Kitchen Hacks

How to Chill Pie Dough at the Absolute Last Minute

Did you overlook this small, sweet detail? Don’t fret.

October 27, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Maybe you’re reading this a few days in advance, the night before, or gulp the morning of. You followed all the proper avenues to get ready for the Thanksgiving feast—you defrosted and brined the turkey; you cut a loaf of sourdough or cornbread into cubes for stuffing and left them out to dry; you even ironed the linens and bought flowers for a centerpiece. But the one thing you forgot? Chilling the pie dough for your pumpkin, pecan, and apple pie. For the best pie, it’s always best to work with very cold dough.

And now it’s the morning of Thanksgiving and you want to bake pies, but the dough is still too warm to roll out. Did you forget to put the pie or cookie dough in the fridge overnight? Did you pull out any hairs yet? Don't fret, don't pull your hair! Our beautiful community of smart, savvy home cooks has faced this very conundrum time and time again. And that’s where our hotline comes in. Food52 user and pie prowess CV posted a very simple, very cool (pun intended) trick over on the hotline to help us out:

...stick the dough in a Ziplock bag, removing all of the air, then place in an ice water bath and stick the whole thing in the fridge.

You won't risk ice crystals, like you would in the freezer, and you're still allowing time for the flavors to meld together—which is one of the reasons why you want dough to sit overnight, in addition to getting the dough firm. (Kristen went food nerd and tested this out for us.)

This trick for quickly chilling pie dough quickly works because you won't risk ice crystals, like you would in the freezer, and you're still allowing time for the flavors to meld together—which is one of the reasons why you want dough to sit overnight, in addition to getting the dough firm. (founding editor and creative director of Genius Kristen Miglore went food nerd and tested this out for us.) It’s the same way you would quickly chill a bottle of wine or beer, so you know it works. Other loyal users emphasize the importance of keeping your pie dough cold, no matter how quickly you want to defrost it. Doing so ensures that the butter stays cold, which will help create flaky, flavorful layers of pie crust.

And while Thanksgiving can be quite cold in many parts of the country, and you may be tempted to just leave it out on your front porch, don’t. The last thing you want is pie dough studded with fallen leaves and acorns...or worse, you forget about it altogether.

What is your go-to way to quickly chill pie dough? Tell us in the comments!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Elizabeth Pawlowich
    Elizabeth Pawlowich
  • bmallorca
    bmallorca
  • Hillary Reeves
    Hillary Reeves
  • AntoniaJames
    AntoniaJames
Editor/writer/stylist. Last name rhymes with bagel.

5 Comments

Elizabeth P. March 14, 2016
I bought two sheets of Oven Guard which is a non stick oven guard which is also tearproof-lasts for years and is 13 x 18 inches and costs a $1.00 at the dollar store. I floured them lightly and rolled out my pi dough. walla. its better than wax paper or any of the other plastic roll I have tried.
 
bmallorca December 23, 2015
Related pondering: I was reading of a technique where you roll out the crust first, between wax paper, repositioning often so it won't stick, and THEN let it chill in the refrigerator. I know Nothing about pie crust and researching. Is there any reason that method wouldn't work? Thanks!
 
AntoniaJames January 6, 2016
bmallorca, that is a great method.

Common sense and basic science tell us that the thinner a solid substance is, the more quickly heat will be transferred to or from it. You have a much greater surface area in a rolled sheet of cookie dough than in a ball, block or thick disk.

In this case, you can quicken the heat transfer further by chilling well-conducting substances – metal cookie sheets being the obvious choice – and sandwiching the dough between them.

What I typically do: put two cookie sheets (not insulated!) in the freezer before I do anything else (or in advance, if circumstances permit); roll dough out between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap; slide the dough between the sheets of paper onto one of the chilled cookie sheets; immediately top with the other chilled cookie sheet; and then pop them both into the freezer (or fridge) for a few minutes. It only takes a few minutes; putting the parchment or plastic wrap directly on the dough so that it adheres all over prevents condensation. I’ve never had a problem with ice crystals, which may also be due to the short length of time required to chill dough when using this method. If you really don’t want to put the dough in the freezer, you can freeze the cookie sheets and put the dough sandwiched between them in the fridge. It helps to put something moderately heavy (and frozen) on the top cookie sheet, to ensure close contact by the chilled metal with the dough.

I should mention one other important factor in how easily a piece of dough is to handle. That is gluten. Often, your dough needs time as much if not more than it needs to be cold. Time allows the gluten in the dough to relax. Once the gluten is relaxed, the dough becomes markedly easier to handle. So you might want to keep that in mind. 30 minutes is plenty of resting time for a pie crust. ;o)
 
bmallorca January 7, 2016
Thanks, Antonia! I got out these little Japanese metal pie pans (20 cm) and am inching closer to making some little pies! But first, working on emptying out all the leftovers from the holidays -- my fridge and freezer are stuffed! I appreciate your reply. Happy new year!
 
Hillary R. December 23, 2015
Love this! If I'm pressed for time, I go with this pie shell. It works really well for tarts, but I've adapted it to become my last-minute pie trick. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/05/french-tart-dough-a-la-francaise/