Christmas

Cook's Country Pie Crust

August 12, 2021
4 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

Let's face it: There's a bit of effort involved making an entire pie from scratch at home, but the end result is well worth it, and you'll be so proud of the end result. Sometimes it can be difficult to get that crust juuuuust right though, with perfect flakiness and the signature golden brown color, and that's why we turn to this recipe again and again whenever the time comes. Be it for Thanksgiving, a pie-lover's birthday, or you're just aching to take on a baking project, using this recipe from Cook's Illustrated will surely never let you down—and that's saying a lot for a homemade pie crust!

We tested a bunch of different pie crusts, and our tester came to a couple different conclusions about this recipe: "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 processor, 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.

"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." —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Cook's Country Pie Crust
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Makes 1 pie crust
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for the surface
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cold vodka
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a food processor, process ¾ cup of the flour, the sugar, and salt until combined, about 2 (1-second) pulses. Add the butter and shortening and process for about 10 seconds, until a homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps (the dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and redistribute the dough evenly around the processor blade. Add ½ cup flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl and the mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix and press down until the dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten the dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 425°F.
  4. On a generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface, roll the dough to 12-inch circle about ⅛ inch thick. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and unroll into a pie plate, leaving at least a 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around the circumference, ease the dough into the plate by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the plate bottom with your other hand. Leave the overhanging dough in place. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, until the dough is firm.
  5. Trim the overhang to ½ inch beyond the lip of the pie plate. Fold the overhang under itself; the folded edge should be flush with the edge of the pie plate. Flute the dough or press the tines of a fork against the dough to flatten it against the rim of the pie plate. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm.
  6. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, rotate the plate, and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the crust is golden brown and crisp.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
  • Piper Foulon
    Piper Foulon
  • Terri
    Terri
  • garlic and zest
    garlic and zest
  • KC
    KC
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

118 Reviews

Rosalind P. December 25, 2021
Oops. Sorry -- the later, "utterly foolproof, ultimate" -- their words -- pie dough recipe was in the January/February 2018 issue. Here's the link. They are a subscription publication but maybe you get a few free? https://www.cooksillustrated.com/magazines/232-january-slash-february-2018/recipes
 
Rosalind P. December 25, 2021
Correction. The more recent Cook's best pie crust was in the November 2017 issue. Flaky, crisp, tender..
 
Rosalind P. December 25, 2021
This is the recipe/method that turned me into a pie baker! But I did NOT use vegetable shortening. Made it with all butter. Better tasting and no hydrogenated fat. Worked perfectly. BUT Cook's devised an even better foolproof pie crust years later (I think 2018?) Completely different approach. All butter, even flakier and truly so easy. Find it with a search...Cook's Illustrated flakes all butter pie crust
 
MoMoWack December 28, 2020
I've been using this pie crust recipe for many, many years,...since it first appeared on CI. It's just the best, super easy, and has never failed me once.
My tricks are:
I freeze the butter and shortening pieces.
I use ice-cold water and vodka.
I weigh everything, even the finished dough, and divide it into 2 equal pieces.
I follow the timing instructions for the food processor to the T.
I use Gold Medal, all-purpose flour.
Lately, when I make a batch of crust I will turn around and make another batch or two and put the discs in the freezer, since the processor is already dirty. I wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap, freeze them flat, and then place them in a Ziplock freezer bag. They will keep for 6 months. I usually make a pie every month, and it's really handy to have pie dough ready without having to make it and clean up the mess. It takes a lot longer to clean the food processor than it does to make pie dough.
 
NXL November 15, 2020
I decided to learn how to make pie crust while homebound due to Covid: This recipe worked perfectly the first time and each time since! I feel like a pro!
 
LFK October 2, 2020
Wow...tried blind baking the crust with weights (dry beans) and parchment paper at 350 F for an hour (SEE: https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/10/print/how-to-blind-bake-a-pie-crust.html). I placed the pie plate on a rimmed aluminum baking sheet on top of a pizza stone, both pre-heated in the oven to 350 F. The crust was golden, crispy, and totally cooked through!! Next time I might use a pie shield to prevent the rim from getting overly browned, but this technique is my new go to for blind baking. I may try preheating the oven to 375 F and dropping the temperature to 350 to get the bottom of the crust even crisper.
 
Piper F. June 20, 2020
My pie doughs looking super smooth and the water/vodka did not incorporate very well. Super nervous but we'll see.
 
Ksmetamaid April 24, 2020
I love the texture of this crust, but the problem I have is that the crimping sags to the point of falling off the sides of the pie pan after going into the oven. This has happened to me 2-3 times. This last time I chilled it in the fridge for about an hour after crimping and before blind baking.
 
LFK February 27, 2020
Blind baked the crust by placing it on a rimmed baking sheet on top of a pizza stone. Unfortunately, 15 minutes after removing the parchment paper and weighting beans with an additional 5 minutes, the crust puffed and hadn't browned. I'm going to continue increasing the baking time with the crust weighted down to see if I can get something crisper.

I used a pastry cloth, a cloth rolling pin sleeve, and lots of flour, and the dough rolled out like a dream. I also waited until the chilled dough reached 65 F before rolling.
 
Smaug February 27, 2020
This crust is very high fat- if you want crisper, you might try a more traditional ratio of 3 flour to 1 fat(by volume). It's normal for bubbles to form after the weights are removed- it's usually necessary to keep an eye on the crust and puncture any bubbles with a fork as they form.
 
LFK February 27, 2020
The rim of the crust was browned, crisp and perfect!
 
milebrum May 20, 2018
I am NOT a baker. Honestly, the only thing I've ever baked was a simple chocolate brownie, last year, for my birthday. I've been expanding my horizons with cooking lately so a few days ago I decided to make a lemon meringue pie using this crust recipe to celebrate that my brother got his PhD! (it's his favourite cake!). My stress levels were high, I had to use a 12-inch pie plate, I don't own a food processor so I winged the first part of the recipe, and I had a couple of freak outs (how tacky is too tacky?!). Against all odds, this crust turned out PERFECT! It didn't break, tasted super good and I got compliments on how crumbly and flakey it was. I'm super proud of myself and I have to say: thanks to this recipe my brother got the celebratory cake of his dreams! <3

PS. This video was extremely helpful and I encourage anyone struggling with stretching out or lifting the dough to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcxQ4-Fo4xA
 
milebrum May 20, 2018
Also forgot to mention I didn't have vegetable shortening so I substituted it with butter and took some liquid out to make up for it, worked out fine!
 
Terri November 28, 2017
Could you use vodka with an all-butter crust? I've been experimenting with different crusts lately, always on a quest to find the perfect crust.
 
garlic A. November 10, 2017
Dough was so soft that it wouldn't lift off the well-floured counter in one piece and fell apart. Tried to cut into strips for lattice, but every time I tried lifting, they broke. Tried pie cutters for decoration, they stuck. Just rolled out the top crust and placed on the apple pie -- so soft it cracked over the apples. We'll see what happens in the oven.
 
Kathleen August 13, 2017
I did not want to try this, but against my better judgment I did. I've been making pies for decades but seem to have recently lost my touch. I followed this recipe to the letter, watching the video several times. Success! It was beautiful! What a tender, wonderfully browned finished pastry. I made a very deep dish fresh peach pie with a top crust and had enough dough left over to make another one crust pie at another time. The pie received rave reviews from friends and my husband. No problem with the amount of liquid, but I did let the dough refrigerate overnight.
 
Martin January 12, 2018
Wait, what video are you talking about? I don't see any.
 
jay June 4, 2019
just copy the web address, paste it in your address bar and hit Enter. It will take you to the correct video.
 
KC January 9, 2017
Dough too wet, after refrigeration too stiff to roll out without breaking. Not holding out much hope for this one. Certainly not foolproof.
 
bas26 January 13, 2017
The second time I made this I used less liquid and it came out fine. After I take it out of the fridge, I let it sit for about 15 minutes and it rolls out perfectly.
 
bas26 December 7, 2016
The first time I tried this, it got very tacky and too soft. It was just a little hard to work because it got soft while I was rolling and I had to refrigerate it in order to roll it out without it slumping. It's easy to patch and came out fine. Does anyone know if this can be frozen and for how long?
 
Susan R. December 7, 2016
I freeze mine all the time. Sometimes in disc form and sometimes in the pie pan. I either use the vacuum sealer or just wrap the heck out of it. I've kept it in the freezer for up to 6 months and haven't noticed a problem.
 
bas26 December 7, 2016
Thank you!!!
 
jenny November 18, 2016
Hi I've never purchased instant mashed potato flakes before - I got these in link below will these work? http://idahoan.com/products/idahoan-original-mashed-potatoes/
 
Smaug November 3, 2016
The Vodka thing works well enough, though I think it's better to learn a standard crust. You can also use other liquors, with appropriate flavors. You can also use it with a more standard technique; all this flapdoodle with the food processor is unnecessary.
 
Marie December 11, 2016
There's the world as it should be, and the world as it is. I live in the world as it is...which is to say, I'm a total failure at "standard crust" pies. I've tried them over and over again. Every time I think "this one is the one that will be good with a nice, flaky crust," inevitably it is not. I have a cracker for a crust again. So this cheater crust with the vodka is where I live. I'd very much like to master the real deal, but after so many failed attempts, I've given up. And normally, I'm not a quitter, but since this alternative exists....eh, why not?
 
Smaug January 10, 2017
I fully agree with the "why not"- there's no major down side to this, it's just better not to have to depend on it, and pie crust technique will get you a long way with other pastries. Another one you might try- Rose Levy Barenbaum's "perfectly soft and flaky" crust- like many of her recipes, this is a little elaborate but the instructions are meticulous and it will work. I personally find it a little too soft, but that's just me.
 
pattyposy August 4, 2016
Suggest looking in your local supermarket or hardware store for clear Pyrex bowls, almost 5" in diameter. They are usually sold in sets, are long-lasting and versatile.
 
Martie August 4, 2016
Where can i purchase 5" round containers to bake small pot pues??
 
VVV03 November 1, 2015
Mine dough, when it came out of the food processor, wasn't even close to "dough". It looked more like lumpy flour. I had to add more water than called for to make it come together and the rolled out product wasn't easily workable. Also, the bottom crust was a little tough. So here are my questions -- I doubled the recipe as I was making an apple pie. Is this recipe not one that lends itself to being doubled? also, is it possible that the bottom was tough because I pre-baked it as directed? When it comes to pie crust, I sadly confirm the maxim that nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
 
jay June 4, 2019
it's a good possibility that you may have put in the whole amount of flour to start with. Actually, and they do not give you a heads up, you are supposed to put in 3/4 C flour to start, and then later in the recipe the rest of it is added. That might make a difference/