Q: Now that I’m in the throes of holiday baking, I’m starting to see “transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely” in a lot of cookie and brownie recipes. I don’t have one—I usually just fake it by either cooling them in the pan itself or doing my best to transfer them onto a waiting plate—but I’m not sure if I’m missing out here. Do I really need one?
A: In a nutshell, yes. We consider a wire cooling rack an essential piece of bakeware. They save time by accelerating the cooldown of fresh-from-the-oven baked goods. In addition to being used to cool foods, racks can be used on a baking sheet to elevate foods like Chicken Parmesan so the undersides of the chicken become just as crisp as the tops.
Cooling racks are made in a variety of styles, but not all of them measure up. Traditional row-style racks can gouge delicate cakes or cupcakes; the problem is the parallel metal bars, which are thin and flimsy and can dig into baked goods and leave permanent marks.
We prefer grid-style cooling racks with crisscrossing bars. The heavy-gauge bars are tightly woven so they support even the heaviest cake or biggest cookie without marring the exterior. Look for cooling racks that can fit inside a standard 18 by 13-inch sheet pan. We also like cooling racks that are dishwasher-safe.
Our winner, the CIA Bakeware 12 by 17-Inch Cooling Rack ($15.95), had all these features along with an extra support across the center and six feet instead of the standard four. A less expensive option, the Libertyware Half-Size Sheet Pan Grate ($5.25) is our best buy. It’s sturdy, inexpensive, and won’t warp in the oven or dishwasher.