Project Dessert

How to Make the Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie

By • March 7, 2014 • 22 Comments

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Every other Friday, Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2B Baking Co. shares dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because your weekends should always be sweet.

Today: Redeem all of your past lemon meringue disasters. Here's how to make one that works.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Lemon meringue pie is the kind of classic recipe that is easy to get very wrong: The filling can be overly sweet, gloppy, and impossible to slice, and the meringue on top can weep and slide right off of the filling, which makes for a very sad slice. 

But do not fear! This recipe avoids all of that mess with a zingy lemon filling that is set just enough to slice, topped with a billowy mound of sweet and caramelized meringue that will make you forget about all of your past lemon meringue disasters.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Here are a few tips for making a great lemon meringue pie at home:

1. Prebake the pie shell so it is golden brown and crisp; soggy crusts are not welcome here. 

2. Make sure that the filling is cooked gently and slowly to avoid curdling, but also make sure to adhere to the cooking times to ensure that it will set firmly enough that you're able to slice it. 

3. Before adding the meringue, cover the filled pie with parchment paper, making sure that it touches the lemon filling. Remove the paper once you're ready to top the pie; the meringue will bond together with the rough surface of the filling as the pie cools, which will keep the meringue from sliding off when you go to slice it. 

4. Make sure the pie has cooled completely before you slice it; otherwise, you will have a mess on your hands. 

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Lemon Meringue Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Filling

1 pre-baked 9-inch pie shell
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons lemon zest

Swiss Meringue

5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan combine your cornstarch, water, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Whisk until no lumps remain in the cornstarch, then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook while stirring constantly for 75 seconds. The mixture will be clear and very thick.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Beat the egg yolks together in a medium bowl, then slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat -- still stirring -- for 60 more seconds. Be careful not to let the mixture boil.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52  Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and cover the filling with a piece of parchment or waxed paper. This will help the meringue and filling adhere later. Set it in the refrigerator while you prepare the Swiss meringue. 

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl of the stand mixer over a double boiler and cook, stirring occasionally, until the egg whites are very warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.

Preheat the broiler. While the broiler is heating, whip the egg whites on medium high until stiff peaks form. Add in the salt and vanilla extract.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Remove the parchment paper from the pie filling, then carefully spread the meringue on top of the lemon filling in a decorative pattern. Make sure to spread the meringue all the way out to the crust.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Carefully slide the pie under the broiler and cook for 20 to 60 seconds, or until the meringue is golden brown with some deeply caramelized spots. 

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. This pie is best served the day that it is made.

Lemon Meringue Pie on Food52

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Yossy Arefi

Jump to Comments (22)

Tags: pie, dessert, lemon, citrus, winter, meringue, bruleed, baking

Comments (22)

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Stringio

9 months ago Alyce Bush

I would love to know more about that beautiful crust!

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9 months ago Yossy Arefi

This recipe is great: http://food52.com/blog...

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9 months ago Bob Eisenberg

For a little variation,
(1) put in a little orange juice for some of the lemon juice
(2) fold part (say 1/3) of the meringue into the lemon filling
then cover with the rest and follow the recipe

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9 months ago sonny bunny

My mother and I used to eat lunch at a counter in the farmer's market in downtown Sacramento in the 60's. Their pies were delish. I always opted for the lemon pie which was smothered in whipped cream and I have made my lemon pies this way ever since. lemon + cream = heaven !!!

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9 months ago Scot Yates

For years I've put a thin layer of seedless raspberry jam on top of the filling to keep the meringue from sliding off.

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9 months ago Mihaela

I would like to see what this instruction looks like: "Place the stand mixer over a double boiler and cook."

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9 months ago Yossy Arefi

Sorry Mihaela, that should read: "Place the bowl of the stand mixer over a double boiler and cook...

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9 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Sorry, this was meant to say the bowl of the standing mixer -- it's been edited!

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7 months ago Petite fee

Yes!!! I would too.

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7 months ago Petite fee

Is it necessary? it sounds really complicated to already a challgening baker.

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9 months ago love2cook

My father adored lemon meringue pie. No matter how many recipes my mother tried, he would always say that hers was not as good as the ones made by his mother (my grandmother) because every recipe my mother tried had cornstarch in it which in his opinion made the pie taste chalky. After my mother's death, I made a lemon meringue pie for him for his birthday using a recipe that I had found with the lemon curd cooked carefully in a double boiler so that it firmed up without even a whisper of cornstarch. Dad took one bite, beamed, and said "now that's how lemon meringue pie should be!" Success!!

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9 months ago Yossy Arefi

That sounds great. I also love Tartine's lemon cream which is made from curd cooked over a double boiler then whipped with butter. Delish!

Stringio

9 months ago Staci Dixon Hedlund

If the lemon curd is cold, how does the bottom of the meringue cook? I've always put my meringue onto hot curd so as to cook it. No?

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9 months ago Yossy Arefi

The egg whites are cooked slightly before the meringue is whipped then browned under a broiler. If you are concerned about raw eggs you are welcome to top the hot curd with the meringue.

Stringio

9 months ago Staci Dixon Hedlund

Got it! I'd missed the double boiler step, actually. (I wouldn't concerned about raw eggs for safety reasons, more for texture.) I understand now. Thanks!

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9 months ago patrick guilfoyle

Beautiful. Any tips for preventing "weeping" meringue? Thought that the parchment paper and not developing a skin was brilliant but, I don't remember, or never knew why the meringue weeps and its a pet peeve. Thanks.

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5 months ago KMicken

Yes! I, too, would like to hear of a technique for preventing weeping meringue. Thanks in advance.

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9 months ago Alicia

You do not need cornstarch to make a delicious lemon curd.

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9 months ago Yossy Arefi

You are correct. For this recipe I decided to make a more traditional style lemon filling, but I also love using Tartine's lemon cream as a pie or tart filling when I want something a bit more rich.

Stringio

9 months ago Staci Dixon Hedlund

Yossy, I like this version of lemon curd. It's lovely.

Emsepia

9 months ago Nothing in the House

SO beautiful. That whisk & meringue shot!

Merrill

9 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I love lemon meringue pie but haven't made one in years -- think this might be the inspiration I need! Looks amazing.