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How to Bake Cheesecake in a Water Bath

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Have you ever made cheesecake and felt stumped when you got to the part about making a water bath? Let’s explore both the how and the why of baking cheesecake in a water bath!

Adding boiling water to a roasting pan for a water bath

I have made hundreds of cheesecakes in my life.

Seriously! I’ve been running this website for years and in that time have shared dozens of cheesecake recipes with you.

All of those recipes have been tested multiple times. Add in all of the cheesecakes I have made just for fun or taken to family gatherings and all of the cheesecakes I made long before I started this website and, well…

…it’s a LOT of cheesecake.

The benefit to making that much cheesecake, aside from becoming extremely popular at potlucks, is that I have had plenty of opportunities to test the best cheesecake-making methods and recipes.

I know how to soften cream cheese quickly. I have memorized my graham cracker crust recipe. My vanilla cheesecake is practically tattooed on my arm. Homemade blueberry sauce topping? Perfected.

I’m practically a cheesecake professional at this point. And in my opinion? The best cheesecakes are made using a water bath.

I know that water baths can be intimidating for novice and advanced bakers alike. So let’s dive into why I think it’s best to use a water bath and my favorite leak-proof method for making one!

Adding graham cracker crust to a foil-lined springform pan

WHY USE A WATER BATH FOR CHEESECAKE?

Before we get to the “how,” let’s talk about the “why.”

WHY do cheesecake recipes call for a water bath?

Believe it or not, cheesecake is actually pretty delicate. It would be very easy for the heat from the oven to cause the edges to overcook, the top to crack, or the whole thing to become rubbery.

Springform pan wrapped in foil and in an oven bag, ready to be filled and placed in a water bath for baking

By using a water bath, we keep the oven moist and help moderate the heat so that the edges do not cook faster than the middle of the cheesecake.

Yes, I have seen people make beautiful cheesecakes without using a water bath. But honestly? It’s kind of a gamble.

Graham cracker crust in a roasting pan, ready for filling and a water bath

Baking a cheesecake without a water bath has just as much chance of going poorly as it does going well, so I always choose to take that extra insurance and use the water bath. I’d rather take one extra step than have to make an entire new cheesecake!

Pouring cheesecake filling into a graham cracker crust before adding a water bath

HOW TO MAKE A WATER BATH FOR CHEESECAKE

  • prepare the springform pan with foil
  • prepare the baking pan for the water bath
  • preheat oven
  • add graham cracker crust to pan and then cheesecake batter
  • place in the oven
  • pour water into the baking pan, being careful not to splash into the batter
  • bake for directed time

The biggest issue people tend to have with water baths is leaking. Again, I’ve done this a lot, so I’ve come up with a method that works best for me.

First, I prepare the springform pan itself. I like to line the bottom of the pan with foil, fasten on the side piece, and tightly wrap the outside and sides of the pan with TWO layers of heavy duty foil.

Adding boiling water to a roasting pan for a water bath

Yes, two layers. Yes, heavy duty foil.

Why? Less chance of getting a hole through both layers!

Now, at this point I like to take the extra step of placing the foil-wrapped pan inside an oven bag while baking. It provides a little extra leakage insurance. Totally optional, but worth the effort!

This whole setup gets placed inside a larger pan. I like to use a roasting pan.

overhead view of baked vanilla cheesecake

Now here is where I give you my two tips to keep things from spilling:

First: I get the springform pan set up in the oven bag and roasting pan before I add the cheesecake filling to the pan.

Second: Move the roasting pan onto your oven rack BEFORE adding the boiling water for the water bath.

Trust me, you don’t want to try to carry a pan half full of boiling water across the kitchen and get it into the oven without spilling it everywhere.

Once the roasting pan is on the oven rack, you can add the boiling water until it comes about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

I know this sounds like a lot of steps, but they are really quite simple! I promise, the more you use a water bath when baking, the more it will become second nature.

And when the result is perfect cheesecake? It’s always worth the extra effort.

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Vinny

Monday 7th of February 2022

What’s the best temp to cook a cheese cake and how long

Jamie

Wednesday 9th of February 2022

Hi Vinny- This will vary from recipe to recipe, but typically 325-350 degrees F. Thanks for stopping by! -Jamie

bruce

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

After having heavy duty aluminum foil leak a couple times I use a cookie tin which is slightly larger than the springform pan and has been waterproofed with RTV silicone to provide a dam for the water bath. So far after three years it has never failed me.

Jamie

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

This is a great idea, Bruce!

Mary Beth Hellen

Wednesday 17th of March 2021

Do you tie the cooking baag like you would with a turkey?

Jamie

Friday 19th of March 2021

No, I do not tie the bag. It's mainly used to cover the bottom and sides, with the top remaining open.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

-Jamie

Lyndsay S.

Sunday 6th of December 2020

I'm curious, when you mentioned covering the bottom of the springform pan before fastening the side, are you just covering the outside (bottom side) of the pan or are you covering the whole thing? I worry the foil would stick to the cheesecake if you covered the whole thing?

Nancy S.

Tuesday 15th of December 2020

@Jamie, I'm wondering if the aluminum foil wrapped on the inside of the springform pan might tear when the cheesecake is cut with a knife, or do you remove the cheesecake to a plate before cutting? Is there a tip for removing the cheesecake from the pan?

Jamie

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

I cover the bottom disk inside the springform pan as well as the outside. :)

JD

Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

I use the silicone lids to wrap around the pan. it worked! Silicone lids to use for the cheesecake waterbath and to wrap my food in. perfect!

Jamie

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Awesome tip, JD!

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