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Cooking 101: Perfect pie crust

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Delicious pie needs a perfect pie crust

What makes a grandmother’s homemade pie so delicious? Is it her years of pie-making experience, fresh ingredients and love that goes into it? Those things help, but a delicious pie starts with the perfect pie crust!

Mom and daughter making pie

For a perfect pie crust, review these tips before mixing your ingredients and rolling out your dough.

1Keep it cool

One secret to perfect pie crust is to keep it cool – the ingredients, that is.

  • Use chilled butter and shortening when you're ready to mix your ingredients. The key is for the fat (butter and shortening) to be coated with your flour, and not have it mix all together like you would for cookie dough. The cool temperature helps that happen.
  • Use cold water, too. The cold water helps hold everything together without blending your ingredients and making them sticky.
  • After mixing your pie dough, you'll get it prepped to chill out in your refrigerator for a bit before you roll it out to put in a pan.

2Sprinkle away

Have a stash of all-purpose flour on hand to keep your work surface lightly dusted, as well as the dough itself as you roll it out. This will help ensure the dough doesn't stick to your work surface or rolling pin.

3Roll with it

Follow this tip to help ensure you don't overwork your dough, which results in a tough pastry.

When you're ready to roll out your dough (on a lightly floured surface), lightly dust the top of the disk with flour and, using your rolling pin, start to roll from the middle of the disk and move away from yourself. After a few rolls, rotate your disk about a quarter turn. Continue working the dough this way until you reach your desired thickness (about 1/8-inch thick).

This recipe is for a 9-inch, single-layer pie crust

Serves 8 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chilled, diced shortening
  • 4 tablespoons chilled, cubed butter
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add the flour and salt to a food processor and pulse a few times. (If you're not using a food processor, sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.)
  3. Add the butter and shortening and run the processor until the ingredients look like a coarse meal with a few pea-sized clumps (If you're not using a food processor, use your fingers to pinch the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients.)
  4. With the processor running, add the water, a little at a time, through the feed tube and blend until the dough is moist and clumpy. (If you're not using a food processor, add the water at about a tablespoon at a time.) The dough will form into a ball.
  5. Knead the dough only slightly so it comes together. Form the dough into a disk. (Take care not to handle the dough too much.)
  6. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour. The dough can be frozen if you're using it later.
  7. Prepare your work surface by dusting it with flour. Dust your rolling pin and top of the dough with a bit of flour too.
  8. Begin rolling out the dough (move in one direction, from the center and away from yourself). You'll want the dough to be about 1/8-inch thick and about 3 inches larger than your inverted pie plate. Brush the remaining flour from your dough.
  9. When the dough is ready to be placed in the pie plate, roll the dough over the rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the pie plate. Allow the dough to settle into the plate and gently press it down to the bottom without stretching the dough.
  10. Trim the excess dough from the edges, leaving about 1/2 an inch to hang over the edge. Use your fingers to pinch the hanging dough to form a seal. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork to allow air to escape while it bakes.
  11. Cover the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes before you bake it.
  12. You'll want to bake the crust a bit before adding your filling and baking the entire pie. This is called blind baking. To do this, place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Line the inside of the pie crust with parchment paper or foil. Add pie weights (or uncooked rice or beans) over the paper or foil. The weight helps prevent bubbles from forming while it bakes.
  13. Bake until the crust turns light brown (about 15 minutes).
  14. Remove the crust from the oven. Add your filling to the pie crust and bake for about 25-30 minutes (or according to your specific recipe's directions).

Delicious, homemade pie is easy when you start with the basics. Just like grandma made!

Try these pie recipes

Apple pie
Blueberry thyme pie
Bittersweet chocolate pecan pie
Orange coconut meringue pie
Lemon pie
Black forest pie
Kentucky pecan pie

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