It's hard enough to bake pie: Getting the crust golden-brown without ending up with mushy filling is a challenge. But an underbaked crust is also the bane of a good dessert. So what types of pie pans get closest to the all-American ideal?
Many pie pans researched for this report tout features designed for better baking results (such as perforated or mesh bottoms), but the classic Pyrex Bakeware 9\" Pie Plate (*Est. $10) still earns the lion's share of recommendations in reviews. This tempered-glass plate produces nicely browned crusts and evenly cooked fillings, according to professional reviewers. Users posting to retail websites also note that the pie pan is sturdy, easy to clean and well priced -- and because it's see-through, you can keep a better eye on the crust.
A possible drawback to the Pyrex pie pan is that it doesn't make the most attractive serving dish. If you want something that can go from oven to table, stoneware and ceramic pie pans are often recommended in reviews. Plus, deep-dish stoneware pie plates can double as bakeware for quiches, small batches of lasagna or noodle casseroles, even layered dips.
In this category, we found strong support for the Emile Henry Pie Dish (*Est. $45). This ceramic pie plate made from French clay features a scalloped edge and is available in a choice of 11 colors. The dish is nonstick, scratch-resistant, and dishwasher-, microwave- and broiler-safe. Users say the pie pan produces perfect pies, and looks nice at potlucks and outdoor dinners. Some add that despite the scalloped edges, pie slices are easy to remove and serve.
Other well-reviewed ceramic plates include the Rose's Perfect Pie Plate (*Est. $27) and the Chantal 9-Inch Classic Pie Plate (*Est. $16). Both come in a variety of colors, are dishwasher-, microwave- and freezer-safe, and garner praise for their appealing scalloped-edge designs. In one review, however, testers found that the Rose's pie pan browned crusts too quickly; another review said the bottom of a pie baked in the Chantal pie dish did not crisp up nicely.
If you plan to transport a pie, or you want to refrigerate a pie and don't want to risk ruining a perfect meringue with plastic wrap, reviewers cite the NordicWare High Dome Covered Pie Pan (*Est. $20) as a good option. The pie tin is made of heavyweight aluminum, and comes with a domed plastic cover that can protect even tall meringue toppings from being crushed. Reviewers say the pie pan produces nicely browned crusts and is easy to carry, and many users call this covered pie dish a good value. Some users complain, however, that the pie pan's metal finish dulls if the pan goes through the dishwasher.
Other metal pans with novel features get mixed reviews. The Chicago Metallic Commercial Perforated Pie Pan (*Est. $9 for a set of two) has a perforated bottom designed to allow moisture to escape. While one professional reviewer says the pan produced a tender crust, others complain this design left the bottom of the pie soggy and undercooked. Similarly, the Doughmakers Pie Pan with Crust Protector (*Est. $20), which comes with metal rings that can cover the crust's edge to prevent overbrowning, draws concern: Some reviewers say their fillings didn't cook well and the protector can crush the crust.
The best source of pie-pan reviews is CooksIllustrated.com, which tests several brands of pie tins and critiques each. Good Housekeeping also tests and recommends pie pans. In addition, we found user reviews for pie plates and tins at Cooking.com, Target.com, Walmart.com and other retail sites. Finally, we found a bakeware buying guide on About.com, but this yielded very little specific information about pie plates.