The "Good" recipe is the one on the back of a can of Libby's pumpkin; you can find it on-line here. If you make it with a pre-rolled crust, it's almost always better than a pie you purchase, in fact, it's quite good! Cool the pie slowly to prevent cracking and once cool, refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
The "Better" recipe is one that makes a few changes to the recipe above, most notably substituting half-and-half for the evaporated milk but using the same crust. Because it makes a thicker custard than the Libby's recipe, this pie rarely cracks after baking. It is also less bland, with more intense pumpkin and spice flavors. The recipe requires no more time than the Libby's recipe above and has the same number of ingredients. To make the "Better" pie, use a pre-rolled crust and fill it with this pumpkin custard, beginning the recipe at step 5.
For the "Best" recipe, you will need to make your own piecrust (this King Arthur Flour piecrust is great), and pre-bake ("blind bake") it. I cannot lie, this will take some time, but when you make your own crust, it has a buttery flavor and a lightness that a pre-rolled crust will never achieve. When you blind bake the crust, it becomes crispy under the velvety soft custard. Most pies have a thin, limp bottom crust which is a shame, given that the bottom crust has the same amount of fat and calories as it's delicious top-crust cousin. When you serve this pie, it will come cleanly out of the pie pan and when you cut it with your fork, the crisp bottom crust will flake away. To make the "best" pumpkin pie (pictured above), make your own crust and follow my pumpkin pie recipe. As with all three pies, cool completely and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving; serve with whipped cream or (if you must) Cool Whip.
When my mother prepared Thanksgiving dinner, it was a big (and stressful) production. I've never really thanked my brother for taking over the preparation of the turkey for her; he had this amazing baste and would cook the turkey on the Weber grill, not only preparing the bird but also creating a lovely outdoor haven where we kids could go and drink beer (Thanks Mark!). Mom really enjoyed putting a homemade pumpkin pie on the table, but for her making homemade crust was a bridge too far. If like Mom, you don't enjoy these adventures in cooking...then don't do it! Thanksgiving is about family and friends; the food is just the vehicle for bringing us all together. We can bond over any of the pies above, a pie from a box, or no pie at all.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family,