A cooling rack may seem like something only serious home pastry chefs would need, but the truth is it’s actually a kitchen essential that has myriad uses — and can seriously improve even basic weeknight meals.
Yes, of course a cooling rack is primarily used for cooling baked goods, which are placed on the racks to cool down and stop cooking. But other foods that need to cool before eating can also benefit from being placed on a cooling rack, too, and they can even be used during cooking. Typically, cooling racks are designed in the same standard sizes as jelly roll pans and cookie sheets, so you can set them inside a pan to lift food away from the surface. This increases airflow and can also help food crisp.
While not all foods make sense on a cooling rack, they can help with foods you want to dry out (like tomatoes), as well as baked goods you want to make crispy (like bacon, or a freeform pie or tart). Cooling racks can be especially good with roasts: the less liquid a chicken is exposed to, the crispier the skin. You can also find ways to (carefully!) spoon the liquid from the bottom of the pan back onto the meat for added flavor.
Beyond that, because they also have feet, cooling racks can act as a trivet and protect countertops. Here are four cooling racks to consider.
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1. Ultra Cuisine Wire Cooling Rack
Made from oven-safe (up to 575 degrees) stainless steel, this cooling rack also has a fine enough grid that you don’t have to worry about food slipping through. The rack itself is also strong: the wires and metal feet can support heavier cuts of meat as well as delicate pastries and bakes. Designed to fit into a half-sheet jelly roll pan, it can be safely placed in a 13-inch by 18-inch sheet pan or rack, as well as used on the countertop for cooling.
2. Wilton Excelle Elite 3-Tier Cooling Rack
Serious bakers may find that just one cooling rack isn’t enough. They may also find that multiple cooling racks can take up valuable counter space and become unwieldy. If you regularly bake cakes or cook dozens of holiday cookies, this three-tier cooking rack is perfect. The feet are collapsible, making them ill-suited for ovens, but they store flat and lock into each other for levels of cooling. Because it’s not gridded, however, very delicate baked goods (like macarons) might fall through.
3. Checkered Chef Baking Sheet and Rack Set
A perfectly-set baking rack inside a baking sheet really makes you look like you know what you’re doing. And while most standard baking sheets will work with standard-sized cooling racks, there’s an undeniable appeal to buying a set that was made to go together. The gridded cooling rack can be removed easily, making it a three-in-one purchase. The baking sheet can be used with or without the rack, and the rack can be used separately for whatever you need to cool.
4. Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Multi-Purpose Chrome Wire Cooling Rack
Most cooling racks are rectangles, but there’s a reason to buy a round one. This particular option is just over nine inches and can be set into pressure cookers for specific recipes. Oven-safe, it can also be placed in a cake pan or cast iron pan for baking and cooking. The rounder, smaller shape is also good for using as a trivet for even heavy-duty Dutch ovens. It can also be placed in the bottom of a pot for steaming vegetables.
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