Our unexpected winner hails victoriously from the freezer aisle.
There’s just something about the combination of simple ingredients, love, and labor that goes into making a pie from scratch that makes people swoon. We love the cozy feeling of diving into the warm, brothy depths of a savory pot pie, the refreshing decadence a frosty icebox pie brings on a sweltering summer day, and the sense of sweet nostalgia a cinnamon-infused slice of classic apple pie (obviously, topped with vanilla ice cream) delivers in every bite. There are hundreds of pie possibilities out there, just waiting to be enjoyed.
Now, we can’t talk about pie without talking about the buttery foundation from which all pie dreams spring—the crust. Sure, if we have the time, we’re definitely putting in the effort to make a flaky pie dough from scratch. And if we feel like being extra, we’ll even take things up a notch and roll out a sweet cornmeal crust, yogurt-butter pie dough, or perhaps press a pretzel pie crust into our pie plate. See, a good pie cannot exist without a good crust. It’s a basic law of nature. If your crust is meh, it truly doesn’t matter how good the filling it holds is. Whatever path one takes, the crust being done well is essential to the success of the pie.
And as the holiday season creeps its way around the corner, we already know that being realistic about time management is going to be necessary for making pies en masse. Sometimes you need a quick trick to get a pie in and out of the oven in under an hour. That’s where prepared pie doughs come in.
Most supermarkets carry at least a couple of options for refrigerated rolled pie dough or frozen, unbaked pie shells (which can save you from needing to mess with fitting dough into the pan at all), so we decided to find our favorite through a blind taste test. We grabbed nine widely available brands, a few jars of prepared apple pie filling for an easy constant, and got to baking. After tasting our way through and evaluating for flavor, texture, and browning, our editors identified a few clear winners. Here are our top three picks of prepared pie dough for the next time a pie is needed ASAP.
Honorable Mention: Wholly Wholesome, $6.99
Most tasters who routinely use premade pie dough for their personal baking asked specifically about Whole Foods’ brand Wholly Wholesome. They said it was their go-to pie dough. With a slightly cult-like following and hefty price tag, we kind of expected this brand to come out on top. The refrigerated, roll-it-yourself dough did have an on-point, buttery flavor, but tasters felt the texture was a little off. Editors noted that the bottom of the pie became a bit soggy and gummy after baking with the fruit filling, and the crust generally wasn’t as flaky as we would have hoped. It’s definitely one we would use if handed to us, but might not be worth splurging on while shopping if other options are available.
The Runner Up: Publix brand, $2.79
Our local supermarket chain’s roll-it-yourself dough really knocked it of the park. The crust was crispy, golden, and stood up exceptionally well against the moist filling. Most tasters described the crust as standard, straightforward, and classic, so it will definitely be a go-to pick for the next time we want to shape the pie dough ourselves for decorative effect or forming hand pies. However, the Publix frozen pie shell didn’t wow us quite the same way. Tasters unanimously agreed the dough was far too dry and crumbly.
The Winner: Mrs. Smith’s, $3.39
We had a very clear winner when our editors took a bite out of Mrs. Smith’s frozen pie shell. The dough baked into a flaky and pleasantly buttery crust. Reviewers were impressed by the delicate layers of dough that suggested it could very well be from-scratch, which none of the other contenders were able to successfully achieve. Some tasters loved it so much they said, “this is a definite win” and “It’s the closest to homemade.” Plus, Mrs. Smith’s pies are considered deep dish, so they don’t appear as flat and sad as some of the other frozen pie shells. No doubt, this is definitely the crust to stock up on for the holiday season.