Why do pumpkin pies crack?

Inquiring minds want to know! The reason is because pumpkin pies are custards, and custards are very sensitive to temperature. Cracks happen when one region of the pie heats faster than the other. Usually the areas closest to the rim of the pan cook and firm up first. If this happens too abruptly, the outer portion of the cheesecake can shrink and pull away from the softer inner portion. The result: a crack.

The solution is a deep-sided pie pan, and most of the better pie pans sold nowadays have deep sides instead of shallow sides. A traditional shallow-sided pan is much more prone to cracking because the oven heat has an easier time penetrating those narrow regions at the perimeter. In an ideal world all pumpkin pies would be baked in straight-sided forms like tart pans. But then you’d have a tart, not a pie. It’s a subtle distinction I know, but for very American holidays like Thanksgiving, it’s one that makes a big difference.

2 thoughts on “Why do pumpkin pies crack?”

  1. Neat post, Joe! I’m feeling more and more equipped to bake an awesome pumpkin pie. 🙂 I have a question, though–does the cooling factor play any sort of role in the cracks? If so, a bigger or a smaller role than the uneven baking? Like cheesecakes, I previously assumed that pumpkin pies would crack if they were cooled too quickly, which would cause the custard-y mass to contract, rapidly and cause the cracks. This is my conjecture, haha. What do you think?

    1. In a shallow pan I could see that happening. However cooling usually just exacerbates cracks that arealready there, as the custard cools and settles (deflates a bit).

      – Joe

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