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Does Pecan Pie Need to Be Refrigerated? (50-yr Baker Advice)

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When preparing food for a big family gathering, we’ve all had those times when we realize that we don’t have enough room in the refrigerator to store all those pies. Which ones need to be kept cold and which can be left out? Having baked over 1000 pies in my lifetime with no one getting sick, I decided to write this article to help my fellow bakers out.

According to the USDA, a pecan pie should be refrigerated as soon as it has had time to cool completely after baking. This is usually within 2 to 4 hours after it comes out of the oven, depending on the ambient room temperature.

All pies that contain eggs and/or any kind of dairy product must be refrigerated immediately after completely cooling.

Jelly Grandma Standing Behind a Pecan Pie
Me and One of My Pecan Pies

What the USDA Says About Storing Pecan Pie

Here is what the USDA has to say on the subject:

“Homemade egg-rich pies such as pecan, pumpkin, lemon meringue, and custard must be kept refrigerated after cooking and cooling. Cream and chiffon pies must be stored in the refrigerator. These pies can be kept for three to four days. Fruit pies such as cherry and apple can be stored at room temperature one to two days or seven days in the refrigerator. Some perishable pies, such as pumpkin and pecan, purchased in store bakeries, may contain preservatives. Consult the bakery for storage information.”

How Long Does Pie Last Once Baked?

The length of time a pie lasts depends on a number of different things, including the ingredients used in making the pie and the storage conditions after it has been baked. Pies fall into three primary categories, (1) cream and custard, (2) fruit, and (3) savory.

Here are recommendations for how long pie lasts with refrigeration and without:

Kind of PieRefrigerate Immediately?Unrefrigerated Shelf LifeRefrigerated Shelf LifeCan It Be Frozen? For How Long?
Cream; CustardYes2-4 hours4 daysNo
FruitNo2 days4 daysYes; 6-8 mos
SavoryYes2-4 hours4 daysYes; 6-8 mos
Pumpkin; Sweet PotatoYes2-4 hours4 daysYes; 6-8 mos

All pies that fall into the cream and custard and savory categories including cream, custard, chiffon, meringue, pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, quiche, and frittata should be refrigerated as soon after baking as they have had sufficient time to cool completely. They contain ingredients that create high levels of protein and moisture that support the growth of bacteria.

For example, if the pie contains eggs and/or any type of dairy product such as milk, buttermilk, cheese, cream, cream cheese, condensed milk, evaporated milk, or sour cream, it must be refrigerated as soon after baking as it has cooled completely.

A Slice of Jelly Grandma's Pecan Pie
A Slice of My “Famous” Pecan Pie

If most types of pie have been kept refrigerated, they will remain good for up to 4 days. But, if a pie has not been eaten after 4 days in the refrigerator, pies such as pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, and savory pies such as quiche and frittata, can be wrapped well and frozen to be thawed and eaten at a later date. But, cream and custard pies that have been hanging around in the refrigerator for 4 days should be discarded.

The exception is fruit pies which can safely be stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, after which time they should be stored in a refrigerator or freezer. 

How to Tell If Pecan Pie Has Gone Bad

There are three primary ways to tell whether a pie has gone or is going bad which include:

  1. If a pie is “watery” and the crust soggy, it is probably still edible, but the consistency will not be the same as a fresh pie.
  2. An odd taste or smell is a sure sign that a pie should be discarded immediately.
  3. If there is any sign of mold growing on any part of the pie, it should be discarded immediately.

Things That Can Extend The Shelf Life Of A Pecan Pie

Having been in this situation many times, my answer to this question is that if you make the pie late in the evening before the big meal, pecan pie will still be good the next day as long as you take certain precautions including (1) covering the pie well to prevent contamination, and (2) storing the pie overnight in the coolest area in your house like a utility room, basement, back porch, or pantry, any area where the temperature is 40 degrees or below. If you do not have such an area, then it is best to go ahead and refrigerate the pecan pie after it has completely cooled.

Here are a few things you can do to make your pecan pie last longer:

  • Refrigerate as soon after baking as the pie has had sufficient time to cool.
  • If not refrigerated, store the pie in a cool dry area away from any sunlight or heat source.
  • Keep the pie covered at all times by either using foil, plastic wrap, or a good airtight container.
  • When serving, use a utensil that will only be used for serving that particular pie to avoid cross-contamination with other food.
  • Once the pie has been refrigerated, avoid leaving it out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours at a time for serving.
  • After a pie has been refrigerated for up to 4 days, either discard the rest of the pie or wrap it carefully and freeze the remainder to be served at a later time.

Can Pecan Pie Be Frozen?

Pecan pie can be frozen and will remain good in the freezer if wrapped properly for 3 to 6 months. 

What Is The Best Way To Wrap Pie For Freezing?

Here are the best methods of wrapping a pie of any kind for freezing:

  1. Use a container that is both freezer safe and stackable to conserve storage space in your freezer.
  2. Wrap the pie in a double layer of plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is sealed securely. Then add a layer of aluminum foil over the plastic wrap to protect the pie from freezer burn and cross contamination with other food stored in your freezer.

How Do I Thaw a Frozen Pecan Pie?

Follow these steps to thaw a frozen pecan pie:

  1. Remove the pie from the freezer at least 12 to 24 hours before serving.
  2. Unwrap the foil and plastic wrap.
  3. Allow the pie to thaw in the refrigerator to avoid condensation that would make the crust soggy.

What Kinds Of Pie Can Safely Be Left Unrefrigerated?

Fruit pies like apple, cherry, and strawberry do not have to be refrigerated and will last at least 2 days unrefrigerated, if stored properly. After two days on the kitchen counter, they will taste better if stored in the refrigerator.

Any pie left unrefrigerated should be wrapped or at least covered to avoid any type of airborne contamination and should be stored in a cool dry area away from direct sunlight and any heat source.

How Do You Store Pecan Pie From the Store?

Although we don’t normally add preservatives to our homemade pecan pies, those bought from the local grocery or supermarket will more than likely contain preservatives. So, if you buy a pecan pie that is sitting out on a display case unrefrigerated, it will probably be good until its expiration date if you store it at room temperature in your kitchen, unless the directions say that it should be refrigerated after cutting. 

If, however, you bought a pecan pie from the refrigerator or freezer section of the supermarket, then it should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and not left at room temperature.

Final Thoughts

Pecan pies are truly an American dessert because pecan trees are native to the United States. Though we don’t know who made the first pecan pies, we know that they have been made at least since the 1870s when the first pecan pie recipes were published in the state of Texas. 

While the first pecan pies were thought to have been made with milk and raisins, the ones that we are familiar with today became popular in the 1920s when the Karo Syrup manufacturer started printing the pecan pie recipe on karo syrup labels. And, because pecan pies are so popular, they are a favorite at any time of year, and are not just reserved as a holiday treat. 

My favorite pecan pie recipe was given to me by a dear friend many years ago. If you are interested in trying a new recipe that is delicious and very easy, check out my ridiculously easy pecan pie demonstration on YouTube.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss 2 Best Types of Flour for Pie Crust (And How to Use Them).

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