First off, the very best pie plate is any pie plate. Because any pie plate means there’s going to be a pie, and that’s the important thing.
That said, there are several facets of a pie plate that I pay close attention to when there is a selection to be made: depth, size, rim, and material.
In the kitchen of Maryalice, my mama, there is one plate that surpasses all others. I cannot link you over to this or that site so you can get one too, though perhaps you have something of a similar ilk, if not for pie then for other pursuits in your kitchen.
Her plate is part of family lore, and she thinks she could get herself quite a nice review of it at the Antiques Road Show. Heavy stoneware, scarred with the beauty of age and use, and decorated with graceful embossed green flowers, this was Alice’s pie plate, my mother’s mother. And Alice’s pie legacy, like my mother’s, is formidable.
The beloved plate is a big plate, but fairly shallow, and shallowness is one of the indicators of a good pie plate in our neck of the woods. A shallower plate rather than a deep dish fits our double crust recipe perfectly, and gives a good ratio of filling to crust (crust taking a starring role).
Also, on this and many other of our plates, there is no helpful indication of size on the bottom. Holding another plate up to it doesn’t always reveal a size, so measure it we must. This is not the only plate in the stack with no measurement on it, and though it’s safe to say that pie plates are 8”, 9”, or 10” and a frequent pie baker can tell at a glance which is which, sometimes you feel the need to measure, especially if there is only one plate and nothing to compare it to for relative size. Gotta know the size because crust recipes are based on that size, and amount of filling is measured against that too.
The correct measure of a pie plate is the diameter (haven’t used that word in a looooong time, thank God) across the top of the plate, from inside edge of any rim across to the opposite inside edge.
That rim may be disregarded for measuring, but it is key for our crust. I’m always at a loss when I have to bake a pie in a plate that doesn’t have that little lip around the edge, or if there is a rim but it’s wavy all the way around—which is too bad, because the Emile Henry plates are beautiful. But I’d never bake a pie in one. The crimping and decorating of the pie edge, Abood-style, requires the rim.
As for material, there is Alice’s pottery plate, but beyond that, we tend to use only glass plates. Pyrex, as standard and unsexy as it may be, works like a charm. I like to see how my crust is baking on the bottom, so the glass is great for that, and glass doesn’t influence baking times the way metals, often dark, can. Plus a glass plate stay nice nearly forever, and the metal ones get all scraped up inside with use—not the sort of patina that is endearing.
I realized recently how subjective the affinity for a particular pie plate can be. Cindy and I were discussing pie, and she reminded me of a pie plate I gave her, an Emile Henry, years ago. I said: but you don’t bake pie in it. She said, always I do. She loves the wavy edge and the deep dish, and said so in unison with me just as I was dissing the wavy edge and deep dish.
She did say that she’s looking for a new crust recipe, which I will give her (despite our differences) and all of you, this week. This crust, my mother’s crust, is finer than fine. So fine, I wager it’s going to be your new favorite, in any plate you choose.