Pie

We Tested 5 Pie Crusts to Find the Easiest, Flakiest & Best-Tasting

From classic to newfangled, from shortening to sour cream.

September  5, 2019

Are you the type who breaks into hives the minute you think about rolling out pie dough? Or the one who stays calm and cool, your pin gliding across the dough like a Ferrari down the Italian coast?

(Or are you the type who's really in it for the eating, not the making? You're welcome here, too. Come one, come all! We've got a slice for you.)

Doughs and dough-nots.

For me, there's no "common" dessert (as in, let's take croquembouche and Baked Alaska out of the running here) that makes me so frantic: The fear is deep-seated; I suspect I was born that way. I will freeze every utensil, every ingredient, that might possibly come in contact with the cantankerous butter; I will stick my hands in an ice bath if I need to! All for the sake of an easy-to-roll, hard-to-flub, guaranteed-flaky-and-buttery crust.

I am here to ruin your life.
Says my pie dough to my psyche

But some doughs—and my anxiety is primarily dough-related (will it sog? will it shrink? will it altogether implode?)—promise to be more forgiving than others: quick to come together, with minimal guesswork; easy to roll and transfer; and, of course, guaranteed to yield flaky, shattering, crisp results. They call themselves "foolproof," "go-to," "be-all, end-all." Are they?

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I've come to favor Rose Levy Beranbaum's cream cheese pie crust (and I crooned its praises last summer), but I was curious about how doughs bolstered with other ingredients—like vodka, shortening, vinegar, or sour cream—would compare to the 100%-butter classic.

So to compare them altogether, I made five different pie doughs—all-butter, all-butter with the addition of vinegar, butter plus shortening, vodka-spiked, and sour cream-boosted—to see how they'd stack up.

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Top Comment:
“Our go-to preferred dough can be made either by hand or in a standing mixer with paddle attachment (my fave) often referred to as "pate sucre'" it incorporates flour + butter + generous dash sugar + dash salt + scant 1/4 teaspoon baking powder +egg yolk + dash cream if needed!!! Rolls out and bakes like a dream... Great balance of flavors... Crust holds up well... Can be parbaked... Right touch of flaky ...not too soft or hard... Acts like a shortbread crust perfect with custard/cream/soft fillings... Holds up perfect with nut tarts/fruit tarts/juicy fillings etc... What I like that's important to me is that while a half butter half lard crust (with or without vinegar) yields a super flaky crust it doesn't hold up! Unless you eat it the first day it loses its flakiness and even gets soggy...pate sucre' hold up well which is important especially around the holidays when you're doing your baking a couple or more days before!!! Thanks for reading 😀”
— Petra M.
Comment

I wanted to determine...

  1. The ease of assembly (how quickly and seamlessly did the dough come together?) and of rolling
  2. The flakiness and the flavor: Was this a crust I'd like to munch on sans peach or rhubarb filling?

I cut 4 small rounds of each type of dough, brushed two of every batch with egg wash (those are bottom two rows of the baking sheet—which are across-the-board more appetizing), and baked at 425° F for about 15 minutes, until the dough circles were golden-brown and completely cooked-through. Then, we tasted.

Disclaimer: For my test, I baked the doughs as freestanding rounds, but obviously this doesn't take into account how they would have interacted with various fillings—juicy fruits, creamy custards—or, as our resident baking expert Erin McDowell has pointed out, that you might be looking for a mealier, more crumbly crust for a custard pie (pumpkin, lemon cream) but flakier, laminated-esque quality for a juicy one. For me, I wanted flaky. It is fruit pie season, after all!

Let's go dough to dough, listing the merits and detractions of each:

Which is the tastiest—and what happened to that weirdo on the right???

First, what butter to use? That's...a complicated question, but luckily one we've happily tackled. The TL;DR here is that it doesn't really matter for this test—I just stayed consistent with my brands of butter throughout. (The only criteria? It had to taste good, and be pretty cheap. I was baking a lot.)

1. All-Butter (& Nearly Nothing Else):

These all-butter discs rose so much higher than the shortening pucks. (Egg washed, left; naked, right.)
  • The recipe: Melissa Clark's All-Butter Pie Crust
  • What makes it different: There are no "magic" add-ins in this recipe—you need only flour, salt, butter, and ice water. The distinction comes in the technique, as this dough is made entirely in a food processor. Since you use the food processor first to break the butter into lima bean-size pieces and then to incorporate the flour, the butter is ultimately chopped into very small pieces. Would this counteract flakiness? Many pie bakers say you want to see flour-coated butter pockets when you roll out the dough.
  • How easy was it to make and work with?: The dough came together quickly and without issue; since the process happens within a matter of minutes in the food processor, it's easy to keep the temperature of the ingredients cool and to shuttle the finished dough to the refrigerator before the butter has a chance to misbehave. The chilled dough was a bit firmer than some of the other batches pre-roll out but ultimately gave me no trouble at all.
  • Texture and taste: If you use good-tasting butter, you're going to have a good-tasting all-butter pie crust—there are no additional ingredients to mute or overshadow its flavor. Still, I ended up preferring the butter-vinegar dough and the sour cream dough, each of which had a nuance of tang that cut a bit of the richness and was even flakier than the all-butter crust.
  • The verdict: The flavor was good, though the dough fell a bit flat in comparison to the others—perhaps this was because the butter was pulverized by the machine rather than left in larger chunks. I'd be curious to try an all-butter dough that doesn't rely on the food processor, though in the past, I've found these the most difficult to get right.
Look closely and you'll spot butter streaks in the dough on the left—but it's hard to see any in the dough on the right. Photo by Mark Weinberg

2. Shortening + Butter:

The flattest and toughest of the bunch. (Egg washed on the left, and plain on the right.)
  • The recipe: King Arthur Flour's Classic Double Pie Crust
  • What makes it different: A quarter-cup of vegetable shortening is mixed into the flour before you work in the butter using your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a stand mixer. Why shortening? As Erin explains in her pie fats briefing, shortening has a high melting point, which means it's not going to turn to liquid as you work it into the flour—and this should translate into reliably flaky layers. But as Kenji López-Alt writes on Serious Eats, it's actually easy to inadvertently overwork shortening, and end up with a crumbly crust, precisely because shortening remains soft at so many temperatures. (An all-butter crust, on the other hand, will be more blatantly too-far-gone—the butter starts to melt and you have a gooey mess.)
  • How easy was it to make and work with?: I had difficulty forming the dough into cohesive discs when I used my hands to mix it, but when Allison Buford used a stand mixer (and a bit more water), she had more success. (This guessing game with the amount of necessary liquid? I'd rather skip it.) Once the dough was chilled, it was noticeably firmer than the others—I had to bang it more aggressively before rolling it out, but once I got going, I didn't have a hard time rolling it into a large, thin circle.
  • Texture and taste: This was the flattest, toughest dough of the bunch (neither flaky nor particularly tender), and it scored lowest in the flavor category, as well. I was surprised by just how big of an impact only 1/4 cup of shortening could have on the overall taste. I thought the crust had a vaguely artificial flavor—a fake butteriness that might be distracting when paired with a pie's fillings.
  • The verdict: I have no plans to use shortening in future doughs. Since these discs did hold its shape very well, with minimal puffing and spreading, I do wonder if a shortening-butter crust might actually be better for making intricate lattices and decorations, however.
From this angle, you really can see that the sour cream dough was remarkably tall and flaky—the layers are visible! The shortening dough was the clear loser.

3. All Butter + Some Vinegar:

A winner, in my book. (Egg washed, left; bare, right.) Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • How easy was it to make and work with?: I loved making this dough, even though the recipe does call for dirtying a bench scraper and a pastry blender. While there is value in using your hands to feel the texture of the dough, I find it easier to keep the temperature under control when I'm not warming up the ingredients with my body heat. The dough rolled out easily, cracking in only a few areas.
  • Texture and taste: Again, I was surprised by the impact of a small amount of an ingredient (here, it's vinegar, not shortening)—but this time, pleasantly so! The pie crust had a tang I was not expecting, and was one of the highest-rising doughs in the group: The discs look like biscuits in miniature!
  • The verdict: It might very well be myth that vinegar makes pie dough more tender, but based on these results, if I have vinegar in my pantry, I'll surely be adding it to my pie dough, if only for the very subtle zing it added. The success of this recipe is likely a combination of the ratio of ingredients and the technique. I'd definitely rather fish out my bench scraper and pastry cutter than lug out the food processor—it's nearly as fast, and there's less of a chance of obliterating the butter chunks.
Pie dough carpets. Photo by Mark Weinberg

4. Vodka:

Drunken pie dough. (Egg washed, left; naked, right.) Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • The recipe: Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Crust (as featured in Genius Recipes)
  • What makes it different: Instead of adding 4 tablespoons of water, you'll use 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of vodka. The vodka inhibits gluten formation—making for a tender, more malleable dough—and it evaporates in the oven, which means it leaves no boozy taste behind. And the technique, not just the ingredient list, is convention-bucking: In a food procesor, you'll blend the butter completely into a portion of the flour; then, you'll break those curds up with some additional flour and use a spatula to press in the liquid. As our Creative Director Kristen Miglore wrote in 2013, "this means that the dough is more predictably tender and flaky (since it's based on a more homogenous flour-butter paste rather than jagged bits of cold butter) and easier to roll out too."
  • How easy was it to make and work with?: This rolled out like a dream ("supremely easy!" according to my notes—the best of the bunch). The dough is a bit tacky—I'd recommend rolling it between sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, and allowing it to chill for the full 45 minutes before attempting that endeavor.

  • Texture and taste: While the addition of vodka made for a dough that was flakier than its all-butter, food processor-made counterpart, I didn't notice a big difference between this crust and the butter-vinegar one. I couldn't detect any vodka (obviously), but I did think these discs had a sort of raw, floury taste—I preferred the flavor of the butter-vinegar and the sour cream pie dough circles.

  • The verdict: I wouldn't rush out to buy a bottle of vodka to make this crust, since I preferred the flavor of the butter-vinegar recipe and found the texture to be nearly the same. But if you are having trouble achieving flakiness, give this a try: Many of our commenters have had great success, even if they had been heartbroken by other pie crust recipes in the past. I think it's likely that this dough will provide flaky results to nervous beginners—it seems less volatile than an all-butter dough, be it made by hand or in a machine. And yet, all-butter doughs still have their advantages.

5. Sour Cream:

You can practically count the number of layers. (Egg wash, left; naked, right.) Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • What makes it different: You don't have to sprinkle in any water or liquid—at all! Instead, you'll cut the butter into the flour using your hands, then stir in 1/4 cup of sour cream with a fork. There's no machine and no uncertainty, and straight-from-the-fridge sour cream can help keep your other ingredients cold.

  • How easy was it to make and work with?: I had to add a couple tablespoons of sour cream (two more than the recipe called for) in order to get the dough to come together, and I used the plastic wrap to help maneuver the mixture into a cohesive ball. After the dough chilled, however, it was much easier to work with and presented no issues during the rolling process. I saw that there were streaks of sour cream in the rolled-out round, which I took to be a sign of flakiness to come. (Spoiler alert: I was correct.)

  • Texture and taste: The sour cream rounds were incredibly flaky—perhaps the highest-rising of the bunch. We also liked their flavor—a distinct, but enjoyable, sourness. The dough rounds, however, were inconsistent. Check out that strangely brown specimen in the third row of the rightmost column: What happened there?

  • The verdict: I love this pie crust—distinct layers and big flavor for such little effort—, but it's definitely suited for particular circumstances. Elise of Simply Recipes doesn't recommend par-baking it (the sides will slump and shrink) and the flavor is noticeably tangy—which is something to keep in mind depending on your filling. I'll save this crust recipe for particular circumstances where a bit of tang would contribute to the final result, like cider caramel pie in the fall or a brown sugar peach pie in August.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

And in the end?

The butter-vinegar crust, for its ingredients and its technique, is my winner. It produced consistently tall, flaky results, and I liked the subtle zip that the vinegar lent to the final crust. It's also easy to turn to this as my go-to: I almost always have apple cider vinegar around. Vodka, sour cream, or my beloved cream cheese? That would probably require a special trip to the store. I'm also inclined to skip the food processor—it's so much harder to control the chunks of butter (and so much easier to take the dough just one pulse too far) when you're involving a powerful machine. My preference is for a combination of tools (they stay cool! they provide more coverage!) and hands.

If I do happen to have sour cream—or I'm baking for a special occasion—I'll make Simply Recipes' version. Shortening, see you never (though commenters, if you'd like to make the case otherwise, my ears are open!). And vodka? I'd suggest that recipe and technique to those who have struggled with all-butter pies in the past. The Genius recipe will enable you to use a food processor without overworking the dough—perfect for those looking for a hands-off, very reliable method.


And Now For the Filling

1. Heda's Mostly Blackberry Pie With Hazelnut Crumb Crust

This pie's base is a take on the butter and vinegar crust we talked about above, but with a secret ingredients to give it crunch and a ton of flavor: ground hazelnuts! The filling is a simple, age-old combo of blackberry and blueberry, and on top goes some more hazelnutty pie dough crumbled up with rolled oats.

2. Third-Generation Peach Pie

Flaky, buttery pie crust is laden with mounds of spiced fresh peaches, then scattered with a nutty, oaty crumble topping. The recipe's been in community member Rhonda35's for three generations, so you know it's gotta be good.

3. Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie

Cookbook author and baking expert Rose Levy Beranbaum's done it again—this time, with a dead-simple and highly impactful blueberry pie. The crust is a vinegar–butter number we all know and love, and the filling is pretty much just fresh summer blueberries.

5. Cider Caramel Apple Pie

When autumn rolls around, you obviously need a go-to pie recipe—so why not this cider caramel rendition? It's got tart-sweet Honeycrisp apples, just a hint of sugar, and plenty of butter to add creaminess to the filling as it bakes. All this gets swaddled in a double-crust of all-buttah pie dough—yes, even more butter.

6. Cranberry Sage Pie

Puckery cranberries and woody, earthy sage are paired in this wintertime wonder, and a sweet apple (like a Northern Spy) joins the party, too. An all-butter crust lays the perfect groundwork.


One more for the road

Okay, your turn: What's your favorite pie dough recipe? And what part gives you most the trouble? Tell us in the comments below.

This article was originally published in July 2017, but we're sharing it again because you can never have enough pie.

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Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.

206 Comments

Babs June 18, 2019
The sour cream pie crust was a dream! My 93 y/o dad wanted an apple pie for father’s day, and I needed a great crust. This one was easy to make, roll and was very flaky. It will now be my go-to pie crust!
 
Kallan June 16, 2019
Butter-vinegar does taste great and is easy to work with. I’ve made it for my last 4 pies — both savory and sweet. But in my experience, it shrinks a TON! Disappointed that this review didn’t cover shrinkage even though it was mentioned at the beginning. Any tips for that?
 
Smaug June 16, 2019
Avoiding overworking the dough, keeping hydration to a minimum, using a low protein flour- all of which are aimed at keeping gluten formation to a minimum. None of these will prevent it, but will help. The vodka crust (replacing some of the moisture with alcohol, which won't raise gluten) allows a moister crust, which does handle more easily. Rubbing in some of the shortening (a generic term for whatever fat you use) will help some. Or you can look up an old pie book by Pamela Azquith- she claims that her crusts never shrink, though her recipe seems unextraordinary. Mostly (in my experience), you just learn to adjust for it.
 
Bea August 24, 2019
I find to prevent shrinkage is to chill the pie crust after it's in the pan at least 30 minutes in the freezer . Also adding a tbsp of lemon juice to the dough works well.
 
Cynthia May 28, 2019
I’ve become a convert to weighing ingredients instead of measuring. I don’t want to have to add more sour cream to make an acceptable dough. I just want it to magically happen.
 
Michelle J. May 10, 2019
An elderly friend, born in the 1800s and the best cook I ever knew swore by baking powder. She added just less than 1/4 tsp for a flakey cream every time.
 
cosmiccook February 11, 2019
I forgot to add the WORST part of pie-dough (for me) is the rolling and shaping. I'd HOPED Santa would have brought me Food 52's rolling pin (I'm pining for) and the board with diameters sizes on it. Now those are GENIUS!
 
cosmiccook February 11, 2019
I use Stella Parks easy butter dough recipe. Admittedly, for all my years of baking and cooking pie doughs are my nemesis! Stella gets me the closest. One thing I do w pie doughs--I add flavor in the flour & liquid. citrus zest, Chili powder, herbs Provence or other baking spices depending on the filling. I add bitters to the water, Liquours etc. I get a lot of compliments despite my dough not coming as flaky as I like. I can't seem to find the sweet spot of when to STOP working the dough!
 
Greg February 11, 2019
Just mix your fats and you’ll get the flakey crust you want. Butter for flavor and shortening for the flakey factor. They work differently when it bakes and you’ll get the result you want.

The other secret about pie dough is to NOT work it a lot. That’s what develops the gluten and toughens it up. My grandmother swore by never using her thumbs on the dough since they were stronger and more likely to wire the dough harder.

So get by with as little mixing as possible and roll it out from there.

I use the vodka recipe because they say it makes it even more tender and I can’t dispute that — my crusts are very tender.
 
Sally B. January 16, 2019
I still think you cannot beat butter and Lard crust !
 
harrisson January 16, 2019
#1 choice here too.
 
Dick M. May 10, 2019
I switched to lard sever years ago when Crisco changed its ingredients. lard worked well and then about a year ago someone on his site wrote about how good butter it. I tried butter and like it very much. Most call for unsalted butter ant then add salt. That makes no sense to me. I use good salted butter and it is great. Just add less salt to taste.
 
Abby January 15, 2019
The sour cream and butter pie crust was sensational. I have always bought pie crusts in the past as a few futile attempts left me hopeless. But the sour cream pie crust recipe was perfectly behaved, shockingly easy and very well received. Have already shared the recipe with 5 friends!
 
Leslie V. January 16, 2019
I scrolled thru the above article and did not see the actual recipe for the Sour cream pie crusts. could you share please. thanks
 
Leslie V. January 16, 2019
I found the recipe but not enough pie dough for my 10" pie plates. The vinegar egg recipes uses 3 cups flour. This reg recipe says not so good for a blind crust, too much fat.
 
Leslie V. January 16, 2019
Bon Appetit has one that uses Buttermilk. I will try to locate it and share. Forgot about that recipe until now. Sunday I made 8 batches of the Vinegar and egg recipe, 3 cups flour and 1 1/2 C unsalted butter adding 2 T sugar.... and froze the disks. I have to use the Food processor as i have Arthritis and cannot do it by hand anymore. I was careful to just combine, dumped the dough on the floured board and carefully compacted all the crumbs into a roll, cut in half and flattened into two disks. Baked a !0"peach pie on Monday ..it was great the cowboys said..I did use my canned peach pie filling, 3 quarts.. i had processed last fall.
 
Bea August 24, 2019
It's up there, all you do is add ¼c sour cream instead of water. She added 2 tbsp extra. Look above it's there. Hope that helps.
 
Hollis August 14, 2018
Growing up, we had a yellow plastic bowl, just the right size, that we made pie dough in. We finally wore a hole in a specific spot where the fork would hit as we added water, then 'forked' the dough together to the magic time where in the dough coalesced into a ball. We used whatever flour mother bought, always Crisco, salt and water out of the tap to make our pies. Never had I heard of adding vinegar or vodka; using butter or anything like that. I think making cornbread and pies were the first dishes I learned to cook from Mother and Granny.
 
Smaug July 26, 2018
Having made a lot of pie crusts over the years, I mostly just wing it now; I have never seen the need, or indeed the advisability of producing identical results for a home baker. I have never measured liquid; the great majority of people live in places where humidity varies enough over the course of the year that wood furniture will tear itself apart if not carefully designed to withstand the changes- it's rather ingenuous to suppose that the moisture level of your flour will be consistent. This is also one of several reasons that weighing ingredients isn't as infallible as people seem to believe. I might add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg if it seems appropriate, or sugar- very small quantities can make a big difference. I sometimes add different sorts of liquor- such as rum or bourbon, if the flavor seems appropriate. If I have sour cream or cream cheese open, or left over egg yolks, I might use those. I also find it a more interesting challenge to roll out and use the crust without trimming than to go for a perfectly uniform border- pie making should be fun; I'm not running a bakery (which needs uniform results for commercial reasons). An infinite number of combinations produce excellent results if you're sensitive to how the dough is behaving and adjust your technique appropriately. It is simply not practical for a home cook to make hundreds of trial crusts under controlled conditions in hope of reaching some sort of abstract "ideal"- if cooking stops being a learning process, it becomes drudgery.
 
AnnieO November 22, 2018
Even tho this is an older post I feel compelled to comment about the underlying elitist nature of your post. The author conducted a very legitimate test, as BAKING is more science than nurture like cooking is. You called out the author as being stupid for her test shame on you.
 
Smaug November 23, 2018
It's unfortunate that the nature of my post eluded you, but surely in the future you could manage without gratuitous insults.
 
Bea August 24, 2019
That was rude. Smaug's comment in no way called out the author as stupid.
 
Dr C. July 23, 2018
My mother made the flakiest, most tender, delicious pie crust using flour, lard, a smidgen of salt and a little ice water. It never failed and her pies were famous, especially her sour cherry pie. She gave me the recipe. I used it time after time and went out and bought a cake.
When I was in my late twenties, I found a "never-fail" recipe in a Farm Journal cookbook. It called for vinegar and an egg. I tried it and never looked back! Now my pie is famous, especially lemon meringue. Pioneer Woman on the Food Channel makes a glorious peach slab pie. I use her filling recipe with "my" pie crust and it is absolutely killer!
 
Linda S. July 26, 2018
Could you be persuaded to share the recipe?????
 
Jaye B. September 18, 2018
Yes, would like to see this recipe!
 
Debbie November 18, 2018
Would like recipe if you want to share.
 
mudd April 27, 2019
This sounds just like a dough recipe I found in a old ny times cookbook which was all old time American recipes egg plus cider vinegar added
 
mudd April 28, 2019
Here’s pie dough w/beaten egg and cider vinegar
3 c flour
1.5 c butter (cut in 1/4 inch chunks and frozen)
1 tsp salt
1 egg,beaten
5 tbls water
1 tblsp cider vinegar

Work butter with fingertips into flour till it looks like oatmeal. Mix egg, water and vinegar together and kind of fluff into flour w/fork just enough so dough starts to come together. Dump onto plastic wrap and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Wrap separately and chill
 
saltairelife August 8, 2019
Thanks. I am going to try this.
 
harrisson June 12, 2018
Retired pastry chef: Advice from my mother and grandmother- keep every ingredient as cold as possible and handle the dough minimally, just enough to bring it together.
Experience taught me: Use all butter or combine shortening and butter with vodka as the binder from Cooks Illustrated.
Important: wrap the dough discs in plastic and rest in freezer or refrigerator for at least an hour but better overnight.....resting covers a multitude of sins...I make my dough in the food processor, 1st dry pulsed, then shortening pulsed in lightly, then frozen butter cubed pulsed in to large pea size, then vodka pulsed in until just holding together.(do not over work), then make into discs, wrap, refrigerate/freeze and rest......It ALWAYS works well.
 
Leslie V. June 4, 2018
Any High Altitude pie dough suggestions, here? Not all of us live at sea level., remember.
now to my thoughts.
I am thinking of 1/2 cold lard butter and vodka. salt sugar and maybe a pinch of baking powder.
 
Leslie V. June 4, 2018
Also when Shortening is mentioned, do you mean white or butter flavored, and what brand..?
Thanks.
 
Nicholas P. June 3, 2018
Odd that the one thing not tried was lard which makes such a different pie dough as to be almost unbelievable. The texture is so short it melts in the mouth, and yet somehow gives the feeling of flaky as well. The downside being that it is also incredibly soft and can be difficult to work with. In the end, it's totally worth it, however. You would do well to repeat this using lard as one of the variables.
 
Nicholas P. June 3, 2018
I didn't even read the comment just below from Rachel, whom I now consider my kindred spirit.
 
Rachel June 1, 2018
The article itself was interesting but the comments have been fantastic to read through as well. I, for one, use half lard/half butter, and vodka and ice shaken together in a cocktail shaker.

Strain the ice cold vodka over the lard/butter after you've cut it into the flour. I also like to crack an egg in the bottom and swirl it around to help form a barrier for a juicy fruit-based pie filling. Sarah, I do hope you would consider a follow up article that talks about trying out some of these combos (e.g. try using lard... the lard and ginger ale sounded interesting, the recipe someone suggested that uses an egg, etc.).
 
Greg April 21, 2018
According to Cooks Illustrated, from which the vodka recipe came from, the vodka helps make the crust more tender. For those people not wanting to use lard, the vodka with shortening and butter may help the flakey-tender factor.

Not everyone wants to cook with pig fat...
 
Dick M. April 21, 2018
I cant imagine what the vodka does that would be beneficial. I have tried the vinegar but dont care for the tang. Crisco used to be a good way to go until they changed the type of fat they used in production. Been doing pie crust for over 60 years and find that lard does the best job. Butter is good but lard will still make the most tender and flaky crust without question.
 
Dennis O. May 27, 2018
You are so right about lard. I am a retired chef and the lard was a way of life in the early days and it lost out when lard became harder on people to adjust when butter came into the baking world.
 
Smaug July 26, 2018
What the vodka does is wet the dough partially with alcohol rather than water; gluten is not alcohol soluble, so the crust can be made wetter(and thus easier to handle) without raising gluten unduly.
 
Secilia D. April 12, 2018
The problem with the vodka recipe in this article is technique. No butter chunks, no/little flake. Always use a pastry blender! My pie crust recipe is all butter, all vodka, because with no water there's less gluten formation.

Cut the fat in with two knives or a pastry blender, then toss the dough together with a fork, adding ice cold vodka a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Form a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least half an hour. Rolls out well, but is a little stickier than most pie crusts, so be sure to heavily flour the bench and rolling pin.
 
Shannon C. April 18, 2018
I agree with you, the vodka is the key. (But I do all lard, all vodka and is extremely easy to work with, but that is probably also because I'm in an arid climate.)
 
Karen V. April 7, 2018
THIS IS SUCH AN EXTRAORDINARY AND HELPFUL ARTICLE. THANK YOU SO MUCH!
 
Elyn April 8, 2018
I agree! Thank you for all your hard work!

 
LadyHawk April 6, 2018
I already know mine is the best. I judge by the compliments.