Culinary Arts

What's the Difference Between Pie and Cobbler?

Written by MasterClass

Jun 10, 2019 • 3 min read

Listen, the pie versus cobbler (versus buckle, versus crisp, versus brown betty) corner of the internet is heated. Here’s what you need to know to save yourself from the baked-fruit cross fire.


What Is Pie?

Pie is a baked dish featuring a fruit filling encased in dough, which is called a pie crust or pie shell once baked. Pies can have a double-crust (filling is fully encased in pie dough), single-crust (open top, with a single, blind-baked bottom crust), or somewhere in between (think fancy lattice tops). Pies can be sweet or savory—steak and ale pie, anyone?

What Is Cobbler?

A cobbler is a freeform dessert consisting of a fruit base and a slightly sweet biscuit topping. The biscuit dough is traditionally dropped over the top of the fruit to create a “cobbled” together crust in a baking dish.

How Are Pie and Cobbler Different?

While the sheer enjoyment resulting from either fruit dessert is about equal (and both play quite nicely with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or fluffy dollop of whipped cream), pie and cobbler require different levels of finesse. Cobblers are rougher and perhaps more rustic, while an expert pie dough takes a bit of practice to get just right. A cobbler recipe can be whipped up in roughly an hour, whereas a pie can take all day.

4 Cobbler Variations

There’s no wrong way to do anything with fresh fruit, but there’s infinite satisfaction in finding the exact dish you’re actually craving.

  1. Crisp. If cobblers are Rothkos, think of crisps as Jackson Pollocks: An unpredictable ripe-fruit canvas strewn with a craggy layer of streusel topping, made from any combination of butter, brown sugar, oats, flour, and more. Easy to customize and easy to fix, a crisp is a low-key summer classic.
  2. Brown Betty. A derivative of the crisp, the sweet crumbly topping in a brown betty is mixed into the fruit before baking for a consistent crunchy texture throughout.
  3. Crumble. A crumble, for all intents and purposes, is an English crisp. Same soft, sugary mix of oats, sugar, flour, and butter, but with a different name.
  4. Buckle. If you like your crisps with a neat foundation, buckles are for you. Cake batter forms the first layer, then fruit, then streusel topping. As a buckle bakes, the cake batter expands and rises in and around the fruit, making for a perfect crisp-clafouti hybrid.

3 Basic Steps For Making a Fruit Cobbler or Pie

  1. Pick your fruit. Both cobblers and pies are great ways to use up a seasonal bounty of rapidly ripening fruit. Choose based on need or cravings: few things capture that midsummer moment like a peach cobbler at a barbecue or an autumnal apple pie during the holidays. Take texture and water content into consideration when blending by adding in appropriate amounts of flour or cornstarch.
  2. Pick your base and topping. How much effort are you feeling up to? Are you tired, or ready to pulverize tons of butter into flour with your bare hands? If you’re making pie, be sure to chill your dough for at least 2 hours before popping it in the oven to let it rest and get that heavenly, tender flake.
  3. Bake. Most cobblers don’t require too much time in the oven—just enough to break down the fruit and get a good golden brown color atop the biscuits—but a pie usually takes longer than you think it will, allowing all the dough under the fruit filling (which generates lots of steam) to bake all the way through.

5 Fruits That Make a Good Pie or Cobbler

  1. Stone fruits, like peaches, plums, and nectarines
  2. Apples
  3. Cherries
  4. Berries—a mix or single variety of peak-season blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  5. Pears

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