An employee places a sealed meat pie into a tray at McDowell’s pie and mash shop in Romford, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

(Bloomberg) -- Monica Galetti makes mincemeat of chefs whose cooking displeases her on the TV series MasterChef the Professionals.

Who better, then, to put mince pies to the test in Bloomberg’s blind tasting, an annual event now in its 11th year? Chef Heston Blumenthal judged for the first two years, before dropping out to launch his own line of  pies.

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

Mince pies are loved in Britain but little known in other countries. Nowadays they are sweet Christmas pastries filled with dried fruits and spices, and sometimes raisins and sultanas soaked in rum, whisky or cognac. But they originally contained meat, and a recipe from 1390 includes includes pork and hard-boiled eggs.

Galetti didn’t pull her punches at the tasting in the kitchen of her London restaurant, Mere. Blumenthal’s unusual pie, with a lemon twist, came last. Top dog was the most expensive, a shortcrust pastry variety from the luxury Fortnum & Mason department store.

Here’s what she had to say, with marks out of 10.

The Winner: Fortnum & Mason Traditional (£1.82 per pie/$2.30)

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

“That is really tasty. It is really generous in the filling and I like that it’s not too wet, yet it’s still moist. You can see that. The pastry is nice and crumbly. All the spices running through that and it is not too sweet as well. There’s enough pastry to actually take the amount of filling in this one. I’ve got to stop eating that one.” 8/10

Marks & Spencer Puff Pastry (42 pence)

“That looks like a vol-au-vent. It looks quite big. It’s actually very light because they’ve used a puff pastry. It is very light. I like the filling. It’s not too wet, it’s not too dry and it’s not too sweet. I like that.” 7/10

Pret-a-Manger (£1.45)

“It looks like my daughter made it. It’s like when you see a dead starfish washed on the beach. There is a lot of filling in this one.  I think the pastry could be cooked a little bit more. I like the flavors, the sweetness. It’s not too sweet.” 5/10 

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

Waitrose All-Butter  (42 pence)

“I like that. It is not overly sweet. There is more pastry to the filling but the filling is quite dense so it actually works out quite well. Not bad. I could eat that. I’m not a huge mince-pie fan but I definitely have a couple that I quite like here.” 5/10

EAT (£1.50 )

“Wow. Very modern presentation on this one. It’s almost more like a tart than a mince pie as you know it. I like the crumb on the top. It’s not a mince pie as we traditionally see it but it’s got the flavors, the fruit coming through it. The pastry hasn’t dried out too much.” 5/10

Tesco Finest (33 pence)

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

“The pastry is nice and crumbly. I really like the color of it but personally, for me, it is sickly sweet. It’s spicy with cloves and  sultanas and little currants as well going through, but it is just too sweet.” 4/10

Co-Op Irresistible (33 pence)

“It definitely looks festive, you’ve got a nice little decoration on top. Look at that crumbly pastry. The pastry is quite floury and the filling is quite wet. It is very sweet.” 4/10

Starbucks  (£1.69)

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

“That's a big one isn’t it? It’s a very generous size for a mince pie. Apple. Very sweet. There’s a lot of filling but some people like that. I like a nice balance of pastry to filling. For me, again, it is very sweet. I find the pastry very floury on the palate.”  4/10

Leon (£1.25 for a mini pie)

“Very sweet. A lot of raisins. If you like that, it works. The pastry is quite thin on this, you can see that because the moisture on it has just soaked through the pastry. It’s fine. Not my favorite.” 4/10

Heston From Waitrose (75 pence)

A MasterChef Picks the Best Mince Pie

“That's pretty. You know it’s Christmas when for lunch you are eating 10 mince pies. Not too much filling in that. It is like a lemon icing curd like in there. I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like a lemon tart with raisins and there is more pastry to actual filling. It’s not my favorite. Next. Quickly. Out the way. That’s by Heston? Sorry, Heston.” 3/10

Richard Vines is chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.

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