Pie Crust 101:

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Heather says:

Prior to having children I worked in the restaurant industry, but I was not a pastry chef. I learned all the other positions, but one lovely gentleman filled that role. He’d come in at 3am just so he wouldn’t have to put up with our obnoxiousness. I usually only saw him for an hour or two as he finished off his day while we prepped for open. He’d keep me company as I sliced endless loaves of bread or sliced monster bags of onions into rings. ย Where ever John is, I hope he is well. I came home from the workforce with a colicky baby, then had two more kids in short succession. Only recently have I begun to carve out the time for cooking that requires a lot (in my mind) of hands on time. Of course, practice makes a job like rolling a pie crust go faster, but it has not been high on my list.

On to the great basic pie crust tutorial. We’ll cover lattice and other fancy things on another day.

You've got to have a little fun, right?
You've got to have a little fun, right?

I’m offering a couple options in the ingredients. Use all butter when a crust that more resembles shortbread is acceptable (almost always in my opinion). If you’d like a flakier crust, use ย non-hydrogenated coconut oil when a very faint coconut taste is acceptable and use shortening when you understand that there are trans fats and while they should be strictly limited, sometimes you want need a flaky crust anyhow. Got it? Good.

A rolling pin is nearly a requirement, but you can make-d0 with a wine bottle or other solid, cylindrical object. You’ll need extra patience.

Helpful but not required:

A pastry cloth and stockinette. I found mine at World Market for a few dollars and finally got around to putting it into use today. In the winter I like using a cold marble slab, but as I live in the very humid south, in the summer it just seems to attract condensation. Your mileage will vary depending on your climate. A pastry cloth is nothing more than a tightly woven cloth mat that helps you use less flour. The stockinette is something like a sock for your rolling pin. Heavily dust both with flour, brush off the excess and your pastry will neither stick nor become too floury.

Pastry Cutter or dough blender- if you are looking to buy a nice one, look for one that has thin blades vs dull wires. Your life will be easier.



  • 2 + 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt (reduce this if you must use salted butter)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (VERY COLD)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter OR non-hydrogenated coconut oil OR shortening
  • 8 – 10 TBSP ice cold water

The first couple steps are very simple, measure your flour and salt into a medium to large bowl. Use a fork to stir. This distributes the salt evenly. Whew, that was rough.

butter-and-coconut-oil Cut your butter into squares and add all of your chosen fat to the flour.

pea-size-chunksUse the pastry cutter or two forks or two knives to cut the fat into the flour, keep working it in until it is in pea sized pieces. If you are using 1/2 ย coconut oil, there may not be a lot of pea sized pieces, just be absolutely sure there are no chunks of butter hiding.

mound-in-half-the-bowl1Mound your flour mixture so it’s in a pile in one half of the bowl, push a little off the top into the space you created.

Sprinkle 1 TBSP of cold water over the small side. Use a fork to stir in the flour.

wet-and-dry-flour-mixtureMove more of your dry pile to the wet side and repeat until you’ve added 8 TBSP of water and your flour mixture is evenly damp. If you can pick up a small amount of flour mixture and easily press it into a ball, stop adding water. If it still crumbles slowly add the last 2 TBSP of ice cold water.

Divide the dough in half. If you are a particularly slow roller, press half of the dough into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator to wait its turn.

Who's slow, me? Yes.
Who's slow, me? Yes.

Press the other half of your dough into a disc.

dough-disc Place your disc shaped dough on your floured work surface, whether it’s a marble slab, clean counter top, or pastry mat. Place your rolling pin in the center of the disc, press evenly on both handles and roll slowly toward yourself. Turn the dough or work surface about 30 degrees. Repeat. Repeat a lot.

If you’re lucky, you have a mat with circles that show you when to stop rolling. If you’re like me, just place your pie plate over the dough occasionally and keep rolling until the circle is wider than the rim of the plate.

About halfway there.
About halfway there.

Roll, rotate, roll, rotate, ad nauseum.

rolled-out1Eventually your dough will be big enough.

roll-the-pie-crust-around-the-rolling-pinWhen your dough is finally wide enough, roll it around the rolling pin and use the pin to transport the dough to the pie plate. This will help prevent tears. If your dough tears anyhow, brush it with a tiny bit of water and press the edges of the tear together. Ta da! You have instant pie glue.

place-in-the-pie-plateCarefully place the dough as close to centered as possible.

trimmed-crust Trim or fold under (if you are a pie crust junkie) the edges of your crust.

Roll out the other half of your dough, fill the pie, and use the second half to cover the filling.

Bye bye blueberries
Bye bye blueberries

To seal the pie you can use your fingers, a fork, or get fancy.

decorative-edgeWhatever floats your boat.

If you are using a filling that has a long cook time (such as the frozen blueberries in the picture) use a square of foil to protect the edge of your crust. Fold the square into 1/4s and cut a 1/4 circle from the inside corner.

Ooooh fancy
Ooooh fancy

Unfold it and you have a handy pie cover.


Bake as directed in your pie recipe.

If you’re baking a single shell, follow the directions in the first half of this recipe.
What did you do for Fearless Friday? Don’t be shy.

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17 thoughts on “Pie Crust 101:”

    • I’m slowly getting less disgusted by raw chicken. It never bothered me before kids, but during pregnancy I had a huge aversion to poultry that kind of lingered.

      • I thought about adding lard as an option, but I’ve never actually used it. Today was my first experiment with the coconut oil and I learned that I don’t have to take the steps I normally do to keep it as ice cold as I do for butter. (I ended up with tiny pits where the coconut oil was very hard.) The crust is perfectly fine taste wise, but.

      • Heather – yes! What finally did it for me was the time I ordered a chicken sandwich – the kind that’s deep fried, on a nice, soft roll, with crisp lettuce, tomato and mayo . . . and the chicken was almost – but not quite – done.

        And that was 20+ years ago now – my son’s going to be 21 this year. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

  1. My FF would have been the Elk roast I made this week. I put them in the crock pot in the afternoon with a half a bottle of ranch dressing (it is what I had and had buttermilk in it and needed using up) Let it cook for about 4 hours (it was thawed out) and sliced it up. I then toasted some English muffin bread, buttered the toast and layed a few pieces on. The kids loved it, I think it could have used some cheese and my husband had to put some ketchup on it. All in all it was great and the way I am using up the rest of those pesky roast in my freezer. I will put something else in with the roast too, as the ranch dressing is gone.

  2. Heather, I have never made a successful pie crust. It might be flaky, but somehow it always shrinks. The pecan pie i made for DH’s birthday was tasty, but weird looking because the crust was all short and pulled away from the sides. Sad. I need to keep trying. I guess I stretch the dough too much.

    My daughter is the baker in the family. I’ll cook anything, but if I need something baked, other than bread, she does it. My sweet 19 year old girl, who got on-the-job training as a pastry chef at age 18, then decided she didn’t want to work with food after all, always uses palm oil for pie crusts. They come out pretty flaky, too. It’s sold in plastic tubs at health food stores as non-hydrogentated shortening, and it doesn’t add any flavor of its own. You can also get expeller pressed coconut oil which doesn’t have the coconutty flavor of the virgin oil.

    Oh, and if you can get lard that doesn’t have preservatives in it, it’s waaaaay better for you than the shortening, and on par with the butter. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m one of those who have the opinion that most vegetable oils aren’t fit for human consumption and have caused more problems than most people realize.)

    My Fearless Friday was actually this past Saturday, when I made a successful breakfast, all from scratch, for 10 people. The bacon was crispy and not burned, the scrambled eggs came out perfect, the pancakes were kept warm until serving time without getting all dried out, and everyone had enough to eat with only a little left over. I was happy it worked so well — then we all went outside and cut down trees and cleared brush – and nobody got hurt!

    • I’ve looked at lard, but I really don’t want to buy an economy bucket of it, if I’m not sure it’s going to be something we’ll use frequently.

      As far as your crust, roll it out a little bit more next time. Really take your time rolling, sure it’s a little fussy, but it’s better to have it too long and need to cut some off than to try to pull it into place. Plus you can use the scraps for amusing decorations. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Heather, our supermarkets sell lard in 1-pound packages, quartered just like butter. And it freezes just fine – in fact, my mother always used to keep containers in the freezer.

        I’d *love* to be able to find an economy bucket of lard! I’d have to make pie every week. . .

        I’d probably even make donuts. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

        I guess it’s just as well I don’t keep buckets of lard in the house, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I never was able to do pie crust until I watched Alton Brown do it…his recipe is absolutely fool-proof! One of the things I particularly like to do is use a spray bottle to add water. That way, I can add it in small amounts. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. As a graduated culinary student, I can give you some tips with pies that my chef gave us.

    First of all, no matter what kind of pie, if it has a top or is open, place in on a baking sheet to bake. This way, it it boils over, splits open or explodes it won’t be all over the bottom of your oven.
    Second, i was taught to mix pie dough with my hands. I know it’s prolly not the most sanitary way to do it, but in my mind it is by far the easiest; you can tell how big the lumps or butter are and get it to just the right consistency.
    Third, definitely keep the butter or shortening cold. Like….cut it up into little cubes and put it in the freezer while getting everything else together.
    Fourth, we learned that pie dough should ALWAYS be cold until after it’s baked. After mixing it, it would go into the fridge for at least an hour, so it would be hard and cold when you started to roll it out.
    Lastly, always dock the bottom crust before putting the filling in (we had a gadget to do it, but basically make holes all over the bottom with a fork so it doesn’t puff up), and make sure you vent the top crust (or explosions will happen).

    Hope this help first time pie makers!

  5. I love the pie….and I also wanted to comment that you guys have taken the lead in that contest…kudos to you!


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