When we rated pie plates a decade ago, we picked our winner because it browned and crisped crusts better than the other contenders. We also liked its wide rim for easy fluting, see-through bottom that allowed pie-makers to monitor bottom crusts, and low price. But while it produced the best-baked crusts, they could have been a tad crisper. Since that time, manufacturers have designed pie plates with fancy new features (mesh bottoms, scalloped edges, crust protectors) purported to produce perfect pies. We tested seven new models against our old favorite.
In search of a versatile, all-around pie plate, we tested each by baking an unfilled pie shell (known as a parbaked or blind-baked crust), a quiche, an apple pie, and a pat in-the-pan graham cracker crust. Except for the graham cracker crust, we used premade crusts to ensure consistency. The best pans produced blind-baked shells that were golden brown on both sides and bottoms, apple pies with evenly cooked fillings, and graham cracker crusts that didn’t slump, crack, or crumble. But the real litmus test turned out to be quiche. Our winning pie plates conducted enough heat to set the egg custard to a creamy texture without overbaking the crust.
MORE IS LESS
Several plates touted special features, but in the end they proved unhelpful, even inhibiting. The decorative ruffles on one plate (designed to flute the crust) created wide edges that browned too quickly. Ridges inside the rim of another plate are meant for easy, press-in fluting, but instead made for messy-looking pies. Cosmetic damage was also wrought by plates with crust protectors designed to shield the edge of the crust from overbrowning; the same went for shields, which look like smaller pie plates with holes and are intended to replace pie weights. Two plates were designed to let steam escape so that the bottom would crisp better. But these plates produced the soggiest crusts of all because the evaporating moisture prevented the bottom surface from ever getting hotter than the boiling point of 212 degrees, a process called “evaporative cooling.” The escaping steam further cooled the dead spot by pushing hot oven air away, exacerbating the problem.
One dark metal model absorbed heat too quickly and overbrowned the outside bottom and sides of pies before the filling was cooked or the center of the bottom browned. It yielded quiche custard that was overcooked near the edges, yet runny in the middle. We had somewhat better results with another pale metal plate whose shiny, reflective surface heated up more slowly: pies needed to be baked longer, but the filling cooked more evenly than in dark metal.
Because glass and ceramic conduct heat slowly, heat gradually builds and spreads throughout the plate, thus custard cooks evenly, and the center of the bottom has time to brown. Two glass plates and a ceramic one produced perfectly cooked apple and quiche fillings, golden top crusts, and satisfactory bottoms. This is because glass and ceramic heat more slowly than metal, which results in even baking. The glass laminate plate produced the crispest bottom crust of all but was downgraded because its steep, slippery walls caused the graham cracker crust to slump.
Our favorite all-purpose pie plate remains our previous all-glass winner, which provides slow, steady, insulating heat for even baking. Its shallow, angled sides prevent crusts from slumping, and it’s just 1 1/8 inches deep, which neatly fits a store-bought crust when we don’t feel like making our own. Its basic, functional design and low price made it the clear winner.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
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