Many recipes call for ramekins, from crème brûlée to hot and cold soufflés, molten chocolate cakes, individual flans or panna cottas; the list goes on. They are used to prepare, bake, store and serve desserts (as well as savory dishes), making them a very useful piece of equipment.
Ramekins are usually ceramic and, while their volume can vary, they are typically ½ cup (4 ounces), and can be easily found as small as 1 ounce and up to 1 cup (8 ounces) in size. The standard issue is white, usually with a ribbed pattern along the outside, but you can find them in a variety of colors and designs. The interior, however, is always super smooth. This way if you are unmolding that crème caramel, the ramekin will facilitate the process.
Above, you can see the very basic 4-ounce ribbed white style in the rear right of the picture. The oval ones rear left and front center are our choice for crème brûlée as, they offer more surface area for the caramelized sugar topping. The tiny oval ones stacked in front are great for small individual crème brûlée portions, or whatever you would like to present in that amount.
One very important thing to note is that the ones in the rear right and the rear left are the same volume, but are obviously very different proportions and will give you very different results in your desserts. Unfortunately, most recipes will call for a 4-ounce ramekin, but won’t address whether it is a wide, shallow 4-ounce ramekin or a narrower, deeper ramekin. Look at any accompanying images that there might be and read the recipe. Try to deduce what the recipe is calling for. If you have to guess, the deep, classic style in the right rear of the image are standard and are what most recipes mean when they say “4-ounce ramekin”.
Image: Dédé Wilson