Souffles have a reputation for trickiness that tends to intimidate home cooks who have yet to attempt the task of baking one. Just the thought of pulling out a sad, deflated pancake from the oven instead of that glorious, cloud-like puff with a perfectly bronzed crust that's pictured next to your souffle recipe is enough to discourage even the most accomplished cook.
Yet, in reality, souffles are quite simple to prepare and surprisingly forgiving of slight deviations from their written instructions. This includes using a vessel other than a souffle pan. If you're interested in trying your hand at making a souffle but don't want to buy a pan for it, see if one of these substitutes will work for you.
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What Is a Souffle Pan?
What is usually referred to as a souffle pan is essentially a large ramekin. It's circular with a flat base and has straight, tall sides around 5 to 7 inches deep. These pans are ceramic, typically white, with a fluted design on the outside, although other colors and designs are available too.
Recipes for individual souffles generally instruct you to use small ramekins, which are just smaller versions of the same kind of vessel. The best souffle dish replacements are similar in shape and proportion to a classic ramekin — meaning deep-sided and circular, and, of course, ovenproof.
Look for Deep-Sided Dishes
Any ovenproof pan with deep, preferably straight sides can work as a souffle pan substitute. The depth of the sides relative to the size of the pan is the key factor. Depth is required for the souffle to rise and for it to cook fairly evenly from the sides to the center. When you pour the souffle batter into the pan, it should come most of the way up the sides of the pan, with a little room above to avoid spillage.
Baking dishes, cake pans, muffin pans, cocottes, ovenproof bowls and cups, and saucepans with all-metal handles might also fit this description. Pie dishes, shallow baking dishes and large roasting pans do not.
Souffle pans are usually round, which ensures even cooking and a neatly shaped "puff" as the mixture cooks and rises. A souffle dish replacement will ideally be round as well. If you don't have a round pan, an oval or square shape might work. Rectangular pans are generally a poor choice, with the exception of a loaf pan. Irregular-shaped pans such as heart-shaped or doughnut-shaped (e.g., bundt or tube pans) might work too in a pinch.
Souffle dish replacements that most closely match the real thing are ceramic, but ovenproof glass, e.g., Pyrex, and metal dishes will work well too. This includes stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron and enameled cast iron pans. If you are using a material other than ceramic, you might need to adjust the oven temperature or cooking time slightly from those stated in a recipe.
Novel Souffle Dish Substitutes
A perfectly risen souffle is quite a showstopper – at least for the short time between being pulled out of the oven and settling back into its dish. If presentation matters, for example, you're serving guests souffles at the table, consider a novel souffle dish replacement with visual interest.
Ovenproof coffee cups and teacups fall into this category, as do unglazed terra-cotta flowerpots (look for pots without holes in the bottom). Hollowed-out citrus fruits, winter squashes and pumpkins can complement the flavors of a souffle while looking striking on a plate. A test session is recommended if you want to use any of these more novel ideas.