How to Make the Best Pies
Whether it’s a fresh summer berry pie, a billowy meringue pie or a traditional, rich holiday pie, it seems everyone has a favorite. But making pies can be a daunting task—there’s just so much that can go wrong. Here, we’ll share our favorite easy pie recipes, tell you what equipment and ingredients you’ll need to have on hand, and show you how to avoid some common pie baking mistakes.
We’ll show you how to properly roll out and crimp pie dough, how to properly blind-bake a pie shell and how to avoid common mistakes when baking a pie crust.
Three Common Pie Dough Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
The thousands of pies we've baked over the years in the test kitchen have taught us a thing or three about what can go wrong when rolling the dough. Here are the three most common problems—and instructions for avoiding them.
UNEVEN, ASYMMETRICAL PIE "ROUND"
CAUSE: Poor rolling technique, or dough too cold to roll
SOLUTION: Roll, rotate, repeat and let the dough warm up if necessary
CAUSE: Manhandling en route
SOLUTION: Use rolling pin to transfer dough to pie plate
SHRUNKEN BAKED SHELL
CAUSE: Stretched or insufficiently chilled dough
SOLUTION: Support dough when fitting, and chill before baking
Rolling and Fitting Pie Dough
Here's the test kitchen's method for easily rolling and fitting pie dough.
Lay the disk of dough on a lightly floured counter and roll the dough outward from its center into a 12-inch circle. Between every few rolls, give the dough a quarter turn to help keep the circle nice and round.
Toss additional flour underneath the dough as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.
Loosely roll the dough around the rolling pin, then gently unroll it over the pie plate.
Lift the dough and gently press it into the pie plate, letting the excess hang over the plate. For for double-crust pie, cover the crust lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Crimping Pie Dough for a Single Pie Crust
Here's the test kitchen's method for easily crimping pie dough for a single pie crust.
1. CUT OVERHANG
Use scissors to trim the overhanging dough to a uniform 1/2 inch.
2. TUCK DOUGH
Tuck the dough under to form a thick, even, stable edge on the lip of the pie plate.
3A. FOR A FLUTED EDGE
Pinch the dough into ridges around the rim between the index finger of one hand and the thumb and index finger of the other hand. Work your way around the perimeter of the pie, using gentle downward pressure to help the crust adhere to the lip of the pie plate
3B. FOR A RIDGED EDGE
Press the tines of a fork into the dough to flatten it against the rim of a pie plate.
Making a Double-Crust Pie
Here's the test kitchen's method for easily making a double-crust pie.
After rolling out the top crust, loosely roll it around the rolling pin, then gently unroll it over the filled pie crust bottom.
Using scissors, trim all but ½ inch of the dough overhanging the edge of the pie plate.
Press the top and bottom crusts together, then tuck the edges underneath.
Crimp the dough evenly around the edge of the pie, using your fingers. Cut vent holes attractively in the center of the top crust with a paring knife (drier pies only require 4 vents, while very juicy pies require 8 vents).
How to Make a Lattice-Top Pie
Here's the test kitchen's method for easily making a lattice-top pie.
1. CUT AND FREEZE THE LATTICE STRIPS
After rolling out and trimming the second piece of dough into a 13 by 10-inch rectangle, cut the dough into eight 13-inch-long, 11/4-inch-wide strips. Separate them slightly and freeze them on a baking sheet until very firm, about 30 minutes. Freezing the lattice strips makes it much easier to weave the strips together without tears or breaks. It also helps the lattice maitain its shape during baking.
2. WEAVE THE FIRST LATTICE STRIPS
Using the chilled strips of lattice, lay 4 parallel strips evenly over the filling. Weave a fifth strip in the opposite direction, lifting the strips as needed to facilitate weaving.
3. WEAVE THE REMAINING LATTICE STRIPS
Continue to weave in the remaining 3 strips, one at a time, to create a lattice. Rotate the pie as needed to make it easier. If the dough becomes too soft to work with (especially on hot days), refrigerate the pie and the dough strips until the dough firms up.
4. TRIM THE DOUGH
After letting the strips thaw and soften for a few minutes, trim the overhanging edges of the dough to 1/2 inch. Letting the dough soften for a few minutes before trimming makes it more malleable and prevents it from cracking as you trim.
5. TUCK THE ENDS UNDER
Press the edges of the bottom crust and lattice strips together and fold underneath. Tucking the trimmed dough under helps to seal the ends of the strips and makes an even, tidy edge that is easy to crimp.
6. CRIMP THE EDGE
Crimp the dough evenly around the edges of the pie using your fingers. Crimping the dough gives the pie a decorative edge and an attractive, finished look.
Can any one rolling pin make a difference in your pie-baking? The answer is yes. American-style rolling pins with handles at either end can actually overwork the dough by exerting excess pressure. Our preferred pins have tapered ends that make it easy to roll out pie dough to a consistently even thickness.
Because dark metal absorbs heat so quickly, dark metal pie plates tend to crisp a pie’s crust before the filling is cooked through. Glass and ceramic pie plates, on the other hand, provide slow, insulating heat for even pie baking—which explains why they nabbed the top places in our pie plates testing.
With so many pie servers with similar designs, how do you know which model will deliver a flawless slice—and which one will destroy your perfect pie? Cutting and serving 100 pies with four different models taught us what to look for in a pie server. Blunt edges crushed—rather than cut—crusts, while thicker blades marred our perfect custards. Our favorite combined the best blade traits with a comfy grip.
While grandma might have used two knives or a fork to cut cold fat into flour when making pie dough, we find that a food processor does the job much more quickly and evenly. If you’re making enough dough for a double-crust pie you will want a food processor with a large workbowl, ideally 11 cups.
Leftover pie doesn’t last long, but when there is some to spare, this plastic tool—which looks like two wings attached on a central hinge made to fit any angle (or pie plate)—promises to keep the fillings in place until you come back for seconds. Could it deliver on this promise?
Key Ingredients for any Pie
A great graham cracker pie crust begins with great graham crackers. We taste tested all the major brands to find the one we liked best as the foundation of our pies.
Flour is a fundamental building block for many of our pie crust recipes. But too much can make a pie crust dry and tough. Making sure to use the perfect amount is vital in a successful pie crust recipe—but does the brand make a difference?
Some of our favorite fruit pies can be overshadowed by a dull thickener. We prefer thickening our fruit pies with tapioca, which does the job and preserves the pies’ delicate texture and bright, fresh fruit flavor. But with three different kinds of tapioca, we needed to run a couple tests to determine which type was best.
We’ve never found a store-bought pie crust that compares to homemade pie crusts, but we did find one that baked up to an impressive flakiness and, because it comes rolled up, can be used in your own (nondisposable) pie plate.
Aside from its status as a Thanksgiving classic, pumpkin pie gets points for taking a plain canned good and dressing it up. To be sure we were opening the best canned pumpkin for our favorite pumpkin pie recipes, we sampled the leading three brands to come up with our favorite.
Our Favorite Pie Recipes
Baking a pie straight from the freezer leads to soupy pie fillings and soggy pie crusts. For this make-ahead pie recipe, we had to figure out how to absorb moisture from the fruit-based pie filling, and how to keep the pie crust crisp.
Don’t let the name fool you: French Silk Pie was “born” in America. Created by Betty Cooper in 1951 for the third annual Pillsbury Bake-Off, this old-fashioned icebox pie is rarely made today, perhaps because it calls for raw eggs. We decided to develop a modern version of this pie—with cooked-egg and a ramped-up chocolate flavor.
Black-bottom pie is a chocolate cream pie—chocolate custard and sweetened whipped cream —with two added bonuses: an airy rum chiffon layer between the chocolate and whipped cream layers and a chocolate cookie crust.
A chiffon pie is pretty, but it often tastes more like sweet foam than fruit. Our goal was a chiffon pie that was creamy, light, and packed with fruit flavor.
Unlike a traditional apple pie, slab pie is made in a baking sheet and can feed up to 20 people. The pie’s filling is thickened to ensure neat slicing, and it’s topped with a sugary glaze.
This pat-in-the-pan pie dough is a no-fear dough because there's no need to roll it out or to transfer it to the pie plate after it's been rolled out. Conventional doughs are either too sticky or too stiff to be pressed directly into a pie plate.
Lemon meringue pie may be an American classic, but it can be tricky to prepare. There’s the crust with all its issues, then the tart filling and the meringue itself, which is all too prone to weeping. And that pie topping is never, ever as tall and fluffy as we would like. We needed to figure out how to make a perfect lemon meringue pie with a sky-high topping.
There’s something pretty appealing about combining two of our favorite holiday desserts—the spiced custard of pumpkin pie and the sweet nutty chew of pecan pie.
With a red filling so bright it hurts, strawberries big enough to be plums, and poufy whipped cream, diner-style strawberry pies always look inviting. But these no-bake pies often taste more like plastic than pie. We wondered if better ingredients could deliver a pie that lived up to its looks.
The pecan pies of today bare little resemblance to their 19th-century inspiration. We wanted to recreate a traditional Pecan Pie without using modern day, processed corn syrup, which too often give pecan pies an unwelcome, over-the-top sweetness.