The Hack That'll Change How We Slice Pie Forever

There's no more of a traditional American dessert than a slice of pie. In fact, we often describe things as being "as American as apple pie," which is probably because one in five Americans prefer that flavor of pie, according to a 2008 survey by Crisco and The American Pie Council. But even though so many of us love pie, we don't always know all the tricks and hacks to serve the perfect slice. After all, one of the most important tricks is getting that first slice out of the dish without destroying it. 

However, you don't have to struggle or worry about messing up a perfectly nice pie in front of your guests. All you need to do is make one extra cut and your first slice will come out as easy as, well, pie. Here's how to go about doing it, as well as some additional slicing tips.

Make three initial cuts

Everyone's probably felt this heartbreak; you do all the work of prepping and baking a whole pie only to lose a crucial piece before anyone gets a chance to taste it. Yes, a crumpled piece of pie will still taste good, but it won't look so great on the table (or on Instagram). Thankfully, America's Test Kitchen has found another easy way to remedy the pie-slicing dilemma: make three initial cuts so that you create two pieces of pie. That third cut performs a bit of pie physics and creates some space in the circle, which will free up your slices so that you can get them out of the pan — intact — more easily. Even better, now you have two pieces of pie.

When you're cutting the first piece of a pie, a lot of people's first instinct is to make only two cuts to delineate a single slice. Next, you'd dig out that initial slice with a triangular-shaped pie spatula. Sometimes this works great, but more often the cuts don't quite make it through the bottom crust. Even worse, if the pie filling is sticky (as most of them tend to be), it'll stay gelled together with the rest of the pie and you'll end up ripping the top crust or surface as you pull the piece away from the pie. So you can see, three slices is the way to go.

More slicing tips

If you're still having trouble with pie slicing even after using the three-cut method, there are a lot of other ways you can improve your odds. The first and probably most important step is to make sure your pie is cool before you make any cuts. If your filling is hot, it will be runny and stickier than if you let it cool. Let it come down to at least room temperature to let the filling set, and you can also pop it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.

Second, make sure your knife is clean and dry. If you've got an extra sticky type of pie, like coconut cream, wipe down the blade of your knife between each cut so that the excess pie that is stuck to the knife doesn't mess up the next cut in the pie. If your pie is extra sticky and dense, you can also run your knife blade under hot water between cuts to help the knife slide through the pie more easily. If you combine all three techniques of chilling the pie, cleaning your knife, and making three initial cuts, you should have no trouble getting that first piece of pie from the pan to the plate — no sacri-slice needed.