Explore the equipment cupboard of any good restaurant, and chances are you’ll find a stash of ring molds. These open-ended cylinders come in a variety of diameters and heights and are a chef’s secret weapon for building towering creations.
There are several ring mold options available. The most versatile are made of stainless steel or aluminum, so in addition to molding mile-high foods, you can also use them to bake tall cakes. They’re available at restaurant supply stores.
Chefs looking to balance their bottom lines have also been known to fashion their own ring molds from plastic PVC pipe (found in any hardware store). With a hacksaw, they can customize the molds to whatever length they want.
In that same spirit of do-it-yourself resourcefulness, we searched our test kitchen to see what other ring mold stand-ins we could find, and came up with two. First, a nesting set of biscuit cutters yielded a 2-1/2 -inch-diameter cutter—just the size we needed for the crab cakes. It wasn’t as tall as a true ring mold might be, but it was tall enough. Then we noticed that a 8-ounce can of tomato sauce is the perfect diameter, and it’s taller than a biscuit cutter. The only catch is to make sure you use a can with a rim on the bottom; otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to remove the bottom with a can opener.