Because pies are all rather large and many have meringue or another kind of topping that makes them rather cumbersome to fit into the refrigerator, many people want to know whether pie must be refrigerated. I for one have been guilty of making pies for a holiday meal the day before the big event and leaving them out overnight until needed the next day. It seems that I have been mistaken in thinking this is okay.
Any pie that contains a dairy product of any kind and/or eggs must be refrigerated within 2 hours of being made. Only the fruit pies can safely be left out at room temperature for up to 4 days, at which time they should be refrigerated or frozen.
Or maybe the question should be, what kinds of pie must be refrigerated and how long is it safe to leave them unrefrigerated. Now let’s explore the subject in greater detail.
How Long Does Pie Last Once Baked?
How long pie lasts depends on the ingredients and the temperature of the room after it is removed from the oven. There are three main types of pie; cream or custard, fruit, and savory. All cream, custard, meringue, chiffon, pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, and even savory pies like quiche and frittata should be refrigerated as soon as possible after baking. High levels of protein and moisture in those ingredients support the growth of bacteria.
- If the pie contains eggs or any dairy product such as milk, cream, buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese, cheese (for savory pies), condensed milk, or evaporated milk, it must be refrigerated as soon as it is cool enough to go into the refrigerator.
- Refrigeration will keep pie good for a period of time, but not past approximately 4 days for most types of pie.
- If there is a cool area like a utility room or porch where the temperature is 40 degrees or below, it would be safe to leave the pies there for a longer period of time without refrigeration.
- If pie is still around after about 4 days, certain types, not cream or custard, can be wrapped carefully and frozen.
Here are recommendations for how long pie lasts with refrigeration and without:
|Type of Pie||Should they be refrigerated immediately||Table Shelf Life||Refrigerated Shelf Life||Can they be frozen; for how long|
|Cream or custard||Yes||2-4 hours||4 days||No|
|Fruit||No||2 days||4 days||Yes; 6-8 mos|
|Savory||Yes||2-4 hours||4 days||Yes; 6-8 mos|
|Sweet Potato & Pumpkin||Yes||2-4 hours||4 days||Yes; 6-8 mos|
How to Tell If Pie Has Gone Bad
- The first sign that a pie is going bad is that the filling will become a little watery and the crust soggy.
- Any odd smell or taste should alert you to the fact that maybe the pie should be discarded.
- Heaven forbid that a pie should hang around so long that it begins to show signs of mold, which would definitely be a good indication that it should be thrown away immediately.
Things That Help Pies Last Longer
There are a few things you can do to make your pies last as long as possible.
- Refrigerate after baking.
- If not refrigerated after baking, store in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. I recommended having a couple of quality pie/cake containers, like these found on Amazon.
- Keep covered to avoid airborne contamination.
- Use a knife or pie server that is dedicated solely to that particular pie to avoid cross-contamination with other food.
- After a pie is refrigerated and you pull it out to serve, don’t leave it unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
- Freeze fruit or savory pies after 4 days to use at a later date.
What to do if You Have too Many Pies
If you should find yourself with too many leftover pies or portions of pies after that big family gathering and you have sent as much pie home with family members as you possibly can, don’t let them hang around too long and go bad. Just wrap them carefully with foil and freeze the ones that freeze well like apple, pecan, sweet potato, and pumpkin and pull them out at a later date when you need a quick dessert. Most pies will last for 6 to 8 months in the freezer.
Types of Pie That Would Not Be Safe to Ever Leave Unrefrigerated
All pies made with dairy products and/or eggs would not be safe to eat if left unrefrigerated after baking. This would include pies made with milk, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, cheese, condensed milk, or evaporated milk. Examples would include:
- Sweet Potato
Can Pies be Frozen?
Many pies can be frozen for use at a later date. Just make sure you use a freezer-safe container. Here is a list of pies that freeze well:
- Sweet Potato
Pies that cannot be frozen:
How to Prepare a Pie for Freezing
If you don’t have a freezer-safe container, wrap the pie in at least 2 layers of plastic wrap, making sure there is a good seal to avoid odors from other foods. Then, add a good layer of aluminum foil to protect from freezer burn.
How to Thaw a Frozen Pie
Remove the frozen pie from the freezer 12 to 24 hours before serving and unwrap the foil and plastic wrap. Allow the pie to thaw in the refrigerator to avoid condensation that would ruin the crust by making it soggy.
Interesting Facts About the Pie From the American Pie Council
- Pie has been around at least since the ancient Egyptians around 6000 B.C.These first pies were made in “reeds” which were not eaten and were used in lieu of a crust.
- The first pie recipe was published by the Romans for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.
- English pies as early as the twelfth century were predominately meat pies, spelled pyes. The crust of the pie was referred to as “coffyn,” and there was actually more crust than filling. These pies were often made using fowl and the legs were left to hang over the side of the dish and used as handles. Fruit pies or tarts called pasties were probably first made in the 1500s. English tradition credits Queen Elizabeth I with making the first cherry pie.
- Pie came to America with the first English settlers who cooked their pies in long narrow pans calling them “coffins” like the crust in England. As in the earlier pies, the early American pie crusts often were not eaten, but designed to hold the filling during baking. It was during the American Revolution that the term crust was used instead of coffyn.
- Over the years, pie has evolved to become “the most traditional American dessert,” and has become so much a part of American culture that we now commonly use the term “as American as apple pie.”
Even though the experts say that pies made with any type of dairy product and/or eggs should be refrigerated within 4 hours of baking and long-time bakers like me sometimes leave pies out overnight if necessary, the U. S. Department of Agriculture actually recommends that all cooked food be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking since bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40ºF and 140ºF.
This gets confusing when you see pies sitting on tables and in display cases for who knows how long waiting to be sold. However, the story here is that those pies contain preservatives not found in your homemade versions.
So which is it, does pie have to be refrigerated after baking or not? My recommendation would be to err on the side of safety and refrigerate your pies that have any type of dairy product and/or eggs as ingredients, as soon as you possibly can, especially if the weather is above 90 degrees F. Push and shove all that food aside that you have in the refrigerator and make room for the pie. A pie taker or a bowl turned upside down over a pie will allow you to stack your pies to take up as little space as necessary.