Meringue pie is an exceptionally rich and refreshing dessert and incredibly easy to make, even if you are a beginner in baking because there are very few things that could go wrong. Your biggest concern when making this pie is keeping it compact and stable as it tends to get runny. So why does your lemon meringue pie gets watery, and how to fix it?
The reasons for lemon pie getting watery could be not pre-baking the crust, whipping the lemon custard or meringue too much or not enough, filling the crust while it’s hot, not adding enough corn starch, and not letting it cool before serving. You can do a few things to fix it, depending on the reason.
Getting the consistency and structure just right takes more than a few tries. The experience I’ve gathered could be very useful to you. So in the following paragraphs, I will explain why your meringue pie gets watery, how to avoid that, how to fix it, and what to serve it with.
Why Is Your Lemon Meringue Pie Watery?
Your lemon meringue pie can be runny for quite a few reasons. To answer why is your lemon meringue pie watery, first I have to say a few things about its ingredients. You don’t have to be a baking expert, but there are a couple of tricks you should know about baking a lemon meringue pie.
Lemon meringue pie comprises three parts- crust, lemon custard (lemon curd), and meringue. The lemon custard itself could be a little watery, as well as the meringue. The crust also requires some knowledge and skill.
Getting the three constituents of the lemon meringue pie right will result in a firm and consistent pie. Therefore, whatever you do, focus on getting the crust, the lemon custard, and the meringue right.
Too Much Whipping
Whipping the lemon custard or the meringue too much will result in a runny lemon meringue pie.
The lemon custard contains butter, egg yolks, salt, sugar, and corn starch. To make the lemon custard, you should add these ingredients one by one, slowly stirring the mixture until it thickens. Mixing the lemon custard too long or too strongly will weaken the thickening properties of the corn starch, and your custard won’t get the thickness it needs.
The same happens if you whip the meringue too much. The meringue should be thick and stable, and the standard way to check this is to turn your mixing bowl upside down. If it starts to slide, it means that it needs more whipping, but if it is still, you’ve done your job.
But here’s where it gets tricky. If it slides just a bit and you continue whipping it, the proteins holding everything together start to fall apart, making the entire mixture even more unstable. You turn the bowl over again, and it is even runnier, so continue mixing until you realize that this has turned into a vicious cycle.
In addition to the proteins becoming weaker, the more you whip, the more air gets inside the mixture, making it start bubbling, at which point you need to take reparative action. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to fix this.
Not Pre-baking the Crust
Since the lemon custard is almost completely cooked while on the stove, and the meringue needs just a moment in the oven, not pre-baking the crust causes some problems. This will either result in a nearly raw crust or a burnt meringue and sticky and filling if you’re going to bake the crust all the way.
Another thing you risk by not pre-baking the crust has a watery lemon meringue pie, as the moisture from the crust will absorb into the lemon custard and the meringue. The filling and the meringue won’t merge and form a stable structure, as there will be moisture between them.
Filling the Crust While It’s Hot
You will have a runny lemon meringue pie if you fill the crust while hot. What will happen is that you will top the hot crust and seal the vapor inside. This sealing will create moisture between the crust and the filling, making the filling and meringue slide off your pie.
Not Adding Enough Cornstarch
As I already mentioned, cornstarch is one of the ingredients for lemon custard. Although it contains egg yolks as a thickener, corn starch is necessary to make the entire structure stable and consistent. Cornstarch is an essential element when making a pie custard.
If you don’t add enough cornstarch, your lemon custard will be thick, but it won’t be stable, and it will become watery, even while filling the crust. The wateriness won’t go away after baking either, so make sure you follow the recipe to the letter and put the necessary amount of cornstarch into the custard.
How to Keep Lemon Meringue Pie from Getting Watery?
Prevention is always better than correction, so to avoid a runny lemon meringue pie in the first place, it is best to pre-bake the crust. Pre-baking the crust will dehydrate it, meaning that it will need less time in the oven. Also, remember to let your pie crust fully cool before you fill it with custard and top it with meringue.
Secondly, don’t be shy with the cornstarch. Add it slowly and constantly stir until you get a honey-like consistency.
Stir your lemon custard slowly but consistently. This will thicken the custard without diminishing the properties of the corn starch.
Careful with the meringue. Frequently check its consistency and thickness and don’t go over the top with the whipping.
Give your pie enough time in the oven. Check it every few minutes. It isn’t done until the meringue gets a golden color.
How to Fix Watery Lemon Meringue Pie?
If your lemon meringue pie turns out runny after all, it is not the end of the world. There are some things you can do to fix it.
More Time in the Oven
As simple as it sounds, popping your pie back in the oven for a few more minutes might be just what your pie needs. The additional baking time will let everything set and help the lemon custard merge with the meringue, preventing the topping from sliding off the custard.
Add One More Egg White
If you have a watery pie, you may want to whip one more egg white and add it to your meringue. Before putting the whipped egg on the meringue, whip it well until foamy. Let the pie cool down and gently smear it on the topping; this will act like an adhesive, making the entire pie topping more stable.
Pop It in the Fridge
If you did everything right, and your pie is still watery, or you simply can’t pinpoint the reason standing behind your runny pie, it is always a good idea to give it some more fridge time.
Lemon meringue pie is served cold anyway, but instead of giving it 3-4 hours in the fridge, keep it for an extra hour or two.
Before putting it in the fridge, let your pie cool down because if you put it in the fridge hot, it may make things worse. The low temperature will solidify your pie and make it more consistent. However, this solution will not make your pie less runny, but it will simply cover the problem.
If you keep your pie on the counter long enough, it will get runny again. However, it is a nice trick if you are a fast eater.
How to Keep Meringue from Sliding off Pie?
This is an effortless task. While the pie crust should be cold when you pour the lemon custard, the lemon custard should be very hot when poured. Top the filling with the meringue right after pouring the lemon custard into the pie crust.
Because it is very hot, the custard will immediately bond with the meringue, and it will continue to merge with it during the baking process, preventing it from sliding off your pie once it is done.
What to Serve With Lemon Meringue Pie?
Since lemon meringue pie combines sweet, sour, and buttery flavors, it doesn’t give much space for pairing. Because it is so zesty and characteristic, you need something similar to combine it with.
Citrus fruits are always a good idea to accompany your lemon meringue pie. Another good solution would be crushed nuts, almonds, or hazelnuts.
If you want to pair it with a drink, choose frappe or citrus white wine.