The pie makers singled out for making the world’s best Scotch Pies

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

An exacting scratch, sniff and sample examination by 60 pie professionals has determined this year's top Scotch pie makers. Pic: Scottish Bakers
An exacting scratch, sniff and sample examination by 60 pie professionals has determined this year's top Scotch pie makers. Pic: Scottish Bakers

Related tags Scottish Bakers Scotch pie Bakers pies history Industrial revolution Middle Ages

Scottish Bakers has revealed the shortlist for the 2024 World Championship Scotch Pie Awards.

This year’s competition saw 78 Scottish-based butchers, bakers and other pie makers deliver nearly 500 of their creations to Dunfermline for the exacting scratch, sniff and sample examination​ by 60 pie professionals.

Judges were tasked with a very serious mission and once again, were worked hard to put all 478 entries to the taste, touch, appearance and smell test across all the categories. Beyond the iconic Scotch Pie, this year’s competition sported nine other categories, namely Football Pies & Savouries, Macaroni Pie, Steak Pie, Sausage Roll, Hot Savoury, Vegetarian Savoury, Haggis Savoury, Bridie and Apple Pies.

The winner of the Scotch Pie category will be declared World Champion – but this will only be revealed next year – so it’s waiting with bated breath until then, I’m afraid.

However, come 16 January, the Champ of Champions – along with Best in Category winners – will receive their well-deserved accolades from Scottish Bakers CEO Lesley Cameron​ and TV personality and long-term pie award presenter Carol Smillie.

Drum roll, please…

And the shortlist is (in no particular order)

  • The Bread Guy, Aberdeen
  • David at Brownings, Galston
  • Aulds Bakeries, Greenock
  • James Aitken Butchers, Alloa
  • The Cumbrae Butcher, Isle of Cumbrae
  • Beefcake Café, Glasgow
  • DH Robertson, Arbroath
  • WeeCOOK, Carnoustie
  • Christie the Baker, Airdrie
  • Boghall Butchers, Bathgate
  • Brownings the Bakers, Kilmarnock
  • James Pirie & Son, Blairgowrie
  • Bruce of the Broch, Fraserburgh
  • Strachan Craft Butchers, Larkhall
  • Stuart’s Bakers & Butchers, Leven
  • Cafev8, Inverness
  • Grazey Days, Inverness
  • Campbell’s Bakery, Crieff
  • Pie Aroma, Strichen
  • Hugh Black & Sons, Bathgate
  • Johnston Butchers, Falkirk
  • Murrays Bakers, Perth
  • Cooper Quality Butcher, Bellshill
  • Hame Bakery, Peterhead
  • Peter’s Bakery, Glasgow
  • S Collins & Son, Glasgow
  • J & H Cairns, Carluke
  • David Cox Butchers, Glasgow
  • Goodfellows of Dundee, Dundee
  • Kinnaird Butcher Shop & Deli, Larbert
  • Nevis Bakery, Fort William
  • Irvines, Beith
  • David Stein Butchers, Bathgate
  • Pastel, Dalkeith
  • Macleans Highland Bakery, Forres
  • JG Ross Bakers, Inverurie
  • Dunbar Community Bakery, Dunbar
  • Fisher & Donaldson, Cupar
  • Tom Courts Quality Foods, Burntisland
  • Wrights Butchers, East Kilbride
  • James Chapman (Butchers), Wishaw
  • TH Carson Butchers, Dalbeattie
  • Par Foods, Glasgow
  • Keptie Bakery, Forfar
  • JM Bakery, Carnoustie
  • The Kandy Bar Bakery, Saltcoats
  • W F Stark, Buckhaven
  • The Butchers Bakery, Elgin
  • Pie Sports, Glasgow
  • John Gillespies & Sons, Stranraer
  • Bayne's the Family Baker, Lochgelly
  • Stephens Bakery, Dunfermline
  • The Premium Bakery, Prestonpans
  • Sugar and Spice, Auchterarder
  • The Little Bakery, Dumfries
Scotch Pie Scottish Bakers
Pic: Scottish Bakers

Scottish Bakers organises the annual competition to shine a light on the country’s pie makers, which today, includes as many butchers as there are bakers.

But more importantly, it’s a concerted effort to raise the status of the ‘humble’ pie onto the global stage.

“There is already a position for the Scotch pie as an exported product to different markets where you have expat communities: Scotch pies are synonymous as Scotch shortbread or whisky,” ​Cameron told me at the judging day.

“We already contribute just over £1bn to the Scottish economy, but for me, the role of Scottish Bakers is to actually increase that and futureproof the industry, and to give them the tools they need to grow and prosper.”

She added, “This is my first World Championship Scotch Pie Awards as CEO of Scottish Bakers and I have been amazed at the passion of each and every entrant not to mention the creativity, quality and innovation of the entries submitted for consideration by our professional judges.

“Announcing the shortlist is always a great moment as it’s the first time our entrants get an inkling that their pies have been judged as amongst the best in the country and it’s always great to be recognising products which have been lovingly made from scratch from locally sourced ingredients, freshly made daily by skilled craftspeople.”

She also noted the essential support from the competition’s award partner Bako Group and sponsors: AAK, Carr’s Flour, Rondo, Fleming Howden, DMD 2000, Andrew Ingredients, Dalziel Group, Marshalls and Macphie.

Despite having been the voice of Scotland's bakery trade for over 131 years, the association itself is a small organisation that “doesn’t make a massive profit,” ​said Cameron.

“Our membership fees covers the different legal and HR and futureproofing that I've mentioned, but we wouldn't be able to raise the profile and promote the industry without [the sponsors’] support.”

The annual Scotch Pie World Championship was first held in 1999 and won by John Davies of Bo’ness.

Fit for King and country

Scotch Pie in flash Getty
Pic: GettyImages

The Scotch Pie is typically a double-crusted pie filled with spiced minced mutton (hence its reference as a shell pie or mutton pie). It’s also known as the football pie, thanks to its popularity at the game. It’s hard crust make it very practical and easy to eat with one hand.

But, like other royalty who typically sport a cornucopia of names, it’s got yet another nickname – the Scottish hot sandwich, a nom de plume given when it becomes a missile to show the dissatisfaction of unhappy match spectators.

‘Scottish pie’ means a meat pie composed of a shallow cylindrical pastry case not exceeding 5 inches in diameter containing minced beef or minced mutton (or a mixture), cereal, water, salt and seasonings, and not containing any jelly – Meat Pie and Sausage Roll Regulations (1967)

The precise ancestry of the Scotch pie remains unclear, although it’s believed to have existed in Scotland for over 500 years.

In the Middle Ages, it was considered a luxury reserved for the upper crust, with the wee gap above the meat inside sometimes filled with mashed potato or baked beans. However, it fell into disrepute with the Scottish church, which viewed the pies as a ‘self-indulgent, English-style’ food.

Ironically, they proved to be the ideal grub during the Industrial Revolution, when working men were looking for cheap, convenient and nutritious sustenance to fuel their day. The pies were typically bought from pie-men or pie-wives in the city streets for a penny.

The tough shell of hot water crust pastry possessed the strength of boilerplate, remaining intact during the journey to work by bike, tram or pit cage. It also dispersed with the necessity of crockery or cutlery. And mutton was plentiful and inexpensive, being from older animals. A warm, peppery – and dare I say, greasy – sustenance would be released on first bite, which – when soaked into the luxuriant beards and moustaches so popular of the day – might continue to provide comfort and sustenance throughout a long shift.

When the working day was done, the pie – together with a pint (lemonade/cup of Bovril) – was an essential part of leisure time spent at fairs, parades and highland games. In fact, an early note credits W Jack, a competitor in the 1890 Airth highland games, as the victor of the ‘one lap foot race’, which involved eating a pie and drinking a bottle of lemonade while running.

Nowadays, beef is used more often than lamb or mutton, however, the more contemporary versions run to haggis, tatties & neeps, macaroni, fish and even plant-based.

With 12% of the Scottish population admitting to eating at least two pies each week, Scotland is definitely the pie eating capital of Britain. Countless variations of the pie abound, each with its own recipe and often a closely guarded secret.

A Toast tae the Pie (by Maurice Irvine)

Whether yer naked or filled wi beans

The price is aye within a bodie’s means

Your crust is firm but not too hard

It’s just the right balance of flour, salt and lard

The meat in the middle is spicy and braw

There’s naithing tae beat it, naithin at ah!

You’re as Scottish as Bruce but you’ll never die

Lads and Lassies, I gie ye

The Pie

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