If pie season were a thing, Thanksgiving would be opening day. There isn’t a single day of the year where Americans more roundly engage in the pondering, preparing or consuming of pies than as they do at Thanksgiving. As such, I feel compelled to inform you that making pies in chintzy aluminum will not do.
The best vessel to make Thanksgiving pies is one you likely already have — the cast-iron skillet.
Aluminum and tin — the most common materials used to make pie pans — are great conductors of heat, but they’re terrible insulators. This means the potential for a pie that comes out unevenly cooked and crusts that aren’t crusty. Alternatively, cast-iron cookware is a terrible conductor of heat, but probably the best heat insulator in the cookware world.
Because of this, pies that come out of cast-iron skillets are cooked more evenly than their aluminum and tin counterparts and have crispier crusts than even those of glass pie pans. And, when you go cast iron instead of its alternatives, you’re buying yourself cookware that will be used for just about any cooking challenge thrown its way. It also looks way nicer to serve a pie in a nice, warm skillet than in a disposable tray.
Here are three things to remember when making your Grandma’s secret pecan pie recipe in a cast-iron skillet this year.
Go Double Crust
Some pie makers will be tempted to forgo the bottom layer of crust (between the pan and the filling) and create what’s technically more of a cobbler situation. You can do this with cast iron, but you’re robbing yourself of its greatest strength — the crustiest, crispiest crust of them all. Remember to give the surface of the skillet and crust a good rub down of butter before situating in the skillet.
Mind the Skillet Size
The math of baking — times, temperatures and measurements — are far more unforgiving than math of regular cooking. Because of this, it’s best to stick with 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillets. Nearly every pie recipe is tailored to the standard pie pan’s dimensions — nine inches wide and one-and-a-quarter inches deep. The 9- and 10-inch Lodge skillets (the most affordable you’ll find) are both just about two inches deep, and as close as you’ll get to the traditional pie pan shape.
Remember the 60-40 Crust Rule
Whether you’re making your own crust or buying a bunch from the store, use about 60 percent of the total crust on the bottom layer and the remaining 40 percent on whatever style top layer you’re feeling. Skillets are a bit deeper than traditional pie tins and require more dough to make it all the way up the walls.