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How to find the proper pan for your pies

Glass, metal and foil pie pans
Glass, metal and foil pie pans — the best uses for each, and how to tell they’re accurately measured.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

For cooked fruit pies, where fillings will sink and bubble, the varying volume of pie pans is not terribly important. But with my fresh blueberry and raspberry pies, where the filling is all raw berries coated in just enough gel to cement them together, it’s much more important that everything fits the way it’s supposed to. All “9-inch” pie pans are, frustratingly, not created equal.

Particularly among the options available at grocery stores, the labels and dimensions make no sense. Some pie pans labeled as having a diameter of 9 inches actually measure 8, and others marked “for 9-inch pies” are labeled with dimensions of 8 ¾ inches. To cut through the confusion, I took stock of several pie pans on the market and found the best options for making actual 9-inch pies.

When I’m planning to gift a pie, my hack is to buy a premade cookie crust in a disposable tin and then toss the crust (or save it for crumbling over your kid’s ice cream or pudding cups) so I can use the foil pan and clear plastic carrier it is sold in. Pick the ones labeled as “for extra servings” or as “10 inches” in diameter since they’re actually 9 inches — bring a ruler to the store if you want to be absolutely certain.

For blind-baked pastry crusts and cookie crusts alike, I prefer aluminum or light metal pans because they transfer heat more quickly, resulting in crisper crusts — they also allow crusts to cool down quicker. Those nonstick-looking dark metal pans you get at grocery stores are fine, but they often have handles on the rim, which I find interfere with shaping a great crust and are not actually necessary. The basic utilitarian pans are my favorite, but any sturdy metal tin that won’t warp in the oven is great.

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For glass pie pans — perfect for pastry crust pies, especially double-crust ones where fruit fillings like apple or cherry will cook for a long time — the classic 9-inch Pyrex pan, also available in grocery store baking aisles, is true to dimension.

Whatever pie pan you choose, measure the inside rim-to-inside rim and make sure it’s exactly 9 inches. Then, measure inside the pan, from the rim to the bottom, placing the ruler flush against the angled side to make sure it measures between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inches. Anything larger is considered a “deep-dish” pan, and if that’s all you have, form the edge of your pie dough just inside the rim of the pan so it doesn’t protrude too far out and burn while baking or look awkwardly empty in relation to the filling.

Finally, add water to the pan and count how many cups you can add until the water is just about to flow over the rim — if it’s between 4 and 5 cups, you’ve got the right tin.


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