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Pies, ranked

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Our staff ranked pies because we don’t have enough to argue about in the year 2017.

Bay Area Charities Feed The Needy Ahead Of Thanksgiving Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Turkey is the food most closely associated with Thanksgiving. But a close No. 2 on that list is PIE.

One of the most common Thanksgiving Day activities around the country is arguing. (That will certainly be the case this year.) So at, we decided to combine those two very Thanksgiving concepts and argued about pie. (To be clear, staff argues about food most days. We just specifically decided to argue about pie this week.)

We compiled pie rankings from 20 unnamed staffers this week and present the results below. More than three dozen pies received votes, but only 20 received votes on multiple ballots. Only a few were disqualified: flan (which is definitely not a pie but is confusingly included on Wikipedia’s list of pies and tarts); pizza (not a pie; Chicago-style is a metaphysical construct of a troubled people); and cake (which is clearly not a pie).

To maintain objectivity, yours truly did not vote. However, I did provide the commentary you see below. (Do not @ me. Unless you’re providing sweet potato recipes.) Enjoy both this list and the pie debates to come!

Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By Coca-Cola - Pie vs. Cake hosted by Duff Goldman Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NYCWFF

20. Banana Cream

In my experience, a strong banana cream pie is all about quality whipped cream and ripe bananas. Banana cream pie suffers from too short a shelf life; no one wants leftover banana cream pie.

19. Whoopie Pie

Whoopie Pie is not really a pie: it’s two little cakes with a cream filling. But since it’s called a pie and multiple people took its name literally, we’ll allow it. It is delicious!

18. Mississippi Mud Pie

Here we have a highly underrated, quality sweet-tooth delight. You’ve got cake, you’ve got pudding, you’ve got an interesting crust. That Mississippi Mud Pie is only No. 18 shows that despite your allegiance in the Cake-Pie War, pie has a pretty deep bench.

16. Empanadas and Crawfish Pie (tie)

Empanadas are definitely pies. And how versatile they are! I am a cake partisan, but empanadas are definitely more effective miniature treats than cupcakes — especially so compared to the atrocity that is the mini-cupcake. Who authorized the mini-cupcake to exist? It’s just bad, and it’s a disgrace to cakekind. Anyways: empanadas, what a delight!

Crawfish pie is new to me, but looks positively interesting. As the old adage goes: if you like something, stick it in a pie crust, and, hey, that pie will probably be pretty good.

Barack Obama Visits Oak Harbor, Ohio Photo by Pete Souza/White House Photo via Getty Images

14. Apple Crisp and Strawberry Pie (tie)

Apple crisp -- we’ll also lump in apple cobbler or apple crunch, since the differing nomenclature is regional more than substantive, in my reading -- is just wonderful. For my money, no pie on this list benefits more from good vanilla ice cream than a warm apple crisp. And yes, an apple crisp is a pie even though the crust is on the top instead of the bottom. If you have a crust, a sweet or savory filling, and come in a pie plate, you’re a pie.

Strawberry pie is an interesting entrant for me. Strawberry rhubarb is a different story -- we’ll get to it soon -- but basic strawberry pie doesn’t seem like a winner. But perhaps it’s a draw in regions where that particular fruit is less ubiquitous. (In California, the strawberries flow like water.) Strawberry is also, in my opinion, one of the few fruits that works much better as a cake accoutrement than a pie filling. (Pineapple is the all-star of that team.)

12. Strawberry Rhubarb and Peach (tie)

Two serious blue chip fruit pies. If you’re looking for your pie to deliver some delicious damn fruits with a little added spice and flavor in a pastry crust, you can’t go wrong here.

11. Cheesecake

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Cheesecake is definitely a pie even though it self-identifies as a cake. It has the crust, the pie plate, the filling. Be wary of anyone who claims they make an amazing cheesecake because cheesecake preferences — sweetness and density, mostly — vary so widely. Cheesecake is like pizza in this way: it’s versatile, but people have hardcore preferences.

Note that pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, and pumpkin chocolate cheesecake all received votes, albeit from a single person who knows what he likes.


10. Meat Pie

That meat pie is only No. 10 shows our staff’s homerism. Meat pie is great! While we’re here, I am personally offended that pot pie did not rank among our staff. Turkey pot pie is a top-three Thanksgiving leftovers option behind potato waffles and turkey sandwiches.

9. Lemon Meringue

Lemon meringue pie is so wonderful. It mixes the tartness and sourness of Key Lime pie with the fluff and sweetness of a banana cream. How wonderful!

8. Cherry

Classic. Just classic.

7. Chocolate Pie

We lumped chocolate pudding style pies and the ever-excellent chocolate cream pie in here. The chocolate cream pie is more likely to feature a custard than a pudding, but they are close enough. “Hey everyone, let’s throw so creamy chocolate stuff in a crumbly pie crust, and put some whipped cream on top!” Now doesn’t that sound nce?

6. Key Lime Pie

Hemingway Day Festival In Key West
This is apparently a Key lime pie eating contest from a 2001 Ernest Hemingway festival in Key West. I have never wanted to attend an Ernest Hemingway festival in Key West more than right now.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

My personal No. 1. Damn, I want a Key Lime pie right now.


5. Blueberry

This is perhaps my California bias showing, but I had no idea blueberry pies were so popular. Is this a Southern thing? Is it because (like strawberry pie) is easy to prepare? Is ... is blueberry pie really this good?

4. Sweet Potato

Sweet potato pie is definitely a top-five way to enjoy a sweet potato. This is no slight: there are dozens of ways to enjoy a sweet potato (one of the greatest foods on the planet), and sweet potato pie is way up there. The only methods that beat it are sweet potato fries, sweet potato hash browns (cooked in bacon grease, of course), honey-roasted sweet potatoes, and baked sweet potatoes. (Please share additional sweet potato recipes with me.)

3. Pecan

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This pie is neck-and-neck with Key Lime for me ... this time of year. I’m not really trying to eat pecan pie in the summer. That crunch, that flavor, that smell. Incredible. Shout out to pecan pie.

2. Pumpkin

A good pumpkin pie is really good. A bad pumpkin pie is a travesty. I’m not sure any pie has a range like pumpkin pie. What’s especially disturbing is that supermarkets and wholesale retailers have turned pumpkin pie into an autumnal loss-leader, selling gargantuan pumpkin pies at cost. Like it’s a dang rotisserie chicken or something. That’s not OK. Treat your pumpkin pies with some respect and maybe they’ll be worth a damn!

But seriously, a good pumpkin pie is so good.

1. Apple

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Apple pie won our staff poll in a blow-out, by the way. Apple pie is the Golden State Warriors of piedom. It’s easy to see why. It has a super high-potential crust. It’s fruit. It tastes like fall, pulling that seasonal nostalgia. It goes great with vanilla ice cream. It’s pretty versatile depending on what type of apple you use and whether you go with a standard pastry dough or something more crumb-like. Just a fantastic pie all-around. No weaknesses. All awesome. Apple pie!