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I do NOT want anyone to read this list of tips for making the perfect pie crust and run away from baking a pie, for themselves. Use these tips if you are the type of person that needs all the information before you do any of the things. Those of you that want to just jump in…go for it!
A pie is just a pie, after all. It is a relatively harm free place to practice and mess up. In fact, most of our “messes” from making pies are still going to be edible and thoroughly enjoyed. They just might not result in a gorgeous, bring to the party sort of pie.
Who the heck cares?
Get on with your pie making self and get to the business of making your family a pie. These tips are here if you want or need, I’ve included a downloadable file that you can print, if you like.
If I could leave one single tip with you it would be this: Keep your crust as cold as possible through every single step of pie-making. Ingredients, mixing, waiting, pans, and everything in between.
Tips for making the perfect pie crusts:
- Make sure the butter or fat you are using is very cold.
You may even want to freeze it for 10-15 minutes before starting. The colder the fat in your dough is when it hits the oven, the flakier your crust will be. Keep your ingredients as cold as possible. Heck, I even put my flour into the fridge! And then, even after rolling it out and putting it in the pan, put it back into the fridge before filling.
- Keeping larger pieces of fat in your flour mixture is OK as that will allow for flakiness.
It’s all about those pockets of fat, isn’t it? Those pockets will develop perfect little pockets of air and flaky bits when they hit the hot oven. But ONLY if they are cold. Seeing little bits of fat in our dough is the ultimate. Leave them alone!
- Use only enough water that is called for in the recipe and that allows the dough to hold together when pinched with your fingers.
Too much water will make your dough tough and lose it’s tender flaky magic. Use just enough, no more.
- Before rolling the dough out, shape it into a disk at less than 1 inch thick as this will help make it easier to roll out.
I will often mix up my dough and then shape it into a disk before storing it in the fridge. Then, I simply thaw it enough to roll out to the needed size. Because it is already in a disk shape and partly rolled, I don’t have to roll it as much. That keeps it cold and helps me not over-work the dough.
- Chill the dough before rolling it out.
Yep, have you gotten the idea that you want to keep it cold? Chilling the dough before rolling it out will also help that your crust doesn’t become overworked and chewy.
- Rotate the dough 30 degrees at a time to make sure it not sticking.
Have you seen the way they throw pizza dough in the air as they stretch it? You want to do something similar, but on the counter. Roll it a bit, turn it, roll it a bit, turn it. This keeps it from sticking.
- Roll out and away from yourself keeping even pressure the whole time.
Go from the middle to the outside, away from you. Turn the dough and do it again. Keep the pressure even.
- Don’t force or push the dough into the corners of the pan.
Just let it “fall” or it will go back its original shape during baking. When you put the filling on the top of the crust, it will push the crust into the nooks and crannies. P.S. trim the edges off your crust AFTER you filled it.
- Chill before filling the crust so it keeps its shape during baking and the fat is super cold before hitting the oven.
Put the crust into the pan and pop it back into the fridge until you are ready to fill.
- Bake to fully brown, not just golden brown.
That flaky crust won’t happen if you under-bake it. Go on the side of over-baked, please. Nice and brown is what you are aiming for!
- Add an egg yolk even if the recipe doesn’t call for it to help keep the dough pliable.
ONLY if you haven’t yet found your favorite pie crust. If you have, leave well enough alone. If not, try adding an egg yolk to one that is pretty close. It can make a difference!
- Add an acid (1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice) to keep the crust more tender, if there isn’t one in the recipe.
This is actually really important! You need that acid to help with the scienc-y part of pie crusts. I couldn’t tell you the exact reasons and which ingredient interacts with the acid. But, I DO know that my Grandma swore by lemon juice. I do too.</li
- Try to use your fingertips to handle the dough rather than the palm of your hands.
In fact, try to touch your pie crust as little as possible. The warmth from your fingers is not what we are after. Use your fingers only as much as necessary.
- A heat-resistant glass pie pan is recommended for a flakier crust.
I’ll be honest, I’m still using an aluminum pan and love the way the porcelain pie pans look. But, if you are going out to buy the BEST pie pan…a glass one is the one you want.
- Cover the edges with 2-3 inch wide strips of foil to keep the edges from getting overly brown.
Those pie crust edges will be the reason you pull your pie out before the crust is fully baked. You’ll see them get all toasty brown and freak out about them burning. Cover them so they won’t overbake and then you can leave the pie in as long as it needs.
- To make your pie shine, brush with an egg wash before baking.
This is truly magical. Milk will often do the trick, as well. But, there is nothing like a good egg wash on top of your pie to make it look absolutely amazing! You’ll be hooked.
- To ensure your oven is hot enough, start baking at 425 then reduce after 30 minutes.
Don’t put your pie in until the oven is preheated. You do NOT want to put your pie into an oven that is still warming up. That will completely undo all of the work you did keeping it cold until it hit the oven. Get that oven good and hot so when the pie hits the oven, your crust immediately does its thing.
- Use a lot of flour to roll out your dough to keep it from sticking but be sure to brush the excess of before baking.
I have a pastry brush just for the purpose of brushing off flour if needed. Although I need to use it to roll out my dough, I don’t want it to go with into the oven and mess up my fat to flour ratio. So, I brush off as much as I can.
The ultimate source for perfect pie crusts:
This, in my opinion, is the ultimate guide for perfect pie crusts and there is nothing I can improve one. So, head over to check out the Ultimate Tips… https://www.kingarthurflour.com/guides/pie-crust/