5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pumpkin Pie

updated May 1, 2019
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Pumpkin pie is an icon of the Thanksgiving table, a dish of rich pumpkin custard fragrant with warm cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves wrapped in flaky pastry crust. Served with a generous dollop of whipped cream, there aren’t many slices of pie so universally loved. But even pro bakers know that a near-perfect pumpkin pie requires a few special considerations to take it from ordinary to memorable. Here are five mistakes to avoid when baking your holiday pie.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

1. Not using canned pumpkin purée.

While making your own pumpkin purée feels like the fastest way to a stand-out pumpkin pie, canned pumpkin purée actually bakes up better. Fresh pumpkins vary widely in their size, moisture content, and roasting time and temperature can affect those factors as well. For a consistently stunning pumpkin pie year after year, use canned pumpkin.

Follow this tip: Make sure to buy canned (or boxed) pumpkin purée and not pumpkin pie filling.

2. Not blind baking the crust.

Most custard pies, including pumpkin, require a blind baked pie crust before baking. This maneuver ensures the pie crust and the filling are done baking at the same time, but it also prevents the crust from becoming soggy while it bakes.

Follow this tip: Blind baking means that the crust is partially baked before it is filled to prevent the crust from warping as it bakes. Try to keep your blind-baked crust warm so the warm filling goes into a warm crust. This makes for a better texture in both the crust and pie.

3. Not cooking the filling first.

The best pumpkin pie recipes ask for the pumpkin purée and often the sugar and spices to be cooked before making the filling. Most of the time this is done on the stovetop. It may read as a finicky extra step, but having done a side-by-side test with a cooked filling and an uncooked filling, I can attest to the huge difference this step makes in taste and texture.

Follow this tip: Cooking draws out some of the moisture in the pumpkin purée but also blooms the spices making for a more aromatic pie and a thicker, more flavorful filling. No more than 10 minutes is required for this step.

A stunning twist on the classic: Deep-Dish Pumpkin Meringue Pie

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

4. Not baking it correctly.

Custard pies can be a little tricky to bake in part because it’s hard to tell when they are properly baked without ruining their pristine top. Over-bake them and they become dense and pasty; undercook the pie and say goodbye to perfect slices.

Follow these tips:

  • When done, give the pie a nudge. The center of the pie should have some give. It should jiggle slightly in the center.
  • The pie has an internal temperature of 175°F on an instant-read thermometer when done. If you don’t want to take the temperature, a knife inserted into the edge of the filling should come out moist but clean.

5. Not cooling completely before slicing.

The idea of serving a warm pie might be an appealing image, but most pies require several hours of baking to cool completely. Because pies are dense, their edges and bottoms might feel cool to the touch, but the center is still quite warm.

Follow this tip: Pumpkin pie sets as it cools so for a perfect pie slice, let it cool for at least four hours.