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"Why is my lemon meringue pie mushy?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

Whenever I make lemon meringue pie, it waters and makes the shell mushy. I have tried cooling the filling before putting it back in the oven with the meringue topping to brown, but it doesn't seem to help. I'd appreciate any hints or suggestions. Thank you.

— Margie Mendez, San Juan, P.R.


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Hi Margie,

First, let's take a look at where this moisture is coming from. Water is leaking from the beaten whites (they're 87% water), pooling between the filling and the meringue, and dripping down the sides to the crust. The cause? While the meringue cooks on top when it is put into a hot oven, there isn't sufficient time for the meringue to cook on the bottom.
The solution? Rather than cooling the filling, reheat it quickly after you add the egg yolks, so it gets steaming hot. Pour the hot filling into the piecrust, immediately spoon on the meringue, and bake it. While the top of the meringue browns quickly in the oven, heat from the filling cooks the underside of the meringue. As it cooks, proteins in the egg whites coagulate and hold liquid rather than releasing it, so the meringue is moist and the crust stays dry.

Some cooks sprinkle a fine layer of cake crumbs on the hot filling, then top it with the meringue. The crumbs absorb any accumulating moisture, and the meringue clings to the filling.

Lemon meringue pie is not one to wait patiently to be eaten. The longer the pie sits, the more moisture is inclined to accumulate. We recommend that you make it the day you plan to eat it. A homemade lemon meringue pie is becoming a rare treat. We're delighted you're still making them!

Anne & Sue




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