Whether you’re looking to prep holiday desserts in advance or are eagerly anticipating plenty of sweet leftovers, there’s good chance you’ve wondered if you can you freeze pie.
As much as we’d like to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this confectionary quandary, there are few things that need to be taken into consideration. For instance, are you hoping to preserve a fruit pie? Or perhaps a few slices of nutty pecan? And has it already been in the oven?
Don’t worry, we break down everything you need to know about freezing pie long before the holiday feasts arrive.
How to Freeze Unbaked Pie
There’s enough to stress about on the day of a big family gathering, so we understand wanting to at least take a few steps off your pie-making duties ahead of time. Luckily, experts agree that most of our favorite pies, like fruit, pumpkin, and pecan, are perfectly fine to prep and freeze beforehand.
Jeannie Nichols, a food safety educator from Michigan State University Extension, recommends adding an extra half a tablespoon of cornstarch, or one to two tablespoons of flour, to the filling of your pie before freezing. This should help with absorbing any moisture that tries to form as it chills out. She suggests also adding a couple sprinkles of cornstarch or flour inside your pie crust before adding the filling, too.
When you’re ready to pop it in the freezer, start by letting the pie sit in the icebox uncovered until it’s firm. After that, the experts at Cook’s Illustrated recommend covering it up with a double layer of plastic wrap and another layer of aluminum foil to keep it as airtight as possible. This will help make sure ice crystals won’t form and break the pie down. They claim unbaked pies can then be stored in the freezer for up to two months before baking for “optimal freshness.”
Cook’s Illustrated also warns against adding any egg wash or sugary sprinkles to the top of a pie you’re going to freeze until you take it back out again to bake. If you follow these simple instructions, they say your frozen pie will be “indistinguishable from freshly made pies.” (Meaning, your mother-in-law will never know it spent the last month sitting next to a frozen pizza.)
Note: Meringues, custards, and cream pies, are all a bit too watery for prepping and freezing. These will likely break down soon after you take them out of the freezer, so it’s best to make them the fresh.
How to Bake a Frozen Pie
Both Cook’s Illustrated and Nicholls agree that you should never let your frozen pie thaw before baking it. Doing so will only cancel out all the work you’ve done to keep it from getting soggy. The only exception is a frozen pecan pie — the dense, sugary filling needs time to become less brick-like, which can take about three hours at room temperature before popping it in the oven.
Nicholls recommends placing your frozen pie (or thawed pecan pie) on a cookie sheet rather than heating up in aluminum pans. This helps avoid the dreaded soggy bottom, which foil is apparently more prone to creating.
Start by heating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and let your pie bake for about 15 to 20 minutes at that high heat. Then Nicholls says to turn it down to 350 degrees until the crust is golden and it looks done. This will probably take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes longer than when baked fresh, so be sure to keep an eye on it.
Can you freeze a baked pie?
Nicholls says you can freeze a baked pie for up to six months, but that the quality of texture and flavor will quickly go down over time. After testing out several types of baked pies, Cook’s Illustrated found it pretty much impossible to avoid soggy crusts after re-heating. They claim the filling wasn’t as “bright-tasting” as before, too.
Some food bloggers recommend storing leftover pie in slices placed inside plastic baggies to keep them as fresh as possible, but it’s still unlikely the filling will remain as flavorful or that the crust will be as flaky or crispy. But despite the loss in quality, freezing baked pie will still help it last longer than it does sitting in the fridge (which is just a couple days).
There is one pie that gets around any downsides of freezing: Pecan. Again, thanks to its ultra-dense texture, there’s not much room for ice crystals to form and cause the filling or crust to break down. Just wait for warm pies to cool down completely, then store with the same wrapped up freezing method and thaw before re-baking. Fans of this holiday pie will be happy to know it can still last for up to two months in the freezer after being baked and re-frozen.
Now the only question is whether you want ice cream for a pie a la mode or a whipped cream scoop on top instead.