Should You Bake with Glass, Ceramic, or Metal Pie Plates? Consider the Pros and Cons of Each
When we talk about baking Martha-worthy pies, we often focus on the perfect crust, fillings, and baking techniques. While each of these elements certainly can make or break a pie, one less often discussed factor is what you'll bake your pastry in: the pie plate. Just like when baking any kind of treats, the material the baking dish is made of affects the final result. If your pies aren't coming out exactly how you like, you might want to consider what you are baking them in. Metal, glass, and ceramic all conduct heat differently and will have different effects on the outcome of the crust. What's more, they're available in different sizes and shapes, and some are prone to shattering—sounds scary and complicated? We promise, it's not.
Metal Pie Plates
The champion of flaky, crisp, golden crusts, a metal pie plate is a no frills, low-cost option every baker should have on hand. Usually constructed from aluminum and sometimes referred to as pie tins, metal both heats and cools quickly. When it comes to baking pie dough, the speedy heat conduction helps bakers achieve both the quintessential flaky crust and a golden one fast, making it well-suited to recipes that call for blind baking. It is also perfect for crisp cookie crusts. Pies that require a longer bake time, however, such as double crust pies, might be better suited for glass or ceramic pie plates that don't heat as fast. In a pinch, metal can do the job, though.
Some pie tins have a nonstick coating which can come in handy, although a properly baked pie should have a crispy, flaky, golden crust that slides right out of the pie dish whole, which would render nonstick obsolete. If you're going this route, be sure to opt for lighter colored metal pans as darker ones promote browning due to even more effective heat absorption and this is too much for pies. In addition to being light and easy to carry, metal tins can safely go from the freezer to the oven and be placed under the broiler—some glass and ceramic pie plates can potentially shatter when exposed to quick temperature changes, so if you love to prep recipes ahead, this could be the best choice for you.
They're akin to an insurance policy. Bakers love glass pie plates because they provide a window right into the doneness of the pie crust; just look and see if the crust and sides are golden. Glass heats up gently and evenly, priming the pie for a consistent, but slightly slower bake than metal delivers—factor in additional baking time. Glass is also relatively inexpensive and light, which makes it the perfect in-between pie plate for anyone just building their cookware collection.
Glass pie plates are usually made of either tempered or borosilicate glass, with the latter sturdier and less likely to break. Bakers often don't realize this easily avoidable limitation of glass pie plates: The glass can shatter even if you don't drop it. Sudden changes in temperature—such as transferring the crust from the freezer to a hot oven or broiling the pie—can cause shattering. Borosilicate glass is much more likely to hold up.
By far the prettiest of the bunch, ceramic pie plates come in beautiful colors and fun shapes. Ceramic heats up more slowly than glass or metal, but it retains that heat quite well. One pitfall of ceramic is that the dish size can be inconsistent. Ceramic pie plates are often larger and deeper than the standard metal and glass pie plates, so recipes might have to be adjusted to fit their volume. Both points would require pies in ceramic pie plates to bake a bit longer than glass or metal.
When it comes to pie doughs, some bakers feel ceramic conducts heat too slowly and this inhibits the flakiness of the crust. Other's choose ceramic for longer baking pies, so the bottom crust isn't golden before the filling and top crust bake. Ceramic should be safe to go from freezer to oven and also under the broiler, however this is not always the case so check the manufacturers' instructions. It's also important to consider use: Ceramic pie plates weigh more than glass and metal, making them a nuisance to get in and out of the oven. They're also usually more expensive than glass or metal iterations, so they are more of an investment in your future baking.