Yes, you need it.
Have you ever come across a recipe that says, “transfer to a wire rack to cool completely” and wonder what that actually means? We’ve got you. A wire rack, also known as a resting rack or cooling rack, does not just exist for cooling cakes and cookies when they come out of the oven. This rack, which is normally fitted in a rimmed baking sheet, allows air to circulate underneath the food to ensure even cooking and cooling.
Though you should definitely get a rack for cooling cakes and cookies to avoid overcooking or condensation, it also comes in handy for many more things when baking and cooking. In terms of sweets, glaze or dust on the rack while the baking sheet collects any of the mess. While you can also roast and broil meats on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, it’s an excellent tool to have even if you’re just searing meat on the stovetop and transferring to the rack to cool. Doing this allows the juices to reset so the meat stays juicy as it cools with the right amount of air circulation, without overcooking in a hot skillet or sheet tray.
I also like to use it for resting anything breaded before it gets fried, and of course, after it’s fried. Again, the air circulation is key. I’m a firm believer that everything comes out crispier because there is minimal moisture happening by resting on the rack pre-frying.
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If you’re not worried about crumbs and such, you don’t always have to use a rack with a sheet tray, but you should look for a rack that fits a standard baking sheet tray for the times you do—it should measure around 16 by 12 inches. And if you’re planning on using it to roast and broil meats, avoid nonstick racks as they are more than likely not safe under the heat of the broiler. Last but not least, get one with a smaller grid. Smaller foods can fall through the gaps of those racks with larger gaps, and that’s just frustrating. We recommend the Professional Cross Wire Cooling Rack ($27; amazon.com). If you’re planning on doing a whole lot of baking at once, try this expandable cooling rack.