Dish Debate: Choosing the Right Pie Plate

Metal, glass, and ceramic pie plates all have their merits, but it's often hard to determine which type is best for your particular dessert. Here, a pie pro weighs in.

If you're a baker, you may have noticed the variety of pie plates on the market. As with most cookware, there's a lot of debate about which type is the best. Pie plates typically come in three different materials: metal, glass, and ceramic. All three can absolutely create a fantastic pie, so determining which is "best" is primarily based on personal preference. But, just like anything that's up for debate, there are pros and cons to each.

Metal: Most metal pie plates available (also often referred to as pie tins) are made of aluminum, many of which are coated. Avoid using aluminum disposables, unless you are gifting or mass-producing pies. I've found that the lighter-colored aluminum pie plates work best.

  • PRO: Aluminum pie plates heat and cool very quickly, making them an optimal choice for pies that require blind-baking or par-baking.
  • CON: Aluminum plates, especially coated ones, are typically not knife-friendly, meaning if you use a knife to cut the finished pie, you will likely cut through or scratch the coating.

Glass: Glass plates are the number-one choice for many pie bakers that I know. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and predictable –- a good trait for a baking dish. I'm a big fan of glass plates with small handles, they are easy to rotate and remove from the oven.

  • PRO: Glass heats at a slow, steady, and even pace, which promotes consistent baking and browning. The process might take a bit longer, but a perfectly baked pie is worth the wait! Plus, because glass is clear, you can see the browning through the bottom of the pan.
  • CON: Glass plates have a tendency to "slip" and produce more dough shrinkage when baking. Your dough might look perfect when it goes in the oven, but then shrink during baking.

Ceramic: While ceramic plates are typically more expensive, they are usually my top choice. Ceramic plates, in my opinion, provide the best of both worlds -- they conduct slow, even heat, similar to glass pie plates, but they also provide a beautiful serving vessel.

  • PRO: Many ceramic plates are freezer-to-oven safe, a major advantage when you want to bake ahead. It's very important that if you are freezing an unbaked pie, your dish can sustain the major temperature change from freezer to oven (if it can't, your dish might shatter in the oven!)
  • CON:Many standard ceramic plates come with a thick rim, which makes for easy fluting. While this is helpful in the decorative process, it has a tendency to brown much faster than the whole pie bakes. Have a crust protector handy! Ceramic plates also seem to be a bit larger in size, even if listed as "standard." This could mean a bit more crust and filling, and slightly longer baking.

Choosing the right pie plate is important, but the oven is too! And not all ovens are created equal. Know your oven and check on your pie while it's baking. If you have a "hot spot" in your oven, be sure to adjust. If your pie is browning too much, cover and rotate as necessary. I always keep an oven thermometer inside my oven to double check the temperature accuracy.

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