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How to Get Clean, Perfect, Beautiful Slices of Pie

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Food52 is made up of an amazing community of people who are passionate about every aspect of food, including how to get it onto a plate and into their mouths. Recently, a community member who shall remain anonymous queried the following:

"You have lots of articles about making pies and pie dough and fancy pie crust things, but as far as I can tell have never written an article on how to get pieces of your pie out of the %^#$-ing pie dish without massacring them."

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Great question! Resident pie expert Erin McDowell has the answer.

So you’ve mastered your favorite pie crust. You can lattice like a boss. You’ve even braved the world of deep dish pies. But you still can’t slice the damn thing to save your life. You, my pie-loving friend, are not alone. This is a common pie woe ailing all of us who work for hours carefully mixing, chilling, rolling out, chilling, crimping, chilling (did we mention how much chilling goes on?!) and finally baking our perfect pies. Getting the perfect slice from a pie certainly doesn’t come as easily as nailing the perfect slice of cake—but there are some handy tips and tricks that will get you slicing cleaner, prettier pieces of pie in no time.

All the Best Advice for Better Pie Crust—in One Place
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All the Best Advice for Better Pie Crust—in One Place

Use a small, sharp, serrated knife.

Good pie dough is crisp and flaky, and such a crust isn’t going to get cut with a dull knife. I opt for serrated knives, but not the big, hulking kind I use to cut bread. Instead, I like something slightly larger than a paring knife. The serrated edge allows me to saw through the top crust (if applicable), without making too much of a crumby mess and makes sure the bottom crust is fully sliced before I try to remove the slice.

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The sample slice creates breathing room inside the pie plate.
The sample slice creates breathing room inside the pie plate.

Take out a sample slice.

This is a trick from the food stylist side of things. When I’m shooting pies, I never try to slice the whole pie right from the get-go. Instead, I take a very small, skinny “sample slice” and remove it from the pan. When it comes to this slice, I don’t care if I mess it up—I just need to buy myself a little breathing room inside the pie plate. Once that slice is removed, I can see into the pie better—is the filling firm or runny? Does the bottom crust look baked? Once I get an idea of what I’m dealing with, it becomes even easier to take a new, clean, dare I say “perfect” slice from the remainder of the pie. I start at one of the already cut edges (you can clean it up if needed), then cut as usual. This leads to a much higher success rate of pretty slices—plus I get to eat the sample slice.

Run your knife through a few times.

Are you sure you sliced all the way through? Did you make sure to cut the bottom crust at the very tip of the slice? Running your knife through the slice lines a few times helps to make sure everything is actually cut (especially the base!), which can really help when it comes time to lift that slice out.

Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust

Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust by Genius Recipes

Hot Water Crust

Hot Water Crust by Erin McDowell

Make sure your bottom crust is thoroughly baked.

A lot of times, an underbaked bottom crust of a pie can’t support the weight of the filling, causing collapsed slice disasters. To solve this, you can opt to par-bake your pie, or follow any of our tried and true tips for battling the dreaded soggy bottom. Try using a glass pie plate—it’s clear and you can actually check the bottom of your pie to see if it’s golden and brown before you remove it from the oven. Or try baking your pie on a pizza stone or baking steel, which provides more direct heat to the base of the pie plate, encouraging better browning at the base.

Take note of your pan before you bake.

Short pans can be hard to get impressive slices out of—but deep pans can be hard to keep a looser filling intact once it’s sliced. Also, pans with straighter sides can be easier to remove from pie plates as a solid slice than pies baked in a pan with steep sloping sides.

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17 Pie Recipes To Last You All Summer Long

Cool the pie completely.

This is the hardest one—but all pies slice cleaner when fully cooled (or thoroughly chilled, for cream and refrigerator pies). Baked pies should be cooled completely at room temperature, then sliced for the best look. You can re-warm the slice itself by placing it on a parchment lined baking sheet, tenting the slice with foil, and reheating in a 300° F oven for 8-10 minutes. Cold-set pies, such as cream pies, ice cream pies, or refrigerator pies, should be thoroughly chilled before you attempt to slice them for best results.

Do you have any secret pie-slicing tips? Share them with us in the comments!

Tags: pie pans, slicing pie, impossible tasks