Don't panic.
burnt pie
Credit: Getty Images/RichVintage

Chances are, a burned pie might be the oven's fault, not yours. The best way to prevent your pastry from burning in the first place is to buy an oven thermometer. Your oven might be running too hot (or not hot enough) and this is the only way to tell. But if you find yourself with a blackened pie crust on your hands, and a big holiday meal approaching, here's what to do:

Step 1: Take a breath.

It's not the end of the world. It's not even the end of Thanksgiving. Pull the pie out of the oven and take a deep breath. (Not too deep if there's a lot of smoke in the kitchen.)

Step 2: Survey the damage.

How bad is it, really? If the crust is a bit overbrowned but the filling isn't cooked through, shield the crust with a pie shield or cover it with aluminum foil. Check your oven temperature before putting the pie back in the oven to finish baking. Keep a close eye on the pie—it might need less time in the oven than you think.

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Step 3: Salvage what you can.

If the crust has burned to a crisp but the filling is cooked through and still tastes good, there may still be hope—you can make a pie parfait. You'll need whipped cream and some sort of crumbly cookie such as gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, or graham crackers. Scrape out the pie filling into a bowl and discard the crust. Using small glasses or dessert bowls, layer pie filling, whipped cream, and cookie crumbles, then repeat until the glass is full, ending with a layer of whipped cream and extra crushed cookies on top.

Step 4: Call in reinforcements.

If the crust and the filling are beyond repair, figure out a plan B. Can Aunt Sally bring an extra pecan pie? Can you go nontraditional and serve ice cream with the caramel sauce and whipped cream that was supposed to top the apple pie that is now in the trash can? Or can you throw in the towel and pick up a pie from your favorite bakery? All of these are perfectly acceptable options. Whatever you choose, hold your head high and focus on the other dishes you didn't mess up—isn't the gravy just delicious?