Trends Across the Country: Meat Pies

Handheld Meat Pies from Nebraska, aka Runzas, were made popular by a local fast food chain.

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast.

As an Omaha, Nebraska native, I was really excited (and a little nervous) when I was called upon during recipe development of Across the Country in 50 State Dishes for my expertise in Nebraskan foods, specifically the beloved Runza. What the heck is a runza? It’s a handheld meat pie, similar to other meat pies that were voted as favorites by our Facebook fans across the country (check out the Michigan Pasty and West Virginia’s Pepperoni Rolls). Only the runza, of Russian and German origin, is filled with ground beef (yeah, Nebraska!), onions and cabbage. And, most critically, it is the specialty of the Midwestern fast food chain, RUNZA.

So there I was, plucked from my cubicle and shuttled up the elevator to the bustling test kitchen, where recipe developers, culinary editors and online folks with notepads and cameras all gathered around and watched as I took a bite of the runza. The dough was tender, slightly sweet and smelled like freshly baked bread; the beef filling was the perfect savory contrast while the cabbage, chunkier than I was used to, added texture and flavor. Mmmm — It was amazing. As good as fast food runzas are (and I make sure to eat one or two every time I visit Omaha), the homemade version that our test kitchen whipped up was absolutely incredible. I was happy to give it the thumbs up, and now I’m glad you can all try it as well – whether you’re Nebraskan or not, you’re going to love this little meat pie (pictured above).

West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

Another great update to a favorite was the West Virginia Pepperoni Rolls. On a brief trip to West Virginia I had tried the state’s popular convenience store snack. I liked it, but the test kitchen’s fresh homemade version, filled with spicy pepperoni and gooey melted mozzarella, was a surprising delight.

Michigan Pasty (Meat Hand Pie)

And of the three, the Michigan Pasty Meat Hand Pie is the most pie-like of all, with a flaky crust (it’s made using shortening or lard), chunky filling and half-moon shape. They originated as portable lunches for Cornish miners, but you can make them for a hearty, Michigan-style dinner.

See all 50 dishes and the completed project here: Across the Country in 50 State Dishes.

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