How to Bake Juicy Fruit Pies With a Crisp Crust

Baking fruit pies is a rather straightforward technique, but a few tips can help to make your pies come out looking and tasting perfect.

Strawberry Pie II
Photo: Meredith

Fresh fruit pies are some of the season's greatest hits. A few tips will make your pies come out looking and tasting perfect. So stay tuned for troubleshooting tips and some delicious fruit pie recipes below.

1. Preheat the oven to the temperature that your recipe recommends. Most fruit pies bake at a temperature between 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Some recipes call for baking the pie in a 450 degree F oven to begin with, then turning down the oven to about 350 degrees F. This helps set the shape of the crust in recipes with a lot of fat; it can keep your crust from slouching.

2. Brush the top crust with milk or lightly beaten egg before baking to add a richer color to a double-crust or lattice-topped pie. For more, check out How To Make A Lattice Pie Crust The Easy Way.

3. Always bake pies on a baking sheet to prevent spillovers in the oven.

A pie with a raw fruit filling will bake for about an hour. Berry, apple, and pear pies cook for about 45 minutes. When using a pre-cooked filling, pies can bake at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, just enough to thoroughly bake the crust and heat the filling.

To check the doneness of the filling, insert a knife into the center of the pie. If it meets with little or no resistance, the pie is done. If the pie is not quite done but the top or edges are becoming too dark, loosely cover the top of the pie with aluminum foil to shield it from the heat. A glass pie dish is a great way to ensure the bottom crust is fully baked; using a baking stone or pizza stone is another trick. Baking on a stone ensures that the bottom crust on even the juiciest fruit pie will be done when the top is brown. Check out our step-by-step guide for How to Make a Pie Crust.

4. Glaze the crust for shine and sparkle. Thin a quarter cup of light corn syrup with very hot water. When the pie is done, brush the thinned syrup over the top of the crust. You can add granulated sugar or decorative sugar at this time. Return the pie to the oven for two to three minutes to let the glaze dry and set. Once the pie is done baking, carefully remove it from the oven. Let the pie cool to room temperature before slicing to allow the filling to set.

apple pie with a decorative top crust
Apple Pie by Grandma Ople | Photo by Joy Dambek Smith. Joy Dambek Smith

How to Thicken Fruit Pies

Without thickeners (and chilling), fruit pies can end up soupy and impossible to slice. Here are some options to rescue even the thinnest of fillings. Which one you use is a matter of personal preference.

1) Cornstarch makes for a shiny, glossy filling. A little goes a long way because it has twice the gelling power of flour.

2) Flour thickens nicely but leaves more of a matte finish. You'll need to use twice as much as you would with cornstarch.

3) Quick-cooking tapioca (such as Minute Tapioca) and tapioca flour give a glossy, clear finish, and sometimes a little stippling if you use larger tapioca granules or if they're not softened enough before heating. It's made from yuca (not yucca, which is a different plant), the starchy root vegetable also known as cassava or manioc.

4) Potato starch behaves like cornstarch and is usually used at Passover in lieu of flour.

5) Instant ClearJel, a cornstarch derivative often used in canned pie fillings, has strong holding power, and unlike other thickeners, it won't break down if the pie is frozen.

6) Arrowroot thickens too quickly for baked pie fillings.

How much thickener do you need?

It depends: Apples and blueberries have lots of pectin—a natural thickener— so they tend to need less added starch. Frozen fruits and those that are particularly ripe and juicy require more thickener because they're wetter to begin with. Open-faced and lattice-topped pies need less because, when there's no top crust, more liquid evaporates during baking.

Whichever you choose, stir it in with the fruit and sugar for even distribution before baking, and you (and your pie!) will be all set.

VIDEO: Watch Chef John work some lattice-making magic.

Not just beautiful, the lattice crust topping Chef John's Peach Pie actually serves a key purpose.

Check out our collection of Fruit Pie Recipes.

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