In the new issue of Custom PC magazine, the team apply their demanding testing principles to the latest festive pastry treats to find this year’s top mince pie.
Thank you to the mouths and stomachs of the professional tasting team, which included: Anthony Leather, Ben Hardwidge, Charlotte Milligan, Edward Chester, Mike Jennings, Phil Hartup and Rob Zwetsloot.
Iceland Mince Pies /£1 for six
Iceland’s effort is a happy little-star patterned pie with a sparkly sprinkling of sugar on top that mitigates the less than perfect construction. The sizeable quantity of the sugary sprinkles on top offsets fairly ordinary pastry and filling, with a noticeable but pleasant aftertaste. The whole thing lands squarely in the respectable bracket for quite nice pies to which you wouldn’t say no, which is good enough, but there’s nothing going on that really impressed the judges.
Co-op Irresistible All Butter /£2 for six
The vented star design on this pie seems superfluous as there are already vents around the edge. There’s nothing wrong with the pastry itself – there just seems to be less of it than usual for a pie of this size.
However, the greater anomaly for this pie lies with the filling, which has a faintly crude artificial flavour – it tastes boosted, as though having more taste was the same as having better taste. The end result is a pie that is almost overbearing.
Lidl Deluxe All Butter /£1.49 for six
Lidl’s top-end offering gives you a heftily sugar-dusted pie with a neatly crimped edge and a curious star-flake style pattern on the outside. The tasty buttery pastry is then quickly overwhelmed by the flavour of the potent filling, which delivers a punchy, almost boozy taste that lingers pleasantly for a while after eating.
Lidl’s Deluxe offering is a substantial pie for the price, and it was tasty enough to leave the judges wanting more.
Waitrose All Butter /£1.80 for six
A cleanly detailed snowflake with a sprinkle of sugar marks the lid of Waitrose’s almost absurdly robust pie. This pie is a unit, built to take on all comers. The pastry is delicious and the filling is similarly on point, with a flavour strong enough to be enjoyable, while not hanging around on the palate so long you wonder if there’s a problem. Plus the sheer size of the thing is impressive as hell. You could feed a family of four with one of these bad boys, and they’d eat well and thank you for it.
Tesco Plant Chef /£1.25 for six
Tesco’s vegan-friendly Plant Chef effort is an extremely crumbly and powdery pie that struggles to hold together while being removed from its box, and it then melts in the mouth like wet cement in the rain.
It’s not a strong combination from this perspective, although it’s saved by not tasting as bad as you might expect after the first bite. It’s not the only vegan option on this year’s mince pie megatest but it’s definitely the least appetising one.
Asda Mince Pies /£0.87 for six
The standard Asda pie has a lumpy pastry casing, with a star pattern and a little sugar that tries but fails to make the tedious pastry more exciting. It feels like there’s so much pastry here. The pie becomes an effort to ingest, because the inordinate amounts of pastry crumble into stodge while you’re eating it. When you do finally get to the filling among all the seemingly endless pastry, it feels like it wasn’t worth the trip. It’s just a mince pie filling, after all – it can’t fix everything.
Tesco Butter Enriched /£0.87 for six
The lids don’t quite cover the centres of these slightly clumsy-looking pies, looking less like a true lid and more like a plug. A little sugar on top adds some rudimentary appeal to the flavour, and frankly it needs all the help it can get. The pastry is very bland, with only a slight hint of the buttery taste you’d expect from a ‘butter enriched’ pie. The texture of the filling has also been smoothed down to the point of goo, and it offers little flavour. It’s more sloppy than unpleasant, but still not one to recommend.
M&S Classic All Butter /£1.80 for six
The M&S Classic All Butter pie dares to buck the design trend of stars and snowflakes, instead sporting holly leaves and a star-shaped hole on its lid, and as usual, we’re all far too classy to make any comment about the appearance of the latter. There’s a generous sprinkle of sugar on top, which complements the already good crumbly pastry. While the exterior is sound, what’s inside is even better, with a vibrant filling that’s spicy, chunky, sweet and sticky in all the right amounts.
Asda Extra Special /£1.75 for six
A lumpen star and snowflake adorn this pie, which isn’t deft presentation but it’s solid enough, with a light sugar dusting to sweeten it up. What the construction lacks in finesse it makes up for in sturdiness, in a good way, and the pastry is tasty. There’s plenty of chunky filling too, which doesn’t try to do anything clever with the taste but hits all the marks. It would mark a victory for substance over style, but as the style for all these products is ‘mince pie’, it will have to settle for being tasty.
Mr Kipling Deep Filled /£1.50 for six
Trust us, we’re as surprised as you. After years of churning out mediocre pies, Mr Kipling has changed its recipe and stormed it here. The concentric stars and snowflake pattern can look a little untidy depending on how the pastry settles, but the solid golden pastry is well cooked. This tasty pastry casing is also packed with a very pleasant filling – it’s rather spicy but in a good way, making for a very substantial and agreeable pie. Tasty pastry, plenty of good filling – Mr Kipling makes it look easy.
Greggs Sweet Mince Pies /£1.50 for six
A big, wide and shallow pie without a fancy lid design, the Greggs pie is almost sticky and delivers on the ‘sweet’ promise. There’s a lot of pastry for not so much filling, but that’s not a huge problem here, as the pastry is very nice, and softer than usual too.
The Greggs pie is also vegan-friendly, but manages to accomplish this without feeling overly compromised. It’s an unusual pie in many respects, but the overly sweet filling couldn’t win over everyone on the judging panel.
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference /£2 for six
This large, starry snowflake pie is solidly put together and surprisingly crisp, so the pastry and shape holds up really well even after a bite. This is a solid plus point for anybody who doesn’t eat their pies in one go like a sea lion. The apparently superior tensile strength of the pastry doesn’t compromise the flavour either. There’s a subtle but unmissable boozy undertone to the filling that gives a warm and rich taste that places it comfortably among the better options.
Morrisons Mince Pies /£0.99 for six
There is usually one pie a year that comes along and, rather than falling at the first hurdle, hits the first hurdle, collects it, picks up the other hurdles and continues to rolls along the track like a baked tribute to Katamari Damacy. This is that pie. There’s a slightly wonky snowflake motif on this smallish-sized contender, but it’s not just the presentation that’s lacking here. The pastry is bland, the filling is so insubstantial as to be almost a paste and the taste is a total non-event.
Marks and Spencer Collection /£2.50 for six
This M&S pie’s interpretation of the common snowflake and star design looks a little bit like a star with moth antennas, but that’s still festive in its own way. The pie has a little bit of wonkiness about the construction and the pastry, though, and while it’s quite tasty, it’s also rather prone to immediate disintegration. The flavour is also good, but it doesn’t leap out at you, instead staying at a respectable distance. Ultimately, this leads to a pie that’s good but perfectly ordinary.
Aldi Holly Lane Deep Filled /£0.79 for six
There are three stars on top of this remarkably well-assembled pie, with a light sugar coating that makes a good first impression. There is a quite light citrussy flavour to the filling, which isn’t at all unpleasant but debatably isn’t entirely in the spirit of a mince pie either.
Although the choice of direction for the flavour is curious, it’s definitely not bad even if it’s not expected. It’s not weird enough to be compelling, but not normal enough to fit in. We see you, pie.
Custom PC — Issue 221 out NOW!
And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 221 for free in PDF format.