Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust

By • November 12, 2013 • 75 Comments



Author Notes: The secret pie crust ingredient and technique that changed what we thought we knew about pie from J. Kenji López-Alt and Cook's Illustrated .Genius Recipes

Makes 1 pie crust

  • 1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vodka, cold
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.
Jump to Comments (75)

Comments (75) Questions (3)

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about 1 month ago Luvtocook

In my humble opinion, par-baking a pie shell has the advantage of firming up the pie dough before a filling is added, promoting crispness. Lately I've been par-baking pie crusts (even for as little as 5 to 10 minutes at 425) for nearly everything...from quiches to fruit pies.

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about 1 month ago joann

So...you have to bake the pie crust PRIOR to using pie filling (i.e. apples, apricots, peaches, etc.)? Couldn't you put the pie filling in the pie & then cook it all at once? *sorry if this is a stupid question, but I'm very new to making pies.

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about 1 month ago Augustina Ragwitz

The trick to this pie crust is to add ALL the water. It will seem to wet and sticky but remember, the vodka will evaporate in cooking. I made the mistake of not adding enough liquid and my crust came out too dry.

I use home rendered leaf lard from pastured pigs for my shortening. I buy the raw lard from the Farmers' Market but butchers usually have it too.

Stringio

6 months ago Leslie Svanevik

This was fantastic! I doubled the recipe to make an apple pie for Pi Day on Friday, and it was probably the best homemade crust recipe I've encountered. Flavorful, flaky yet sturdy.

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7 months ago pattyposy

Solid shortening is available in our local grocery store, either in 1 lb cans or in cubes. Simply chill in your refrig until needed.
Pat
Williamsburg, VA

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7 months ago Kristen goh

Hello, may i know where can I find chilled solid vegetable shortening? Please advise...

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7 months ago Susan Richmond

This is the best recipe for pie crust. You can substitute different liquor as well. I did Gin in a savory pie and it did add some flavor. Moonshine, however, did not add any flavor and my friends thought it very funny!

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7 months ago BonnieontheBlock

This pie crust is just like a standard pastry made with water. As is the case for any pastry, it can be easily stored in the freezer if properly wrapped. When it is worked on, it is best when allowed to rest in the fridge after every step. Refrigerating dough rolled into a pan allows the gluten to relax and thus prevents shrinkage during baking so that the crust wont slump and the crimps remain sharply defined.

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7 months ago Amy

Can be used for any type of pie. I refrigerate in a zip lock not a pan. Divide into two rounds and either put into individual zip locks or wrap in plastic.

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7 months ago Cindy

Do you have to refrigerate the dough in the pan if you are making a 2 crusted pie?

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7 months ago Cheryl Hayes

is this pie crust for any type of pies

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7 months ago pattyposy

I'd like to try this recipe again. Is pre-baking the crust necessary for pies such as pumpkin, apple, etc. that will be baked to cook the filling?

Stringio

7 months ago albanyville

Made this recipe exactly as written. I appreciated the precise mixing instructions as it left no doubt in my mind (is THIS homogenous dough???) My pie was perfect and the crust was superb. I swear, I smiled for two days afterwards.

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8 months ago Justine

I have tripled this recipe and substituted milk for water with the vodka for years. I get one two crust pie, one single. Perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. Pumpkin and apple. The milk makes it a little shorter, but everyone eats all the crust on the plate.

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8 months ago Amy

Love this recipe. Works great as it is. Don't over mix. I have a food processor but I use a pastry cutter for this. I don't add sugar but depending on the pie, I will do an egg wash before putting it in the oven.

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8 months ago a

I have tried this twice and have not found that my experience mimics what is supposed to happen. I always have at least one piece of butter that fails to clump, forcing me to process for longer than indicate, which ends up giving me a dough that is too gooey to roll out. The vodka may make this cook better, but that's a moot point if the prepatory instructions don't work correctly.

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8 months ago JohnL

If you just have one chunk of butter that has failed to clump but the rest of the mixture has achieved the desired texture, rather than over-process the rest of the dough, you could take out that errant piece of butter and cut it up into smaller pieces and add it back and continue with the recipe and without danger of over mixed dough. Other than that, I always just make sure to cut the butter into uniform slices (I like it stone cold from the fridge), and it doesn't hurt if your processor's blade is good & sharp! This dough needs to be well-chilled before roll out. Hope this helps.

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8 months ago pattyposy

I proudly served an apple galette for Christmas, using this pie crust recipe. As I mixed the ingredients, I thought 2 T each of vodka and water would be too much so I added one each. Chilled my dough overnight and brought it to room temp for about 30 minutes before rolling it on a silpat mat and completing the galette. Think this was an error; dough was quite soft. It was also a challenge to get the pie from the mat to the platter but we did it. Compliments all around but why was my dough so soft and difficult to manage? I will try this again, rum in the crust intrigues me! Suggestions welcome.

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8 months ago Rob Ciampa

I've made this three times now, and am going to use it for Christmas as well. This is the best pie crust recipe I've come across so far, and it has become my go-to for all things pie-related! I also put the butter in the freezer about 20-30 minutes before I make the dough, and when I'm ready to make the dough. I pull it out and grate it into the mixture using a box grater...prefect consistency every time :)

Food25

8 months ago Tom Salamone

Rob. I believe you have made my day with freeze then grate using a box grater. Thanks.

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8 months ago Rob Ciampa

Thanks! I forget where I learned that, but it works so well and I've used it when making scones and tarts too.

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8 months ago pattyposy

hope to try this crust for Christmas. It sounds wonderful! Would it work well if making a galette (rustic free-form tart? Would pre-baking be needed or advised?

Miglore

8 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I think it would work wonderfully in a free-form galette -- no pre-baking needed.

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9 months ago arcane54

Made it and loved it! I made a pecan-pumpkin pie recipe and used fresh pumpkin (baked, scraped and whizzed in the food processor to break down any stringiness). I was worried that the moisture would wreak havoc on this crust and it didn't! Could be the tip that Bonnieontheblock mentioned below -- glass pie plate, pre-heated sheet pan. I've been a big fan of the Chez Panisse crust recipes (and will still use their galette dough -- amazing) but this is now my go-to pie crust recipe.