What defines a pie?

 Steak and Guinness pie

Just a few days ago, Mary Berry riled some food lovers by adding unconventional ingredients to her ragu bolognese. She's stirred the controversy pot yet again, this time with her take on pie. In this instance, people took exception to calling her potato, leek, and cheese pie a pie because it didn't have a bottom crust. Angry tweets quickly followed the airing of this episode of 'Mary Berry Everyday'.

This is far from the first time social media has erupted in a firestorm of posts regarding the nomenclature of pies. Most of the time, the question debated is: can you call something a pie if it only has a top crust? Or, as in the case of shepherd's pie, one with no pastry crust at all? People are not shy about expressing opinions on the matter. In 2015, one irate man  launched an online petition to "make wrongly describing a casserole with a pastry lid a criminal offence". The petition collected 5,000 signatures. 

The dictionary definitions of pie vary between publishers, with some calling the bottom crust optional and some requiring a crust on both top and bottom, which would leave out delicious items like lemon meringue pie. 

The British Pie Awards subscribes to a very strict definition of pie. Only pies with 'a filling totally and wholly encased in pastry' can compete in its annual contest, which took place on 8th March 2017. British Pie Awards chairman Matthew O'Callaghan holds firm to the definition, suggesting that items like lemon meringue are more properly tarts than pies. 

Photo of Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect: Step by Step by Mary Berry


  • Pamsy  on  3/23/2017 at 6:07 AM

    Quite clearly, some people don't have enough to worry about! I haven't made it yet but it looks and sounds lovely. It's a family cookbook, why do people have to be so pedantic? I too would call it a pie. Shame on me!

  • annmartina  on  3/23/2017 at 8:47 AM

    It never would have crossed my mind to think that this was not a pie. Truly I wish I had such petty problems to be worried about. What lucky people!

  • Nancith  on  3/23/2017 at 9:32 PM

    My sentiments exactly, Pamsy & annmartina! Anything that's thicker than a tart (lemon meringue pie is NOT a tart!) & has a crust somewhere is a pie as far as I am concerned.

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