The Best Pie in All 50 States

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Pi Day isn't until March 14, but there's another pie-centric holiday on the calendar. Pie Day falls on January 23, and we're sharing our picks for the best pie in every state. Whether you prefer a classic apple or go for more unusual flavors (raspberry rhubarb jalapeño, anyone?), celebrate Pie Day with one of these delectable options.

1. ALABAMA // PIE LAB

Location: Greensboro, Alabama

This trendy community space serves fried chicken salads and various wraps and paninis, but the highlight are their pies, made with exceptionally buttery crusts. Have a slice of coconut cream or chocolate chess pie while you enjoy good conversation and a friendly vibe. And if you have a hankering for a real taste of home, chef Seaborn Whatley says they'll even try to duplicate an old family favorite if you happen to have your grandmother's recipe book on hand.

2. ALASKA // BEAR TOOTH THEATREPUB

Slice of caramel turtle fudge ice cream pie.
iStock

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

The Bear Tooth Theatrepub is more than a dine-in movie theater—it's also a restaurant, draft brewery, and concert venue all in one. But after you've finished off some fresh Alaskan fish tacos, save room for the caramel turtle fudge ice cream pie. Made with an Oreo cookie crust, the pie manages to perfectly balance chocolate fudge, vanilla ice cream, and smooth caramel.

3. ARIZONA // PIEFECTION

Slice of lemon meringue pie.
iStock

Location: Mesa, Arizona

This pie-only bakery focuses on top-notch ingredients such as fresh whipped cream, wild blueberries, and bars of authentic Belgian chocolate. The country apple pie, made with cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg (and can be made gluten-free with a day's notice), is a real standout. Or, cool off from the Arizona heat with a slice of lemon meringue, topped with beautifully toasted, swirled meringue.

4. ARKANSAS // FRANKE'S

The sign for Franke's Cafeteria in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Harold Wright, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Opened nearly a century ago in 1919, Franke's boasts three locations in Little Rock today. The cafeteria is popular for its burgers and candied sweet potatoes, and for its selection of outstanding pies, such as egg custard, chocolate cream, and sweet potato coconut.

5. CALIFORNIA // THE MADONNA INN BAKERY

pie from The Madonna Inn Bakery
Courtesy of The Madonna Inn Bakery

Location: San Luis Obispo, California

The whimsical Madonna Inn has provided rooms to travelers on California's Central Coast since 1958, and the hotel's bakery, situated inside the Copper Cafe, is an essential sweet stop along Highway 101. The magnificent pies come in flavors such as caramel Dutch apple, apricot, cherry, and cream cheese.

6. COLORADO // 3.14 SWEET & SAVORY PI BAR

Close-up of a pie.
Courtesy of 3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar is a fun bakery that pays homage to everyone's favorite mathematical constant. Pies here are creatively named; a few standouts are the Nutty Professor (peanut butter chocolate pie), I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (coconut cream), and Wicked Southern Dutchman (Dutch apple pie with Kentucky bourbon).

7. CONNECTICUT // SIXPENCE PIE COMPANY

Slice of pie topped with bananas.
iStock

Location: Southington and New Haven, Connecticut

Two friends who loved baking started Sixpence Pie Company at a local farmer's market, and have since opened two brick-and-mortar stores. Besides savory shepherd's pie and chicken pot pies, you'll find seasonal sweet pies and a mouthwatering sugar and spice pie, made with banana and Nutella.

8. DELAWARE // CANNON'S CUSTOM CAKES & BAKERY

Close-up of pecan pie.
iStock

Location: Newark, Delaware

Since 1985, Cannon's Bakery has provided elaborate custom cakes for parties and special occasions, the result of mother-of-five Leah Cannon's well-known prowess at making cakes for friends and family. But you don't need a wedding or graduation as an excuse to take home one of the shop's delicious pies; pick up a pecan or apple pie, or a seasonal sugar-lattice fruit pie.

9. FLORIDA // JOE'S STONE CRAB

A slice of key lime pie.
iStock

Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Back in 1913, Joe Weiss moved from New York to Miami to try to improve his asthma. The lunch counter he opened has morphed into a Miami Beach landmark that serves stellar seafood and perfect pies. Although key lime pie is the classic choice here, the chocolate pecan and apple pies are also marvelous.

10. GEORGIA // SUGAR SHACK

Slice of large chocolate pecan pie.
Courtesy of Sugar Shack

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

At this cozy coffee shop in a shopping center, you'll find dessert cases filled with tantalizing full and mini pies. The apple crumb and peach crumb pies are light and energizing, and the chocolate pecan pie has a richness that will make you feel sublime.

11. HAWAII // LEODA'S KITCHEN AND PIE SHOP

Rows of small chocolate macadamia nut pies.
Jennifer Cachola, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Lahaina, Hawaii

Located on the west side of Maui, Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop serves what it calls "glorified grandma comfort food." The macadamia nut chocolate praline and coconut cream pies are certainly comforting, in the way that only sugar and grandmas can be.

12. IDAHO // BIG CITY COFFEE AND CAFE

Cherry pie scone from Big City Coffee and Cafe
Courtesy of Big City Coffee and Cafe

Location: Boise, Idaho

Big City Coffee in the Linen District blurs the line between pies and scones with its spectacular cherry pie scone. The enormous creation is loaded with fruit and has a uniquely flaky, granular crust.

13. ILLINOIS // BANG BANG PIE & BISCUITS

Large crumb pie on a blue checkered background.
Courtesy of Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Stop at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Logan Square or Ravenswood for a tart apple cherry crumble pie or the best lemon pistachio pie of your life. Made with a shortbread crust, the pie contains lemon curd, buttermilk custard, and candied pistachios. The store also offers baking classes so you can learn to make your own pie creations at home.

14. INDIANA // MOM'S HOMEMADE PIES

Slice of gooseberry pie.
iStock

Location: Kokomo, Indiana

Mom's Homemade Pies takes its name seriously. You won't find any mixers, which means that all the pie crust here is tender and silky. The gooseberry pie is loaded with fruit and the butterscotch cream pie will make you nostalgic for a simpler, sweeter time.

15. IOWA // DELUXE

Pies from Deluxe
Courtesy of Deluxe

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Deluxe is an adorable French bakery located just one mile from the Iowa River. The bakers here use fresh, organic local apples to make an excellent double butter crust apple pie, and the strawberry rhubarb pie is also noteworthy for its subtle balance of sweet and tart.

16. KANSAS // THE UPPER CRUST PIE BAKERY

Pie from The Upper Crust Pie Bakery
Courtesy of The Upper Crust Pie Bakery

Location: Overland Park, Kansas

Opened by two sisters and their mom, this neighborhood bakery delights visitors with its authentically Midwestern approach to pies. Although most people love the peach raspberry and coconut custard pies, don't overlook the yummy brown sugar buttermilk pie.

17. KENTUCKY // ANNIE MAY'S SWEET CAFE

Pie from Annie May's Sweet Cafe
Courtesy of Annie May's Sweet Cafe

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

All of the treats at this allergy-friendly bakery are free of soy, gluten, peanuts, and tree nuts. But what the pies lack in allergens, they make up for in bold flavor. The store's glorious fruit pies are simple, pure, and absolutely delicious.

18. LOUISIANA // COWBELL

Slice of apple pie with caramel drizzle.
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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

This restaurant's name might make you think of the old Saturday Night Live skit, but once you dine at this dog-friendly eatery, you'll definitely say that you need more Cowbell. To chase the skirt steak or carne asada tacos, order the apple pie. It's served with crème anglaise and caramel, making for a tantalizing gustatory experience.

19. MAINE // TWO FAT CATS BAKERY

Close-up of a blueberry rhubarb pie.
iStock

Location: Portland, Maine

Two Fat Cats Bakery is a truly special place devoted to baking pies (and other desserts) from scratch. Bakers hand roll every pie, use authentic New England ingredients, and advertise fruit pies based on the harvest months. For wild Maine blueberries, order the divine blueberry rhubarb pie in May or June. For this time of year? The Lemon Shaker or Bourbon Pecan pies will do the trick.

20. MARYLAND // RENATA'S TASTY BITES

Close-up of a decorative pie crust.
iStock

Location: Columbia, Maryland

After moving from Croatia to the States, Renata Alanovic opened this delightful store in Columbia. Customers love her handmade sweet and savory pies and pastries, especially the wonderful cherry and pecan pies, all with extra embellishments on the crust.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // MIKE'S PASTRY

Takeout box at Mike's Pastry.
Kimberly Vardeman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Location: Multiple locations, Massachusetts

With locations in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, Mike's Pastry has a strong presence in the greater Bean Town area. Grab a few Nutella cannoli and chow down on a slice of authentic Boston cream pie while you admire the ricotta pie's flawlessly golden top.

22. MICHIGAN // SISTER PIE

Three decorative pies on a tray.
Courtesy of Sister Pie

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Sister Pie treats pie with the utmost respect. Bakers make the crust by hand with unbleached flour and French butter, and they source local ingredients at peak ripeness for pie fillings. The salted maple and honey lemon meringue pies will blow your mind.

23. MINNESOTA // THE BUTTERED TIN

The Buttered Tin pie
Courtesy of The Buttered Tin

Location: St. Paul, Minnesota

This cafe and bakery in Lowertown serves coffee and pie that hit the spot when you need an extra boost to get through the day. You'll find different crusts made of butter, graham cracker, or sugar dough, and flavors range from a tart green apple to pumpkin chiffon.

24. MISSISSIPPI // WALKER'S DRIVE-IN

Two fried fruit pies.
iStock

Location: Jackson, Mississippi

If you're in the Fondren arts district, you must head to Walker's Drive-In for a slice of the fried pie of the day. Depending on the day, you might enjoy an upside down blueberry pie or a chocolate pecan pie, served with bourbon vanilla ice cream.

25. MISSOURI // IT'S EASY AS PIE

Four pretty, mini pies.
iStock

Location: Fenton, Missouri

If you find it hard to pick just one flavor of pie to eat, It's Easy As Pie has you covered. Order their Cutie Pies for a dozen assorted mini pies that will make your tastebuds ecstatic. Or get a whole bananas foster pie, which contains creme brûlée infused with dark rum.

26. MONTANA // BLACK CAT BAKE SHOP

Half of a huckleberry lattice pie.
iStock

Location: Missoula, Montana

This charming family-owned bakery is popular for its stollen (a German fruit and nut loaf) and stupendous pies. The huckleberry pie earns raves for its effortless balance of sweet and tart flavors.

27. NEBRASKA // MODERN LOVE

Modern Love pie
Courtesy of Modern Love

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Three words: vegan comfort food. After you chow down on latkes, seitan gyros, or wild mushroom schnitzel, get ready for some of the best pie of your life. The apple ginger pie is served with a coconut whip, and the blood orange coconut cream pie is made with a snickerdoodle crust.

28. NEVADA // WET HEN CAFE

Large apple pie with a slice missing.
iStock

Location: Reno, Nevada

Wet Hen Cafe is located in a nondescript strip mall, but don't overlook this homespun spot. Generously stuffed with apple slices, the apple pie is huge, heavenly, and served with cinnamon sauce.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // CHEZ VACHON

Cranberry pie with a bowl of cranberries beside it.
iStock

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire

This superb restaurant serves heaping plates of poutine as well as a huge selection of fruit and cream pies. Highlights include the pistachio cream and cranberry walnut cheesecake pies.

30. NEW JERSEY // THE PIE STORE

The Pie Store pie
Courtesy of The Pie Store

Location: Upper Montclair, New Jersey

Anglophiles love The Pie Store for its impressive selection of British groceries. You'll find plenty of savory pies (shepherd's pie, chicken and mushroom) as well as spectacular sweet pies, like their key lime. They make their fruit pies, like the cran-apple or raspberry-blackberry-apple, with a double crust, or stop in Saturday or Sunday to get the weekend-only coconut custard and chocolate mousse pies.

31. NEW MEXICO // TUNE-UP CAFE

A strawberry rhubarb pie.
iStock

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

The husband-wife team at Tune-Up Cafe serves an eclectic mix of tamales, pupusas, and homemade, gluten-free pies. Order the pie of the day a la mode for a taste of blueberry, maple pecan, or strawberry rhubarb pie with vanilla bean ice cream.

32. NEW YORK // PIED PIPER PIES

pies from Pied Piper Pies
Courtesy of Pied Piper Pies

Location: Highland Falls, New York

At Pied Piper Pies, the crust is flaky and the filling is satisfying. Whether you sample a quiche, pot pie, or sweet pie, you'll be able to taste the care and love that goes into each creation. Pro tip? Get the Samoa or Snickers pies for a sweet blast of nostalgia.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // THE PIE HOLE

A slice of s'mores pie.
Courtesy of The Pie Hole

Location: Durham, North Carolina

With locations in southern California, Tokyo, and Durham, The Pie Hole has perfected the art of making pie. Toasted marshmallow creme, dark chocolate mousse, and a graham cracker crust comprise the stellar s'mores pie.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // MEZZALUNA

A piece of caramel apple pie.
iStock

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

This upscale restaurant behind the Fargo Theatre is known for its filet mignon and insanely decadent desserts. The caramel apple pie is served with vanilla bean ice cream, but it's small, so you'll want to savor every bite (or order two).

35. OHIO // MAMA JO HOMESTYLE PIES

Slice of chocolate mousse pie.
iStock

Location: Amherst and Medina, Ohio

If you don't appreciate lard's essential role in making the perfect pie crust, stay away from Mama Jo Homestyle Pies. For everyone else, enjoy a slice of Buckeye cream pie, which contains silky layers of chocolate and peanut butter mousse.

36. OKLAHOMA // THE MERCANTILE

The Mercantile pie
Courtesy of The Mercantile

Location: Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Hands down, the best pie in the Sooner State can be found at The Mercantile. This store and cafe owned by Food Network superstar Ree Drummond (a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman) serves exceptional pecan pie made with toasted Oklahoma pecans, brown sugar custard, and bourbon vanilla whipped cream.

37. OREGON // PETUNIA'S PIES AND PASTRIES

A sour cherry pie.
iStock

Location: Portland, Oregon

This charmingly alliterative bakery makes small batches of vegan, gluten-free pastries using a blend of millet flour, almond meal, and flaxseeds. It's hard to pick favorites, but some of the best pies here are the lattice top sour cherry and double crust blackberry peach.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // OAKMONT BAKERY

Oakmont Bakery pie
Courtesy of Oakmont Bakery

Location: Oakmont, Pennsylvania

For 30 years, Oakmont Bakery has been famous for its Paczki (Polish stuffed doughnuts), but the homemade pies are in a league all their own. The Dutch apple seems like a must-order in Pennsylvania, but the spiky tufts on the coconut meringue are impossible to pass up.

39. RHODE ISLAND // THE WAYLAND BAKERY

The sign at Providence's Wayland Bakery.

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Pies at The Wayland Bakery come in eight-, nine-, or 10-inch pans, but when it comes to this 90-year-old bakery's pies, bigger is better. Standout flavors include sugar-free apple, coconut custard, and lemon meringue.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // HAROLD'S CABIN

A slice of buttermilk pie.
iStock

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, Harold's Cabin is a restaurant and corner store with a small rooftop garden. Head there on a Saturday or Sunday for breakfast and enjoy sitting with other people who won't judge you for partaking in buttermilk or cranberry apple pie first thing in the morning.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // THE PURPLE PIE PLACE

The Purple Pie Place pie
Courtesy of The Purple Pie Place

Location: Custer, South Dakota

The Black Hills region is famous for two attractions: Mount Rushmore National Memorial and The Purple Pie Place. Customers rave about the freshness of the blueberry pie and the creative mix of flavors in the raspberry rhubarb jalapeño pie.

42. TENNESSEE // PAULETTE'S RESTAURANT

A slice of chocolate whip pie.
iStock

Location: Memphis, Tennessee

For four decades, Paulette's Restaurant has been a destination for fine dining and celebratory meals along the Mississippi River. Although the key lime pie is killer, get the Kahlua-mocha parfait pie. Nicknamed the K-pie, this extravagant dessert's crust is made with pecans and coconut.

43. TEXAS // PIE IN THE SKY PIE CO.

Pie In The Sky Pie Co. pie
Courtesy of Pie In The Sky Pie Co.

Location: Conroe, Texas

Drive 40 miles north of Houston, and you'll find Pie In The Sky Pie Co., a cafe and bakery that churns out a large selection of carefully curated pies. If you can handle the heat, get a slice of red hot apple pie, made with Red Hots cinnamon candies.

44. UTAH // THE DODO

A slice of Toll House pie at The Dodo.
Sam Klein, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Named after the extinct Mauritian bird, The Dodo serves humongous, heavenly slices of pie. Flavor options for the towering slices of pie include Toll House, banana cream cheese, and chocolate almond mousse.

45. VERMONT // THE HARTLAND DINER

A slice of cream pie.
iStock

Location: Hartland, Vermont

Located on Route 5, this neighborhood diner is the perfect spot for a cup of joe and a slice of maple cream or chocolate cream pie. The servings are generous, including the giant dollop of whipped cream that practically hides the delicious pie underneath.

46. VIRGINIA // THE HORSESHOE

The Horseshoe pie
Courtesy of The Horseshoe

Location: South Hill, Virginia

If you're seeking the simple elegance of Depression Era pies—full recipes made with limited ingredients such as milk, sugar, eggs, and butter— head to this diner that has been open since the '30s. The former blacksmith shop now serves timelessly delicious buttermilk, brown sugar, and lemon chess pies.

47. WASHINGTON // SIMPLY SOULFUL

A slice of sweet potato pie.
iStock

Location: Seattle, Washington

A family recipe for sweet potato pie inspired a mother and daughter to open Simply Soulful, a soul food and pie joint in Madison Valley. Sip espresso as you dig in to a sweet potato, apple, or mixed berry pie.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // OLIVER'S PIES

Oliver’s Pies pie
Courtesy of Oliver’s Pies

Location: Wheeling, West Virginia

Run by the Oliver family, Oliver's Pies makes handmade pies with the utmost care. The Dutch apple and peach pies are stuffed with fruit, and the chocolate peanut butter cream pie is rich and velvety.

49. WISCONSIN // STOCKHOLM PIE AND GENERAL STORE

Stockholm Pie and General Store pie
Courtesy of Stockholm Pie and General Store

Location: Stockholm, Wisconsin

Head to Stockholm Pie and General Store for an espresso bar, Wisconsin cheese, and pies galore. After chowing down on chicken pot pie, try the caramel apple crunch pie, which contains hand peeled and sliced apples, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel sauce.

50. WYOMING // THE PIE TIN

A slice of sour cream raisin pie.
iStock

Location: Wheatland, Wyoming

You'll find cakes, cookies, and quick breads at this bakery and catering company, but the pies are truly special. The pumpkin and pecan pies are stellar, as are the more unusual butterscotch and sour cream raisin pies.

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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A Brief History of Mashed Potatoes

mphillips007/iStock via Getty Images Plus
mphillips007/iStock via Getty Images Plus

During the Seven Years War of the mid-1700s, a French army pharmacist named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was captured by Prussian soldiers. As a prisoner of war, he was forced to live on rations of potatoes. In mid-18th century France, this would practically qualify as cruel and unusual punishment: potatoes were thought of as feed for livestock, and they were believed to cause leprosy in humans. The fear was so widespread that the French passed a law against them in 1748.

But as Parmentier discovered in prison, potatoes weren’t deadly. In fact, they were pretty tasty. Following his release at the end of the war, the pharmacist began to proselytize to his countrymen about the wonders of the tuber. One way he did this was by demonstrating all the delicious ways it could be served, including mashed. By 1772, France had lifted its potato ban. Centuries later, you can order mashed potatoes in dozens of countries, in restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining.

The story of mashed potatoes takes 10,000 years and traverses the mountains of Peru and the Irish countryside; it features cameos from Thomas Jefferson and a food scientist who helped invent a ubiquitous snack food. Before we get to them, though, let’s go back to the beginning.

The Origins of the Potato

Potatoes aren’t native to Ireland—or anywhere in Europe, for that matter. They were most likely domesticated in the Andes mountains of Peru and northwest Bolivia, where they were being used for food at least as far back as 8000 BCE.

These early potatoes were very different from the potatoes we know today. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes and had a bitter taste that no amount of cooking could get rid of. They were also slightly poisonous. To combat this toxicity, wild relatives of the llama would lick clay before eating them. The toxins in the potatoes would stick to the clay particles, allowing the animals to consume them safely. People in the Andes noticed this and started dunking their potatoes in a mixture of clay and water—not the most appetizing gravy, perhaps, but an ingenious solution to their potato problem. Even today, when selective breeding has made most potato varieties safe to eat, some poisonous varieties can still be bought in Andean markets, where they're sold alongside digestion-aiding clay dust.

By the time Spanish explorers brought the first potatoes to Europe from South America in the 16th century, they had been bred into a fully edible plant. It took them a while to catch on overseas, though. By some accounts, European farmers were suspicious of plants that weren’t mentioned in the Bible; others say it was the fact that potatoes grow from tubers, rather than seeds.

Modern potato historians debate these points, though. Cabbage’s omission from the Bible didn’t seem to hurt its popularity, and tulip cultivation, using bulbs instead of seeds, was happening at the same time. It may have just been a horticultural problem. The South American climates potatoes thrived in were unlike those found in Europe, especially in terms of hours of daylight in a day. In Europe, potatoes grew leaves and flowers, which botanists readily studied, but the tubers they produced remained small even after months of growing. This particular problem began to be remedied when the Spanish started growing potatoes on the Canary Islands, which functioned as a sort of middle ground between equatorial South America and more northerly European climes.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that there is some evidence for the cultural concerns mentioned earlier. There are clear references to people in the Scottish Highlands disliking that potatoes weren’t mentioned in the Bible, and customs like planting potatoes on Good Friday and sometimes sprinkling them with holy water suggest some kind of fraught relationship to potato consumption. They were becoming increasingly common, but not without controversy. As time went on, concerns about potatoes causing leprosy severely damaged their reputation.

Early Mashed Potato Recipes

A handful of potato advocates, including Parmentier, were able to turn the potato's image around. In her 18th-century recipe book The Art of Cookery, English author Hannah Glasse instructed readers to boil potatoes, peel them, put them into a saucepan, and mash them well with milk, butter, and a little salt. In the United States, Mary Randolph published a recipe for mashed potatoes in her book, The Virginia Housewife, that called for half an ounce of butter and a tablespoon of milk for a pound of potatoes.

But no country embraced the potato like Ireland. The hardy, nutrient-dense food seemed tailor-made for the island’s harsh winters. And wars between England and Ireland likely accelerated its adaptation there; since the important part grows underground, it had a better chance of surviving military activity. Irish people also liked their potatoes mashed, often with cabbage or kale in a dish known as colcannon. Potatoes were more than just a staple food there; they became part of the Irish identity.

But the miracle crop came with a major flaw: It’s susceptible to disease, particularly potato late blight, or Phytophtora infestans. When the microorganism invaded Ireland in the 1840s, farmers lost their livelihoods and many families lost their primary food source. The Irish Potato Famine killed a million people, or an eighth of the country’s population. The British government, for its part, offered little support to its Irish subjects.

One unexpected legacy of the Potato Famine was an explosion in agricultural science. Charles Darwin became intrigued by the problem of potato blight on a humanitarian and scientific level; he even personally funded a potato breeding program in Ireland. His was just one of many endeavors. Using potatoes that had survived the blight and new South American stock, European agriculturists were eventually able to breed healthy, resilient potato strains and rebuild the crop’s numbers. This development spurred more research into plant genetics, and was part of a broader scientific movement that included Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking work with garden peas.

Tools of the Mashed Potato Trade

Around the beginning of the 20th century, a tool called a ricer started appearing in home kitchens. It’s a metal contraption that resembles an oversized garlic press, and it has nothing to do with making rice. When cooked potatoes get squeezed through the tiny holes in the bottom of the press, they’re transformed into fine, rice-sized pieces.

The process is a lot less cumbersome than using an old-fashioned masher, and it yields more appetizing results. Mashing your potatoes into oblivion releases gelatinized starches from the plant cells that glom together to form a paste-like consistency. If you’ve ever tasted “gluey” mashed potatoes, over-mashing was likely the culprit. With a ricer, you don’t need to abuse your potatoes to get a smooth, lump-free texture. Some purists argue that mashed potatoes made this way aren’t really mashed at all—they’re riced—but let's not let pedantry get in the way of delicious carbohydrates.

The Evolution of Instant Mashed Potatoes

If mashed potato pedants have opinions about ricers, they’ll definitely have something to say about this next development. In the 1950s, researchers at what is today called the Eastern Regional Research Center, a United States Department of Agriculture facility outside of Philadelphia, developed a new method for dehydrating potatoes that led to potato flakes that could be quickly rehydrated at home. Soon after, modern instant mashed potatoes were born.

It’s worth pointing out that this was far from the first time potatoes had been dehydrated. Dating back to at least the time of the Incas, chuño is essentially a freeze-dried potato created through a combination of manual labor and environmental conditions. The Incas gave it to soldiers and used it to guard against crop shortages.

Experiments with industrial drying were gearing up in the late 1700s, with one 1802 letter to Thomas Jefferson discussing a new invention where you grated the potato and pressed all the juices out, and the resulting cake could be kept for years. When rehydrated it was “like mashed potatoes” according to the letter. Sadly, the potatoes had a tendency to turn into purple, astringent-tasting cakes.

Interest in instant mashed potatoes resumed during the Second World War period, but those versions were a soggy mush or took forever. It wasn’t until the ERRC’s innovations in the 1950s that a palatable dried mashed potato could be produced. One of the key developments was finding a way to dry the cooked potatoes much faster, minimizing the amount of cell rupture and therefore the pastiness of the end-product. These potato flakes fit perfectly into the rise of so-called convenience foods at the time, and helped potato consumption rebound in the 1960s after a decline in prior years.

Instant mashed potatoes are a marvel of food science, but they’re not the only use scientists found for these new potato flakes. Miles Willard, one of the ERRC researchers, went on to work in the private sector, where his work helped contribute to new types of snacks using reconstituted potato flakes—including Pringles.