Kathleen Collins/The Daily Meal
For many, the holiday season is not complete without a big slice of pumpkin pie topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Although there are so many great pumpkin pie recipes, some savvy shoppers prefer Costco’s version instead.
Like the $4.99 rotisserie chicken, Costco’s $5.99 pumpkin pie also has a devoted fan base. The average consumer may know the basics — they’re huge, affordable and delicious — but there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to this cult-favorite autumnal dessert.
Each pie weighs a whopping 58 ounces — which is more than 3.5 pounds — and is a full foot in diameter.
Costco’s pumpkin pie costs only $5.99. If you were to make your own, you’d be hard-pressed to find ingredients that collectively cost less than this. On top of that, the gargantuan size easily qualifies this pie as one of the foods you should always buy at Costco.
Costco swears by the variety of pumpkin that goes into their pies. It’s called Dickinson and the funny thing is, it’s actually more squash-y than pumpkin-y. It’s tan and oblong, the flesh is harty and thick, and the flavor is much stronger than the pumpkins you’d use for carving jack-o’-lanterns on fun fall days.
The seeds that are removed from the thousands of tons of pumpkins that are harvested each year are sold to a company that makes bird food. If you have some lying around at home after gutting your own pumpkin, don’t throw them away. Make these sweet and smoky pumpkin seeds.
If you’ve ever made your own pumpkin puree, you probably cooked it only once before using it in a recipe. The pumpkins that go into the Costco pumpkin pies are actually cooked twice, once when they are in chunks to evaporate water content before being pureed, and then again once they have been canned. After that, they’re cooled, labeled and shipped to different Costco warehouses.
Each gallon of canned pumpkin (or squash, what have you) used contains three whole pumpkins that have been skinned, de-seeded, cooked and pureed.
The uncooked pie shells are filled by hand using a scale to ensure they weigh the perfect amount — 3.8 pounds — before being baked. Apparently, an experienced baker can fill as many as 48 pie shells in just seven minutes. We don’t know the official world record, but that sounds like a lot.
The pies have been around for more than 30 years, and judging by their popularity, they aren’t going anywhere any time soon, unlike these vintage recipes no one makes anymore — but should.
The now-famous recipe comes directly from the personal collection of Sue McConnaha — the vice president of Costco’s bakery operations.
All of the dry ingredients like spices and sugar are pre-mixed and bagged. That gets combined with whole eggs, the canned pumpkin and water in big stand mixers before it makes its way into the shell.
Made in house, the pie dough is shaped into fist-sized balls and then pressed by a special machine to form pie shells that are filled and baked.
Costco pumpkin pies are preservative free, which is why the pies are always refrigerated. But did you know that you can actually freeze pie fairly easily? It’s the perfect way to get ahead on some Thanksgiving prep.
Buying pies at Costco is certainly a seasonal affair. Harvest begins in mid-August and lasts through early November, with pies landing in stores from September through December. But for employees, pie season never stops. After Christmas and New Year’s, Costco’s bakery buying team begins making projections for the upcoming year and reaching out to farmers so they know how many pumpkins to plant.
In 2019, Costco sold 6.1 million pumpkin pies, including 2.1 million in the three days leading up to Thanksgiving. This may come as no surprise since so many fans consider it deserving of a place on the ultimate list of the best pies ever.
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