All About Pie Crusts

Step-By-Step Pastry Instructions

  • Stir together the flour and salt thoroughly before adding shortening and water.

  • Work chilled shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, two butter knives or a fork. Cut just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized morsels remaining.

    Step 1
  • Make sure the liquid you add is ice cold (again, to prevent the shortening from melting) and add the minimum necessary for the dough to stick together. Mix it in gently, a tablespoon at a time; vigorous mixing toughens the dough.

  • For easier handling, press the dough into a disc shape, wrap it in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill it at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. When you remove the dough from the refrigerator, you may need to let it stand for a few minutes to prevent crumbling. Sparingly flour the work surface and rolling pin to keep the dough from sticking, but use as little as possible to avoid toughening the dough. A surface covered with a lightly floured pastry cloth and a rolling pin covered with a cloth sleeve are best. With light strokes, roll pastry into an 11-inch circle. Fold the dough in half or quarters. Transfer to pan.

    Step 2
  • An ovenproof, glass pie plate is best for even baking and browning. Second best is an aluminum pan with a dull finish. Shiny pans can give pie a soggy bottom. 9-inch pans are the standard size used in many recipes.

  • Do not grease the pie pan. Because of the high proportion of fat in pastry dough, there is no need to grease the pan before baking unless it is specified in the recipe.

  • Unfold the dough without stretching. Firmly press the dough against the sides and bottom without stretching it. If the dough is stretched, the crust will shrink as it bakes. Mend any cracks by lightly wetting your fingers and pressing the edges together. With kitchen scissors or a knife, trim uneven edges of dough that may be hanging over the pan, then flute or decorate the edges.

  • Prick an unfilled pastry shell before baking. If the pastry shell is to be baked before it’s filled, prick the bottom and sides with a fork to keep it from puffing during baking. If it does begin to puff, re-prick the crust. Don’t prick the bottom of an unbaked pastry before you pour in the filling, or the filling will seep under the pastry.

  • For a two-crust pie, trim the bottom pastry even with the pie-plate edge; add filling. Cover with the top pastry, allowing a 1-inch overlap; fold under the edge of the bottom crust. Seal and flute. Cut vents in the top of a two-crust pie. Vents allow the steam that forms during baking to escape and minimize bubbling over of the filling. They can be cut before or after the pastry is placed over the filling, and can be plain or fancy.

    Step 3
  • Place the pie in the center of the preheated oven. If two pies are baking side by side, arrange them so they do not touch the sides of the oven or each other. If two pies are baking on separate shelves, stagger the placement so the pies are not directly over each other.

  • Heat circulation varies among ovens. If the edges of the crust start to brown before the center is done, cover the edges with 2-inch wide strips of foil. If the whole top is overbrowning, drape a sheet of foil over the top.