Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust

November 12, 2013


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

Makes: 1 pie crust

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vodka, cold
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Directions

  1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.

More Great Recipes:
Pie|Vodka|Christmas|Thanksgiving

Reviews (105) Questions (4)

105 Reviews

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<br /><br />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.
 
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/<br />
 
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 B. 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.
 
Ashley July 20, 2015
Mark, your tip below is one of the best kitchen tips I have ever received but it is so simple that I can't believe I didn't think of it myself. The disk only takes minutes to freeze and thaw again. Genius!
 
Mark November 30, 2014
Less work to roll chilled dough out between two sheets of parchment paper (spritz of non-stick spray will help with removal) then freeze the rolled out dough in the parchment. This can be done days ahead and is ready when you are. Just peel the paper off the frozen dough "disc" and center the dough on the pie pan. Let thaw a few minutes before gently lifting the edges to settle the dough into the pan, then flute. Fantastic crust! I endured a few "disasters" with rolling and transferring the sticky dough, before I discovered this trick.
 
Jennifer November 28, 2014
Fantastic crust. I found it very difficult to roll out (even after refrigerating)--but the end result was flaky, tender, tasty, the best...
 
GreenKitchen November 24, 2014
What size pie pan? Is this recipe large enough for a 10" deeper pan?
 
Mark November 30, 2014
It worked fine for my 10 inch Dutch Apple with crumb topping. Just couldn't flute the edges as high, which didn't matter.
 
Sherry September 9, 2014
Can this be used to make lattice crusts?
 
Cindy September 9, 2014
I don't see why not?
 
Sherry September 24, 2014
I realize now that it was a pretty goofy question, haha. It worked really well for lattice... I just remember ATK saying at some point (not sure if it was the video or not) that it was a very tacky crust. So I was afraid it would be too tacky to work with for the lattice. It was just fine, though!
 
Luvtocook July 13, 2014
In my humble opinion, par-baking a pie shell has the advantage of firming up the pie dough before a filling is added, promoting crispness. Lately I've been par-baking pie crusts (even for as little as 5 to 10 minutes at 425) for nearly everything...from quiches to fruit pies.
 
joann July 9, 2014
So...you have to bake the pie crust PRIOR to using pie filling (i.e. apples, apricots, peaches, etc.)? Couldn't you put the pie filling in the pie & then cook it all at once? *sorry if this is a stupid question, but I'm very new to making pies.
 
Augustina R. July 8, 2014
The trick to this pie crust is to add ALL the water. It will seem to wet and sticky but remember, the vodka will evaporate in cooking. I made the mistake of not adding enough liquid and my crust came out too dry.<br /><br />I use home rendered leaf lard from pastured pigs for my shortening. I buy the raw lard from the Farmers' Market but butchers usually have it too.
 
john G. November 16, 2015
Lard makes a great crust. I use 4 ounces butter to 1 ounce lard to 1 1/4 cups flour. Easy as pie. I use vodka in ice cream custards; keeps the finished ice cream from developing ice crystals. Not sure about the vodka. My pie is perfect every time. But I understand about the two additions of flour. IN theory you want larger and smaller pieces of fat worked into the flour--this creates flakiness<br />
 
Marie B. December 11, 2016
Augustina, if you happen to read this, you've reminded me of Melissa Clark's article on her leaf lard pie: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/dining/15crus.html I still remember her phrase that it was a "culinary Everest I felt no need to climb twice." Check it out if you have a chance.
 
Smaug November 10, 2017
Bless you for using the word "shortening" properly.
 
Leslie S. March 16, 2014
This was fantastic! I doubled the recipe to make an apple pie for Pi Day on Friday, and it was probably the best homemade crust recipe I've encountered. Flavorful, flaky yet sturdy.