For daily wit & wisdom, sign up for the Almanac newsletter.
Pie, brought over with the earliest settlers from England, has become an American institution. Making a tender, flaky pie crust isn’t just about the crust recipe; it’s about the right techniques. Keep everything cold and work the dough sparingly. See our tips—plus, videos on how to jazz up your top crust with a lattice top or braided top!
How to Make Pie Crust
Before You Start
You’ll need a 9-inch pie pan and a rolling pin. Pie weights are also recommended.
For a flaky, tender pie crust, make sure that all the ingredients and utensils are cold.
For the best tasting crust, use UNSALTED butter. Make sure your butter is cold!
Use ice-cold water. We like to chill water in the freezer until ice crystals begin to form.
Let your dough chill at least one hour before rolling it out. Refrigeration is necessary because it allows the gluten to relax and prevent shrinkage.
(You can make dough up to three days ahead and refrigerate or up to one month ahead and freeze/thaw before using.)
Keep the dough cold and work it sparingly—or, the crust will be tough and soggy. The dough should have small bits of butter; this makes the crust flaky.
Rolling Out the Dough
If you wish, you can roll out your crust and line your pie plate up to one day before baking it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Lightly dust your counter and rolling pin and continue to dust as you work but don’t overdo it.
When you roll your dough, roll away from you on a floured surface. Keep an even pressure.
Keep rotating the dough clockwise until you have a 12-inch circle.
Note: Your first rollout may be crumbly but resist overworking the dough. You may need to roll out twice. Just gather in the edges to form another ball and roll out again.
Move the bottom crust to your pie pan by rolling the crust back up, and then unrolling over the pan. Crimp the edges.
To keep an empty pie shell from buckling, place a straight-sided cake pan, just a bit smaller than your pie dish, right down on top of the crust. Bake for about ten minutes, and remove the cake pan. Use a fork to prick any places that still puff up, and bake for 5 minutes longer, or until the crust is a light golden color.
Prick holes all over the bottom crust with a fork then let it chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking.
Some pie recipes (such as pumpkin pie) require “blind” baking the crust before adding the filling so the crust doesn’t get soggy. For this method, roll out the dough into the pie pan and line with foil or parchment paper. Add pie weights (or, another pie dish if you don’t have weights). Preheat your over to 425 and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil or parchment and return to the oven for 5 to 7 more minutes. Cool on a rack before filling.
If you wish, you can blind bake the crust a day ahead. Then, leave it on the counter to cool; once cooled, cover with a clean dish towel.
Try to use fresh fruit whenever possible, but especially when baking with apples. Apples can be mushy and bland after storage. Crisp, fresh apples hold up better, especially if you want to double-bake them.
Add ½ teaspoon of lemon juice to your fruit filling to bring out the taste of the fruit and help it keep its color.
To avoid a soggy bottom crust in your fruit pie, get the filling into the pie crust and into the oven quickly. If there is extra juice in the bowl, don’t pour it into the pie crust.
How to Make the Top Crust
If you’re making a top and bottom crust, remember to double your pie dough recipe if it is not a recipe for a double crust.
Make the top pie crust slightly thinner than the bottom crust to help maintain the structure of the pie.
For a simple whole top, lay the rolled-out dough over the top of the filled pie.
Crimp the edges. First trim the overhang to one inch. Using your thumb and forefinger of one hand, push with thumb of other hand, crimping; continue around crust.
If you have blind baked the bottom crust, tuck the edges of the top crust so it’s not hanging over the dish.
On the top crust, make a small cut with a knife to ensure steam can escape.
If you want to get creative, use cookie cutters to make designs out of spare dough—such as stars, leaves, or other shapes. Attach shapes with water.
We like to brush the top with liquid egg so that it browns nicely. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon if you wish.
We hope that these tips help you make a better pie. Just relax and enjoy. While making a perfect pie is always a fun challenge, it’s hard to mess up basic pie. If you make the crust extra-thick by accident or your crust is lopsided, your homemade pie will still taste amazing!
What’s your favorite type of pie? Do you have any other pie-making tips? Let us know in the comments below!