Kitchn Love Letters

The Surprising Pan I Use to Make Thanksgiving Baking So Much Easier

published Nov 7, 2021
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crust to lemon tart sits on a sheet pan
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Thanksgiving meal prep is a marathon, not a sprint. With so much on the to-do list (don’t forget to take the turkey out of the freezer!), I see no reason to expend unnecessary energy on tasks that should be simple. That means adopting a “store-bought is fine” mentality, and finding ways to cut corners. In that spirit, I rarely bake traditional pies for Thanksgiving. Instead, I make my Thanksgiving desserts in a tart pan with a removable bottom.

Tart pans are brilliant for everyday sweet treats and novice bakers, but they’re rarely used for Thanksgiving baking (I blame pumpkin pie). And I’m on a crusade to change that! See, tart pans are so easy to use and, well, just better! A bold claim, yes, but I’m prepared to back up my statement. Here are three reasons why I think you should use a tart pan instead of a pie pan for your holiday desserts.

1. You don’t have to deal with traditional pie dough.

Pie dough isn’t all that hard to work with, but it’s definitely intimidating to a lot of people. And you certainly run some risks when you take a chance on it. You know what never gets overworked or rips? Press-in doughs (think: crushed graham crackers)! They’re just easier to make and far less time-consuming. Plus, it’s fun to crush a bunch of crackers in a zip-top bag.

2. They’re super easy to unmold.

Who wants the notoriously ugly first slice of pie? When you use a tart pan, every piece is picture-perfect. That’s because the sides of the pan can be removed before slicing. All you have to do is gently push up from the bottom, and the rim will release. Even if you find the crust is sticking to the sides, it’s a lot less stressy to deal with than pie. Just place the tart pan on a wide can for stability and gently wiggle the rim away from the crust. Once you’ve taken it away, your tart will sit on the bottom pan, and is ready for precision slices.

3. They make beautiful desserts.

Tart pans create gorgeously scalloped edges with zero effort. Instead of intricate hand crimping, the fluted pattern of the rim creates the design as it bakes. So once you’ve unmolded your tart, all you have to do is prepare for the oohs and aahs of appreciation. 

Tart pans can accommodate a variety of different recipes, including fully baked shells with a pudding or frozen filling, a curd or custard, or a veggie-forward savory situation. They even come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Here are a few pans to spark your Thanksgiving baking inspiration. Which one do you like best?

3 More Tart Pans We Love

The gold finish isn’t just for show; it’s naturally nonstick, which means you’ll never have to worry about a stuck-on crust. Its 10 1/4-inch diameter and 1-inch height makes it standard-sized and ready for all of your tried-and-true tart recipes.

This 11×7-inch pan is ideal for large-format tarts to feed a crowd. It’s also moderately priced, and boasts an almost-perfect 5 star rating. It’s dishwasher-safe, too.

Delicate and dramatic, this narrow, long pan makes for tarts with wow factor. It’d look great with layered apples or pears, but you could use it for just about any tart recipe. Just be sure to monitor it while it bakes, as the timing may need to be adjusted due to its XL length.