One of the first articles I wrote for Food52 many moons ago was about my favorite subject: making pies—and making them pretty, to boot. I covered a few decorative edges in that post, but I figured it was about time for a second go-around. There are so many ways to crimp the edge of your pie crust—calling that index finger!—and with strawberry season nearly behind us, and stone fruit/berry/everything-delicious season ahead, I wanted to give step-by-step guides for 9 pretty edges.
First, a few general guidelines for decorative pie edges:
This All Buttah Pie Dough is a classic. It'll turn out expertly flaky, so long as you let it chill well before rolling. Which brings me to the next point...
Start with cold dough, then chill it after you’ve rolled it out and lined the pan. I’ll even chill it with the excess hanging all about before I trim it, which helps the dough relax and prevents shrinking! I’m a fan of chilling it in the freezer, but be warned: If your dough is too cold, it will be difficult to work with and may be likely to crack.
This is one of my favorite pie tips, and it’s specifically helpful for beautiful edges. When you go to trim away the excess dough, leave yourself about 1 inch of excess from the edge of the pie plate. Fold this excess under itself, then press gently all the way around to seal it and make it flush with the edge of the pie plate.
This excess serves a few purposes. First, it creates a thicker “wall” of dough at the edge, which is less likely to fall or shrink in the oven, especially if properly adhered to the pie plate with a well-sealed crimp. Second, it makes it easier to apply decorative edges. Thicker dough gives you more to work with, and it’s more likely to hold its shape in the oven. Last but not least, it gives you more crunchy, flaky pie dough at the end of each slice—and that’s seriously delicious. I pity the fool who tries to cheat me out of as much crust as I can possibly get on my pie, so I like to build in a little extra right from the get-go.
As you crimp, rotate the pie plate occasionally rather than stretching your arms or adjusting your body to work around the edge. You’ll get more even crimps if you stay in the same spot!
Once you’ve applied your decorative edge, go all out with the chilling—the freezer included. The colder the pie dough is when it hits the oven, the more likely it will be to retain its shape.
This is a trouble-shooting tip for those who just can’t seem to keep their edges from sloping down once they hit the oven. A lot of pie plates have almost no edge at all, and that means there’s a higher margin for error. If your dough isn’t sealed strongly, crimped tightly, or chilled thoroughly, it may slide down in the heat of the oven. But if you use a pie plate with an edge (at least a 1/2-inch wide), you’ve given yourself a (literal) support system! Once you get the hang of it, you can make a gorgeous pie with any plate you wish, but it’s a great place to start if you’ve had trouble!
This crimp is my go-to, and the one you see on many a beautiful pie. It’s made by using your fingers to make a V-shaped crimped edge all around the pie. The wider you hold your fingers, the larger the crimp will be; the more narrow your fingers, the smaller the crimps. I normally hold my fingers about 1/2 inch apart for the classic look, but recently, I’ve been loving the polished look of an even smaller crimp, holding my fingers as close together as I can to make a really teeny (cute!) crimp. Whatever you choose, the process is the same:
I love, love, love the look of this edge. People who are super-skilled can do this look with one hand, using their thumb and index finger to make the shape all the way around. But I find it’s easier to get a uniform look using the index fingers of both hands.
This edge looks rather delicate, I think—and I first learned it as the traditional edging style for the classic pithier pastry. But like many décor techniques, it totally works for pie too! The key to this edge is well-chilled pastry. Warm pastry won’t hold its shape at all! The size of the edge is pretty much determined by the size of your finger, so it’s not one you can make wider or smaller as desired.
I love this one, too. It combines the looks of two classics: a finger crimp and a forked edge. In order for this look to work properly, you need to set the crimps a little further apart, giving yourself plenty of room to apply the fork marks later. I also find it’s especially helpful to use a smaller fork, with tines that are a little closer together—but you can use whatever you’ve got!
This easy, breezy look is how many galettes are finished—but why should they get to have all the fun? This look is perfect for a traditional pie, too, and gives a little extra crust-to-filling action for all my fellow crust-lovers out there.
This is a nice rustic look for pies. It's as easy as the traditional fork crimp, with a little something extra. I like this look on double-crust pies, too! Different forks have different widths of tines (and spaces between those tines); you might find that you like the look from certain forks better than others.
More: Is your heart really with lattice-topped pies? Right this way.
This is my favorite fork crimp because it looks so snazzy but it’s insanely easy. Same rules about the size of the fork go as above with the crosshatch!
Forks aren’t the only utensil that can help make a pretty edge. This simple scallop is so easy, and looks great on hand pies, too! Different spoons will have different looks when pressed into the pie: Rounder-edged spoons will leave a swoopier look, while pointier-edged spoons will give a sharper look.
This is a fun old-school edge that’s that's commonly used for chess and other custard pies, though looks great on all kinds. You’ll want a trusty pair of scissors (one of my favorite tools for all pies!) on hand to help you achieve the look. You can successfully do the edge before you fill the pie, but I personally find it easier to fill the pie first, then finish the edge.