Here's one question you inevitably ask every autumn: Why does pumpkin pie crack? The answer, though simple, will leave you feeling like a new baker.
Now that the holidays are nearing, you're probably worried about your pumpkin pie cracking like it did last year (and the year before that). Make today the day you put your pumpkin pie worries behind you by learning how to get your pie to come out wrinkle-free! What's the secret, you ask? Timing: A little bit of time management can surprisingly go a long way, especially when it comes to baking.
The two major factors that contribute to a cracked pumpkin pie are over-baking the pie or cooling it too quickly. Pumpkin pie contains eggs, which is what makes the filling thick and yummy. As the eggs heat, they coagulate, transforming what was once a thick liquid into a creamy, semi-solid filling.
Eggs generally begin to turn solid at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The longer they cook, however, the more they tighten up — meaning that those cracks in your pie are the result of overcooked eggs. You'll probably notice cracks forming around the edge of the pie first, and this is because that area cooks faster than the interior.
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It's important to remember that just because you've taken the pie out of the oven doesn't mean its stopped baking. This is because the filling's residual heat will continue to cook the eggs, which will ultimately crack your pie.
So, what do you do? It's simple, really: Take it out of the oven before you think it's done. Not impressed with this solution? If you're still wondering how to bake pumpkin pie without cracking it, here are a few more foolproof precautionary measures you can take to keep your pumpkin pie looking clean and pristine.
1. Be picky about your pumpkin pie recipe.
Not all pumpkin pie recipes are equal, so don’t just start winging any old one you find at the last minute. Once you do, select the recipe that you want to use and follow it to a tee. After all, chances are that the recipe was published by an experienced chef or cook who developed it with thoughtful care. The best bakers usually test their recipes over and over again before they introduce it to the world — which means if your recipe suggests taking the pie out after 45 minutes, you should do so (yes, even if you think it should stay in there for a few more minutes. Remember, it will keep cooking even once it’s out of the oven.
However, you should be a little more careful if you’re following a recipe given to you by a friend or family member. Chances are likely that your home’s oven could be a lot different than the one they made the pie with originally. If it looks raw, you should absolutely feel free to stick it back in the oven until you feel safe serving it to your loved ones without running the risk of food poisoning. Here's how to tell when a pumpkin pie is done: Pierce the center with a knife or toothpick and see if it comes out clean. You can also give it a little shake to see if it's still too jiggly.
(Photo Credit: Giphy)
2. Don’t put your pie in the oven too soon.
This step might sound way too obvious, but it's still one that’s super easy to misjudge. You want to make sure your oven is fully preheated at the accurate temperature listed in your recipe before you shove your pie in there. Even if you're using the most amazing recipe (or one handed down generations of your family), it won't work as well if your oven is a bit colder than it should be. Think of your pumpkin pie as the Goldilocks of your Thanksgiving preparation: Everything has to be just right.
An easy way to do ensure you're not over or under-heating your pie is to purchase an independent oven thermometer ($6.29, Amazon) rather than trusting the number on your oven's display. The handy kitchen gadget will also be a helpful tool for your meals outside of the big Thanksgiving celebration, but you’ll be especially grateful for it when you impress your family with a perfectly smooth pie. If all goes well, there won’t be any need to cover up an overcooked, cracked pie with dollops of whipped cream — though we wouldn’t blame you one bit for adding a few scoops on top anyway.
3. Try baking your pie on a lower oven rack.
We all want a nicely browned crust, but sometimes that golden dough means you’ve accidentally overcooked the pie — which, again, will cause it to crack and ruin all that hard work you’ve done. Most ovens tend to be hotter at the top, so you should try placing your pie toward the bottom of the oven on one of the lower racks for an evenly baked masterpiece. You should also keep that in mind for your other dishes throughout the day. For instance, if you wanted to brown the top of a casserole before putting your pie in the oven, place the dish on the top rack to get a nice, crisp crust.
Of course, your oven might be completely different, meaning this tip would be reversed. Be sure to take a close look before you start preparing for the big day to get a better idea of where your pie and other dishes should be placed. You might think you’re already aware of all the quirks your oven likes to throw at you, but you don’t want a curveball while your in-laws are sitting on the couch getting hungrier by the second.
How long does pumpkin pie last?
Now that you know how to avoid a cracked pumpkin pie, you're probably wondering, "How long can you leave pumpkin pie out? Do you refrigerate pumpkin pie?" The second question is the easiest to answer — yes, you should put any leftover pie in your fridge to avoid icky mold growing on it. There is dairy and egg in it, after all.
If your family managed to not eat the entire pie, or perhaps you made more than just the one, you can usually count on being able to enjoy it a bit longer. How long can pumpkin pie sit out, though? According to the USDA, you should stick it in the fridge after just a couple hours. A pumpkin pie will last another two to three days if properly refrigerated. Anything left after that will sadly need to be tossed out.
You now have all the information you need to whip up a delicious, uncracked pumpkin pie while making sure you can still nom on any leftovers afterward. That’s something to be thankful for this year, for sure!