Read all about our experiences making Alton Brown’s Lemon Meringue Pie from Good Eats Reloaded and how his technique helped us making the best pie crust ever!
The flakiness of the crust.
The tart, yet sweet lemon filling.
The soft, and toasted marshmallowy meringue.
When it comes to a lemon meringue pie, there is a lot going on. To make the best pie ever it takes getting each component right.
After testing out the new Alton Brown recipe, I can say I think he nailed it on all fronts.
Here is what you will need from the store to make this:
- Kosher salt
- Lemons (enough for 1/2 cup of juice)
- Cream of tartar
- All-purpose flour
- Ice water
Alton Brown’s original pie crust called for a combination of lard and butter. Lots of people said they didn’t want to make it with lard, so he came up with an all-butter pie crust. If you still want to use lard, he called for 1 ounce of lard and 3 ounces of butter.
I haven’t not tested it yet, but if you want to go gluten free, try using a gluten free all-purpose blend, better if it contains some xanthan gum.
The filling with be even more tasty if you can get your hands on some Meyer lemons.
I wanted to go over some common issues that could come up with making this kind of pie.
Crust – Butter Melts
I know people are afraid of making a homemade crust but if you can get the technique down and have the patience you can totally do it. You got this.
One of the problems people run into is that the butter separates from their crust, pools in the bottom, and the crust itself slides down the sides. The problems come with the fact that butter melts at a low temperature. Which is why Alton stresses to keep the dough cold in several steps
- Place the butter in the freezer before adding to flour
- Use ice water to bring the dough together
- Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes
- Give the dough time to soften if needed but don’t wait too long or the butter will soften
- Freeze the dough in the pan for at least 30 minutes before baking
All these steps are going to help you have a better crust, and while it may be tempting to cut down on the time and skip a step or don’t do it for as long, I really would follow these steps with precision.
What will also help your crust is using 2 identical pie pans and baking the crust between the two. We didn’t have this so we went with a pie pan that I could fit inside a bigger one. Still delicious crust, but not as optimal if you had two that are the same. If you don’t have 2 of the same, then try to do your best.
Some people use pie weights, however I think your money is better spent on buying 2 of the same pie pan instead. You could also try using 2 disposable pie pans, I haven’t tested that myself yet, so I can’t say how it would work.
One of the most disappointing situations in baking, is when your pie filling oozes out and you can’t manage to slice the pie neatly. In this recipe, the filling is held together with tempered egg yolks and cornstarch, which is boiled to kill off the enzymes that often lead to lemony puddles on your plate. The most important step is to take your time when tempering the eggs.
I could tell this pie filling was going to be a winner right away because it was nice and thick as soon as I was done cooking it. As it cooled in the crust it set up nice and firm and easy to slice, yet still kept the silky texture I expected.
For the meringue to set properly you need to get it to the right temperature. We used an infrared thermometer to track the temperature as we were making the meringue. For this recipe, Alton says you need to hit 165 degrees. That was difficult for us.
We got to 158 degrees and then could not get it to get any higher, it actually started to drop some. Before it got too low, we decided to get it in the mixer. This resulted in us not getting as firm as a set for the meringue as we would have liked, however it was still was satisfactory. So don’t fear that it will be ruined if you don’t quite hit the mark.
Next time we are going to try doing it on our induction cooktop, which I think does a better job with the heat than our old stovetop.
🍴 More Alton Brown Recipe Reviews
Alton Brown’s Lemon Meringue Pie
- 5 egg whites
- 150 g sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Cut the butter into small pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Also place 2 identical pie pans if you have them in the freezer.
- In a food processor combine the flour and salt. Pulse to combine.
- Remove the butter from the freezer. Add to the food processor. Pulse about 8-10 times to combine. Pulses should be about 1-2 seconds. No large pats of butter should remain.
- Add in the cold water and pulse 5 times.
- Lay out some plastic wrap and place the dough on it. Form a disc with the dough and wrap well with the plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove from the fridge. Allow to soften enough to work the dough. If you try to work with it while its too cold it could fall apart or tear. Don't wait too long or it will be to soft. You want to roll it out when it starts to cool without having to apply too much pressure.
- Dust your work surface with flour and roll out into a round about 1/8 inch thick.
- Remove the pie pans from the freezer. Here is how Alton Brown describes the process in his words "Lay the dough, sandwiched between parchment sheets, over the inverted pan and peel back the top sheet of parchment. Place the second pan over the inverted pan and press down gently to shape the dough. Flip both pans over, lift the top one out, peel away the other piece of parchment, set the pie pan back into the other. Flip the pan/dough sandwich over and trim away excess dough. Freeze the dough sandwiched between the pans for at least 30 minutes."
- Set your oven to 300 degrees. Once the dough has been in the freezer for 30 minutes immediately place into the enter of the oven and bake for 1 hour.
- Then raise the temperature to 375 and bake until browned about another 10-15 minutes. Cool.
- After about 20 minute of cooling, remove the inner pie pan.
- Whisk all the egg yolks in a mixing bowl.
- In a saucepan combine, the sugar, water, corn starch, and kosher salt. Set over medium heat nad bring to a simmer.
- Immediately whisk in the butter, continue to whisk until it comes to a boil and all the butter is melted in.
- Remove from the heat. Slowly add a little bit of the hot mixture to the eggs. Take your time and go slow, adding a little bit at a time and fully incorporating in before adding the next little bit until 1/3 of the hot mixture has been added to the eggs. You are trying to raise the temperature of the eggs without scrambling them.
- Add the egg mixture to the saucepan. Add in the lemon juice and the lemon zest.
- Return to the stove over medium low heat. Keep stirring until you reach a boil and cook for 1 minute before pulling it from the heat.
- You can directly add the filling to the cooled pie crust or you can allow it to cool more before adding if you are concerned that the filling isn't thick enough.
- Allow the filling to cool for 90 minutes before adding the meringue. Add the filling to the crust before starting the meringue.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Don't turn the mix on, just combine it with a whisk. You don't have to use the mixer bowl, but if you do it save you from using another bowl.
- In a pot large enough to fit the bowl without it touching the bottom, add enough water that it won't touch the bottom of the bowl. You are making a double boiler.
- Bring the water to a boil. Keep whisking the mixture in the bowl while monitoring the temperature. You want to hit 165 degrees without going over.
- Once you hit the 165 degree mark, remove the bowl, dry the bottom of the bowl with a towel and place it on your stand mixer.
- Beat on high for 1 minute until a soft peak forms when you dip the whisk attachment of the mixer into the meringue.
- Reduce the speed down to medium and whip until stiff peaks form (you turn it upside and the peak doesn't fall). This should take around 5 minutes or so. Be careful not to over whip, stop if you need to it check it. Never leave while it's whipping.
- Immediately spread on top of the pie. If you have a torch, slowly brown the top of the meringue. Practice caution and don't do this near anything or anyone else.
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