I Tried Nearly a Dozen Frozen Apple Pies — One Stood Out as the Best and the Closest to Homemade
Apple pie technically peaks during the fall (and again around the Fourth of July), but it really is a year-round treat. It’s a treat you can enjoy any time of day, in any form, like, say for Pi Day. (If you haven’t put a slice into a milkshake, you should add that to today’s to-do list.) And there’s good news for anyone here who isn’t a from-scratch baker: A fresh-out-of-the-oven dessert is easy as buy (see what I did there? I said “buy” instead of “pie!”). Because there are lots of great frozen apple pies in mainstream grocery stores.
Which should be the apple (pie) of your eye? There was only one way to find out: I bought as many as I could find, baked them up, and held an official taste test.
How I Tested the Apple Pies
I bought as many frozen apple pies as I could find in a few different grocery stores. Then, I baked the pies in batches, according to the directions on the boxes: Several had identical instructions, while others needed a bit more coddling. Because there was so much frozen pie being baked at once, I rotated them around and found that some needed to be left in the oven a bit longer to reach bubbly and golden-brown perfection.
All of the boxes called for letting the pies cool completely. So I let them cool before I sliced them up. To cleanse the palate between bites, I reached for a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. Because ice cream is pretty sweet, it helped identify some of the pies that had a little more tartness in contrast. It also helped me and my friends pick a winner, as we sat eating pies picnic-style on a tablecloth spread on my living room floor.
Most of the pies we tasted were good. (Although some had toppings that, when tasted with the fruit filling, were too cloyingly sweet. And some had fillings that tasted like canned pie filling versus the sliced apples tossed in cinnamon sugar that good homemade pies traditionally call for.) There was one clear winner, though. Not only did it stand out as the best of the bunch, but it also tasted the closest to homemade.
The Best Frozen Apple Pie: Marie Callender’s Lattice Apple Pie
This pie is a slice above the rest. First off, it comes topped with a flaky butter crust. The less-sugary topper complements the filling, which is packed with plenty of tender apple wedges. This was also the prettiest pie of the bunch! Looks aren’t everything, but pies are intended to be festive — and a little lattice, even when die-cut by a machine, makes the dessert feel celebratory. This latticed pie had form and function, as the holes allow the steam to escape and the crust to bake a little more evenly. I also happen to really enjoy the part of an apple pie where filing bubbles up and caramelizes a little on a buttery crust. The lattice allowed plenty of spots for this to happen.
Buy: Marie Collander’s Lattice Apple Pie, $9.34 for 42 ounces at Instacart
Sara Lee’s pie was also delicious and double butter-crusted, but it cracked during baking because it had fewer vents. Still, if you can’t find Marie Callender’s pie or you want to have two, you can’t go wrong with this option. In the end, a pie that’s fresh out of the oven, even if it’s been frozen for a while, is certainly going to make your house smell more fantastic than any pie from the bakery department.
Do you have a go-to frozen apple pie that you love? Tell us about it in the comments below!