It's possible that the very last thing you'd like to do on Thanksgiving morning—when the turkey needs to be buttered and stuffed, the sweet potatoes need baking, and the guests are clamoring—is mess around with pastry dough. (I'm in that camp, too.)
And maybe, due to reheating horror stories or your admirable, I'll-find-a-way! morning-of ambition, you've hesitated to make pies ahead of time and freeze them. But let this be the year you try it: As one of our test kitchen managers, Allison Bruns Buford told me, baking pies from frozen is actually ideal (the colder the butter in your dough is, the flakier the crust will be). Win, win.
Here's how to do it for almost any pie:
In most cases, you can expect great results by cooking pot pies, fruit pies, and pecan pies (though not pumpkin or other custard pies) from frozen.
Prepare your filling, pour it into the unbaked pie crust, and assemble the topping for your pies. For fruit pies, cook the filling slightly, until fragrant and softened, before adding. For pot pies, cook the filling completely before adding. For pecan pies, cook the buttery, sugary filling, pour it in, and top with pecans if you'd like.
Wrap the pie in plastic wrap (flash-freezing on a baking sheet first—to prevent you from smushing your nice pie crust designs by wrapping the pie when it's still soft—if you like) and zip it into in a freezer bag. Freeze up to six weeks.
When it comes time to bake, remove from the bag and follow the pie's baking instructions. Add about 15 minutes to the baking time to accommodate the pie's frozenness.
A few tips for fruit pies:
Apples are sturdy fruits, and bake pretty well even when frozen raw. Juicier, softer fruits—like peaches or berries—benefit from being cooked down a bit before being put into the unbaked pie crust. If you're not sure, a good rule of thumb is to cook the filling before putting it into a raw pie crust.
"Its also not a bad idea when freezing a pie to a bit of extra thickener (cornstarch, flour, etc.) to your filling," says chestnuthoneychef. This will help prevent an overly juicy pie as the filling thaws.
Things to remember:
You can freeze a pre-baked pie, but the crust won't have that flaky, wonderful texture that makes fresh pies so good.
If you want a really, really fresh pie, do as Allison recommends: Make a couple of batches of pie dough now, roll it out, lay it in the pie plates, and freeze them just like that—so all you have to do is add the filling and bake. (If adding a top crust, thaw the bottom crust in the refrigerator before filling and baking so that both crusts will be the same temperature before baking). Or, you can freeze the dough in single-crust disks, wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in a large freezer bag. Then, as Thanksgiving approaches, you can remove the crusts as you need them, thaw them in the fridge, and roll them out to bake.
Brush the frozen pie with an egg wash (or other wash) right before baking—not before freezing.
Tent the crust with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning if the crust's edges seems to be cooking faster than the rest of the pie.
And, as Soozll reminds, if you freeze unbaked dough into glass pie plates and plan to bake them from frozen, put them "into the hot oven on a cool cookie sheet to ensure they won't break because of the extreme change in temperature."
Pumpkin pies unfortunately don't freeze well. But you can have the crust ready to go by making and freezing the crust ahead of time; the day you want to eat the pie, par-bake it, then pour the filling into the par-baked crust and finish baking as the recipe advises.
What are your best tips for freezing pies? Share them in the comments!