Get tips for flaky pastry, juicy fruit pies, and silky custard pies.
1. Keep ingredients cold.
- Butter should be kept refrigerated until using; vegetable shortening, like Crisco®, can be stored in the freezer without freezing solid.
- Add ice cubes to a measuring cup and fill it with more water than you'll need; add cold water to the pastry mixture a tablespoon at a time.
2. Refrigerate the dough after every step.
- Chill dough immediately after mixing so that the flour can absorb all the liquid.
- Chill it after rolling it out and lining the pie pan, to relax the dough and prevent it from shrinking in the oven.
- For double-crust pies, roll out the top crust and refrigerate it on a flat plate or parchment-lined sheet pan while you prepare the pie filling.
3. Handle the dough as little as possible.
Try to patch cracks in your dough rather than re-rolling the crust. Over-handling makes the pastry tough.
4. Use as little flour as possible when rolling out the dough.
The pastry can absorb extra flour, which will also make it tough. After rolling out the dough, brush off loose flour with a pastry brush or gently brush it with the edge of a clean kitchen towel.
5. Bake plain crusts or filled pies in a hot oven to set the crust's structure.
Most recipes call for a high initial temperature and then a reduced oven temperature for the rest of the baking time.
6. Vent double-crust pies.
Cut slits in the top crust or use decorative cutters. This allows steam to escape, which is especially important for fruits with high moisture content.
7. Use aluminum foil or "pie shields" to protect the crust.
Loosely fold two-inch-wide strips of foil around the edges of the crust to keep it from getting too dark during the long bake time.
8. Bake pies on the lowest oven rack on a preheated sheet pan.
This helps prevent soggy bottom crusts. A rimmed pan also prevents juicy fruit pies from bubbling over onto your oven floor.
9. Bake your pies long enough.
Fruit pies, in order to thicken properly, need to be hot enough for the filling to boil. Custard pies are done when a knife tip inserted an inch from the center comes out clean (the center will firm up as the pie cools).
10. Let pies cool before serving.
The filling needs time to set or else the pie will be runny. Fruit pies should cool at least four hours before slicing; custard pies should cool for two hours before serving or being refrigerated.
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