Dotdash Meredith and Yahoo Inc. may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below.
Not all pie crust protectors are the same.
I’ve been baking pie for about seven years now, but there were many struggles along the way and many of them had to do with the crust. I worked on making sure it was buttery and flakey, but almost as important was that it came out of the oven golden brown. If it was too pale, it was underbaked. And even more dreaded was the blackened and burned crust, which necessitated tossing the whole pie.
I learned early on that one of the easiest ways to prevent this is a pie crust protector. It is such a game-changer, and one of the tools all home bakers should own. Originally, I was gifted a silicone pie crust shield, and I’ve been using it for about five years now. But only because I had no idea there was no other option out there.
From the beginning, I was never really sold on my first pie crust protector. It features notches that make it adjustable for different-sized pies, which is part of its appeal — although I use the same 9.5-inch Pyrex pie plates every time I bake, so that feature never even came in handy for me. I’ve used it to make quiche, as well as apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies, among many others. It works well enough, but its material is its downfall.
To buy: Talisman Designs Adjustable Silicone Pie Crust Shield, $13 at amazon.com
Silicone might seem like a good material for a pie crust shield because it’s flexible enough to fit snugly all the way around the pie, but in practice this idea falls apart. The silicone is awkward to work with. It sits unevenly on the crust and even sags in some places, so it takes some effort to get it situated on top of the crust.
But once it's initially settled, there’s more to do. I found that it doesn’t stay in place as the pie bakes, but instead, slips off and requires constant readjustment. This is a big problem once the crust starts to bake (or if you need to add the shield to the pie midway through the baking process). Delicate pieces of flakey crust can break off the more the shield is shifted and adjusted so that while there are no burnt patches, I’ve been left without a crust entirely as well.
To buy: Mrs. Anderson’s Aluminum 9.5-Inch Pie Crust Shield, $7 at amazon.com
Fed up with the annoyances of using the silicone version, I recently tried an aluminum pie crust shield. Right away, I could tell it would be easier to use. Although it’s not adjustable, meaning you would have to buy multiple sizes to fit different pies, its other qualities make up for that. Plus, at just $7, I might buy several anyway.
The metal pie crust shield is so much sturdier than the silicone. It keeps its shape so it doesn’t require constant readjusting. All you have to do is place the metal circle over the pie crust, and you’re done.
The fact that it’s actually stiff and inflexible is a huge benefit to its design. There are no notches to secure it in place, or spots where the shield sags, which would leave the crust exposed. Once it's on, it stays on. There’s no need to worry about pausing the baking process to make sure it's still securely in place — or about pieces of crust breaking off as you fiddle with it. It might get a little oily as the butter in the crust melts, but the only cleaning it requires is a quick rinse in the sink.
Both aluminum and silicone pie crust shields effectively prevent burning and over-browning, so technically both do exactly what they say they will do. But I’ll never go back to the silicone pie crust shield. It’s just too stressful to figure out the exact configuration it needs to be in to protect the pie crust I worked hard to make.
By contrast, the aluminum version requires just one fool-proof step — put it on top of your pie, and you’re done. And at just $7, it’s actually more affordable than the silicone version. In my opinion, the aluminum version is the one you need to buy if you ever plan to bake a pie.
For more Food & Wine news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on Food & Wine.