Epicurious baked 11 supermarket pie crusts and compared their flavor, texture, and appearance. Three winners performed crisply.
by Carolina Santos-Neves, photo by Steven Torres
Making pie crusts from scratch requires a bit more skill and patience than some of us have to offer during the holidays, especially when relatives are in town and we're cooking for a crowd. Enter the premade pie crust, a favorite holiday timesaver. To find out which crusts could pass for homemade, we taste-tested frozen regular, graham cracker, and frozen whole-wheat shells from major supermarket brands. Read on for our methodology and results.
We purchased 11 crusts and baked them according to a basic Pumpkin Pie recipe (we omitted the spiced whipped cream for simplicity's sake). The shells we used are all widely available in the U.S. and are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $2.19 to $4.99 per package. (All the pie crusts except the graham cracker come in pairs and had to be kept frozen.) For the filling, same-brand ingredients were distributed to each tester.
Methodology: In a blind taste test, ten judges compared the appearance, flavor, and texture of our premade supermarket-bought pie crusts and ranked them according to our four-fork rating system. We evaluated five traditional, four graham cracker, and two whole-wheat. Read on to see which three got the Epi Top Pick within each category.
Category 1: Graham Cracker Pie Crust
We tested four of the most commonly found graham cracker crust: Arrowhead Mills (made with organic wheat flour), Keebler Ready Crust, Nabisco Honey Maid, and Wholly Wholesome Organic.
Epi Top Pick: Keebler Ready Crust ($2.29)
Pros: This deep dark-caramel-colored crust was both visually appealing and tasty. The buttery flavor combined with a sweet yet smoky molasses note made many think this one was homemade. "It has a nice crunch and it doesnt crumble-key to the ideal graham cracker crust," said one taster. "It's not too dry, and it has a classic "grahamy" flavor; I love the combination of brown sugar and just how toasty it tastes and smells," added another judge.
Cons: This is not the ideal choice for those who prefer a saltier crust.
Category 2: Traditional Pie Crust
We tested five of the most commonly found premade store-bought traditional pie crusts: Pet-Ritz Pillsbury, Trader Joe's Gourmet, 365 Organic Everyday Value, Wholly Wholesome Organic, and 365 Organic Everyday Value Gluten-Free crusts.
Epi Top Pick: 365 Organic Everyday Value (Whole Foods brand) ($2.99)
Pros: Our testers appreciated the classic wrinkled edges of this "aesthetically pleasing" crust. "It's a nice touch when in search for a homemade-looking crust," said one tester. Its rich golden hue, combined with its slightly toasty and salty flavor, and tender texture evoked "Wow, now that's a pie crust" from one judge, while its "smooth and not too overpowering taste really allowed the flavor of the pumpkin filling to shine." Most also agreed that this crust retained a satisfying crunch that could stand up to moist fillings.
Cons: The shell lacked the buttery flavor of some authentic homemade crusts.
Category 3: Whole-Wheat Pie Crust
We tested two of the most commonly found whole-wheat premade store-bought pie crusts: 365 Organic Everyday Value and Wholly Wholesome Organic whole-wheat. Although the two crusts were very similar in appearance, there were a few slight differences in taste and texture.
Epi Top Pick: Wholly Wholesome Organic Whole-Wheat Crust pie shells ($2.50)
Pros: Aside from being a somewhat healthier option than its refined-flour counterparts, this crust has other redeeming qualities. Some tasters liked its "crisp and grainy texture" and dark, marbled appearance. The decidedly whole-wheat flavor appealed to others, and some remarked that it would be a good choice for savory pies such as quiche. "I like the contrast between the mildly salty and oaty taste with the moisture from the spiced pie filling," noted one tester. It edged ahead of the 365 Organic Everyday Value crust, which testers found to have "woodsy" and "wheat germ" flavors and a dry, tough texture.
Cons: The general consensus was summed up by one judge: "Why go whole-wheat?" Unless you're a diehard whole-wheat fan, you might as well splurge on a tastier crust for your holiday baking.
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