Bake

Best Chicken Pot Pie

September 17, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog.
Author Notes

Chicken pot pie is as cozy and comforting as dinner gets. In our test kitchen’s best version of this classic, we’ve got a buttery, flaky crust, with a creamy filling, full of chicken, veggies, and savory milk gravy. Here’s how each component becomes the best version of itself:

First up, the gravy. Sautéeing finely diced onion, carrot, and celery means more browning and more flavor. A couple cloves of fresh garlic bump up the savoriness, but don’t make the dish garlicky. A generous amount of flour thickens the gravy, so the filling is creamy but not liquidy. When it comes to the liquid, we have a lot of options: water, chicken broth, milk, half-and-half, cream. The catch is that we want the liquid to be both creamy and chickeny, which none of those options are. The solution is combining whole milk (just rich enough) with chicken-flavored Better Than Bouillon. If this powerhouse ingredient has yet to become a staple in your kitchen, grab a jar and get acquainted. In this recipe, we’ll be using a spoonful to add intense chickeny flavor and golden color, but the jar keeps in the fridge for months, and can be used to mix up a quick stock, and add flavor to soups, stews, and more. Fresh herbs added at the very end add some needed brightness.

Now, about the chicken. It should be cooked, but we’re not telling you how to cook it. Why? Chicken pot pie is already quite a project and if you’re going to put your hard-earned time toward anything homemade, it should be the crust, cooked vegetables, and gravy. We found that a store-bought rotisserie chicken accomplishes all we’re after: tender, juicy meat and the chance to customize a mix of white and dark meat. Psst: Leave some of the skin on when you chop the chicken into chunks; it adds fantastic flavor. You could also use a homemade roast chicken.

Finally, let’s talk crust. This one is all-butter and assembled in a stand mixer, which is a surefire way to flaky results. Adding a small amount of whole-wheat flour adds depth and nuttiness, but you can swap it out for all-purpose if you’d like. A pinch of black pepper infuses the dough with subtle spice and reinforces that this is a dinner pie.

While this recipe has several steps, they all can be broken into stages to work with your schedule. The filling can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a few days. The pie dough rounds can keep in the fridge for a couple days or in the freezer for weeks (just thaw in the fridge overnight before using). —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of Food52’s Best Recipes. In this series, our test kitchen sets out to create the ultimate version of your favorite recipes. Let us know on the Hotline if there's one you'd love to see next. —Food52

  • Prep time 4 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
Ingredients
  • Filling
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1 small to medium onion)
  • 1 cup peeled, finely diced carrot (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole-milk
  • 1 tablespoon chicken-flavored Better Than Bouillon
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken, preferably a mix of white and dark meat (see headnote)
  • 3/4 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • Crust
  • 2 1/4 sticks (254 grams) unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons very cold water
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Make the filling: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan (with high, straight sides) over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, then cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat as needed, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and stir-fry for about 1 minute until fragrant. With the heat now at medium to medium-low, add the remaining tablespoon butter and mix. Once it’s completely melted, add the flour and stir-fry for 1 minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add a splash (figure ¼ cup or so) of milk. Stir until smooth (it will be very thick and pasty at that point—that’s okay). Add another, slightly larger splash and stir. Repeat this until you’ve added all the milk. Stir in the chicken bouillon. Cook this mixture over medium heat, stirring slowly but constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until thick enough that dragging a spoon along the bottom of the pot leaves a trail; toward the end of this time, it should reach a gentle simmer. When the gravy is thick, stir in the chicken and frozen peas. Cook another few minutes, stirring occasionally, to thaw and cook the peas. Cut the heat, then stir in the herbs. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and chicken bouillon as needed.
  2. Let the chicken pot pie filling cool, uncovered, until barely warm, then get in the fridge, in an airtight container, to cool completely. Adding a chilled filling to the pie encourages a flaky, crispy, browned crust. The filling will keep in the fridge for a few days.
  3. Make the pie dough: Chop the butter sticks into tablespoons. Put these on a plate in the fridge while you assemble the rest of the ingredients. Add the flours, salt, sugar, and pepper to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir on low for a few seconds just to combine. Add the butter and pulse on low (to prevent the flour from flying everywhere!), for 15 to 30 seconds of active mixing, until none of the butter pieces are bigger than a plump chickpea. If there are any oversized stragglers, you can squash them between your fingers (just turn off the mixer first). Once the butter is broken down, turn on the mixer again to low and slowly pour in the water. As soon as a dough begins form clumps and curds, and the sides of the bowl no longer look dusty, stop the mixer. It should not be in a cohesive ball at this point, but it should hold together when squeezed. It’s better to undermix than overmix here (you can also mix more by hand). (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can make this dough by hand. Simply combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, add the butter cubes, and incorporate with your fingertips. Stir with a fork while you pour in the water. Refer to the same visual cues mentioned above.) Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two portions. One should be slightly larger than the other (if you have a scale, you can estimate about 350 grams for one ball, 284 grams for the other). The larger one will be our bottom crust (which needs to cover more ground), while the smaller one will be the top crust. Wrap both of these blobs in plastic, then press down to form a well-sealed disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and assembling the pie.
  4. Heat the oven to 425°F. Take the pie dough discs out of the fridge, unwrap, and let hang out on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Roll out the larger disc into a 12-inch circle and set into a 9-inch glass pie pan. Use your fingers to gently press the dough into the corners of the pan, so it’s as snug as can be. Roll out the smaller disc into a 10- to 11-inch circle. Fill the dough-lined pie pan with the cold chicken pot pie filling and use a spoon to smooth out to fill the pan completely. Top with the smaller round of pie dough. Trim any excess so you have an even ¾-inch overhang. Use your fingers to squeeze the two layers together, then fold the overhang under itself, so the edge is tucked into the pie pan and a ridge is formed. Use your fingers to reinforce this ridge, so it’s distinctly shaped, then crimp the edge of the pie crust into ruffles. The easiest way to crimp is by creating a guide with the thumb and pointer finger of your left hand, then pushing the dough outward with the pointer finger of your right hand. (If you’re a lefty, flip accordingly.) Use a paring knife to cut four slits in the center of the top crust. Place the pie pan on a rimmed sheet pan (this makes getting in and out of the oven a lot simpler).
  5. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes (rotating halfway through), until the crusty is deeply golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes—the filling will still be very warm, but not too liquidy.
  6. Cut into big wedges and serve warm.

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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.