Simple tips for pie baking success from a girl who’s ruined her share of pies.
I wish I had a dollar for every email that I’ve gotten from someone lamenting the fact that they feel hopeless when it comes to making pies. Some are convinced that there is no way that they can make pie crust from scratch. Others are sure that they have a black apron when it comes to pastry because their pies always burn or fall apart in the oven. Still others are afraid to even attempt a homemade pie, for fear of…well, failure. Pride may be a serious adversary, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of pie. Ever.
I hear you.
I get it.
I totally understand where y’all are coming from because I have been there.
I’ve cried many a tear over crusts that have melted off the pie only to take up a seemingly-permanent, charred residence on the bottom of the oven. I’ve weeped over runny pie filling the more closely resembled soup when I cut into it. I’ve sobbed over burnt pie crusts that still cradled under-cooked fillings. I’ve made every mistake imaginable when it comes to baking pies, and I want to save you from that same fate. I’m sharing what I’ve learned after many failed attempts so that YOU can make perfect pies at home. And by perfect, I mean tasty pies with flaky, golden brown crusts, and nicely textured fillings.
It’s not rocket science…it’s only pie!
I have faith in your Pie Baking Prowess!
YOU can do it!
10 Foolproof Tips for Making Perfect Pies
1. Start with great quality pie dough.
I know, I know! This one sounds a little ridiculous but believe me, any pie is only as good as it’s crust, so make it a good one! I highly recommend making your own pie crust. Using only 4 ingredients and following one of two methods, you can make a great homemade pie crust in mere minutes. Yes, even YOU.
My Flawless Pie Dough recipe includes a step-by-step tutorial on making pie dough by hand. Flawless Pie Dough is similar to the pie crust that grandma used to make, with a mix of shortening and butter, and a little acid from vinegar (or vodka) to amp of the flakiness factor.
My No Excuses Pie Dough is the easiest pie crust recipe on the planet. The all-butter pie dough rolls out like a dream every single time, and comes together in the food processor in less than 5 minutes. The recipe post also includes a step-by-step tutorial as a guide.
Once you get the hang of it, this pie dough can easily be made in bulk to store in the freezer for Pie Emergencies. You can’t go wrong!
2. Glass Pie Plates are a Pie’s BFF. Use one.
Glass is a relatively poor conductor of heat, therefore taking awhile to heat up. While that may make glass a poor vessel of choice for searing meats, those same lower conductivity properties makes glass plates perfect for baking pies. Glass allows the pie to brown and cook through more evenly. Shiny aluminum pans pans tend to reflect heat without absorbing much of it, so pies can turn out raw on the bottom. Nonstick pie pans are darker and absorb heat better than their shiny counterparts, but often cause an overbrowning around the edges of the pie.
3. Keep the pie components very cold.
We’re talking the crust ingredients, the filling, the egg wash, all of it! Pie crust needs to be cold all the way through in order to keep it flaky and prevent it from melting in the oven.
- All fats should be well chilled or frozen, all liquids should be iced, and if in a hot/humid area, the dry ingredients should be chilled before making the pie crust.
- Cooked custards and pie fillings should be refrigerated until completely cool and chilled through prior to filling the pie shell.
4. Pie dough needs frequent refrigeration, every step of the way.
- Pie dough should be chilled for 30 minutes after being made to give the fats time to firm up, the flour time to continue to absorb the liquids, and the gluten in the flour time to relax to make the crust easier to roll out.
- Fully assembled pies should be chilled in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to baking.
5. Pie shells that are to be fully baked (“blind baked”) before being filled should be frozen overnight.
Baking an empty pie shell can quickly end in disaster. Freezing the dough in the pie plate will help to keep the crust from collapsing to the bottom of the pie plate with the heat of the oven. Click here for more helpful tips for blind baking pie shells.
6. Do not over fill the pie shell.
Fruit fillings shrink a bit in the oven, so slightly mounding the filling in the pie shell will result in a level pie after baking. Too little fruit, and the pie can have a big gap between the top crust and filling or end up looking a little flat. Too much fruit, and the pie filling can spill over the edge while baking and burn on the oven floor, resulting in a smoky mess. Custard or other liquid fillings rise in the oven, so the pie shell should never be filled more than 2/3 full of the liquids.
7. Chill the entire assembled pie prior to baking.
Are you sensing a theme here? Fully assembled pies should be chilled for 30 minutes before baking, even though all of the ingredients were chilled before putting the pie together. Even the brief amount of time spent rolling out pie dough and filling the pie is enough time to allow the whole thing to warm up and cause trouble in the oven. Chilling the assembled pie will save the heartache that comes from chiseling a melted crust off the oven floor.
8. A well placed baking sheet will save hours of oven clean up.
Placing an aluminum foil lined baking sheet below the pie, on a lower rack in the oven will catch any errant spillage from the pie. Do this. Tossing aluminum foil that’s been caked with charred pie filling is much easier than scrubbing the oven for hours to try to get it off. Besides, the baking sheet trick will probably save the embarrassment of having the smoke detectors go off and alerting everyone within a three mile radius of the blunder.
9. Be an Active Pie Baker!
What is this crazy talk?! Simply put, baking a good pie is not a passive activity. Pies don’t like to be thrown in the oven and ignored until the timer goes off.
- Baking pies at two temperatures makes for a better pie. Starting at a higher heat helps to “set the crust” by allowing it to relax in the pie pan. Once the crust is all comfy-like in the pan, decreasing the temperature lets the filling finish baking while keeping the crust from becoming overly brown before it’s done. For example, I typically start fruit pies at 400 degrees F for the first half hour, and lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F to finish the pie.
- Know your oven and it’s quirks. If the oven has hot spots or the temperature runs high or low, learn to work with the quirks and adjust accordingly. Most pies bake well in the center of the middle oven rack. Even so, a lot of ovens are hotter in the back than in the front. Rotating pies a half turn midway through baking will help to evenly bake the pie.
- Custard pie filling should appear set around the edges, but still be slightly jiggly in the center third of the pie. Go ahead and give it a little shimmy-shake to test the filling before taking it out of the oven. The filling will finish baking as it cools, so leaving the pie in the oven until the filling looks completely set will result in a crack custard once it cools.
10. Cool pies completely before serving.
This is by far the hardest tip to abide by when it comes to pies! After smelling the awesomeness of fresh baked pie for about an hour, having the patience to wait before tearing into it is a challenge. Just as with custard pies, fruit pie filling continues to cook as it cools, and thickens as it sits. Giving a pie ample time to cool will give the filling time to firm up enough to cut without running all over the place. Cut into a hot pie, and the filling is as set as it’s ever going to be. Once a pie is cut, the heat from the filling escapes rapidly thus halting the setting process as it cools. For best results, cool a pie completely and then chill it in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.
That’s it! Following these easy steps will help make delicious, foolproof pies every time!