Some advance baking can free up valuable oven space on the day of the big meal.

Photo: Greg Dupree; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

The keys to successful baking this holiday season have a lot to do with the recipes you choose, quality ingredients, and your skill as a baker. However, don’t forget this one factor: timing. If you want to bake a delicious holiday pumpkin pie, think about baking ahead and freezing. When your oven is overcrowded with Thanksgiving sides and holiday hams, you can rest easy knowing your holiday pie is already baked. You can completely bake pumpkin pies and freeze for a later date.

You don’t need a special recipe for a pumpkin pie that will be frozen, but you do need a special pie pan: the inexpensive and disposable pie pans available at your local grocery store. Since aluminum pie pans are thinner, the pie will freeze faster and avoid developing ice crystals on the surface of the pie. Using a disposable pie pan also frees up your prettier glass or ceramic pie pans for another use.

Follow instructions on your holiday pie recipe and, once the pie is baked, cool it completely on a wire rack at room temperature. This may take two to three hours – you don’t want to feel even a hint of warmth when you touch the bottom of the pie pan. Once completely cooled, wrap and tightly seal the pie in several layers of plastic wrap. For added protection against freezer burn, some bakers follow up this step with a layer of aluminum foil or even newspaper, folded around the pie and taped around the edges. Freeze the pie for up to a month.

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Remove the pumpkin pie from the freezer and keep it in the fridge 10-12 hours before you want to serve the pie. If you thaw it at room temperature, the filling may “weep,” resulting in a soggy crust. Once the pie is completely thawed, you can put it on the kitchen counter and let it reach room temp, if this is how you prefer to serve it. The plastic wrap may leave a few marks on the pie as it is removed; simply cover them up with a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar.