A Perfect Pie Crust
This article was originally published in November 2015
With just three required ingredients, pie crust is one of the simplest things to bake. However, its very simplicity means that proper execution is key. Chilling the fat and liquid is critical, as is the technique: The goal is uniform, pea-sized pieces of butter void of big chunks. If you don’t have a food processor to do the mixing, your fingers will work just fine.
Butter and shortening are the most flexible choices; lard and coconut oil have stronger flavors which are excellent if matched with the filling or blended 50/50 with a second fat. All fats should be chilled firm, cut into very small pieces and chilled again.
Fresh-tasting flour is a priority, so if you don’t bake often, smell your flour first to make sure it hasn’t picked up off flavors from pantry storage. All-purpose is great, or mix in up to 50 percent whole grain (spelt and kamut are both good choices).
Ice water is all you need! Use just enough for the dough to hold together. Not enough and it will be difficult to roll; too much and it will be sticky to roll (and not bake up crispy). Chilled vodka can be used in place of some of the water — there’s test kitchen proof that it slightly improves the flakiness of crusts as it is baked.
Salt isn’t truly necessary, but can improve the flavor, particularly for a savory pie. All-shortening crusts don’t brown as well as butter, but a pinch of sugar can help.
Try our recipe for Classic Butter Pie Crust.
Tips and Techniques for the Ideal Dough
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Revised November 2021