How to Tell When Your Pumpkin Pie Is Done

It needs to jiggle like Jell-O, not wiggle like a wave.

The turkey came out of the oven with crisp, golden skin and tender, juicy meat, thanks to the dry-brining method you used. The cornbread dressing, made with your Mom's recipe, baked light, moist, and deliciously aromatic; you think Mom would have approved. But yet, even as you sit through the holiday meal chatting with guests, you are secretly worried about your pumpkin pie. Did you overcook it? Did you undercook it?

Properly baking a pumpkin pie, a member of the custard pie family, can be somewhat challenging. Most custards are baked in a water bath; the warm water protects the custard from overheating and curdling while it cooks in the oven.

The pumpkin pie, however, uses a crust to take the place of the water bath. Unlike fruit pies and cobblers, pumpkin pies don't bubble when they are done so, apart from the crust turning golden, how do you know when your pumpkin pie is ready to come out of the oven? Here are three ways to know if a pumpkin pie is done.

1. Test With a Knife

Everyone knows the traditional method of testing a cake for doneness: Simply insert a knife or wooden skewer into the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Same goes for testing a pumpkin pie for doneness. Insert your knife into the edge of the filling, and, if the pie is baked through, the knife will come out moist but clean.

According to USDA guidelines, a probe thermometer inserted into the center of the pie should read 180°F. If you don't like the hole or crack made by the thermometer or knife, you can creatively cover it up with sweetened whipped cream or pie pastry cutouts arranged over the crack before serving.

2. Gently Nudge It

Similar to how you check a cheesecake for doneness, open the oven door and gently nudge, don't shake, the pie. The outer edges of the pie should be firm while the center will be a little jiggly, but not sloshy or unsteady. As the old adage goes, "It needs to jiggle like Jell-Oo but not wiggle like a wave." If the entire pie is wobbly, continue baking. Use a piecrust shield if it's browning too fast.

3. The Filling Gets Darker and Slightly Puffed

As you reach the suggested baking time for your recipe, the filling should deepen in color and puff up a bit. There may be a little cracking around the edge where the filling meets the crust (or where you inserted a knife to test for doneness). The puff on the pie will relax as the pie cools and hide many of the cracks—and remember what we said earlier about covering the cracks with whipped cream!

Signs a Pumpkin Pie Is Overbaked

If the timer goes off and you see small bubbles in the filling around the edges of the pie, or if the filling has separated from the crust, these are signs you've overbaked the pie and you should remove it from the oven immediately.

To avoid overbaking, check your pie at least five minutes before the end of the suggested baking time. You can always bake it for longer, but you can't unbake it.

Also, watch out for overbrowning the crust. Cover the edges with foil or use a piecrust shield if you notice them getting dark quickly.

Cool Completely

Once out of the oven, set your pie on a cooling rack (place your rack in a cool place in your kitchen, away from the heat of the oven,) and allow it to cool completely before slicing. Our Southern Pumpkin Pie Recipe specifies cooling the pie for three hours in order for it to be completely set. Custard pies continue to cook as they cool, so allowing this time is crucial; it can mean the difference between serving clean slices of pumpkin pie or scooping out pumpkin pudding which, served with the afore-mentioned sweetened whipped cream, kind of sounds yummy.

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