The world of pastries can be a perplexing place, with a myriad of distinctions between similar looking and similar tasting creations. Pies and tarts are both pastries that have a crust and a sweet or savory filling. There are, however, a few differences between pies and tarts. Shape is the predominant distinction between these two pastries. Crust thickness, preparation methods and the final appearance also distinguish between pies and tarts.
Pies typically are round with sloped edges. A standard pie pan or pie dish is usually 9 inches (about 22 cm) across and 1.5 to 2 inches (about 4 to 5 cm) deep, with a flat or fluted lip around the edge of the dish. Pie pans commonly are made from metal, ceramic or Pirex glass. The pie crust is made large enough so it will fill the bottom and sides of the pie dish and drape over the lip. Once the filling is added, the pie crust is cut in a circle around the lip and pressed into the fluted edge.
A tart pan can be any shape, including square, round, oval or oblong and is between 4 and 12 inches (10 and 30 cm) in either diameter or length, depending on the shape. Tarts are also often made in a ring shaped flan pan. Tart pans are usually shallower than pie pans and are anywhere from 3/4 of an inch (about 2 cm) to 2 inches (about 5 cm) deep. Tart pans are almost always made from metal and have straight sides, sharp edges and a removable bottom.
A pie has a crust that covers the bottom, sides and lip of the pie dish. Oftentimes, a pie will have a lattice patterned crust or a full crust on top as well, though open-top pies are also common. Tarts have crust on the bottom and sometimes the sides, but rarely covering the top. The two crusts often are a bit different as well. A pie crust usually has light, flaky and crisp texture, whereas a tart crust often is more crumbly and firm — and usually a bit thicker.
Serving presentation also is a bit different between pies and tarts. The removable bottom on tart pans allows the pastry to be removed cleanly and set on a plate. Alternatively, tarts can be baked on a cookie sheet with a pastry ring as support, which also allows for clean removal. Pies are commonly served in the pie dish in which they were baked.