of milk types as well. The last piece of advice is to choose what you already love. Hallman says, “I've found that the most successful cheese boards are specially curated by the host as a way to show off their top favorites.”

How to Store Cheese

Moisture Content Matters 

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Moisture content is the most important factor when it comes to storing cheese and, luckily, it’s pretty straightforward. If your cheese is soft, sticky, runny, or gooey, then the moisture content is high, and its shelf life will be shorter. If it’s firm, hard, or crumbly, the moisture content is on the lower end of the spectrum, and, with proper storage, could last several weeks or months. That said, no matter how moist your cheese is, if you don’t treat it right, you’ll be in for a mess much sooner than necessary. Jill Allen, director of product excellence at Tillamook County Creamery Association, notes that while moisture content dictates how cheese is stored, there is one rule to follow regardless of whether it’s a sticky brie or a firm cheddar. “Do not store all cheese the same way—hard, soft, and crumbled cheese all require different approaches to storage,” she says. “But a few things remain constant, like storing your cheese in the coolest and darkest part of your refrigerator.” 

Wrap It Up 

wrapping cheese in parchment paper and aluminum foil
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Cheese is continuously expelling moisture as it ages, so trapping this moisture against the surface of the cheese (we’re looking at you, plastic wrap) is a recipe for the proliferation of mold—the bad kind. Unpleasant flavors can also begin to develop as gasses produced by the aging cheese start to build up. All of the experts we spoke to highlighted cheese’s living nature. Letting cheese age gracefully entails allowing it to breathe and expel moisture while preventing it from drying out too quickly. The best protection is made up of two levels: a breathable layer followed by a less permeable layer.

Truini of New Curds on the Block wraps almost all the cheese she sends out the door in specialty cheese paper like this from Formaticum, which features a perforated layer and a wax-coated layer. The perforated layer allows moisture to escape the surface of the cheese, while the wax layer slows the process of total dry-out. She says if your cheesemonger wraps your cheese in paper like this, it’s a good idea to reuse it as long as you can.

Not sure if you have the right paper? Try to pull it apart; cheese paper will separate into two distinct layers. No cheese paper? No problem—wax or parchment paper will do in a pinch. Ashley LaPlante of Rind, a cheese shop in Rhode Island, also recommends the Formaticum paper, but she also suggests a hack: first, wrap your cheese in a layer of parchment paper, then a layer of foil. The parchment paper is slightly breathable, so humidity won’t build up on the surface of the cheese, and the layer of foil keeps it from drying out completely. I asked Truini if it was ever okay to use plastic wrap to store cheese, and she conceded that for hard, dry cheeses at risk of drying out completely, wrapping them in plastic could buy you a few more good days. 

Keep It Cool (and Slightly Humid)

Cheese that dries out too quickly becomes waxy and can form a hard, inedible skin. This can happen particularly quickly when an exposed piece of cheese is blasted by the cold fridge air. When choosing a spot in your fridge for storage, look for protection from the drying fans. “The fridge is a natural dehumidifier,” Formaggio's Hallman explains, so she packs all of her cheese-paper-wrapped cheeses in food storage containers before popping them in the fridge. If you’re lucky enough to have a cheese drawer, that’s another great option. The crisper drawer also has humidity control, so don’t be afraid to let your cheeses get up close and personal with your veggies. “The cheese or crisper drawers work well, as the temperature is stable and light doesn't penetrate the cheese as well,” says Jill Allen of Tillamook.  

Overall, the trick is to let your cheese dry out ever so slowly, and the layered approach is the best way to accomplish that. Truini emphasized that, while moisture and mold can make cheese inedible, letting your cheese get a little dry isn’t the end of the world. She suggests grating it for mac and cheese or grilled cheese if it’s at the point where it’s too dry to enjoy on its own. Allen also notes that the cleaner your fridge, the better off your cheese will be. “A fridge with other moldy foods can release additional spores into the air, affecting the cheese flavor negatively,” she says. 

For Fresh Cheese, Turn to Food Storage Containers

a piece of goat cheese in a small food storage container on a red surface.
For cheese like brie or mozzarella, turn to tight-fitting food storage containers.Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

There are some cheeses that may need special treatment, such as the very fresh and very creamy (like chevre or brie), which are not aged long enough to protect them for long-term storage. For these, the best move is to find a food storage container that fits around the cheese snugly and press the cheese in so that there is as little air in the container as possible. For brie and other soft, bloomy rind cheeses, press parchment or wax paper against the cut edges of the cheese before storing it in a container. These soft cheeses have a shorter shelf life, so once you start digging into that batch of fresh cheese, you only have about five days to finish it. 

Keep Brined Cheese In Their Brine

If you buy cheese that comes in brine, like Bocconcini or feta, make sure to hold on to as much of the brine as you can for storing the leftovers. Truini warns that sometimes the brine can start to smell “off” before the cheese has gone bad. She recommends washing off any off-putting brine and evaluating the cheese independently before you discard it.

Don’t Toss It—Trim It (Sometimes) 

Even when storage conditions are ideal, that long-forgotten wedge in the back of your fridge may have developed a few unfortunate characteristics over time, but don’t assume it needs to be tossed without giving it a second chance.

First, look it over for any unfamiliar moldy spots—trim these off, taking a bit of extra cheese on all sides to be sure you’ve gotten everything. Next, feel for dry, crusty areas, and use a knife to slice these away and discard them. “Once you trim your cheese, give it a taste! If it is still pleasing, then it is still good,” says Hallman. That said, if you have a soft cheese that has moldy splotches, it’s probably best practice to not eat it. “If your soft cheese has foreign mold growing on the cheese, I suggest tossing the cheese, as the mold veins are more adapt to penetrate the entire cheese past and affect the flavor very poorly,” says Allen. 

A Few Tips for Storing Cheddar

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Jill Allen of Tillamook—a West Coast fine purveyor of cheddar— has a few tips for cheddar-specific storage. She says the block of cheddar in your fridge can be stored for up to ten months, “however, you can store it longer if you maintain the temperature and prevent light penetrations that can cause light oxidation.” Like other harder, less moist cheeses, she recommends double wrapping. “Wrap first in parchment paper, cheese paper, or beeswax reusable paper, which allows the cheese to breathe, and then again in a loosely fitted plastic wrap or tinfoil to allow some breathing room for the cheese.”

And if you’ve got a long-forgotten block of cheddar in the fridge and notice a slimy texture and/or rank smells, it’s probably time to toss it. “Signs of a cheddar ‘gone bad’ could include aromas from storage that have attached themselves to your cheese, such as onion, staleness, and strong ammoniated, musty aromas that have penetrated deep inside the paste of your cheese,” says Allen. “Texture signals of a cheddar gone bad may include a very soft mushy paste that is slimy and smells bad.”  

How to Serve Cheese

Or, How to Temper and Plate Cheese

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Cold temperatures dull our senses of taste and smell and can give the cheese a harder, waxier texture. So, if you want to bring out the best in your cheese, give it a chance to come to room temperature before you serve it. “Temper your cut cheese after removing it from the refrigerator,” says Allen. “The cool refrigerator will hinder flavors and textures. I recommend to only temper the cut portion that you will be eating or serving, as tempering the entire block or wheel of cheese each time will change the textures and flavors the more times it is brought to room temp.” 

An hour is usually the perfect amount of time, but you may need less in warm environments (like a summer picnic) or for super tiny slivers of cheese. If your kitchen is cooler, give yourself more time to get your cheese temps up. Keep everything covered while it warms up; you can tent your cheese board with plastic wrap or leave your wedges resting under a bowl while you wait. Soft and medium cheeses will get stickier as they warm up, so avoid a tight wrap. 

If you’re thinking ahead to how you’ll store the cheese, keep in mind that exposed surfaces will dry out much more quickly than intact ones, so don’t slice, crumble, or schmear more than a few sample pieces. Serve cheese with the appropriate knives (like this all-purpose set) and perhaps invest in a nice wooden serving board or even just use a wooden cutting board

FAQs

How do you know if cheese has gone bad?

“If you have a cheese that gets pushed to the back and forgotten, it is important to inspect it,” says Formaggio’s Hallman. “Surface mold can be scraped or cut off revealing a happy cheese underneath. Once you trim your cheese, give it a taste! If it is still pleasing, then it is still good.” Unpleasant ammonia smells begin to crop up on cheese that is past its prime. If your cheese reaches this point, it may be time to say goodbye. While surface mold is generally not a problem, beware of any new mold that appears on crumbled, shredded, or very soft cheeses—this mold cannot be safely removed and may pose a contamination risk.

What’s the best way to use up leftover cheese?

“There are so many ways to use up leftover cheese!” says LaPlante of Rind. “Mac and cheese is always a good go-to, toss it on a burger or in a grilled cheese, make an au gratin veggie dish, make fondue or another cheese dip, put it in some soup or a sauce to add body and flavor...the list goes on!” Once Kate Truini has amassed a sufficient amount of cheese-ends, she sends them into the food processor to create a one-of-a-kind shredded cheese blend that she can use for whatever she’s making. The drier cheeses grate easily without gumming up the machine.

What type of cheese knives do you need?

When I asked the cheesemongers what kinds of cheese knives they recommend, a few shapes rose to the top. For soft cheeses, a very thin blade is useful for gliding through cheese without becoming a gooey mess. Look for one with an offset blade for easy maneuverability. For firm cheeses that have a tendency to crumble, choose a grana knife, which has a wide, teardrop shape. To use this knife, stab the point into the top of the cheese and gently twist until some chunks of cheese fall loose. For artful serving, Truini suggests breaking off a couple of pieces of cheese and then serving the wedge along with the knife for guests to continue to serve themselves. A great multipurpose blade combines a medium-thickness knife with a forked tip for transferring cheese from board to plate. The last thing you’ll need to round out your collection is a great spreader for those soft, smearable cheeses. 

Why We're the Experts

How a Kitchen Scale Can Make You a Better Baker (and Cook)

We broke down why a kitchen scale is a key piece of cooking gear and included recommendations for our favorite tested scales.

Measuring salt on a digital kitchen scale.
Serious Eats / Emily Dryden

While professional bakers have long sung the praises of baking by weight, some home bakers may still be wary of adopting kitchen scales as their primary measuring tool. And we get it—if you’re used to baking by volume using cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons, switching to a scale can seem unnecessary. However, if you’re not using a kitchen scale yet, you’re missing out on a tool that will make your baked goods better, your pickles crunchier (it's essential for figuring out the ratio of ingredients to brine), and your dishwasher emptier. 

As a long-time professional baker, I consider my kitchen scale to be one of my most important kitchen tools, and you should too. As part of my quest to convert many a kitchen-scale nonbeliever, I also reached out to David Johnson, kitchen manager at the Rhode Island School of Design (and former executive chef at Bayberry Beer Hall) and Benjamin Stroud, prep cook at the eddy bar in Providence, Rhode Island, to get their input on how they think scales benefit their kitchen endeavors.

Scales are Great for Baking—and Beyond 

Another complaint I often hear is that baking is soooo precise that there’s no room for error. It’s true that baking requires more precision, so it makes sense to use a precision tool to do a precise task. Rather than counting out multiple cups of flour or adding 1/4 to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon because your recipe calls for 1 3/4 teaspoons of something, you can just use a scale. I remember as a kid using something like 16 quarter cups of flour to make my dad’s birthday cake because the quarter cup measure was the only one that fit in the flour jar. I also remember losing count, and starting over, moving the flour from one bowl to another (oh look—another dirty dish!). 

Other precise kitchen tasks can benefit from using a scale, like fermenting vegetables, for example. If you’re the type to lacto-ferment pickles or make your own sauerkraut, a scale ensures finding the proper ratio of vegetables and liquid to salt.

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

And if you like making jam, a scale is necessary for weighing it to determine how much sugar to add. I usually like to make a quick and tasty “fridge jam” (not shelf-stable) by adding about 60% of the weight of the fruit in sugar before cooking it to 220°F. Chef Stroud says, “If I’m making something I know I’m going to want to recreate, I definitely pull out a scale and a pad of paper. If you know you have, say, 20 grams of salt in something and it tastes just a little too salty, it’s very easy to look at it and say, ‘Let’s drop it to 17 grams and go from there.’ Teaspoons and tablespoons are inconsistent and there isn’t a lot of gradation between them.” 

Using a Scale Makes Recipe Conversion Easy 

Another advantage of using a scale is that you never have to switch between units (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons) which means you don’t need to learn any conversions, and you can always bake exactly as much product as you want. Did you know there are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, and 16 tablespoons in a cup? You will need to know (or look up) all of these equivalencies and more if you want to accurately halve or double a recipe written in volume. But if your recipe is in grams, you can easily adjust it in a few minutes with some basic math.

Using a Kitchen Scale = Less Dirty Dishes 

One of the biggest complaints I hear about cooking and baking at home is the number of dirty dishes —but there’s good news: a scale can help you cut down on this. Instead of getting out your liquid measuring cups, dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, and so on, you can weigh everything right into your mixing bowl. I find this especially helpful for ingredients like honey and peanut butter, which often cling to measuring spoons and cups. You can also prevent cross-contamination in your ingredient containers; no dipping the same measuring cup in the flour, then the nuts, then the sugar… 

How to Choose a Kitchen Scale 

the oxo kitchen scale underneath the escali kitchen scale
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Our favorite scales, from OXO and Escali, offer incredible accuracy across a range of weights, but make sure you choose the right scale for the job (e.g. if you’re measuring a small amount of yeast, scales might struggle to register it). A good rule of thumb is to refrain from using your scale to measure any amount smaller than 10 times its smallest measurement. For example, if your scale measures in grams, you wouldn’t want to use it for any amount smaller than 10 grams. When you’re measuring powerful ingredients such as yeast, salt, and baking powder or soda, each gram matters —rounding errors can swing your measurements too far off to be useful. 

I keep a set of measuring spoons on hand for my smallest measurements, but you could also use a jeweler’s scale if you have one; these are accurate down to the 0.1 gram (but I wouldn’t use one to measure anything smaller than 1 gram). The flip side of a little scale is that they usually have a small platform and a low maximum weight. If you’re only going to invest in one scale (like one of our winners, which were accurate and versatile), look for accuracy down to a gram and keep using measuring spoons for small quantities of ingredients.

Tips for Scale Cleaning and Care

Cleaning the inside of a digital kitchen scale.
Serious Eats / Emily Dryden

For basic clean-up, you can clean your scale just like you clean your counters. A quick wipe-down with a damp soapy sponge followed by a spray of food-safe sanitizer should be enough to recover from most projects. Most kitchen scales are relatively water-resistant, but avoid soaking your scale in liquid. Chef Johnson notes that his beloved Escali scale took a swim in the dish sink, but was restored to life after a 48-hour drying period with the batteries out.  

If you start to notice a buildup of debris in the cracks and seams around buttons, spray your scale with a little cleaning product, and use a toothpick or cotton swab to remove sediment from the details. Some scales (like our favorite from OXO)

feature removable platforms that you can hand-wash separately in the sink. This is a great feature for when you’re weighing food out directly onto your scale’s surface like portioning bread dough into evenly-sized rolls.

FAQs

Should I measure in grams or ounces and pounds?

Some of the benefits of using a scale are lost when you measure in ounces instead of grams. All of those simple numbers and easy math? Gone when you're dealing with a quantity like one lb, 14.5 ounces. If I’m making a recipe for the first time, and it happens to be in ounces, I will happily switch the units on my scale and carry on as the author intended. If the recipe is a keeper, I will quickly convert it to grams using an online calculator. I keep a notebook in the kitchen for this purpose.

How do I convert a recipe from volume to weight?

There are lots of resources online to convert recipes. I use this one, but it does require you to whip out a calculator and multiply the given unit by the amount in your recipe. Online calculators make this job even easier. Googling the phrase “how many grams of honey is in 3 tablespoons” led me to several accurate answers (63 grams). I like to write out the entire ingredient list in the same order as the recipe author (with my new gram measurements, of course) so I don’t get lost along the way. 

Do you really need to bake with a scale?

Many bakers continue to use volumetric measurements for their baking with great success. The key to doing so is to be incredibly consistent with your procedures. You should ideally sift your flour before measuring it, and gently spoon it into your measuring cup. Overfill it a bit before using a smooth flat object like an offset spatula to level it off. You will need to repeat that process for all of your dry ingredients while keeping an accurate count of what you’ve added. You also want to make sure that your measuring implements are accurate; there is a surprising amount of variation across different brands and designs. The reason for all of this fuss is that many ingredients can expand or compress. Once you spoon your flour into the measuring cup, for instance, you could tap it on the counter, use your spoon to push it into the corners, and probably fit a few more tablespoons of flour into the cup. It would still be “a cup of flour” but it would certainly not be the same amount as you put in originally. When faced with this level of uncertainty, I know that I choose to switch to a scale (and I even convert recipes originally written in volume to grams before I start baking). 

How can I tell if my scale is accurate?

An easy way to test the accuracy of your kitchen scale is to weigh the same item multiple times. It should register the same weight no matter the placement on the scale or amount of weight already on the scale. Zero your scale with something like a bowl on it. Scoot the bowl around the platform, take it off, put it back on. Your scale should stay at “0” at all times that the bowl is on the scale (as long as the bowl isn’t resting against any other nearby items). If it fluctuates by even a few grams, see if you can tighten up any connections, and if not, it may be time to replace your scale. If you want to test the calibration, you will need something with a known weight. There are scale calibration weights you can purchase, or you can use a few new nickels. They weigh five grams each, so stack up a few and test your scale’s accuracy and calibration.

I Was a Professional Baker—This Is My Favorite Bench Scraper

This bench scraper is sharp and has a unique handle that makes it ultra-easy to hold and use.

Mundial bench scraper on a cutting board cutting butter with Seriously Good badge on it
Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck

When I was working at a large production bakery, there was one bench scraper that was treasured above all other tools in the kitchen. Known only as the “good bench scraper,” it had a shift schedule as rigorous as any employee: it spent the early hours of the morning dividing English muffins, then it got passed off to the prep baker who used it to cube pound after pound of butter for scones and biscuits. Then, the croissant baker held onto it for a few hours, neatly trimming their batons into perfectly laminated rectangles. Next, it returned to the bread bakers, who spent hours with it, dividing huge masses of dough into loaves, baguettes, rolls, and bagels; it also scraped the wooden table clean between each variety. Then back over to prep, where it neatly chopped perfectly triangular scones, and finally over to the bread baker, who would use it to gently lift partially-proofed portions of baguette dough off of wooden boards to be shaped. Despite having at least eight other scrapers at our disposal, the entire team always knew about the whereabouts of this one. 

The “good bench scraper,” it turns out, is officially known as the Mundial W5697 Dough Cutter/Scraper. Despite its vaulted status in the bakery, no one knew where our favorite scraper came from or even who made it until it fell into the mixer and perished. The blade survived the tragic accident (please share a moment of silence for the bread dough we lost alongside the shards of handle), and it was then we finally noticed that our favorite tool had a brand name: Mundial. The bakery immediately ordered several, and the daily bench scraper journey/power struggle came to an end. I eventually moved on from that bakery and bought one for myself. I’ve also given them as gifts to fellow bakers and even included one in a still-life drawing I made for an art class. 

So why did this one tool get such preference? What made it the best? Why did I draw it as part of a still life? I’ll tell you why.

The Mundial Bench Scraper is Sharp

Mundial Bench Scraper
Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck

Bench scrapers are simple tools, so achieving excellence in just two key areas led the Mundial to be a universal favorite. The most important quality this scraper has going for it is its sharp, slender blade. Mind you, it’s not sharp enough to injure you (nor will it require maintenance from a whetstone), but sharp enough to glide easily through cold blocks of butter or sticky piles of sourdough. In production baking, a recipe may require division into dozens or hundreds of pieces (and it’s just one of many recipes you’re making in a day), so making that task a little easier can lighten your load considerably. The blade is also much sturdier than a knife’s, allowing you to chop up dough right on your scale’s metal top or scrape along your work surface—activities that you would (hopefully) never think to do with your freshly-sharpened santoku

The two tasks that I think having a sharp bench scraper is most essential for are:

  • Dividing dough with multiple textures - if you want to glide through sticky scone dough without getting your blade caught on tough dried fruit, you will be very thankful for this tool. 
  • Lifting delicate doughs - if you bake delicate, wet doughs such as sourdoughs and baguettes, you know the pain of getting them stuck to the bench and watching them deflate as you work to get them off. The sharp blade and nimble handle of the Mundial can deftly dislodge your dough from your work surface.

The Handle’s Unique Shape Makes it Easy to Maneuver

Mundial Bench Scraper
Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck

The handle shape is the other thing that this scraper gets right. Our winner for best bench scraper, from OXO, has a similarly sharp blade, but a bulkier (IMO) handle. The Mundial’s handle dips slightly at the top, centering your hand on the blade without excess material in the way. The thinner profile of the Mundial’s handle is advantageous when sliding it under larger masses of dough and also when using it to chop or divide taller items; the handle doesn’t encroach on the height of the blade. 

The Takeaway

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Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck

While a bench scraper might not get all the attention that other kitchen gadgets and tools do (hello, chef’s knife), it’s a truly useful tool that can scrape, cut and maneuver ingredients. It’s sharp but not nearly as dangerous or delicate as the blade of a knife, and great for moving material while being much more precise than other scraping tools such as spatulas and bowl scrapers. The Mundial bench scraper excels in each of these areas, and will always be the one I reach for.

FAQs

What is a bench scraper good for?

A bench scraper is well-suited to many kitchen tasks that involve cutting/chopping/dividing, lifting, and moving— the more of these you’re doing at once, the more you’ll love your bench scraper. For example, when you’re making biscuits, you’ll use your scraper to cube the cold butter, fold and scrape the dough onto itself, shape biscuit dough into squares, and transfer the biscuits onto a pan. If you bake infrequently, you could use a combination of other tools to complete these tasks, but once you get comfortable with a bench scraper in your hand, you’ll never want to bake without one. It’s also great for moving chopped vegetables to a bowl or pan and cleaning debris off a cutting board or counter between tasks.

What’s the difference between a bench scraper and a bowl scraper?

A bench scraper features a metal blade with a plastic or wooden handle. It is stiff and sharp enough to cut through dough or scrape debris off of a countertop. Because of their rectangular shape, bench scrapers are most useful on flat surfaces. Conversely, a bowl scraper is a flexible piece of plastic with a curved edge that is useful for removing materials from bowls and scraping them clean. Because of their flexibility, bowl scrapers can conform to fit many shapes of round containers. Both bench scrapers and bowl scrapers fit comfortably in your hand, and can be useful for expanding the surface area of your hand when lifting and transferring different materials. 

What are other names for bench scrapers?

Bench knives, dough knives, dough scrapers, and dough cutters all refer to the same item. “Bench knife” is the other name that I’ve heard the most in my cooking and baking career. 

We Tested 11 Different Bundt Pans—Three Stood Out

We tested 11 bundt pans to find out which were durable and baked golden cakes that released easily.

Bundt pans
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Based on a Jewish immigrant’s ceramic pan that came with her from Germany, the bundt pan gets its name from the German celebration or “gathering” cakes, i.e., bundkuchen, that were baked in it. This style of pan features an inner core that helps conduct heat into the center of the cake, as well as intricate designs that imprint onto the surface. Bundt pans as we know them today were first mass-produced by the brand Nordic Ware, but while they may have popularized the pan and put a copyright on the name, the market for “fluted tube pans” (as competitors call their products) is flush with offerings. There are pans made from aluminum (both cast and formed), steel, and even silicone. Nonstick coatings are commonplace due to the intricacy of the shapes and patterns, but we also tested a few alternatives, such as ceramic.

And since these cakes are often served minimally adorned (maybe with a dusting of cocoa powder or a thin glaze, if anything), any flaw on the surface is on display, making an even bake and a clean release especially important. We tested 11 bundt pans to find options that baked evenly, released easily, and resulted in a stunning cake.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Bundt Pan: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan

The dramatic shape of this pan immediately caught our eye, and the resulting cakes and jello molds did not disappoint. Made of heavy cast aluminum, this pan evenly browned our olive-oil cake, and its non-stick coating held up well to our scratch test and released cakes and jello cleanly. Nordic Ware makes cast aluminum bundt pans, like this one, in a wide variety of designs.

The Best Bundt Pan If You’re Short on Space: Nordic Ware Formed-Aluminum Bundt Pan

This classic, aluminum bundt pan performed extremely well in all our tests. Its standard 12-cup capacity and traditional, attractive design make it a perfect choice for those looking for one pan to do it all.

The Best Alternative Nonstick Bundt Pan: casaWare Fluted Cake Pan Ceramic Coated NonStick

If you’re looking for a bundt pan without a traditional, chemical-based non-stick coating, avoid silicone (which is floppy and bakes unevenly) and instead choose this ceramic-coated pan. It didn’t distribute heat quite as evenly as our top picks, but it released the cake and jello mold easily, and we were still impressed with its performance.

The Tests

pouring batter for olive oil cake into casaware pan
Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck
  • Cake Test: We baked a double batch of olive oil cake in each pan after preparing the pan according to this method. We noted how easy it was to maneuver the pan, and how evenly the pan browned the cake's exterior. We also noted if the cake baked for a notably long or short amount of time. Then, we examined how well the pans imparted their shape and pattern onto the finished product.
  • Jello Mold Test (Winners-Only): We made an old-school Jello salad in our favorite pans to see how well they handled and released the delicate, jiggly substance. We whipped up four batches of this gelatin salad recipe (adapted to raspberry flavor due to a tragic lack of lime sherbet in December), refrigerated each overnight, and loosened each one by plunging the outside of the pan into hot water for 10 seconds before turning the finished product out onto a plate.
  • Durability Test: We scratched each pan lightly with a butter knife to mimic the act of removing the cake from the pan with a knife. We also rubbed the pan with the scratchy side of a sponge to note any damage to the non-stick coating through normal washing. During other tests, we noted whether the compromised coating affected performance.
  • Usability and Cleanup Tests: Throughout testing, we noted how easy the pans were to maneuver and whether their handles (if present) were helpful while the pan was right-side up (full of batter or jello) as well as upside down during the removal process. We also examined how easy the pans were to clean.

What We Learned

Aluminum Pans Baked and Browned the Most Evenly

A cake baked in the Nordic Ware aluminum bundt pan
Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck

Different pan materials conduct heat differently. Since the surface of the cake is visible in the final product, our favorite pans were the ones that browned the cake evenly all over. We baked each cake until the internal temperature reached 200° Fahrenheit, stabilizing pans by placing them on a baking sheet (which, it should be noted, conducts heat on its own). We found that aluminum pans, such as the two Nordic Ware models, and some of the steel pans conducted heat the most evenly and did not create hotspots. Our least favorite models (including the Trudeau Structured Silicone Fluted Bundt pan, 8 1/2 cup made of silicone and the Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-stick 9-Inch Fluted Tube Pan made of steel showed excessive browning on the top tips of the cake where the pan rested on the sheet pan, while simultaneously looking pale and underbaked near the inner ring. This issue was most glaring in the silicone pans, both of which featured a steel rim to stabilize the mold.

Looks Mattered

closeup shot of nordic ware anniversary bundt pan with other bundts around them
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

This metric may be a bit more subjective, but since all bundt pans feature some decorative elements, we thought it was important to test how successfully the pans imprinted their designs on the cakes and jello molds we made. 

The pans that formed the best-looking cakes and molds were those with deeply-imprinted designs that carried over the whole pan (inside, outside, and down to the bottom). Since cakes and breads rise in the oven, the last inch or two of pan toward the opening won’t make contact with the baked goods inside until part-way through the baking process. As a result, the pattern on this part of the pan (which always seems to feature the most intricate and delicate design) will not be imparted on the food inside in nearly as much detail. You likely don’t know ahead of time exactly where your batter will hit in the pan, so you risk cutting off the design in a weird spot. Pans that carried one pattern to the bottom were our preference for cake baking.

Handles Were Nice, but Not Make-or-Break

Some of the Bundt pans we tested had handles, a few of which were even padded with silicone, but we found that the presence or absence of handles made little difference in the maneuverability of the pans. For baking, we always recommend placing the pans on a sheet pan to stabilize them in the oven (otherwise the fluted surface may slip between the rungs of the oven rack leading to a tilted bake), so we found ourselves handling the sheet pan rather than the cake itself when moving it around the oven. We appreciated having solid handles to hold onto when dunking the jello mold in the hot water bath, but they got in the way when we tried to flip pans over onto a rimmed dinner plate. Since handles are not a make-or-break feature, consider skipping them if you’re short on cabinet space or unlikely to make a jello mold.

Nonstick Coatings Were Necessary but Not Always Durable

Releasing a bundt cake from the pan is a notoriously fraught endeavor. Other cake pans can be lined with parchment, have spring-trap sides, or at the very least you can run a knife around the edges. With its corners, curves, and divots, a bundt pan rejects all of these helpful tricks, and the baker is totally reliant on the pan to release the cake. Most bundt pans achieve this by using non-stick coatings.

All of the pans we tested excelled in their ability to cleanly release their cakes and jello sculptures, even after we scratched them with a knife and a rough sponge. However, every pan, except those made of silicone, showed visible scratches after just ten light jabs with a butter knife. While some showed insignificant damage, others, like the USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick Fluted Tube Cake Pan, Anolon Advanced Nonstick Fluted Mold Baking Pan With Silicone Grips, and Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-Stick 9-Inch Fluted Tube Pan flaked very easily. Since the nonstick coating is so essential to the functionality of the pan, and because nonstick coatings can break down into harmful chemicals over time, we recommend staying away from pans whose coatings can be easily damaged.

Silicone Bundt Pans Weren’t Worth the Trouble

cake baked in aluminum shows even browning while cake baked in silicone is uneven and has darker spots
Cakes baked in aluminum browned evenly, while cakes baked in silicone were underbaked in some spots and over baked in others.Serious Eats / Julia Stimeck

While we were excited to try the silicone pans as a safer and more durable alternative to nonstick coatings, we were disappointed with the results. The pans imparted crisp designs and released cakes easily, but they were difficult to maneuver, spilling their contents when lifted. During the olive oil cake test, we accidentally placed one silicone pan too close to the oven wall, leading to a visibly uneven cake. The two silicone pans we tested performed the worst in the olive oil cake test, browning the cakes extremely unevenly. They are also difficult to wash, squirming away from the sponge in the sink.

The Ideal Pan Size Was Between 10 to 12 Cups

Most of the pans we tested had an interior diameter of nine to ten inches, a height around 3.5 inches, and held approximately 90 fluid ounces of batter. These pans fit our test batches perfectly without the need to add or subtract extra batter, like we did for the fifteen-cup Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan (which we loved enough to call it our winner anyways), and the Trudeau 05115204M Structured Silicone Fluted Bundt pan, 8 1/2 cup. Since most bundt pans have a 10 to 12 cup capacity, if you want to use a recipe designed for a standard bundt pan without doing any complicated math, keep these measurements in mind: your recipe should fill the bundt pan approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. If it’s any higher than that, spoon some batter out; it’s better to waste a little than to make a mess in the oven.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Good Bundt Pan

A seriously good bundt pan: browns evenly, has deep ridges, releases easily, made of aluminum
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A good bundt pan should brown cakes evenly, release its contents easily, and hold up to normal wear and tear. We preferred pans made of aluminum for its excellent heat distribution. Bonus points were awarded for deep ridges and dramatic designs.

The Best Bundt Pan: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan

What we liked: Sporting the deepest ridges, this pan produced cakes with the most striking design of all of the pans we tested. Although this pan held more batter (a whopping 15 cups) than any other pan we tested, its continuous design from inner ring to outer ring meant that no matter what level we filled it to, we were going to get a gorgeous cake with the same design from top to bottom. This pan also aced our durability test: the nonstick coating scratched ever so slightly, but the difference was imperceptible and didn’t affect bakes. The durable and rigid nature of the cast aluminum lends this pan well to intricate designs, too, because the pan’s shape is created by injecting molten metal into a mold rather than pressing or stamping the shape into a sheet of metal. 

What we didn’t like: While there was almost nothing we didn’t like about this pan, its large size made it less versatile than our top pick in a few ways. First, if you don’t have a lot of room (in your cupboard or oven) you may want to consider a smaller option. Another downside of this pan’s large size is the cake has a long way to fall when coming out of the pan. The jello mold, which didn’t fill the pan all the way, hit the plate quite hard on its way out, and splattered along the edges. 

Price at time of publish: $35.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb 11.4 oz
  • Materials: Cast aluminum with nonstick coating
  • Dimensions: 12 x 10.75 x 4.5 inches
  • Capacity: 124 fluid ounces (15.5 cups)
  • Cleaning and Care: Hand-wash recommended, no metal tools or abrasive cleaners
Nordic Ware Anniversary bundt pan on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Best Bundt Pan If You’re Short on Space: Nordic Ware Formed-Aluminum Bundt Pan

What we liked: Featuring a sharp and well-defined pattern, this pan baked a beautiful cake and formed a gorgeous jello mold. It browned cake extremely evenly and released them with ease. While its lack of significant handles may cause slight inconvenience, we thought it was worth it for a smaller footprint, and its light weight contributes to its convenience and maneuverability. The coating performed extremely well in our scratch and wash tests, showing very little damage.

What we didn’t like: The deep ridges that form the designs we love also make the pan a bit more difficult to clean.

Price at time of publish: $28.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 14.2 oz
  • Materials: Formed aluminum with nonstick coating
  • Dimensions: 10.75 x 10 x 3.5 inches
  • Capacity: 95 fluid ounces ( 11.9 cups)
  • Cleaning and Care: Hand-wash only, no metal tools or abrasive cleaners
Nordic ware aluminum bundt pan
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Best Alternative Nonstick Bundt Pan: casaWare Fluted Cake Pan Ceramic Coated NonStick

What we liked: The ceramic coating passed our durability test with flying colors; the scratches were almost undetectable. The cake and jello mold also released easily from the pan, and the ceramic coating comes in a few fun colors. This pan did not bake the most evenly, but it was far from the worst.

What we didn’t like: The ridges of this mold were pretty subtle, leading to a fairly boring final product. The pan baked more quickly on the outer edges, leading to a paler inner ring. 

Price at time of publish: $23.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb, 2.8 oz
  • Materials: Steel with ceramic coating
  • Dimensions: 12 x 10.5 x 3.5 inches
  • Capacity: 90 fluid ounces (11.25 cups)
  • Cleaning and Care: Hand-wash recommended, no metal tools or abrasive cleaners
casaware pan (blue) on marble countertop
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

The Competition

  • Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-stick 9-Inch Fluted Tube Pan: This steel alloy pan browned the outside of the cake too much while leaving the inside pale. The fluted design was barely noticeable on the finished product. 
  • Anolon Advanced Nonstick Fluted Mold Baking Pan With Silicone Grips:  This carbon steel pan baked unevenly,with a darker outside and lighter inner core. We liked the grippy handles, but don’t use the handles frequently enough to need them, and cleaning around them is a pain. 
  • Trudeau 05115204M Structured Silicone Fluted Bundt pan, 8 1/2 cup: Our least favorite pan of the bunch, this silicone pan produced a very uneven bake. It also featured a slick, staticky surface that was an absolute magnet for dust and hair. And at 8.5cup capacity, it was the smallest pan we tested.
  • USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick Fluted Tube Cake Pan: Made of aluminized steel this pan baked similarly to other steel pans creating an unevenly baked surface. A similar price to our winner ($35 at time of publish) it did not perform nearly as well.
  • Le Creuset Bundt Pan: Unlike Le Creuset’s famous dutch ovens, their bundt pan is not coated in enamel, but rather non-stick coating. The coating was durable and did well in our scratch test, but the material of the pan did not bake the cake evenly. In our olive oil cake test, the outside of the cake was nearly burnt by the time the cake was fully cooked. We were also not enamored with the cake’s subtle design and the straight inner tube was more reminiscent of angel food cake pans, which are necessarily simple due to the extremely sticky nature of that cake. 
  • Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9.5" Non-Stick Two-Toned Fluted Cake Pan: This pan featured a straight inner tube that formed a visible seam on our finished cake, and it was difficult to clean around. It also baked much more quickly on the outside due to its dark coating. 
  • Calphalon Classic Bakeware 10-Inch Nonstick Fluted Cake Pan: This pan did relatively well in our olive oil cake and durability tests, but didn’t feature any standout features that would categorize it as a winner. At $19.99 it’s a solid budget choice.
  • Lekue Red Silicone Deep Savarin Baking Mold: We loved the design on the upper half of this silicone mold, but the bottom bit faded away. Both of the silicone pans we tested browned our cakes extremely unevenly, but released their contents easily.

FAQs

What is the best material for a bundt pan?

We recommend aluminum pans for their ability to distribute heat evenly and bake cakes with even browning all over.

What’s the best way to remove a cake from a bundt pan?

Let your cake cool in the pan for approximately ten minutes before you try to take it out. Gently tug the edges of the cake away from the pan to loosen it. Place a plate or sheet pan on top of the opening of your pan, and flip both the cake and the base over together. If you give it a few firm taps and the cake still doesn’t give way, try submerging the outside of the pan in a hot water bath for a few seconds before trying again. If you’re still having trouble, let your cake cool completely and use your fingers to gently pull the cake away from the edges of the pan, trying to identify the stuck spot. Use a plastic knife or wooden chopstick (never use metal tools, which may chip away at the nonstick coating) to gently dislodge the problem area. When you’re ready to serve, hit this area with a little extra frosting or powdered sugar—no one has to know!

Do I need to coat the inside of a bundt pan with cooking spray?

You should definitely coat the inside of your pan before baking, however, most pan manufacturers recommend against using cooking spray since it can leave a residue that will build up on the nonstick coating. Instead, you can brush on some melted butter or oil. If you choose to use cooking spray, wipe any exposed spray from the edges of the pan before baking, and be sure to wash thoroughly but gently after baking.

What are the common sizes of bundt pans?

Bundt pans are normally measured by diameter, but what you will really want to know is how many ounces of batter the cake can hold. We've included the volume of the pans we recommended. Ten to twelve cups is the most common size for bundt pans. If you would like to find out the capacity of a pan you already have, pour water into it, one cup at a time, until you reach the top. Alternatively, you can pour water into the pan while it sits on a scale that measures in ounces. For water (and only water!) one fluid ounce weighs one ounce. Divide by eight to see how many cups your pan holds.

How do you keep a cake from sticking inside a bundt pan?

Spread a thin layer of melted butter or oil over the interior surface of your pan using a pastry brush. Let the pan rest upside down over some paper towels to allow any excess oil to drip off. Then, use a sieve to apply a thin layer of flour or cocoa powder (for chocolate cakes) over the entire surface. Aim to make your coating as light and even as possible since any buildup on the pan may be visible on the final product. Make sure you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions to care for your pan - once the nonstick coating is gone, it’s gone (and if your cakes stick consistently, it may be time for a new pan). If the coating on your pan is decades old or has broken down from misuse, it may be safest to invest in a new pan.

What can you make in a bundt pan?

Cakes are not the only thing you can make in your bundt pan. Try using it as a gorgeous mold for jello or flan. The pans are also a great alternative to loaf pans for baked goods such as bread or babka. The dimensions are similar to those of two loaf pans put together, so think about other things (meatloaf anyone?) that you’d bake in a loaf pan, and double that recipe. You can also use it to support a whole chicken in the oven (similar to beer can chicken), but be careful not to exceed the manufacturer’s recommended maximum temperature. Keep in mind that the nonstick coating is tailored to protect the pan against the stickiness of sugar, not protein, so meat-based recipes may be best suited for your nearly-retired bundt pans. Given that nonstick coatings have a finite lifespan, we do not recommend using a new bundt pan for anything other than its intended purpose. 

What shouldn't you make in a bundt pan? Any recipe that calls for a specialized, easy-release pan such as a springform pan (like cheesecake) or a pan with a false bottom (like an angel food cake pan) should be avoided. If a recipe requires a pan like that, it won’t release easily from the nooks and crannies of a bundt pan or the rise of the cake may be hampered by the nonstick coating of the pan.