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October/November 2017

Pie Plates

Ingredients are important, but the real secret to a perfect pie may be the dish you bake it in.

How We Tested

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 can be made thinner than plates of other materials, which helps them heat faster. The main advantage of ceramic plates was their color: Both ceramic models we tested have dark-colored exteriors, and dark colors absorb more heat than light colors (think of wearing a black shirt on a hot, sunny day). Overall, the gold-colored metal plate did the best job of browning—crusts emerged beautifully golden and crisp.

Versatility was also important. Most of the plates had flat rims, but our two ceramic contenders had fluted edges. We were impressed by these plates’ overall performance, but they just weren’t as versatile; while a wavy edge is a helpful fluting guide for some bakers, it can be a hindrance to those who prefer a certain crimping style or want the flexibility to change the crust depending on the pie.

In the end, the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Pie Dish ($18.95) outshone the rest. It made evenly baked pies with beautifully browned crusts on both top and bottom, and its slices were easy to cut and remove. The plate is also dishwasher-safe and cools down quickly for easy handling. One minor drawback: We noticed scratches on its surface after using metal utensils on it, but the issue was merely cosmetic and didn’t affect its performance. In this case, the gold-colored plate again takes the cake—or rather, the pie.

Methodology

We tested seven pie plates priced from $7.59 to $39.95, including glass, metal, and ceramic options. We baked three pies in each: chocolate pudding pie with a pat-in-the-pan graham cracker crust, blueberry pie with a homemade double pastry crust, and single-crust quiche Lorraine using a store-bought crust. We baked each pie in the same oven, positioning it in the same spot on the rack. We also heated each empty pie plate, one at a time, in the same oven, timing how long it took to reach 350 degrees. Finally, we measured each plate’s thickness and diameter. Prices listed were paid online. Scores were averaged, and pie plates appear in order of preference.

Browning: How well pie crusts browned on both top and bottom. The best pie plates produced flaky, golden-brown top crusts and nicely browned, crisp bottom crusts.

Release: How easy it was to remove slices from each pie plate. Pie plates that easily released intact slices without leaving any crust stuck on the pie plate scored highest.

Durability: How well pie plates handled normal wear and tear, including repeated contact with pie servers and knives and repeated washings; pie plates should withstand contact with utensils with minimal scratching that does not impact performance and should hold up well to repeated washings.

Versatility: Whether the pie plate’s design allows for multiple crust options and whether its size accommodates standard pie recipes.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.