Step-by-Step: How to Make a Perfect Apple Pie

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

An American classic, perfected. [Photographs: Vicky Wasik; Food Stylist: María del Mar Sacasa]

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A great apple pie can be as simple as picking the right type of apples; chopping them up; tossing them with sugar, spices, and a thickener; dumping them into a killer homemade pie crust; topping it; and baking it. A perfect apple pie, on the other hand, takes just a little bit more work. Here's how to get there, fully illustrated with step-by-step photos.

In my recipe, we activate the power of apples' endogenous enzymes by giving them a soak in hot water. These enzymes in turn help to shore up the structure of the apple slices, ensuring that they retain their shape even as they tenderize. Instead of apple mush inside the pie, you wind up with distinct chunks of tender apple bound together in a juicy, lightly sweetened and spiced sauce.

A quick note: There are two basic types of apple pie out there. Pies using precooked apples tend to be rich and jammy, with a filling that holds its shape as you slice; pies made with uncooked fruit tend to be much juicier, while maintaining a fresher, brighter apple flavor. Deciding which version is better is like trying to pick a puppy out of the litter. It largely comes down to personal preference.

This pie is of the latter variety and comes out fresh, bright, and quite juicy. But don't despair, thick-pie-lovers: We'll be coming out with a brand-new recipe this season that uses par-cooked apples for a thicker, richer filling. Stay tuned!

Read more about the science of pie dough, more on how to pick the right apples for pie, and more on the science of apple pie filling. Or, jump straight to the step-by-step photo guide here.