The Best Pie Plate
The sturdy, well-crafted Emile Henry 9-Inch Pie Dish ($40) is our favorite plate for pies of all kinds. Made of durable stoneware that conducts heat slowly and uniformly, this plate creates perfectly browned, crisp crusts and evenly-cooked fillings. It’s also the preferred plate of many enthusiastic pie makers we spoke with—pros and home bakers alike. For this update, we built on the initial 12 hours of research (and many more of testing) in our original guide with an additional 7 hours of baking in top-rated pie plates. The Emile Henry was the clear winner.
If you’re looking for a shallower, less expensive plate, we recommend the Pyrex Bakeware 9 Inch Pie Plate ($8). Initially, we thought this would be our first choice, because glass pans are a favorite of many bakers due to the fact that you can see the crust as it browns. However, Pyrex changed their glass formula from virtually shatterproof borosilicate to tempered soda lime sometime in the past few decades. As a result, a small percentage of this bakeware has been exploding in people’s ovens (and even on countertops), raising concerns about baking in glass. We didn’t encounter any problems in our own testing, yet because of the minor (but real) safety issues, we can’t recommend this pan for everyone.1
Since we first reviewed pie pans in 2013, our former top pick—the Haeger NaturalStone Deep Pie Dish (about $25)—has become harder to find. We still really like this pan, but because it’s not as widely available as it once was, we decided it was time to revisit this guide and choose a plate that’s easier to find. The Emile Henry plate was the runner up in our initial guide, not because of performance, but because of its higher price. We’ve crowned it the new winner because it’s also always available at many kitchenware retailers.
Should I upgrade?
Of course, you can always use those flimsy, disposable supermarket tins for occasional use, but these won’t cook your pies as evenly, they’re a hassle to work with, and they’re not as pretty if you’re planning to present them on the table.
Some of our pie-making experts told us that a wavy rim on a plate will make it much easier for novice bakers to make pretty fluting at the edges of the crust. If your pan doesn’t have one—and you think you’d benefit from this feature—you may want to consider getting one that does.
We think it’s worth having a good pie plate on hand, even if you only bake once a year. There are always ways to get around using a pie plate—making a slab pie in a sheet pan, for instance—but for versatility and pure ease, a good pie plate makes baking easier. And despite the fact that the majority of pie plates probably sit in a cupboard until Thanksgiving, they can come in handy year-round—and for more than just sweets. If the pan is deep enough, you can make things like frittatas and pot pies. You can also make dishes associated with other specialty tart or springform pans, such as quiche and cheesecake.
How we picked and tested
The ideal pie plate will evenly brown the entire crust, while cooking a variety of fillings. To do all of this, the plate needs to conduct heat slowly and evenly, and a simple glass or ceramic/stoneware pan will do this best. (Glass and stoneware are actually poor heat conductors, so they cook more slowly, resulting in more even baking and unburnt crusts).
Pie pans range in size from 8 inches to about 10 ½ inches, but a 9-inch pan is the standard in most cookbook recipes. (That pan measurement should be taken between the inside rims.) A small rim around the edge of the pie plate makes it easier to flute the edge of the pie; a rippled edge can make forming a beautiful fluted crust easier.
You’ll find both shallow and deep-dish pans, and each are appropriate for different types of pies. If you’re a fan of icebox pies (such as lemon meringue) you might want a shallower pan (about 1-inch deep) that allows for a thin layer of filling and heaps of pillowy meringue on top. If fruit pies are your thing, a deeper pan (around 2-inches deep) will allow you to cut tall, thin slices packed with fruit and sandwiched with minimal crust.
For a rundown on the basics of pie plates, we reached out to three experts. Kate McDermott is a Seattle-based pie making teacher who’s been featured in the New York Times and makes it a practice to bake a pie a day. Because she works with hundreds of students who bring their own pie plates to class, she knows a lot about what’s available. Sarah Carey, the editor of Everyday Food, has done a lot of pie baking and recipe development both for that magazine and as the former deputy food editor at Martha Stewart Living. Ken Haedrich has written several cookbooks on pie baking and runs the website The Pie Academy.
After a lot of research, we opted not to include metal pans in our testing, because they’re not as versatile as glass or ceramic ones. Because metal conducts heat very efficiently, this type of pan isn’t great for custard-based pies like quiche; it tends to overbake the crust before the filling sets. Metal plates, however, are great for fruit pies or recipes that need time under the broiler, such as meringue. (They’re also more durable, and if you want one, see our recommendations in “The Competition” section, below).
In multiple reviews, we found Pyrex and other glass pans to be the overwhelming favorite of both pro and amateur pie makers because you can see the pie crust browning. However, in recent years there have been multiple reports of Pyrex pans exploding in moderately heated ovens, and even out of the oven. In 2011, Consumer Reports published an extensive story on this that raised the alarm for many people. The issue can be traced to Pyrex’s decision to switch from more heat-resistant borosilicate glass to tempered soda lime. It’s still heat resistant, but it’s less so than borosilicate. Exploding pans aren’t the norm for the vast majority of people, but if it worries you, it’s worth looking into other options.1 (We still tested a Pyrex glass pan for this guide to have a point of comparison.)
In our initial review we ended up testing four plates: the Emile Henry 9-inch Pie Plate (about $40); the Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Perfect Pie Plate ($22), a newer plate developed by the author of books like The Pie and Pastry Bible; a dark horse, the Haeger NaturalStone Deep Pie Dish ($25), which looks almost exactly like the Emile Henry plate, except it has an unglazed interior; and the classic and well-loved Pyrex Bakeware 9-Inch Pie Plate ($8).
For this update, we tested the well-reviewed Good Cook 9-Inch Ceramic Pie Plate ($17) against the Emile Henry.
We modeled our testing after that done by Cook’s Country, blind-baking pie crusts and making quiches and double-crust fruit pies. As a final test, we baked a graham cracker crust in our front-running plate to make sure it didn’t slump, crack or crumble.
In each test, we scrutinized the underside of the crusts for even browning. For the quiche, we looked to see that the pan cooked the center of the filling without overcooking the edges. If the pans had ruffled rims, we tried making fluting. We also noted if baked-on fruit juices or oils were difficult to wash from the pan.
We tested whether the pans could go from the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes (or the refrigerator for an hour) directly into the preheated oven. This goes against manufacturers’ instructions, but it’s a crucial step in successful pie baking (serious bakers generally chill their dough in the pan to help reduce shrinkage in the oven, and this step also results in a flakier crust). To reduce the risk of the plates cracking or shattering, we placed each chilled pan on a room-temperature sheet pan before placing into the preheated oven.
For consistency, we baked each pie individually on the same rack to make sure they were all exposed to similar heat. Like Cook’s Country, we used pre-made dough. However, we found all the pre-made doughs difficult to make really pretty fluting with (and inferior overall), so we eventually switched over to the homemade variety.
For our initial guide and this update we baked a total of 10 pies and 7 more blind-baked crusts.
We found that the Emile Henry 9-Inch Pie Dish ($40) baked all the pies beautifully, without any of the shattering risks of Pyrex, and with more even baking than some of the competitors. It’s really easy to make a fluted crust with this plate. We also like that it’s roomy enough for most pie recipes, you can place it under a broiler, it comes in a variety of colors, and is more widely available than any of the other pans we tested.
We found there wasn’t much difference between the five plates in how they baked the fillings. The quiche fillings cooked evenly at the edges and in the center, and the fruit fill was pleasantly soft. Yet the Emile Henry was one of the only pans (along with the Pyrex and Haeger) to consistently produce crusts that were evenly browned on the bottom and sides.
The wavy rim on the Emile Henry is the ideal shape for easily crimping a fluted edge. One plate we tried was far too wavy, while another didn’t have enough of an indent around the edge.
We also like that the Emile Henry holds all the ingredients for most pie recipes. It’s irritating (and wasteful) when you end up with an extra cup of filling that just won’t fit in your pan. The average pumpkin pie recipe, for example, uses roughly 4 to 5 ½ cups of ingredients. At 2 inches deep, the Emile Henry holds roughly 6 cups of liquid, so there’s plenty of room for crust and all that custard. In contrast, the 1 ½-inch deep Pyrex plate only holds 4 cups of liquid, so you’ll usually end up with extra filling.
Unlike most of the plates we tested, the Emile Henry can also go under the broiler—a bonus if you like meringue pies. You definitely shouldn’t place Pyrex under a broiler, and the same goes for most stoneware.
The Emile Henry plate also comes in the widest variety of colors, with a dozen shades to choose from (most of the other plates we tested only come in one to three colors). In our initial review, we weren’t sold on paying more for the Emile Henry’s prettier color palette. But we can’t deny that the colors are pretty and will suit a range of tastes.
Lastly, we like that the Emile Henry plate is easy to find online and in most good brick-and-mortar kitchen shops. Lack of availability was a primary reason we demoted our former favorite pan, the Haeger NaturalStone Deep Pie Dish.
The Emile Henry 9-inch Pie Plate (about $40) gets tons of great reviews (from Good Housekeeping, TheKitchn and Chow). We found dozens of positive mentions about this plate on Chowhound and Food52 threads and from members of The American Pie Council.
Flaws but not deal breakers
If treated roughly or shipped without enough packaging, Emile Henry plates chip or crack more easily than other ceramics we’ve worked with (some Amazon reviewers complain about this issue). Reputable dealers usually ship dishes wrapped in strips or sheets of thick foam. If you’re careful with your plate, and don’t bump it against a counter or other dishes, it should be fine.
All Emile Henry stoneware comes with a warranty of 3 to 10 years, depending on where you purchase. But when we left a message with Emile Henry’s customer service department, they never called us back. Their warranty is longer than for most pie plates, but it may just take a little persistence to reach them with a problem.
We don’t love that the Emile Henry is so expensive (roughly five times the price of a simple Pyrex plate). You’re undoubtedly paying a bit for the cachet of French-made stoneware and the company’s good name. That said, many of the experts we spoke with have happily used their Emile Henry plates for years. Kate McDermott, who bakes in four Emile Henry plates weekly, has had no complaints in the six years she’s owned them. If you can get 10 or 20 years from a pie plate, $40 doesn’t seem all that spendy.
Runner up: The Haeger NaturalStone Deep Pie Dish
For our initial guide, our top choice was the Haeger NaturalStone Deep Pie Dish ($17 to $25, depending on where you buy). It bakes on par with the Emile Henry, but is nearly half the price. If it were still easy to find, we’d give it our top recommendation again, but because many retailers seem to have run out of stock we can’t recommend this plate for most people.
The Haeger is a bit heavier than the Emile Henry and tended to brown the crusts more slowly, but it did so very evenly. If you wanted a really dark crust, you’d need to leave the Haeger in the oven longer than the other plates.
At the beginning of testing, we had reservations about the Haeger’s unglazed stoneware interior. According to the manufacturer, this interior will season over time, absorbing fat and oil, and essentially become nonstick. We were curious whether crusts would stick to the unseasoned surface and if, once seasoned, the finish would be tedious to clean (like cast iron). We didn’t need to worry on either point. In each test, the pie crust released effortlessly from the pan, which also happened to clean up easily. You can wash the pan with soap and even in the dishwasher.
The Haeger doesn’t come with a great warranty—only a 90-day manufacturer’s warranty. But we did find their customer service responsive. We called, anonymously, saying our pan had cracked and the company FedEx’d us a replacement in three days.
We did not find other editorial reviews of the Haeger, but it gets high Amazon user reviews (4.9 stars out of 5). We also read good reviews about this plate on Chefs Catalogue. Many reviewers compare it to Emile Henry pie pans and other French ceramic plates. If you can find it, we think the Haeger is still a great deal, particularly since you can snag two plates—say, to make pumpkin and pecan pies for Thanksgiving—for the price of one Emile Henry.
The step down
With a depth of 1 ½ inches, the Pyrex holds 4 cups (or 1 quart) of liquid—about 2 cups less than the 2-inch-deep Emile Henry plate. The squatter profile works well for classic diner-style or icebox pies, where you want a thin layer of filling topped with peaks of pillowy cream. Keep in mind that you’re not supposed to use Pyrex under a broiler, so this isn’t the best dish for something like lemon meringue pie. The limited volume also means you could end up with extra filling if using a recipe developed for a deeper dish (common with most pumpkin and some fruit pies).
As I mentioned before, the actual percentage of Pyrex pans exploding in the oven is actually pretty minimal, particularly if you use your pan according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Except for one instance, the experts I spoke with haven’t had any issues with baking in Pyrex. “I always use glass plates and have never had a problem,” said Sarah Carey. She bakes her pies at 375°F.
We did find the Pyrex a little tougher to clean than the Haeger. Even after just three tours through the oven, I found it hard to scrub of the brown spots that formed on the bottom of the Pyrex.
Because the Emile Henry 9-Inch Pie Dish bakes just as evenly as the Pyrex without the risk of shattering in the oven, we think it’s a better choice for most people. But if you don’t mind the minimal safety issues, we think the Pyrex makes beautiful pies at a bargain.
Care and maintenance
By now, we hope you’re not totally freaked about exploding pie pans and shattered glass. As long as you follow the fine print instructions that come with Pyrex and stoneware dishes and use common sense, you’ll probably be fine.
“If you take a really cold pie pan, one that you’ve let chill up in the freezer, don’t put it directly into a hot oven,” says Kate McDermott. Instead, she advises letting it warm up slightly before putting in the oven. “I rarely put a pie pan directly from the freezer into a full 425 oven,” she says. She did this once, and her Pyrex pan broke.
If you do chill dough in the pan before baking, it’s a good idea to place the cold dish on a room-temperature rimmed sheet pan (we like the Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet , which we reviewed in this guide) before placing in a hot oven. The sheet pan will make it easy to take the pan in and out of the oven—plus it’ll catch any drips from messing up the bottom of your oven. (Cleanup will be even easier if you line the sheet pan with parchment paper.)
Haeger and Pyrex say you should avoid putting their pans under the broiler; Emile Henry, on the other hand, says all of their products are broiler-safe. You shouldn’t place any hot stoneware or glass on a wet surface or water into a hot dish.
McDermott, who teaches pie-making classes in people’s homes, told us about a nifty trick for testing for cold and hot spots in your oven. She places slices of white bread on the oven racks and notes which ones brown and which ones stay pale—these are your hot and cold pockets.
We tried this and were quickly able to map hot and cold spots in our oven.
If you’ve ever struggled making perfect fluted edges on a double crust, we like this tip from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook: After fitting the bottom layer of dough into the pie pan, trim the overhang with kitchen shears to ½ inch. After placing the top layer of dough over the filling, trim the edges to 1 inch, tuck under the edge of the bottom layer and crimp the two layers together.
Lastly, keep in mind there’s always variation in bake times with different pans. In her home baking classes, McDermott has observed that thin CorningWare and Pyrex pans tend to cook faster than thicker stoneware or ceramic pans. She says to assess the size of the pan and know that a thicker plate will need more bake time.
Our favorite crust recipe
Although you can purchase ready-made pie dough, we’ve found that the homemade variety tastes far better, it’s generally easier to work with and it comes out much flakier (if you keep all your ingredients cold). Plus, homemade dough isn’t hard to make.
If you have a food processor, we like this recipe from Martha Stewart. If you have a pastry cutter, try this Smitten Kitchen recipe. And if you don’t have any specialty mixing equipment, you can always use a regular old box grater to shave cold butter into your flour mixture and blend everything together with a few forks.
Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Rose’s Perfect Pie Plate ($28) was recommended in a Cook’s Country review and receives good user reviews on Amazon (4 out of 5 stars). We found that it tended to brown the crust a little unevenly. The center of the bottom of the crust remained lightly toasted, when the edges got a deep dark color. Cook’s Country also found that the fluted edges, which are flatter and deeper than those on the Emile Henry and Haeger, browned more quickly than the rest of the crust.
The Good Cook 9-Inch Ceramic Pie Plate ($17) was highly rated by Amazon users (4.3 stars of 102 reviews). In our testing, we found it left a soggy, uncooked circle of dough at the center of the bottom of the blueberry pie we made in it. We also didn’t love the rim, which is slightly thicker and harder to form nice fluting than that on the Emile Henry.
Other plates we looked at
Le Creuset Stoneware Pie Dish: Although this receives decent Amazon reviews and was recommended by Kate McDermott, it wasn’t rated more highly than the other ceramic dishes we chose to test, and we also read bad reviews about other Le Creuset bakeware, which is now made in China (unlike Le Creuset enameled cast-iron, which is still made in France). This isn’t a knock against Chinese produced cookware; it’s just that Le Creuset’s higher prices come with the expectation of French origin.
Pyrex Easy Grab 9½-Inch Pie Plate: Cook’s Country only recommended this plate with reservation.
Hess Pottery Pie Plates: Ken Haedrich, of The Pie Academy, said this is the “Lexus of pie pans.” Made of natural red clay with no glaze, it gets a good review from The Kitchn and is mentioned in this New York Times article. It looks beautiful, yet at $40 for the plate plus $25 for shipping, it was too expensive to consider for this review.
Anchor Hocking Glass Pie Dish: This dish looks identical to the Pyrex dish we tested, and is also made of soda lime glass—so ii’s subject to the same baking risks. This did not have as many user reviews as the Pyrex pan and no editorial reviews, so we opted to only test the Pyrex one.
Paula Deen Stoneware 9” Pie Plate Pate: Good Housekeeping reviewed this, but it appears to be discontinued.
World Kitchen CorningWare French White Pie Plate. Didn’t find reliable reviews of this and not higher than standard Pyrex dish.
Chantal Pure Classic Pie Dish: Did not receive higher reviews than the dishes we tested.
Pfaltzgraff Deep Dish Pie Plate: Good Housekeeping didn’t like this dish, finding it “didn’t deliver as crispy a bottom crust as most and was very difficult to clean up.”
CorningWare SimplyLite 9-Inch Pie Plate: This was only recommended with reservations by Cook’s Country, and doesn’t appear to be available on Amazon or other sites (at least, not under this name).
We also looked at glass pans made by Arc International (makers of European Pyrex). These pans are still made of borosilicate glass and may be safer than the soda-lime pans available in the U.S. We chose not to test these pans because they are not easy to find in the States. Bed Bath & Beyond sells several of their roasting dishes, but not the pie pans.
We also looked at a range of metal plates, but discounted them as they are not as versatile for baking a variety of pies as ceramic, stoneware or glass ones. If you still want one, we read good things about the OvenStuff Non-Stick 9 Inch Pie Pan Two Piece Set ($16), which is an Amazon best-seller and gets good user reviews (4.9 out of 5 stars). Ken Haedrich likes the nonstick Goldtouch ($19) sold by Williams-Sonoma.
Wrapping it up
To make great pies, you don’t need the fanciest or most expensive pie plate. What you want is a pan that bakes a uniformly brown and crisp crust while evenly cooking a variety of fillings. (It’s also nice if it looks pretty!) For that, we recommend the Emile Henry 9-Inch Pie Dish ($40). If you want a very basic, shallow pan that you can see through—and if you don’t mind the safety issues of baking in soda lime glass—we recommend the Pyrex Bakeware 9-Inch Pie Plate ($8).
Originally published: August 8, 2014