We spent an afternoon judging Britain’s best pies
British Pie Awards 2016 regal pies

We were lucky enough to be invited along to the internationally-renowned British Pie Awards this year, alongside over 100 fellow judges including leading food critic Charles Campion, chef Rachel Green and TV chef Andy Bates, to help judge some of their 816 pies.

Dream job, right?

The eighth annual British Pie Awards 2016 took place at St Mary’s Church in Melton Mowbray on 9 March – during British Pie Week.

Here’s what we learnt about being a pie judge.

1. There are a LOT of pies to judge

British Pie Awards 2016 LRT

This year 132 professional bakers, butchers and chefs entered 816 pies across 20 different categories – ranging from Melton Mowbray pork pie and steak and ale to best pub pie and a new category of best football pie.

British Pie Awards 2016 regal pies

There was a special pie class named ‘Regal Pie’ this year – a pie fit for the Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.

Some pies were judged hot, and some cold.

We struck lucky and were assigned the meat and potato category, to be judged hot – a Northern icon of a pie.

The lord of the pies, if you will. WIN.

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2. There is a Blessing of the Pies

Blessing of the Pies LRT

After a welcome address by Matthew O’Callaghan, Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, there was a Blessing of the Pies by the Reverend Kevin Ashby.

In a slightly surreal moment, we were handed a slip of paper with the blessing, which we all sang to the tune of American Pie.

3. There’s a ‘Control Pie’

British Pie Awards control pie LRT

A ‘Control Pie’ was supplied to each table of all Classes (either steak, mushroom and red wine pie or a pork pie).

The Chairman of Judges had already judged and scored these pies, and then it was down to us to ensure this benchmark of marks was adopted.

Consistency in judging was vital across the board.

4. There are 6 ways to assess each pie

British Pie Awards 2016

You must score the pie across six categories:

  • Appearance – including glaze or finish
  • Baking – over-baked means the pastry looks burnt, whereas under-baked can mean the dreaded soggy bottom
  • Pastry thickness – including how the knife ‘feels’ as it cuts through the pie
  • Pastry texture and taste – shouldn’t be too crumbly or greasy, too salty or underseasoned
  • A visual assessment of the filling – is it over- or under-filled, is there a good ratio of meat to vegetable filling, is there enough gravy or sauce?
  • And finally, filling texture and taste – is it seasoned well? Is the filling too thin or gloopy? Are any meat or vegetables overcooked or undercooked?

British Pie Awards 2016 LRT 2

5. The best pie might actually be a pasty

British Pie Awards official - pasty section

A Beef Skirt & Vegetable Pasty made by A.F. Huddleston Butchers took home the title of Supreme Champion at this year’s British Pie Awards, beating 815 other pies to secure the hotly-coveted trophy.

A controversial winner?

Matthew O’Callaghan, Chairman of the British Pie Awards and Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, said:

“I know many will be surprised to see a pasty winning the British Pie Awards, but the definition of a pie is a filling totally encased in pastry – pies come in all shapes including round pies, square pies and pasties.”

“The winning pasty was outstanding. It looked so appealing; an even bake with a beautiful glaze and a perfect crimp. Eating it was a delight, well balanced flavours, tender meat, small chunks of vegetable and a delicious gravy with just the right amount of seasoning. One of the best examples of a perfectly produced pasty”.

British Pie Awards 2016 2

We had an amazing day judging pies.

And the answer to who ate all the pies? Well, that would be us.

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