A Pie by Any Other Name: How to Spot the Differences Between Cobblers, Crisps & More


If you’ve ever been to a holiday party, a cookout or a Thanksgiving feast, chances are you know a pie when you see one. But if you were asked to differentiate a cobbler from a crumble, crisp or brown betty, how do you think you’d fare? True, these pie sub-categories are all very similar in that they’re based on the same two ingredients: fruit and dough. But a few key details distinguish one from the other.

If you have a strong preference for a crisp and crumbly topping or one made up of soft biscuits — or perhaps something that falls between the two — then these details matter a whole lot. Broaden your knowledge of classic fruit desserts (and find the one that appeals most to your palate) by following this visual guide featuring top recipes for crumbles, crisps and more.


This old-fashioned fruit dessert is the star of many a picnic spread and features a fruit filling (peach is popular, but nectarines and berries work just as well) baked with a crust — either a solid sheet or biscuits “cobbled” together. Usually the crust is placed over the fruit, but it can also go underneath — or, for true crust lovers, on both top and bottom. For a traditional take on this classic dessert, try the Neelys’ Peach Cobbler (pictured above).


This all-American dessert features a crumbly topping of butter, sugar and flour that is rubbed together (possibly with oats, nuts or cookie crumbs), then sprinkled over a fruit filling before baking. Warm apple crisps are popular in the fall and winter, but this Blueberry Crisp is ideal for a summer celebration.

Brown Betty

A brown betty is similar to a crisp or crumble, except the topping is layered into the fruit mixture before baking for an intensely crunchy effect. Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Rhubarb Brown Betty is warm, sweet and super-crisp — excellent when served with a scoop of strawberry ice cream.


A crumble is the English version of a crisp, topped with a comforting mix of oats, butter, flour and brown sugar. Crumbles can be made using either sweet or savory ingredients, although the sweet versions are much more common. Exhibit A: Melissa d’Arabian’s Apple Crumble with Cardamom-Vanilla Caramel Sauce.


Buckles are the easiest fruit dessert to distinguish from the rest, given that they can be cut into neat squares. Fruit is mixed into or spooned over a yellow cake batter, topped with crumbs and baked. The cake rises as it bakes, enveloping the fruit (usually berries), then buckles. Alton Brown finishes his Blueberry Buckle with a fragrant crumb topping of sugar, butter, cake flour and nutmeg.


Slumps (also known as grunts — Cape Cod’s regional nickname for slumps) are in the same family as cobblers. To prepare a slump, simply spoon biscuit dough over stewed fruit and steam the dish on the stove top until the dumplings set up. It is purported that the dumplings make a grunting noise while cooking.

For a sweet finish to a casual summer meal, serve these individual Strawberry-Rhubarb Slumps in shallow bowls, each topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.