The Best-Kept Secrets for Perfect Homemade Pie Crust

Ready to tackle making homemade pie crust? Follow these foolproof tips to achieve pastry perfection.


old-fashioned pie baking - rolling the doughShutterstock / threerocksimages

There’s nothing like my mom’s flaky, buttery, melt-in-your mouth homemade pie crust. It wasn’t just a shell for housing creamy chocolate silk, fresh strawberry rhubarb or traditional pumpkin filling—it added flavor and texture to every delicious bite.

If you’ve never made homemade pie crust yourself, now’s the time to take the leap. These tips will help produce a from-scratch crust that comes out of the oven crisp and golden—just like mom’s.

(Psst! Don’t forget to add these baking essentials to your kitchen to make baking a real breeze!)

1. Start with the Right Pie Baking Tools

Baking a pie has got to be easy as pie, right? If you start with the right baking tools, it can be a lot simpler. Using a good rolling pin, a few pie pans and some fun gadgets, the sky is the limit with your pie recipes. New to baking? These are the essential pie baking tools every baker should own.

2. Cut in the Butter until You See Peas

Virtually every pastry pie crust recipe directs you to cut the butter into the flour until it’s reached a crumblike texture. (Whether you go about it with two knives, a pastry blender or a food processor is up to you!) Here’s the tip: Stop when the crumbs start to look the size of peas. A pea-size mixture allows the butter to be evenly distributed throughout the dough without melting.

The reason? Excuse me while I get a little technical. Part of what contributes to a crisp, flaky crust is the bits of butter melting and leaving little pockets of air in the crust as the pie bakes.

3. Choose Lard

Speaking of butter, many pie crust recipes call for all-butter pie crusts. For an extra-tasty flavor, substitute lard (like my grandma did) or butter-flavored shortening for all or part of the butter. It’s the secret ingredient in our Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Pie.

4. Use Ice-Cold Water

Make sure the water is truly ice-cold before measuring and adding it into the butter/flour mixture. This keeps the butter from melting as you mix the dough.

5. Don’t Overmix

And here’s the key: Be gentle! Overmixing the dough results in tough, overworked pastry, so mix only as much as necessary to hold the dough together.

You’d never guess how many pies a traditional Amish family eats in a week!

6. Keep the Dough Cool

Remember what I said about butter; if it’s already melted before baking, your crust will lose its flaky texture. Once you’ve mixed the dough, shape it into a disk (or two for a two-crust pie), wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour or up to two days (a great make-ahead option). For a two-crust pie, keep one disk of dough in the fridge while you roll out the other one. Once assembled, cut slits in the top crust and chill the pie in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm up the butter before baking.

7. Pick the Right Plate

We’ve all dug into what looks like a perfectly good pie only to discover a bottom crust that’s soft and unappealing–aka the dreaded soggy bottom. You can avoid that. First, pick the right pie plate. Use a matte-finish aluminum or glass pie plate for baking your pie (think shiny = soggy), and don’t grease the plate unless directed in the instructions.

8. Bake with the Rack on the Bottom

Another way to avoid soggy crust is to bake the pie on the bottom rack of the oven. The oven’s heating element is on the bottom, and keeping the pie as close to that as possible helps crisp up the bottom crust.

9. Get Your Oven Really, Really Hot

Here’s the one time having a hot flash is a good thing. If the recipe calls for getting the oven ripping hot, baking the pie for several minutes, then lowering the temperature to complete baking, don’t skip this step! Remember the gluten I mentioned earlier? This initial heat blast helps the gluten set before the butter melts which prevents your nice fluted edge from collapsing. This initial heat blast helps the gluten set before the butter melts. When you lower the temp, the pie can then finish baking without getting burned edges.

10. Use a Foil Protector

Speaking of burned edges, prevent them by loosely covering the edges of the pie crust with strips of aluminum foil if they’re browning too fast. You can make your own permanent foil protector from a 12-in. aluminum pie plate. Cut a 7-in. diameter circle from the center; discard. Center the foil protector over the pie plate so the edges are covered. Or you can buy this simple, yet mighty adjustable pie shield.

11. Don’t Forget to Glaze

To get a beautiful golden glaze on the top of a two-crust pie, whisk together an egg yolk and cream. Brush the mixture over the top crust and sprinkle with a little coarse sugar. You’ll end up with a pie that looks shiny and delicious. Time to pass the forks.

Once you’ve mastered a basic pie crust, get creative! Learn how to make a lattice pie or decorative pie crusts with stars, leaves and more.

Ready to Roll? Pair Your Crust with Classic Pies
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Dana Meredith
Dana is an editor and writer who dishes up tasty stories that celebrate the joy of cooking. Meeting Julia Child and living in Paris reinforced her passion for delicious food—butter and wine included.