The dish on pie pans

Test Kitchen

November 08, 2006|By Joannah Hill and Kate Shatzkin | Joannah Hill and Kate Shatzkin,[Sun reporters]

In a couple of weeks, pie pans will come out of the cabinets to bear the weight of great expectations. Will they be worthy vessels for our prized Thanksgiving desserts? Or could our pies be tastier and prettier with the right pan?

To find out, we baked pumpkin pies in four pans of different materials -- stoneware, glass, metal and foil -- using a basic piecrust that had a mixture of butter and vegetable shortening. Each piecrust was partially baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes before we filled the pie shells. Then we baked the pies at 325 degrees and cooled them on a wire rack.

In this case, we got what we paid for. The winning pie dish from Emile Henry typically costs nearly 10 times the also-rans we tested (though we snagged one for $19.99 plus shipping at smartbargains.com). Not only did we get a more attractive, evenly baked pie, the olive-green plate itself is handsome enough to display on the Thanksgiving buffet -- and its decorative edge lent the crust a fancy finish.

joannah.hill@baltsun.com

kate.shatzkin@baltsun.com

FIRST PLACE

Emile Henry Le Potier 9-inch pie dish, $33.95 The winner by far. The filling for a 9-inch pie went into the deep stoneware pan with no leftovers. The pie emerged evenly cooked in 45 minutes; the top cracked only very slightly around the edges and the crust was golden and flaky. At smartbargains.com, cooking.com and chefsresource.com.

SECOND PLACE

Baker's Secret Non-Stick 9-inch pie pan, $3.99 The handles on two sides of this pan made for easy transportation to the oven. The pie baked relatively quickly, in 35 minutes, and the thoroughly cooked filling had little cracking on top.

Downsides: We had to discard about a cup of filling that wouldn't fit in the pan, and the crust baked a bit unevenly, with a few too-brown edges and a slightly underdone bottom. The accompanying instruction card discourages the use of metal utensils -- a bit impractical if you're planning on slicing the pie with a metal knife.

Pre-baking the crust a little longer and protecting the edge of the crust with a foil collar should remedy the inconsistencies in baking, though, which would make this pan a worthwhile bargain. At amazon.com and boscovs.com.

THIRD PLACE

Pyrex 9-inch glass pie pan, $4.59 The familiar glass pan has straight sides and a rim wide enough to make a nice edge on the crust. The simple, no-frills plate also makes a useful serving piece. But at least a cup of filling had to be discarded. During baking, the pie filling actually bubbled up in the pan; it was clearly too hot. The pie was finished in 30 minutes, but the top was a little too brown and cracked, and the edges of the crust were very brown and a little hard. The sides and bottom had a somewhat gummy texture. We've since read the tips that recommend lowering baking temperature by 25 degrees for glass pans, but the label on this one had no such advice. That might have improved the results. At Wegmans and at shop.com.

FOURTH PLACE Handi-Foil 10-inch pie pans (set of two), $2.25 Inexpensive, ubiquitous and disposable. The filling overwhelmed this shallow, flimsy pan, which made for a treacherous trip to the oven. The pie baked in a little under 35 minutes. The filling cooked nicely with little cracking, but the bottom crust was wet and doughy. And when we cut into the pie, the knife went right through the side of the pan. At Safeway.

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