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Pie Plates

Published April 2009

How we tested


When we rated pie plates a decade ago, we picked our winner because it browned and crisped crusts better than the other contenders. We also liked its wide rim for easy fluting, see-through bottom that allowed pie-makers to monitor bottom crusts, and low price. But while it produced the best-baked crusts, they could have been a tad crisper. Since that time, manufacturers have designed pie plates with fancy new features (mesh bottoms, scalloped edges, crust protectors) purported to produce perfect pies. We tested seven new models against our old favorite.

ALL-PURPOSE PLATE

In search of a versatile, all-around pie plate, we tested each by baking an unfilled pie shell (known as a parbaked or blind-baked crust), a quiche, an apple pie, and a pat in-the-pan graham cracker crust. Except for the graham cracker crust, we used premade crusts to ensure consistency. The best pans produced blind-baked shells that were golden brown on both sides and bottoms, apple pies with evenly cooked fillings, and graham cracker crusts that didn’t slump, crack, or crumble. But the real litmus test turned out to be quiche. Our winning pie plates conducted enough heat to set the egg custard to a creamy texture without overbaking the crust.

MORE IS LESS

Several plates touted special features, but in the end they proved unhelpful, even inhibiting. The decorative ruffles on one plate (designed to flute the crust) created wide edges that browned too quickly. Ridges inside the rim of another plate are meant for easy, press-in fluting, but instead made for messy-looking pies. Cosmetic damage was also wrought by plates with crust protectors designed to shield the edge of the crust from overbrowning; the same went for shields, which look like smaller pie plates with holes and are intended to replace pie weights. Two plates were designed to let steam escape so that the bottom would crisp better. But these plates produced the soggiest crusts of all because the evaporating moisture prevented the bottom surface from ever getting hotter than the boiling point of 212 degrees, a process called “evaporative cooling.” The escaping steam further cooled the dead spot by pushing hot oven air away, exacerbating the problem.

METAL MALADIES

One dark metal model absorbed heat too quickly and overbrowned the outside bottom and sides of pies before the filling was cooked or the center of the bottom browned. It yielded quiche custard that was overcooked near the edges, yet runny in the middle. We had somewhat better results with another pale metal plate whose shiny, reflective surface heated up more slowly: pies needed to be baked longer, but the filling cooked more evenly than in dark metal.

CLEAR WINNER

Because glass and ceramic conduct heat slowly, heat gradually builds and spreads throughout the plate, thus custard cooks evenly, and the center of the bottom has time to brown. Two glass plates and a ceramic one produced perfectly cooked apple and quiche fillings, golden top crusts, and satisfactory bottoms. This is because glass and ceramic heat more slowly than metal, which results in even baking. The glass laminate plate produced the crispest bottom crust of all but was downgraded because its steep, slippery walls caused the graham cracker crust to slump.

SUMMING UP

Our favorite all-purpose pie plate remains our previous all-glass winner, which provides slow, steady, insulating heat for even baking. Its shallow, angled sides prevent crusts from slumping, and it’s just 1 1/8 inches deep, which neatly fits a store-bought crust when we don’t feel like making our own. Its basic, functional design and low price made it the clear winner.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*