How to Bake Using a Water Bath

Some recipes call for a “water bath” as part of the cooking instructions.  A water bath is simply a pan of hot water placed in the oven, and using this method has two benefits when baking.

First, a water bath adds moisture to the oven and this is important for baking foods like cheesecakes, which tend to crack from the heat of the oven, or custards which can become rubbery without moist heat.

Second, using the water bath method also provides a more even, slower heat source than the direct heat of an oven which is also important for preparing foods like cheesecakes and custards.

(For these instructions, we are using a water bath to bake a cheesecake. And, because springform pans are notorious for leaking, we are wrapping the bottom of the pan in foil to avoid any water from seeping into the pan which would make the cheesecake crust too wet.)

To bake using a water bath, you will need a baking pan that is large enough to hold a springform pan (or other baking dish), and is also large enough to allow for water to surround the springform pan.

Next, cut a large single sheet of aluminum foil, making sure that it is wide enough to surround all sides of your springform pan.  (We recommend using extra wide aluminum foil if it is available rather than two narrower pieces of foil to avoid any chance of leaking.)

Wrap the pan, making sure that the sides of the pan are fully covered by the foil.  Also make sure that you don’t tear the foil as you wrap it.

Per your recipe instructions, prepare your cheesecake and place the springform pan into the baking pan.  Then, add about an inch of very hot water to the baking pan so it surrounds the pan.  You want to add enough water to the pan to ensure that the water does not fully evaporate during the baking process.

Bake according to your recipe instructions.  And…you should come out with a perfectly baked cheesecake with no cracks.

You may enjoy these recipes that use Water Bath Baking:

Meet The Author: Martha

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  • Evvy Jane wrote:

    I just made my first cheesecake, a marscapone cheesecake, using a water bath. PLEASE let people know that you can get hit with a blast of steam when you open the door.
    EXERCISE CAUTION, stand to the side of the oven door, open it and let the steam escape before you remove the cake. I was burned on my lips, cheeks, nose, brow and eyelid from the rush of steam hitting my face. I don’t know if this was a freak thing or to be expected, but I would advise caution to avoid serious injury.

    • Martha wrote:

      Wow Evvy – I’m so sorry to hear this! We’ve never experienced the level of heat or steam coming out of the oven that you described, but if you put a lot of water (more than an inch) in the pan, I suppose it can happen. Either way – thank you for emailing us with the suggestion and I hope you feel better soon.

  • Tom Miller wrote:

    Would baking two nine inch cheese cakes, not submerging them in a water bath, but rather placing a pan of water on the bottom rack work as well? Or are you also relying on the water slowing the cooking of the outer edge of the submerged pan?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Tom – Great question! I think the answer is specific to your recipe…if you are following either the pumpkin cheesecake or classic cheesecake recipes from our site, I’d say that having the pan of water underneath should work. In both of those cases, the purpose of the water bath is to create enough moisture in the oven so that the tops of the cheesecake won’t crack. (Just make sure you place boiling water in the pan so that the water is already steaming at the start of your baking time. And – make sure that the two cheesecake pans aren’t touching so the heat in the oven will circulate.) We do have a couple of baked pudding recipes on our site that call for a water bath too, and those benefit from the more indirect heat of a water bath around the baking dish (and the water in the pan is filled higher up the side of the dish too) so that the entire pudding stays soft as it cooks through. I’m not sure I’ve completely answered your question – but I hope that helps point you in the right direction.

  • Tom Miller wrote:

    Martha, thanks for the reply! I just heard about special liners being used to keep crockpots clean. I wonder if the 9″ springform pan might fit into one of these crock pot liners and if so, if that might be an effective way to ensure the water bath liquid does not seep into the springform!? We might have to cut down the sides of the bag and wire tie it to the sides of the pan. I think I will buy some and try it out!

    • Martha wrote:

      Please let us know how it works out Tom!

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