Help me transport a pie on Thanksgiving!
November 16, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

A Portable Thanksgiving: Help me figure out how to transport a pie on an airplane!

I'm meeting my gf's parents for the first time on Thanksgiving. I would like to bring something, and I'm pretty handy at making pies.

What's the best way to transport it? I intended to take just a carry-on, but not sure that TSA would like me having a pie in my luggage - so I'm open to checking it in.

1) Is this smart? Is a pie going to go bad from 6 hours of no refrigeration?

2) Transport: Is there some special tray that I should use? I can order anything off (I have prime), so point me to something there that works

3) Any recommendations on pie that stays well! I wanted to do a cherry with a lattice crust - but maybe the cherries will go all over the place if jostled.

Any other considerations that I need to take into account?
posted by unexpected to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
Can you make it up in advance, freeze it before the flight, and bake it when you get there?
posted by galadriel at 7:46 AM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: TSA Traveling with Food or Drink

Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.

(You may want to print this out to show to the screeners.)
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:46 AM on November 16, 2010

What kind of pie is it? 6 hours with no fridge is OK for some pies, not great for others, I think.

I would look into Pyrex/tupperware.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:47 AM on November 16, 2010

I would be surprised if TSA regulations allowed you to take a pie on a plane (i.e., is it above 3 ounces of "gel"?). I would not count on this working out.

The pie won't go bad in six hours, though.

Arrange for a nice pie at your destination from a local shop.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:48 AM on November 16, 2010

This will lead to heartbreak. Bring something sturdy, like fruitcake, or already in pieces, like nuts or candy, well packaged. Or, if you insist on pie, hit the grocery store on arrival, and make it when you get there.
posted by libraryhead at 7:50 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're gonna want a full double-crust pie there, kiddo... either that or to stabilize the hell out of your filling with cornstarch/tapioca/thickener-of-choice.

Unless the pie has an uncooked filling with perishable ingredients (milk, eggs, butter, etc.), it will most likely be a-okay for a few hours sans refrigeration.

In lieu of a fruit filling, I'd go for as dense and rich a filling as you can stand... pecan or mincemeat or chocolate-caramel are more robust and less ooey-gooey than fruit, and can probably take a jostling with better results.

I'm in favor of checkin' that pie, but I have NO idea what kind of container you might use. Definitely something hard-sided, though. A hatbox with both container/lid cut down to 3" - 4" high might work.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:51 AM on November 16, 2010

ACTUALLY, something that just occurred to me... blind-bake the crust, parcook the filling, assembled the pie, then FREEZE THE HELL OUT OF THAT PUPPY the night before your flight. A frozen, half-baked pie will stand up to a LOT more (jostling, inspection, flight delays) than a fresh, tender pie.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:52 AM on November 16, 2010

Even TSA Blogger Bob says you can bring pies through:

I spoke with the TSA Contact center today to see what the number one travel question was so far this holiday season. Drum roll please…

Can I take my pie with me on the plane?

The answer is yes! Just send it through the X-ray and you’ll be one step closer to enjoying your delicious pie. We do suggest you take it as a carryon so it doesn’t get squashed in your checked luggage.

Mmmm. I like pie. I dig Pecan, Rhubarb and Sesame Seed pie. Mmmmm!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

posted by Comrade_robot at 7:53 AM on November 16, 2010

Can you make hand pies instead? Significantly less risk for complete disaster. Speaking as a person who carried a cake from on a cross-country flight, I had zero issue with TSA, I just explained to them what was in the box as well as wrote "BIRTHDAY CAKE" on the outside of the box.
posted by banannafish at 7:56 AM on November 16, 2010

Seconding the suggestion of pecan pie; it's a Thanksgiving favorite, and the more pecan-y versions are pretty dang solid, in my experience. If you can, bring some mounting squares or double-sided tape to secure the pie dish to the bottom of the carrier so it doesn't bounce around and chip the crust.

A transparent carrier clearly designed for baked goods might help allay some of the TSA's misgivings. Here's a pie carrier by Pyrex, but your local big-boxes and grocery stores should all stock some variant at this time of the year.
posted by Bardolph at 7:58 AM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: 1) The pie won't go bad. Your biggest problems here are smushage and spillage.

2) To combat said smushage, you're going to want to put your pie in a box (there's a joke there somewhere) to protect it. Ideally, the box will be hard-sided, like one of those cookie tins you can find around this time of year. If all you can find is a cardboard cake box, you need to get the smallest size that will fit and find some way to support the interior of the lid (maybe one of those pizza tripods would work?).

3) Whatever pie you make, make it the day before (and let it sit out at room temp) so it has time to congeal properly. And before boxing it, you'll want to take plastic wrap and cover the surface of the pie so that it's touching the plastic (this will help the filling stay in place). Pecan pie tends to stay together pretty well because of the crust that forms on the surface, but any pie is going to be completely ruined if it's packed against gravity. And you really can't do anything about that. Even if you make a perfect little pie nest on the floor of your suitcase, there's nothing stopping the baggage handlers from tossing your bag up on the plane upside down. And then you're totally screwed. My general rule for packing suitcases for check-in and boxes for shipping is to assume that someone's going to be playing a marathon session of kickball with it. If what I'm packing can't survive kickball, it can't survive being in checked luggage.

Any other considerations that I need to take into account?

The first thing I would do is contact the TSA and flat-out ask them about pie carry-on policy. Some foods are OK. Pie seems like kind of a gray area, what with the filling and all. The only way to know is to talk to them: TSA- or call 1-866-289-9673.

If it turns out carry on is a no-go, either consider making the pie at your girlfriend's house or make some adorable pies on a stick.

Good luck.
posted by phunniemee at 8:01 AM on November 16, 2010

If you really want to do this, why not ship the pie via Fed Ex? Or make one when you get there. I think carrying a pie onto a plane is just so much more trouble than it's worth. It seems like a quirky idea out of a rom-com.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:17 AM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: This is my favorite pie carrier (I have at least 3 different types - I am the Thanksgiving pie lady in my family): Tupperware 12" Round Pie Keeper The base is designed to fit the pie plate so it won't slide around during transit.

I'd avoid any pie that "sloshes" after baking - no cherry, apple, etc. I'd stick with a classic pumpkin, custard, or chess pie. Freezing it sounds like a great idea, too. And once on the plane I'd stash it on the floor, where I could stabilize it with my feet during takeoff/landing.
posted by hms71 at 8:31 AM on November 16, 2010

I think this is doable. Make a "solid" pie, put it in a carrier or basket that will fit under the seat in front of you, and be OK with the idea that the pie may not make it.

Look, the worst that can happen is they make you dump the pie out at the security checkpoint, in which case you have an excellent story to tell at Thanksgiving as you serve your last-minute substitute.
posted by mskyle at 8:49 AM on November 16, 2010

My sister recently flew with two pies that we made. They were wrapped in plastic wrap and then in standard cheapo disposable cardboard pie-carriers. There was a pecan pie and a berry pie. I believe she put them under the seat in front of her and was careful not to step on them, and there was no problem getting through security (with the exception of the apparently good-natured security guard making jokes about needing to know what flavor they were before he decided whether or not to confiscate. But seriously, it was fine). They made it home just fine and were delicious.
posted by brainmouse at 8:52 AM on November 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - I'm going to give it a go!

@Ideefixe - I'm doing this exactly b/c it's the cheesy idea in a rom-com. It will annoy my girlfriend to no end (in a good way), and at least provide for a few laughs at Thanksgiving. Worse comes to worst, I'll throw the pie out at the security line, or eat the smushed remnants on the plane. I'm not telling her I'm bringing one, so they won't rely on my pie for dessert.

After all, you can never have too much pie!
posted by unexpected at 9:39 AM on November 16, 2010

Is there a reason you can't bake the pie at your girlfriend's parents house? If it's a matter of needing to let the pastry dough rest overnight and such, you could probably carry a lump dough (or even a pre-baked crust) on the plane with you as per the above.
posted by Sara C. at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2010

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