Glass, metal or stoneware pie pans?

Pie pans, which are also called pie plates, pie tins or pie dishes, can be used to bake a variety of foods, including fruit, cream and meat pies; quiches; round breads; even vegetables and meat dishes. They're round in shape, with sloping sides that can be either flat or fluted. Pie pans are between 8 and 10 inches in diameter, although most are 9 or 91/2 inches. They're generally 1 to 11/2 inches deep.

Deep-dish pie pans are between 9 and 11 inches in diameter, and can be up to 21/2 inches deep. Tart pans differ in that they have straight (not sloping) sides and can be rectangular or round.

Baking pies presents a singular problem: The filling bakes gradually while the crust bakes faster. Because glass and stoneware or ceramic pie pans conduct heat more slowly and allow the filling to bake thoroughly without producing an overbaked crust, they're more often recommended than metal pie tins.

Glass pie dishes are inexpensive, plus you can monitor your pie's bottom and sides as baking progresses to make sure the crust doesn't get too brown. Glass pans are also convenient, being freezer-, dishwasher- and microwave-safe.

Some users express concern about Internet reports of Pyrex glass pans shattering unexpectedly in the oven. In response to these reports, Pyrex notes on its website that extreme changes in temperature will cause any glass to shatter. So you wouldn't want to take a glass pie pan from the freezer directly into a hot oven, for example.

Ceramic and stoneware pie dishes provide the same freezer, dishwasher and microwave convenience as glass pans, and they can also go under the broiler. Many come in bright colors and with scalloped edges that look attractive on the table. The downside, however, is that they can be pricey.

Metal pie plates have the advantage of being inexpensive and durable. Many metal pans have a nonstick coating, which makes pie slices release smoothly, and provides easy clean-up. Yet metal pans absorb heat quickly, meaning crusts can brown before the filling is thoroughly cooked. Some manufacturers make "crust protectors" -- silicone or metal rings that fit over the crust edges during baking to prevent it from absorbing too much heat and browning too quickly. Reviews of crust protectors are mixed, however, with some users complaining they slip off the pie, crush the crust or don't accomplish their intended purpose.

Disposable aluminum-foil pans are a practical alternative when baking large quantities, or when you must transport a pie and don't want to worry about losing track of your pie plate. Keep in mind, however, that the shiny, reflective surface won't brown crusts as well as other materials do.

Some things to keep in mind when purchasing pie pans:

  • Look for sides that slope. If your pie plate's sides are vertical rather than angled, crusts can collapse and crumble during baking.
  • Consider buying a pie plate as part of a bakeware set. You'll get more for your money as long as you'll use the other pieces, which can include a cookie sheet, loaf pan or muffin tin.
  • Check the size. Most recipes assume you'll use a standard 9-inch pie pan. A plate that's larger or smaller could mean having to adjust your recipe. Using a pan with a larger diameter than the recipe calls for, or substituting a deep-dish for a standard size, can affect baking outcomes.
  • If you opt for metal, consider the color. For crispier crusts, choose a metal pan with a darker finish; light and shiny metals are less successful when it comes to browning.
  • Avoid metal pans with mesh or perforated bottoms. While these features are intended to help release moisture, professional reviewers say they actually produce soggy pie bottoms.

Glass, metal or stoneware pie pans?

Pie pans, which are also called pie plates, pie tins or pie dishes, can be used to bake a variety of foods, including fruit, cream and meat pies; quiches; round breads; even vegetables and meat dishes. They're round in shape, with sloping sides that can be either flat or fluted. Pie pans are between 8 and 10 inches in diameter, although most are 9 or 91/2 inches. They're generally 1 to 11/2 inches deep.

Deep-dish pie pans are between 9 and 11 inches in diameter, and can be up to 21/2 inches deep. Tart pans differ in that they have straight (not sloping) sides and can be rectangular or round.

Baking pies presents a singular problem: The filling bakes gradually while the crust bakes faster. Because glass and stoneware or ceramic pie pans conduct heat more slowly and allow the filling to bake thoroughly without producing an overbaked crust, they're more often recommended than metal pie tins.

Glass pie dishes are inexpensive, plus you can monitor your pie's bottom and sides as baking progresses to make sure the crust doesn't get too brown. Glass pans are also convenient, being freezer-, dishwasher- and microwave-safe.

Some users express concern about Internet reports of Pyrex glass pans shattering unexpectedly in the oven. In response to these reports, Pyrex notes on its website that extreme changes in temperature will cause any glass to shatter. So you wouldn't want to take a glass pie pan from the freezer directly into a hot oven, for example.

Ceramic and stoneware pie dishes provide the same freezer, dishwasher and microwave convenience as glass pans, and they can also go under the broiler. Many come in bright colors and with scalloped edges that look attractive on the table. The downside, however, is that they can be pricey.

Metal pie plates have the advantage of being inexpensive and durable. Many metal pans have a nonstick coating, which makes pie slices release smoothly, and provides easy clean-up. Yet metal pans absorb heat quickly, meaning crusts can brown before the filling is thoroughly cooked. Some manufacturers make "crust protectors" -- silicone or metal rings that fit over the crust edges during baking to prevent it from absorbing too much heat and browning too quickly. Reviews of crust protectors are mixed, however, with some users complaining they slip off the pie, crush the crust or don't accomplish their intended purpose.

Disposable aluminum-foil pans are a practical alternative when baking large quantities, or when you must transport a pie and don't want to worry about losing track of your pie plate. Keep in mind, however, that the shiny, reflective surface won't brown crusts as well as other materials do.

Some things to keep in mind when purchasing pie pans:

  • Look for sides that slope. If your pie plate's sides are vertical rather than angled, crusts can collapse and crumble during baking.
  • Consider buying a pie plate as part of a bakeware set. You'll get more for your money as long as you'll use the other pieces, which can include a cookie sheet, loaf pan or muffin tin.
  • Check the size. Most recipes assume you'll use a standard 9-inch pie pan. A plate that's larger or smaller could mean having to adjust your recipe. Using a pan with a larger diameter than the recipe calls for, or substituting a deep-dish for a standard size, can affect baking outcomes.
  • If you opt for metal, consider the color. For crispier crusts, choose a metal pan with a darker finish; light and shiny metals are less successful when it comes to browning.
  • Avoid metal pans with mesh or perforated bottoms. While these features are intended to help release moisture, professional reviewers say they actually produce soggy pie bottoms.

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