Bake Pumpkin Pies Just Right With The Wiggle Test

After hours of working hard in the kitchen for a beautiful holiday spread, don't ruin all your efforts by serving a lackluster dessert. That being said, even the most classic holiday dessert, a pumpkin pie, can be tricky sometimes. The ideal pumpkin pie showcases a perfectly set filling from the edges of the crust all the way to the center with any cracks or blemishes properly hidden.

The way to know a pumpkin pie is ready to be removed from the oven is by using something affectionately known as "the wiggle test." There's no need for any fancy tools or elaborate methods; simply giving a gentle nudge to the pie while it is still in the oven should do the trick. If the surface wiggles just slightly in the center, the pie is ready to come out of the oven. It doesn't matter if the pie doesn't seem completely done just yet — that's all part of the magic. 

Wiggle, don't poke, pumpkin pie

When you peek into the oven and think the pumpkin pie is just about ready, the edges of the pie near the crust should be firm, but the center will still be a bit jiggly. The filling should certainly not slosh, nor should it look wavy on top with a gentle shake. If you give the pie a nudge, look for just a slight wiggle in the center similar to what you would see if you jostled a bowl of Jell-O.

The wiggle test works because custard-style pies, such as pumpkin pie, are unique from other types of fruit-filled pies. They actually continue to cook as they rest and cool thanks to residual heat. That's why if the center is just slightly underdone as it comes out of the oven, it will result in a perfectly set pie in a few hours. If you wait until the center of the pie is cooked all the way through and set while still in the oven, the result will be overcooked and the filling will begin to separate from the crust. 

Other methods leave a blemished pie

When baking a pumpkin pie, there are several ways to test for doneness. Oftentimes, recipes will call for the knife test. Cooks will be instructed to insert a knife into the center of the pie, and if it comes out clean, the pie is done. The issue with this method is the unsightly slash becoming an eyesore right in the middle of your beautiful pie. This is less of an issue if you plan to decorate the top of the pie with whipped cream or decorative pastry cutouts.

Another method involves using an instant-read thermometer. If you follow the FDA guidelines, any pie made with eggs needs to be cooked to a food-safe temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be done by inserting the probe of a thermometer into the center of the pie. However, the problem of disrupting the smooth surface of the pie still remains. 

That's why if you want the classic beauty of a smooth pumpkin pie, the wiggle method is the way to go to test for doneness.