Ingredients are important, but the real secret to a perfect pie may be the dish you bake it in.
Published Oct. 1, 2017.
It’s difficult to make a great pie without a great pie plate. Pie plates come in a variety of styles, and the differences aren’t just aesthetic—a pie plate’s material, thickness, and color all affect the final product.
The Pyrex Basics 9” Pie Plate won our last testing of pie plates; we liked its overall solid performance, its see-through bottom (for monitoring the bottom crust), and the good (if not great) browning of crusts baked in it. Since then, new and different pie plates have become available, including one made of gold-colored aluminized steel, a material that’s won several of our recent bakeware testings (13 by 9-inch baking pans, springform pans, loaf pans, square cake pans, and muffin tins) with its optimal browning capability and easy release.
It was time to retest. We selected seven widely available pie plates priced from $7.59 to $39.95: two metal, two ceramic, and three glass models, including our former winner. All were close to the standard 9 inches in diameter. To make sure they were truly versatile, we baked three pies per plate, each with a different type of crust: chocolate pudding pie with a graham cracker crust, blueberry pie with a homemade double pastry crust, and a single-crust quiche using a store-bought pastry crust.
Several days and many pies later, we concluded that while all the pie plates produced nicely cooked fillings, the quality of the crusts varied wildly. We encountered two big problems: poor crust release and pale bottom crusts.
All three glass pie plates struggled with the chocolate pudding pie’s graham cracker crust. This crust stuck to the glass, requiring extra muscle to slice and remove pie pieces. Our previous winner was especially egregious here. We had to pry the blueberry pie’s pastry crust from its glass surface, too. None of the metal or ceramic plates had release issues—all crusts released effortlessly.
Crust color was an important factor. All the double-crust pies had golden-brown top crusts, but the real challenge was getting the bottom crusts similarly browned and crisp. While the metal and ceramic plates produced nicely browned bottom crusts, the glass plates again disappointed, as their pies had softer, paler bottom crusts. And we learned that the see-through bottom wasn’t a huge advantage, as monitoring the top crust and adhering to a recipe’s stated baking times was enough to ensure success in an opaque plate.
Why did metal and ceramic plates brown better than glass plates? First, metal (both metal plates we tested were steel) is generally a better conductor of heat than ceramic or especially glass, which heats slowly. Second, since steel is so strong, the metal plates...
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