How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

Thanksgiving is the holiday known for pies. Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie. Pecan bourbon pie. Chocolate pecan pie. Apple pie. Sweet potato pie. You get the picture. Unfortunately, pie crust vexes so many people that often pies are purchased, or baked using a premade pie crust. Well, since it’s only a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving, I want to make your dreams of homemade pie crust come true. I absolutely adore pies, mostly because of the crust, if I’m being honest. (Weird, since I really only love cupcakes for the frosting. Hmm, what does this mean? Are there food psychologists out there?) Most families have a standard recipe. My mom’s recipe, from my great aunt, uses all shortening as the fat (I believe the index card actually calls for “oleo”), some recipes use half shortening/half butter, and there are some that use all butter. I have tried all of the varieties, and I never really had a preference until I tried this crust (all butter) for my blueberry pie. Talk about love at first… taste? It’s by far my favorite version and my standby.

Below is a step-by-step tutorial guiding you through preparing the pie crust. The two keys to fabulous crust are to keep everything COLD, and to work FAST. I have included two versions: how to make the dough if you have a food processor (my favorite way), as well how to do it by hand (with a neat trick for the butter!). Now, get acquainted with the pie dough because you’ll need it for the pies that you’ll find here the rest of the week! How does pecan and a slightly non-traditional pumpkin sound?

(You will find the recipe with the ingredient quantities at the bottom of this post.)

Method A: Food Processor

Step 1: Cut the butter into small cubes and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Step 2: Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and briefly pulse to combine.

Pie Crust: Flour and salt in the food processor

Step 3: Add the butter to the flour and salt mixture in the food processor.

Step 4: Pulse approximately 10 times (1-second pulses) until the mixture resembles coarse, shaggy crumbs, with some larger pieces and smaller pieces.

Step 5: Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and process for no more than 20-30 seconds, until the dough clumps up (you will also notice a change in the sound of the food processor). If the mixture appears too dry, sprinkle more water on a teaspoon at a time and pulse until the dough sticks when pinched together.

Important Note: I always find that it is better to err on the side of a little too much water than not enough. You can sprinkle the dough with flour if necessary when you roll it out, but if the dough is too dry to begin with it will crack and fall apart when you try to roll it and transfer it to the pie dish.

Step 6: Dump the dough out onto a clean surface, shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Method B: By Hand

Step 1: Freeze the butter (in block or stick form) for at least 30 minutes.

Step 2: In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the flour and salt.

Step 3: On the small holes of a box grater, quickly grate the butter.

Step 4: With your fingers, toss the butter together with the flour mixture until evenly coated.

Step 5: Sprinkle the water over the mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture together. Press down on the dough with the spatula until the dough sticks together, again adding additional water as necessary.

Step 6: Dump the dough out onto a clean surface, shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

All-Butter Pie Dough (Pâte Brisée)

Yield: Dough for a single-crust 9-inch pie (double the recipe for a double-crusted pie)

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Follow the directions above for assembling the pie crust either with a food processor or by hand. Be sure to refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour (up to 2 days) prior to rolling out.

Proceed with the pie recipe you are using.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

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100 Responses to “How to Make Perfect Pie Crust”

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  1. Ravenous Rowie on November 10, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Great step by step demo!!! I’m sure lots of people will benefit from this post this holiday season!

    Reply

    • Sasha @ Global Table Adventure on November 11th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      I know, right? The pictures really bring the recipe to life (you know, the pictures tell a thousand words saying …) Of course, you can’t really go wrong adapting one of Martha’s recipes :) Nice work!

      Reply

  2. Tabitha @ From Single to Married on November 10, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Oh THANK YOU for this – I’m making Thanksgiving dinner this year and need some help with my pies (and pretty much everything else as it’s a first for me). :)

    Reply

  3. Katrina on November 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Thanks for this! I really appreciate you doing the by hand method as well :)

    Reply

  4. Tara on November 10, 2010 at 8:32 am

    What I’d love to see is a video of you forming the edges. I CAN’T do it. Ugh. My attempts are pathetic.

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

      Oooh, thank you for the suggestion Tara! I will work on that!

      Reply

  5. Eliana on November 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Awesome tutorial Michelle. I could not have said it better myself.

    Reply

  6. Layne on November 10, 2010 at 8:55 am

    You make it look so easy! I love to bake, but must admit that pie crust intimidates me. I am facing my fear this holiday season, though, because store-bought crust just isn’t the same!

    Reply

  7. Crustabakes on November 10, 2010 at 9:04 am

    The pics make it look as easy as pie! What a great tutorial!

    Reply

  8. Sarah on November 10, 2010 at 9:22 am

    This looks like a great tutorial! I’m really glad you showed how to do it by hand because I don’t have a food processor.

    Reply

  9. Val on November 10, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Another good pie crust trick: slowly add the lowest recommended volume of ice water. Then, to get the dough to stick together easily, add Tbsp by Tbsp of cold vodka (straight from the freezer), no greater than the volume of ice water. It all works out as malleable dough, but when you bake it the vodka cooks away, leaving a lovely flaky crust. Yay science!

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Val, I have seen this vodka version in Cook’s Illustrated, but have never tried it. Glad to know it works, will have to give it a shot sometime and see if it makes a huge difference with my recipe.

      Reply

  10. Maria on November 10, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Thank you! My mother-in-law is always bragging about her perfect pie crust and it’s left me too intimidated to ever try it myself. But now I will, and it will be better than hers. Mwahahaha! :)

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      Bwahaha! Love it. :)

      Reply

  11. Lisa on November 10, 2010 at 9:27 am

    This looks totally doable. I am inspired to make my own pie crust for the first time. The picture tutorial really helps!

    Reply

  12. Robyn on November 10, 2010 at 9:41 am

    i am a firm believer in all-butter pie dough! i’ve made this one before, and it also tastes great as a quiche crust.

    Reply

  13. Natalie on November 10, 2010 at 9:57 am

    How long can you keep frozen dough for and what are your tips for that?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Natalie, Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, as you would for the refrigerator, and then place in a freezer bag (like ziploc). I would say freeze up to 2 months. I think you could probably do longer, but that’s my personal limit :)

      Reply

  14. the blissful baker on November 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

    great tips! i’m always trying to master the perfect pie crust – still need a bit more practice!

    Reply

  15. Maria on November 10, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I am SO glad you posted this. I am not a pie maker, but want to try. I am using your recipe for sure!

    Reply

  16. megan @ whatmegansmaking on November 10, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Great tutorials! I made an all butter pie crust for the first time this past summer (for blueberry pie as well!) and loved it. But then…last weekend I made a pie crust for quiche and used lard (gross I know). And it was incredible. So flakey! Seriously the best crust I’ve ever had. So now…what do I use for my apple pie this year?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      I don’t hate on lard :) There is an old-school Italian pastry called ‘sfogliatelle’ that I keep trying to master (haven’t yet), but you layer super thin sheets of pastry dough brushed with lard. It definitely makes things SUPER flaky!

      Reply

  17. Karen G on November 10, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I’ve tried and TRIED to make pie crust before!! I’ve been using the box kind for a long time now, but I will try one more time. I’m going to try your recipe this weekend.

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

      Glad you’re giving it another go! Let me know how it goes!

      Reply

  18. Kelly on November 10, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Thank you for this! But my big problem is rolling it out. I’m intimidated by pie crust, so I usually just buy the rolled up, ready-made kind (shhh, don’t tell). I did make a from-scratch crust not too long ago that was SO STIFF and really difficult to roll out. Is that a hydration issue? The recipe (if memory serves) was very similar to this.

    Do you have any suggestions for rolling out the dough once it’s chilled?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      Hi Kelly, Yeah I definitely think that is a hydration issue. As I noted above, I always think it’s better to err on the side of a little more water than not enough. You can always sprinkle with flour if needed when you roll it out.

      As far as rolling it out, I do one roll, from the center out, then give it an 1/8 turn and keep going the whole way around. Use a light touch, keep turning, and sprinkle with flour if necessary.

      Thinking about doing a video tutorial for this and fluting edges!

      Reply

      • Kelly on November 10th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

        Thank you! I’ll be sure to give this one a whirl – and I’l LOVE to see a video tutorial on fluting!

        Reply

  19. Yesim on November 10, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    tx for the great tips..

    Reply

  20. Susan on November 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    SO many people will be helped by this – wonderful tutorial!

    Reply

  21. Tanya on November 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your tips. I have a fear of making pie crusts but you make it look simple and not at all scary!

    Reply

  22. Christine on November 10, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    When I make piecrust, regardless of the recipe, my crimp will never hold. It’s like it falls over and melts into the rest of the pie. Advice?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

      Hmm, sounds like the dough is way too soft. I assume it’s firm enough to at least roll out and crimp though, right? I would try this: once you’re all done and you have the crimp finished, put the pie plate into the freezer for at least 15 minutes before baking. That may help firm it up and keep it set.

      Reply

  23. Anne on November 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you for the instructions and photos. I’m going to try this recipe when I make my Thanksgiving pie. I normally use the frozen shells and have tried the refrigerated kind too, but nothing beats the real thing!

    Reply

  24. eatgreek.net on November 10, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    it sound really perfect! :D

    Reply

  25. Lauren at KeepItSweet on November 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    great step-by-step photos! i’ll have to save this page for the next time i attempt to make a crust!

    Reply

  26. Jennifer@Jane Deere on November 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Great post! I love the food processor method; it just comes out right every time. I love the step-by-step pictures too!

    Reply

  27. Rachel on November 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    thank you for the hand version! I’m a college student without a food processor and this helps a lot! :)

    Reply

  28. Rosie on November 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks for the tips!! But I have always wondered — how do you grate butter without melting it?!?!

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      You’re welcome! You have to freeze the butter first so it’s nice and hard. Then, you just grate really quickly!

      Reply

  29. Drick on November 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    great tutorial – cold butter or lard is the key and not overworking it, that always seems to be my problem… overworking…

    Reply

  30. Amanda @ bakingwithoutabox on November 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Fabulous post! And makes me totally want a food processor. Lol.

    Reply

  31. Annie on November 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, I never would have thought of grating the butter. That is so much easier than cutting it up in small pieces! I always love your recipes! I have given you an award. Check it out. http://www.anniesdish.com/2010/11/whole-wheat-pumpkin-muffins.html

    Reply

  32. di on November 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Wow, thanks so so much for sharing your tips on making pie crust! I always make mine from scratch and it’s okay….but I know it could be better. I never thought about grating the butter! I will be trying that when I make my pumpkin pies this Thanksgiving, for sure!

    Reply

  33. Tracy on November 10, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Your pie crust does look perfect! Great tips!

    Reply

  34. Liz on November 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I don’t have a food processor, so I’m REALLY glad you shared method B with us. Thanks!

    Reply

  35. Nancy on November 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’m good up to the part where i have to get the flute going on. For some reason one part of my crust always seems to shrink in during baking. I hope you do post the video tutorial on how to do it.

    Reply

  36. Sandra on November 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Great lesson Lindsey, thank you. By the way where did you get the ultra cool looking whisk?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Sandra, the whisk is from Pampered Chef!

      Reply

  37. Monica on November 10, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for the post! I have always used an old Betty Crocker standby for my crusts, with all shortening. I’ve been reading other recipes with all butter or half of each, but haven’t tried one yet. I may give this one a try this year!

    Reply

  38. Macy on November 10, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    I had to chuckle when I saw this post, because yesterday I made Martha’s pate brisee too, (it is also my fave), took photos, and blogged about it, I just didn’t get around to posting it yet! Tis the season for pie, and Martha’s crust recipe really is the best!

    Reply

  39. Mackenzie @ The Caramel Cookie on November 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I have tried this recipe before and loved it! I was really suprised at how easy it was. I always thought pie dough would be so difficult to make!

    Reply

  40. Jason Phelps on November 10, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I add sugar to mine and use a pastry blender so each one comes out just a little different. Great how to on something that is classically not so easy!

    Jason

    Reply

  41. Vicki@ Wilde in the Kitchen on November 10, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks so much for the pictures and directions! Pie crusts have always been tricky for me. Maybe with my new food processor it will be easier!

    Reply

  42. Sharlene on November 10, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    That whisk is crazy. I love it! Thank you so much for the tutorial! I’m definitely going to try making pie crust by hand now. Grating the butter is such a great idea!

    Reply

  43. Nick (Macheesmo) on November 10, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Awesome. Grate tutorial. (HA.)

    Reply

  44. Becky on November 11, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Thanks Michelle,

    I, too have been intimidated by pie crust, but your step by step, tutorial takes the fear out of pie crust. I’ll let you know how it comes out:)

    Reply

  45. Marianne @ Meal Mixer on November 11, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Loved seeing your pics of how the dough is supposed to look. I too have had moderate success with the vodka crust (defrosting some right now to test for blind baking), and am an utter failure with just about any other type. A demo on edging would be awesome!

    Reply

  46. Susan @ SGCC on November 11, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Great tutorial! Thank you for showing us how to make this crust both ways. I’m fickle. Sometimes I like to use the processor and sometimes I feel like doing it by hand.

    Reply

  47. the urban baker on November 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I too, have finally perfect pie crusts. I love this post! It is pie season and this is going to help a lot of people!!

    Reply

  48. LB on November 11, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Do you have a recipe for a 9.5 inch pie plate? That is how big mine is, but all recipes say for a 9 inch. :\ I tried once with a 9 inch recipe and failed spectacularly!

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 14th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

      Hi LB, One of my pie plates is an older 9.5″ Pyrex. I always just roll it out a little larger and never have any problems.

      Reply

  49. katie on November 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

    thank you for this! my most recent post was about how much i suck at pie crust. i think my problem is the water–but i will definitely give your method a try.

    Reply

  50. penandra on November 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I am an experienced cook and baker and am not intimidated by much in the kitchen. But when I opened your blog yesterday, I just went on to the next blog in my bookmarks. I do not do pie dough. My Mom taught me how to make pie dough when I was a kid and I did okay as a kid, but I don’t know if as an adult I think about the recipe too much or I’m rushed or what. I do not make pie dough. I love pie crust, but I do not make pie dough.

    Okay. There you have it. Then today I open your blog and you have an adaption of the America’s Test Kitchen’s pumpkin pie filling. I watched the segment when they did it last year or the year before, I’ve watched it on their web page. It sounds delicious, I would love to try it, but I do not make pie dough. (I’ve even considered just putting it in a greased pie plate without the crust, but I love pie crust (just not mine).

    However (I reasoned), I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve tried from te BrownEyedBaker, so I went to your pie dough recipe. I read it through. I can do that. I can cut butter up and slide it into the freezer for 15 minutes. I can do this. Thanks for the recipes . . . it’s on my list for this weekend!

    Reply

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