Bake

Everything You Need to Know About Par-Baking

August  4, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

We should all have a solid command of the ABCs of baking. Today, cookbook author Erin McDowell and photographer Sarah Stone are here to help us all make flakier, creamier, just-plain-better pies. This lesson covers how to par-bake pie crusts, so they're crisp, golden, and perfect every time. Plus, all the ways to fill them. 

Alright, you’ve mastered the how-tos of mixing your pie crust. Now comes the pie-related question I am asked more often than any other: How do you handle baking? And a lot of this comes down to par-baking.

Par-baking, also known as blind-baking, is the process of baking a crust before filling it. Sometimes it's quick—around 15 minutes—just to ensure a crisp bottom crust before adding a filling and baking some more. Other times, the crust is fully baked because the filling doesn’t require baking (think coconut cream pie). Par-baked pies are some of my favorites because they can take a lot less time to put together.

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How and when you decide to bake your pie can depend on a whole host of variables, but read on for a few essential pie crust rules I like to live by.

Pie 101

Start with cold dough. Yes, I sound like a broken record, since I've already mentioned this at least 10 times, but that’s how important it is. Roll out your dough when it’s nice and chilled. Then, after you transfer it to your pie plate, chill it again, either in the fridge or freezer. 

Use a glass pie plate. I always recommend this for pie crust beginners or folks who still struggle with getting that crispy bottom crust. Glass conducts heat well and—best of all—you can see through it. Which means no more guessing if your crust is golden on the bottom.

Once your dough has chilled in the pie plate, pierce the base of the dough with a fork. I usually make 5 to 8 piercings; no need to go crazy.

Use pie weights. First, cut out a square of parchment paper that is slightly larger than your pie plate. Place it, centered, over the dough, and fill the cavity with pie weights (ceramic reusable ones, a metal pie chain, or just plain old dried beans). The weights should be strong enough to hold the parchment paper in place and prevent the crust from puffing up. When using beans or ceramic weights, I usually fill the cavity about half of the way. 

Bake at a high temperature. I start (and often finish) all of my pies at 425°F. This causes the water in the butter to evaporate, which creates steam, which creates a light and flaky crust. If the oven is too cold, the fat in the butter just melts, making your crust bake and brown unevenly. It also causes that dreaded shrinkage that can occur when the crust droops down from the lip of the pie plate.

Piercing Crust with a ForkPie Weights

What color should you look for on the crust? 

Many pie beginners are so afraid of over-cooking or burning their pie that they under-bake it instead. But browning is good! A brown crust is a crispy, flaky crust. A pale crust is a soggy, chewy crust.

If your crust is browning too quickly or too much, start it at a high temperature, then reduce the temperature to 375°F after 5 to 10 minutes. (This goes for all pies.) If just the top of the crust is getting too brown, you can tent it with foil.

If you’re still struggling to get a crisp bottom crust, try using a baking stone. Heat the oven with the baking stone in the center rack, then place your pie on the baking stone. The stone will help regulate your oven temperature and ensure the bottom of your pie is getting golden brown and crisp. If it’s browning too much, you can always move the pie to another rack to finish baking.

When do you par-bake a pie crust?

Well, that depends, and the power is really in your hands. I tend to par-bake a lot of my pie crusts—even fruit pies with double crusts! I find that the initial baking time really helps ensure a crisp bottom crust. Now, if you are making 10 pies for Thanksgiving and you don’t have time for all that, that’s okay too—this is about finding what works for you and how you like your crust to turn out. 

Par Baking Pie CrustPictured: Raw dough, partially par-baked crust, and fully par-baked crust.

How to par-bake a crust that will be baked again later

Bake at 425°F until the crust just begins to brown (it will still be pale, but it should not look like raw dough). This time may vary based on your oven and your pie plate, but should take around 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and pie weights, and cool the crust completely before adding the filling and returning the pie to the oven.

How to par-bake a crust that will not be baked again later

Bake at 425°F until the crust begins to turn golden, 17 to 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and pie weights, and continue to bake until the crust is evenly browned and looks crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. 

Egg Wash

More par-baking tips

Use an egg wash. This will keep your crust from getting soggy after you fill it. Simply brush the base of the crust lightly with an egg wash when it comes out of the oven, then return the pie to the oven just to set the egg, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Egg whites work best here because they don’t have the high fat content of yolks and therefore won’t brown, but I tend to have regular egg wash on hand, so I usually just use that.

For fruit pies that are made ahead of time, the crust can still get a little soggy as it sets (even if everything is followed perfectly). My best advice is to reheat the pie on a baking stone. Start it at 425°F, just to ensure the baking stone is hot, then lower the oven temperature to 375°F and bake until the pie is heated through. The baking stone will re-crisp the bottom crust just in time for you to slice that bad boy and top it with ice cream.

Once you’ve got a handle on par-baking, you can master the incredible ease of the cold-filling pie. My favorite examples are ganache, whipped cream, and some kind of seasonal fruit, or the ever-popular ice cream pie. 

Combinations to get started 

Vanilla pastry cream + sugared berries
Lime posset + whipped cream + pinch of salt
Raspberry ice cream + more raspberries on top 
Chocolate-hazelnut mousse + toasted, chopped hazelnuts
Crème fraîche panna cotta + your favorite jam 

Chocolate Cherry Pie

5 recipes to use a par-baked crust

Try one (or all!) of the five recipes below. Each one hinges on a crispy, buttery, par-baked crust.

1. Chocolate Cherry Pie

Remember this riffable template: par-baked crust, plus chocolate ganache, plus whipped cream, plus whatever fruit is in season right now. The chocolate can be dark or semisweet. The fruit, anything from cherries or strawberries to chopped plums or peaches.

2. Chocolate-Caramel Ice Cream Pie  

If you can make pie crust (say it with us, you can!), you're more than halfway done. Ice cream—literally any ice cream, homemade or not—makes a great no-effort pie filling. This recipe uses chocolate, but try vanilla, coffee, or peaches and sour cream.

3. Fresh Blueberry Pie

This fresh-as-heck recipe comes by way of Julie Barker at Helen's Restaurant in Machias, Maine. Blueberry pies are often double-crusted and baked, but this one is the opposite: A par-baked crust is home to lots (and lots) of fresh blueberries, all bound together by a DIY blueberry gel. 

4. Fresh Strawberry Pie

Like the blueberry wonder above, this pie leans into the juicy brightness of fresh fruit. Baker Posie (Harwood) Brien found the recipe on the back of a Land O’ Lakes butter box: “In my quest to find excellent back-of-the-box recipes, I found this pie which is perfect for summer baking, as it cooks half the berries and leaves the other half fresh.”

5. Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Pie

Name a better combination than berries and cream—we’ll wait. In this case, cream refers to pastry cream, which is more or less vanilla pudding. Feel free to swap in another type of berry (say, blackberries or raspberries), or off-road with a mix.

Photos by Sarah Stone. This article originally published in 2014—we updated it with more recipes, because who doesn't want more pie? 

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.

26 Comments

Jess B. June 1, 2018
Hi Erin! Thanks for all your pie crust and pie filling articles - I am getting so excited for pie-making this summer! Question: in this post, you say to reheat the pie on a baking stone so crisp up the bottom, which can get soggy as the pie sets. In another post about cutting the perfect slice, however, you say to let the pie cool completely before cutting. Wouldn’t the bottom get soggy again?
 
Stephanie B. December 7, 2015
Is it safe to put a cold glass our oan I to a 425 oven? I have some worry.
 
Rosalind P. August 27, 2020
I share your worry and haven't found the perfect solution. But what I do is take a steaming hot cloth and set the glass on it for a few minutes, to temper the temperature rise. I still hold my breath when the pan goes into the oven, but so far, so good. Would welcome a "genius" solution.
 
Beachside B. October 5, 2020
You might find this helpful.

https://www.oxo.com/glass-pie-plate-with-lid.html

OXO makes their pie plates from borosilicate which resists thermal shock. In the past Pyrex used borosilicate, however, they are now made of soda glass which can cause them to shatter during extreme temperature change.
 
Laura415 November 14, 2015
I my experience 2 crust pies are not par baked. If you worry about soggy crust under the fruit then brush the inside of the bottom crust with egg white to create a protein barrier that helps when baking raw crust pies.
 
greglum November 13, 2015
How do you add a top crust when making a double-crusted fruit pie with a par-baked bottom?? I made an apple pie the other day, par-baking the bottom before filling and adding the top, but when I got to slicing, the crusts just separated and got messy - is there a way to fix this, or is that just the nature of a par-baked bottom + an unbaked top?
 
Rosalind P. August 27, 2020
It's awkward but if you wet the edges of both top and bottom, before you press them together, it helps I also avoid the problem by using a crumb/stresusel topping: for a frozen pie dough, here's how I do it: bake the pie with a foil cover for about 2/3 of the way through. Add the topping and finish baking. (and sorry if this seems complicated, but I bake the topping about 2/3 of the way also -- before it's fully done. Adding it this way keeps it crisp all the way through.)
 
Mendonoma January 25, 2015
Great compilation. And here's what I used for years as 'pie weights'...remember doggie choke chains...metal linked things. We all had too many of them. Well, they make great pie weights. Easy to clean, malleable, easy to pick up when cooled, easy to store...much better than beans or metal beads.
 
beekeeper January 25, 2015
This is a great post. I have always used glass pie pans until Thanksgiving when one was accidentally broken. I pulled out a cast iron skillet and used it for the deep dish apple pie. It had the crispest crust I have ever achieved in 50 years of baking. Now I bake all my pies in cast iron skillets.
 
Horto July 30, 2014
how do you deal with par baking for fruit pie that you want to add a top crust?
i would think the edge will burn…during the second bake
 
AntoniaJames November 21, 2014
I always cover the upper edge with foil or a silicone ring designed for this purpose, before putting it in the oven to blind bake. ;o)
 
Sara S. July 27, 2014
I have the same probem as Pastryology with shrinking crusts.
Is is safe to put a pyrex pie plate on a baking stone?
 
Author Comment
Erin J. July 30, 2014
See my comment to Pastryology below - the main culprits here are butter content, temperature of dough, and temperature of oven. If your dough is based on a solid ratio, the dough is well chilled (firm to the touch), and the oven temperature is high (425), you should experience less shrinkage!
 
Hannah R. August 4, 2020
What is a good dough recipe to prevent shrinkage? I have that problem too
 
Rosalind P. August 27, 2020
I follow ALL the hints and instructions -- resting, freezing, weights, edge protections -- for pre-baking but always, always get shrinkage. I just bought "dough improver" from King Arthur Flour, which purports to stop shrinking. We shall see. if it works, I'll post, although I generally don't like to shill products.
 
Zachary C. July 27, 2014
I can't seem to par bake for quiche or custrads without having them leak out the bottom of the crust. Tips?
 
Author Comment
Erin J. July 30, 2014
Perhaps you're rolling your dough too thin, causing rips or tears in the dough that the custard sneaks through during baking. Try rolling your dough a little thicker (1/4-1/2 inch). If you don't notice the holes until after you par-bake it, you can patch the holes with egg wash or egg whites - brush generously over the holes and bake until the egg is set.
 
Laura415 July 25, 2014
Love the tip about egg white on the crust. I was told to do the egg white wash on raw pie dough before filling and baking. I think it still helps. Any protein barrier will help the crust resist sogginess. A layer of almonds thinly sliced will also make a great barrier in a fruit pie. I don't often par-bake but maybe I will after this.
 
Author Comment
Erin J. July 30, 2014
Great tip - I think you're right about the protein barrier!
 
Rosalind P. August 27, 2020
Sogginess: layer of nuts, sliced or ground. I use finely ground cereal crumbs because I once read that cookie crumbs would work, but I don't want the extra sugar or fat. A fine and thin layer, after the crust is baked and coated with egg white.
 
Catherine July 24, 2014
Thx for a great post. I have had pies where it tastes like there is a thin, crispy layer of sugar between the bottom pastry and the filling. It tasted great. Do you get this by sprinkling sugar on top of the egg wash and heating at high temp? Or mixing sugar with the egg wash?
 
Author Comment
Erin J. July 30, 2014
Hi Catherine, I'm not entirely familiar with what you're describing but it definitely sounds like a great idea. I'd try a pie crust doing just what you described above: sprinkling a thin layer of sugar over the bottom crust before par-baking at 425. If you give this a try, please keep us posted!
 
Pastryology July 23, 2014
I have a terrible time with shrinking crusts that creep away from the edges of the pie plate like receding glaciers. I chill the dough after forming it and before rolling it. I often freeze it for 20 minutes before blind baking. And they still shrink. Any tips you can offer?
 
Author Comment
Erin J. July 30, 2014
The most likely culprit is that your dough has too much fat in it. No matter how well chilled the dough in the pie plate is, if the ratio of fat is too high, it can cause the butter to melt before it can properly produce steam in the oven, making your crusts shrink. I would try making sure to chill the dough at every step of the process for at least 30 minutes, then make sure it chills well inside the pie plate until it is entirely firm to the touch. Then make sure to bake it at a high temperature - a lower temperature will cause the butter to melt rather than produce steam as well!
 
Rosalind P. August 27, 2020
Me too. Exactly!
 
Rosalind P. August 27, 2020
Too much butter? How do I figure that one out? I have the same shrinkage problem and already do all the things you're sugestion. I I like all butter (no shortening, no lard). What would you suggest as a butter/flour ratio to avoid shrinkage.