Judging a Great Aussie Pie

Featured in: Australasian Baker Magazine February/March 2012, Issue 15

If you’re planning on entering the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition it pays to become familiar with the judging criteria – whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned competitor.

The Judging Process

Entrants send four samples of each pie to be judged. The back crew at the Competition then picks out the best three to be judged. One is cut in half, while one is placed in a pie warmer for tasting and one stays cold. The half pie is judged for pastry thickness and texture, as well as the amount of meat filling it contains. The judges dig into the half pie with a paddle pop stick to check for gristle and tubing which indicates offal. Although three pieces of gristle are allowed the pie will lose points as a result of this. Plain meat pies must achieve a mark of 16 or more out of 30 to progress to the tasting stage. Judges then call for the hot pie to be cut into quarters and the pie is tasted by a team of two or three judges. All judging is conducted blind so there is no way to identify the entrant who baked the pie. If a judge thinks that they recognise an entrant’s work they stand down from the team for the judging process.

What Judges look for

A nice, even bake on the pastry, with no charcoal or burning on the bottom. A big criterion is that the finished pastry is the right thickness. Often the pastry is too thick – rarely is it too thin. Ideally the pie should have a 2mm to 3mm base finished thickness. Entrants need to take into account the absorption from the filling, which can make the finished pastry increase to 4mm to 5mm.

Judges also look for good lamination – lift and separation on the pastry top – and that the pastry has a good natural colour, not one which has been artificially coloured by excess egg wash.

Pies which reach the tasting stage are then judged for sensory appeal; smell, taste, texture and aftertaste. The pie is also checked for stability – that the filling doesn’t run – and that the pastry is cooked right through.

A major benefit of participating is that judges provide comments on each entry outlining ways to improve. This helps bakers identify ways to lift their score the next time they enter. There have been many cases where bakers have won a silver award after winning a bronze the previous year, due to taking the judge’s advice on board.

Thanks to John Ross for explaining the judging process.

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Distinguished Australian author Robert Macklin, a pie lover of many decades, lifts the pastry lid of this very Australian icon to reveal the history and affection Australians have toward the great Australian pie.
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