Hot pans deserve a cool place to land, which is why a sturdy cooling rack should be an essential part of your kitchenware arsenal. Not only do the best cooling racks allow air to circulate on all sides of a pan or baked item, including the bottom, they also prevent foods from over-baking or accumulating condensation. In short, it is your first line of defense against overbaking and the dreaded soggy bottom.
Not only do cooling racks provide a well-circulated surface for fresh-out-of-the-oven baked goods, they are also valuable kitchen tools when glazing, drizzling, or adding finishing touches to cakes and cookies. And did you know that a properly constructed, oven-safe rack can turn out beautiful strips of perfectly crisp bacon and serve as a handy roasting pan insert?
Cooling racks are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and configurations. Some are meant for elaborate projects while others are best suited to small bakes and detailed tasks. Sure, in a pinch you can cobble together a makeshift cooling rack by turning a cupcake pan on its head, but you will find the purchase of one of these well-constructed cooling racks a worthy investment.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Sur La Table Stainless Steel Cooling Grids
- Best Round: Nordic Ware Copper-Plated Cooling Racks
- Best Value/Set of Two: Checkered Chef Cooling Rack - Set of 2
- Best For Compact Kitchens: Anolon Advanced Nonstick Bakeware Cooling Grid
- Best For Drying Iced Cookies: Le Creuset Nonstick Cooling Rack
- Best Expandable: Sur La Table Expandable Cooling Rack
Best Overall: Sur La Table Stainless Steel Cooling Grids
Size: Quarter sheet: 8-inch x 12-inch x 0.5-inch; Half sheet: 12-inch x 17-inch x 0.5-inch | Material: Thick gauge stainless steel wire | Weight: Half sheet size weighs 1.5 pounds
- Tight grid pattern (½-inch space between grids) prevents food from falling through
- Oven safe to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Dishwasher safe
- Higher price point than some other options
- Sold singly
- Half sheet size slightly unwieldy if turning out a single cake layer
Why we chose it: Excellent construction and two size options place these oven-safe and easy-to-clean racks at the head of the pack.
Sur La Table delivers a heavy-duty, stainless steel rack capable of accommodating dozens of cookies as well as weightier bakes such as fresh fruit pies, multiple cake tiers, and pound cakes. On the savory side, it's oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes this multi-tasker equally handy for oven roasting vegetables, or turning out perfectly cooked strips of bacon. For those who do a good bit of baking, selecting one of each size (the quarter sheet and the half sheet) should cover all of your needs.
Best Round: Nordic Ware Copper-Plated Cooling Racks
Size: 13-inch diameter x 1-inch height | Material: Copper-plated steel | Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Sturdy and chip-, warp-, rust-proof
- Round shape lends itself to cake layers and bundt cakes
- Does double duty as a serving piece and stackable
- Not safe in oven or dishwasher
- 5 year warranty
- Not suitable for sheet cakes
Why we chose it: Combining good looks and brawn, this pair of copper-plated steel cooling racks are capable of handling the heat and receive extra points for doubling as attractive serving pieces.
Unlike most utilitarian cooling racks, Nordic Ware combines rust/chip/warp resistance with good looks. No need to relegate these to the kitchen; they're pretty enough to be invited to the party. Well-sized for a variety of layer cakes, ideal for bundt cakes, and sturdy enough for weighty pies. These are not suitable for the oven or the dishwasher, but are well worth the splurge.
Best Value/Set of Two: Checkered Chef Cooling Rack - Set of 2
Best Value/Set of Two
Size: 11 ¾-inch x 17-inch | Material: Stainless steel | Weight: 1.54 pounds
- Oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
- Resists rust
- Easy clean-up
- Center bar plus 3 crossbars enhance stability
- Some users complain of the finish not being nonstick
- Size makes it unwieldy to maneuver with small pan bakes
- Discrepancy amongst reviews and manufacturer’s information on oven-safe temperature
Why we chose it: Testers applaud this rack made from sturdy 18/0 gauge stainless steel for its grid size, oven compatibility up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and no-fuss clean-up.
A rack that delivers on all counts, including strength, versatile grid size, oven-safe, and can be purchased as a set of two. The weight and size make this handy for all sorts of cooling, from generous pies and dozens of cookies to multiple layers of cake. On the savory side, these racks are ideal for oven-roasted bacon. A trip through the dishwasher takes care of clean-up.
Best For Compact Kitchens: Anolon Advanced Nonstick Bakeware Cooling Grid
Best For Compact Kitchens
Size: 10-inch x 16-inch | Material: Steel | Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Convenient size
- Nonstick finish encourages easy clean up
- Lifetime warranty
- Not oven-safe
- Best washed by hand
Why we chose it: While a touch smaller than other racks, there is still plenty of cooling room on this sturdy rack with a nonstick finish and well-spaced grids.
Four legs keep things steady on the counter and a tight grid prevents smaller items from slipping through. When tasked with cooling heavier baked goods, this sturdy steel rack didn’t bend or budge. An excellent addition in kitchens with slightly smaller ovens or limited counter space, bakers appreciate the nonstick finish which easily releases sticky baked goods. Clean-up is fuss-free and the slightly smaller size makes storage easier in slim cabinets. Testers suggest buying two; a sturdier solution than a wobbly, tiered rack.
Best For Drying Iced Cookies: Le Creuset Nonstick Cooling Rack
Best For Drying Iced Cookies
Size: 16-inch x 11.5-inch x 2-inch | Material: Silicon-coated carbon steel
- Nonstick finish makes clean-up a breeze
- Ladder style is easy to wipe down
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Not oven safe
- Not well suited for tiny cookies
Why we chose it: For anyone who dabbles in cookie decorating on a regular basis, Le Creuset’s PFOA-free silicone coating over carbon steel makes cookie cool-down a breeze, offers an expansive space for decorated cookies to dry and cleans up without any fuss.
A cooling rack can be a handy addition when decorating and drying iced cookies. In some cases, tiny cookies might slip through the vertical grids on this style of rack, but decorators found the well-made, ladder-style cooling rack a welcome accessory for medium to large cookies. Fits inside most rimmed half-sheet baking pans with a little wiggle room. Ample space for both cooling and drying, vertical bars (as opposed to tight grids) make it easy to clean stubborn drips of royal icing or chocolate. Le Creuset’s superior quality and Limited lifetime warranty make this an excellent gift for your favorite cookie artist.
Best Expandable: Sur La Table Expandable Cooling Rack
Size: Expands from 13.75 inches to 35 inches wide | Material: Chrome-plated steel
- Affords flexibility
- Opens and closes easily
- Easy to store
- Not recommended for the oven
- Hand-wash only
Why we chose it: 3-in-1 versatility, a unique cooling rack that is expandable, detachable, and collapsible, accommodating multi-sized tasks yet storing away easily.
A rack that expands from 13.75 inches to 35 inches wide will handily cool small batches or larger bakes. Small round buttons allow the individual racks to slide, easily separating or rejoining them as needed. Testers love the flexibility of having one, two, or three racks available, and when it's not in use it can be stored horizontally or vertically. Unlike tiered cooling racks, testers far preferred this sturdy, expandable model citing the benefit of having a space saver both on the counter and when stored away.
How We Chose These Products
Products were tested by home bakers and professionals. Cooling racks were tested with two 8-inch layers of made-from-scratch chocolate layer cake, a dozen classic chocolate chip cookies, and, when designated as oven-safe, 12 ounces of medium-thick bacon cooked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Testers looked for stability, ease in use, clean-up, and storage.
Bronwen Wyatt, Chef/Owner of Bayou Saint Cake, opts for large, rectangular cooling racks with tightly spaced square grids when cooling her uniquely flavored King cakes and celebration cakes. “Cooling racks are great for cooling things quickly and evenly,“ she says. While there are many online and retail options, Bronwen turns to her local restaurant supply store in New Orleans.
Features to Keep in Mind
Types of Cooling Racks
Cooling racks are typically made from stainless steel, aluminum, or chrome coated materials. Some are treated with nonstick finishes; nonstick may be easier to clean but the coating (polytetrafluoroethylene) breaks down over time and is susceptible to an oven’s heat, causing it to warp. Cooling racks can be square, rectangular, or circular, and will be supported by feet to raise the rack slightly off the countertop or the baking sheet it rests on.
The sturdiest cooling racks are made from heavy-gauge stainless steel. Lighter weight stainless steel is less stable and can struggle to support heavy baked goods without bending, such as double-crusted fruit pies and heavier cake layers. Multiple shelves sound like a good idea, but are best suited to lightweight bakes such as cookies. Racks with diagonal shelves are the least stable. Stainless steel is durable and resistant to rust; avoid lightweight materials such as aluminum and anything coated in plastic that has a tendency to chip. If you plan to use your rack in the oven, make sure the rack is oven-use compatible and will fit inside an appropriately sized rimmed baking sheet and the oven itself.
Are you a cookie, cake, or bread baker? Do you need the ample space afforded by a large rectangular rack (sheet cakes?) or something more compact for the occasional tray of cookies? A good rule of thumb when sizing up a cooling rack is to remember to measure the available counter space where you envision the rack will sit and also where it will be stored. Take into consideration the height of the rack, particularly if it will be in close proximity to counters or appliances.
The size of the grid is important because the grid is actually responsible for air circulation, allowing air to flow through and around your baked goods. It also serves as a support for the rack. Grid-designed cooling racks have bars running both horizontally and vertically. Racks with bars running horizontally only are referred to as ladder-designed. The advantage to the grid design is that food is less likely to fall through the cracks and it will hold up to heavier dishes. Grid size varies; too close together means the rack may require a little more attention to keep it clean and farther apart means food may occasionally slip through.
Ask the Experts
Q: Are cooling racks important?
Yes! Cooling racks facilitate the cooling process, preventing baked goods from continuing to cook in a pan or on a baking sheet once it has exited the oven. Cakes and cookies transferred to a cooling rack will maintain, if not improve, the quality of the baked goods. Baked goods left cooling in the pans they were baked in have a tendency to sweat, adding unwanted condensation, and will also over-cook due to residual heat left in the pan.
Q: Can cooling racks be used on the grill?
Cooling racks for the grill should be fashioned out of the heaviest stainless steel. Nonstick and lightweight racks have no place on a grill. As opposed to cooling racks, grill racks are designed to withstand extreme heat and open flame cooking. Always check the manufacturer's guidelines before using any cooling rack in a grill or oven setting.
Q: Can I put a cooling rack in the oven?
Racks that have been treated with a nonstick finish should not be placed/used in an oven. An oven-safe rack can be used in an oven, but always check manufacturers’ recommendations first. Look for racks oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Also remember that a cooling rack that will be used in the oven needs to sit in a rimmed baking sheet; make sure your dimensions are in tandem with the size of your oven.
Q: How do I transfer cookies to a cooling rack?
Cookies can be transferred to a rack by carefully sliding the parchment paper with the cookies directly onto it, but it is best to use a spatula and carefully move the cookies individually. Baked goods should cool directly on an open rack, allowing air to fully circulate. Soft, chewy cookies might be impacted by condensation if left cooling on parchment.
Q: How do I clean my cooling rack?
Use a rimmed baking sheet as a “bathtub” for the rack. Fill the baking sheet with hot, soapy water; use a grease-cutting dish soap such as Dawn Ultra Dishwashing (or for heavy grease, first spritz the rack lightly with Dawn Platinum Power Wash Dish Spray), then flip the cooling rack upside down and soak it briefly. Follow with a soft sponge and gently scrub the rack taking care to follow the direction of the grid’s wires; crosswise on top and lengthwise on the underside. Rinse before placing on a towel to catch the excess water, then dry thoroughly using a second towel. On the occasions when you are roasting/baking in the oven with something sticky, it’s a good idea to spritz the rack lightly before use with vegetable oil cooking spray.
The best cooling racks are sturdy and will support a variety of baked goods. Consider what your needs are based on the baked goods you most frequently prepare. Nonstick racks have their place but should not be used in an oven. Smaller, tighter grids will discourage small items from slipping through the rack. Always measure your counter and storage space before purchase to make sure the rack will have ample space to land.
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