As fall grows near and pie baking season approaches, many of you consider what type of pie crust you want to try and what fillings you wish to use. How many of you stopped to consider what type of pie plate to use and if there are differences among them? That is the subject of this Cooking Tip.
Other than holding your pie crust/filling, what should a good pie pan be like? Here are some of the considerations.
- Durability – is it of high enough quality that it will last for many years?
- Maneuverability – is it easy to put in and take out of oven and to the dinner table?
- Browning – does it brown evenly from the top to the bottom and are the crusts crisp?
- Versatility – does it perform equally well for flaky-crust pies and press-in crusts? Does the shape or size limit the recipes that can be used? Does it yield evenly baked, golden crusts and thoroughly-cooked fillings every time no matter the type of pie?
- Size/Depth – The size needs to be able to hold the amount of filling you want for a fruit pie but not so big that it looks too small for icebox pies, custard pies or quiches. Most pie plates are 9-10 inches in diameter. Measure across the center from inside rim to opposite inside rim. Do not include the lip or handles. For depth, measure from top of rim to crease at bottom. A deep dish pie pan is said to be ½ to 2 inches in depth. A deep pan works best for double-crust and single crust pies with generous fillings. A 1½ inch pan can be used for both double and single crust pies.
- Clean-up – how easy is it to clean? Is it dishwasher safe?
- Value – how much does it cost?
There are three main materials out of which pie plates are made – glass, ceramic and metal. There are, of course, pros/cons to each.
- Very affordable and widely available.
- Heats slowly and allows heat to build gradually and evenly. This allows the pastry and filling to cook at the same moderate pace.
- Bakes by both conduction and radiant heat energy, which allows the heat to go directly through the glass to the crust.
- The clear bottom allows you to see how the bottom is baking.
- Attractive with different designs and color.
- Conducts heat slowly and evenly, leads to uniformly golden crusts and thoroughly cooked fillings.
- Many can be used under the broiler.
- Can’t see through them to check on the crust.
- They are pricier and heavier.
- Conducts heat rapidly and gets hotter in the oven leading to quicker browning. However, due to this, the pie can easily become over-browned if the pie filling needs to be in the oven for longer times.
- One with a dull finish will absorb heat and bake faster than one with a shiny finish.
- Choose a heavier pan made of a good heat conductor.
Disposable aluminum pie plates
- Due to their thin walls, these pans can’t hold or transfer a significant amount of heat from oven to crust. So, the crusts bake more slowly and need more time in the oven.
- For par-baking, may need to bake at least 10 minutes more than usual.
- For double-crust pies, increase baking time by 10 minutes and cover with foil if pie is getting too dark.
- Place on a preheated baking sheet for a well-browned bottom crust and more stability when moving out of the oven. Another tip is to bake the pie inside a glass or ceramic pan, which will aid with even heat distribution and more stability.
As you would expect, different experts had different opinions about the best pans but there are some similarities.
Cooks Illustrated – 2017 testing
- They tested 2 metal, 2 ceramic and 3 glass pie plates. They found that all produced nicely cooked fillings but the quality of the crusts varied. The two problems were poor crust release & pale bottom crusts.
- All 3 glass plates had problems with crust relief. This was not a problem with ceramic or metal.
- All double-crust pies had nice golden-brown top crusts but varied in the brownness of the bottom crust. Those baked in metal or ceramic plates had nicely browned bottoms but the glass ones had softer, paler bottom crusts.
- They found that the ceramic plates had less versatility as the fluted edges could interfere with forming the crust as you want.
- Overall, they felt that metal plates were better heat conductors than glass or ceramic.
- Their overall favorite was the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Nonstick Pie Dish. It baked evenly with nicely browned crusts on top and bottom. The slices were easy to cut/remove. It cooled quickly for safe handling and is dishwasher safe. The only drawback was that it can easily scratch if using metal utensils. They felt that this was only cosmetic and didn’t affect the performance.
Food & Wine – testing updated as of June 2022
- Their favorite was the Pyrex 9 inch glass pie plate. It is inexpensive and well-proportioned but lacked the volume of a deep dish pie plate. It had even heat conduction resulting in crisp, uniformly golden pastry. The slices came out easily. It did not scratch and the simple edge lent itself to whatever crimp you want to do.
- For deep dish plates, they liked two ceramic choices – Baker’s Advantage Deep Dish Pie Plate and Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish.
- The Emile Henry dish had a generous capacity and produced excellent browning. Besides looking elegant, it is advertised as safe in the microwave, the freezer and the dishwasher. The biggest downside is that it is a pricey dish.The Baker’s pan is more affordable but otherwise very similar. It is one of the heaviest pans and so, may need longer bake times. It is not recommended for the dishwasher.
- There were two shortcomings of these ceramic pans. First, removing the slices was not always clean and easy. Also, the generous capacity led to slumping of the fruit when baking a tall fruit pie leading to a gap between the top crust and filling.
- Another pan they liked was the Creo SmartGlass Pie Plate. It was created to combine the best features of glass and ceramic plates. It pairs an extra-durable borosilicate glass interior with a stylish ceramic exterior. It is lighter in the hand than full ceramic dishes. They found it to be consistent with excellent heat conduction resulting in golden crusts without sticking or soggy bottoms.
- They agreed with Cooks Illustrated about the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch pan. They found it did a great job with blind baking crusts and had easy and clean removal of slices. They did not think it was versatile enough to rate as their #1 choice as custardy pies (e.g., pumpkin) had the edges shrink and the crust set faster than filling.
Serious Eats – a 2022 review of essential pie making equipment by Stella Parks
- Her favorite was tempered glass pie plates. She stated that they are inexpensive, sturdy and nonreactive. They conduct heat rapidly resulting in the butter melting quickly and thus releasing steam to give you not only a golden crust but one with flaky layers. She does say that a thin, lightweight ceramic pan would have similar results.
- She did not like the thick ceramic pie plates as the crusts were pale and greasy. She contributes this to the fact that they conduct heat slowly and so, the crust bakes slowly. This causes the butter to ooze out without cooking through. She found that this resulted in a bottom crust that was dense and soft rather than layered and crisp.
- Her complaint with metal pans is that they are reactive and so are not appropriate for pies such as lemon meringue or key lime.
- Finally, she was surprised at how well disposable aluminum pans did as they yielded crusts that were crisp and golden and gave the best browning and texture of all the pans. She warned as they will bake faster, this might be a problem for custard pies that call for a longer bake time.
Epicurious – tested first in 2019 & updated in 2022
- Just as with Cooks Illustrated, their top pick was the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Nonstick Pie Dish. They found it to be sturdy and pies baked evenly with nice browning. The slices came out easily. They could even lift out an entire pie without it falling apart. It was lightweight and easy to transport. They also found that it would scratch with metal utensils but this did not interfere with its performance.
- Their runner-up was the Pyrex 9 inch glass pie plate. As with others, they found it to be sturdy and inexpensive. It baked evenly and they liked the see-through bottom. They also agreed with Cooks Illustrated that it was slightly harder to clean and noted “stickage issues” with graham cracker crusts.
My “go-to” pie plate has always been one of the tempered glass plates. After looking at all the reviews, I may have to try the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch pan. What about you?