Cheesecakes are by far one of my favorite desserts! Not only do I love to eat them, but I love to bake them as well. When I first started baking them I would get these HUGE grand canyon sized cracks in them. After baking about a BILLION, I now know how to avoid this and will gladly share some cheesecake tips I have learned:
Tip#1: ALWAYS soften your cream cheese before using. Leave it out for a couple of hours or use the microwave, but definitely let the cream cheese soften. If you don't your cheesecake will be lumpy.
Tip#2: ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS add the eggs last and do not overbeat! Just mix the eggs enough such that it is incorporated and keep your mixer setting on low. Overbeating will add air to the batter and when the cheesecake is baking these air bubbles with rise to the surface and create cracks.
Tip#3: After adding the batter to the crust, gently shake the pan to release all the air bubbles to the top. Then swirl a knife around in the batter, bursting all the bubbles. Just make sure you don't hit the crust as you are swirling.
Tip#4: No matter what the recipe says, I always bake the cheesecake at these temperatures:
I preheat the oven to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes.
I then decrease the oven temperature (do not open oven door) to 250°F and bake for 30 more minutes.
I then turn off the oven (do not open oven door) and will leave the cheesecake in there UP TO 30 minutes, removing as soon as it is done.
Tip#5: Do not OVERBAKE the cheesecake. This will guarantee cracks and a dry cheesecake. After I turn off the oven I keep an eye on the cheesecake and look for the telltale sign that it is done. You will know it is done when the edges of the cheesecake will look dry almost like old skin and the middle of the cheesecake will still be wobbly and look undone. Don't worry about the wobbly part in the middle, it magically solidifies.
Tip#6: When you remove the cheesecake from the oven, place it on a cookie rack and IMMEDIATELY take a sharp knife and slide the knife around the edges of the pan to release the cheesecake from the pan. This step is a must because as the cheesecake cools it shrinks. If it is stuck to the pan as it cools and starts to shrink, it will crack, guaranteed!