Pie Weights: What They Are and How To Use Them
No soggy bottoms here.
It's pie season, y'all. And by that we mean: It's always pie season. We can't think of a time of year when a perfectly-baked pie doesn't hit the spot. In the summer, we use up all those fresh berries and stone fruits in juicy, lattice-topped wonders. In the fall, apple and pumpkin continue to steal our hearts year after year. There are the vintage pies, the regional recipes, and the seasonal stunners. All this to say: It's always a good time for pie.
Mastering the art of pie, however, is tricky business. Pie is a notoriously finicky dessert, composed of multiple elements—from crispy crusts to creamy fillings and a slew of toppings—that each require different bake times, temperatures, and techniques. If you've been hesitant to dive head-first into the world of pie-baking, consider today your starting point. We're here to break down everything you need to know about one of the foundational tools in baking pie: pie weights.
First thing's first: What is blind baking?
Blind baking is the step of par-baking a pie crust or tart shell before adding the filling. This preliminary bake helps to keep the bottom of the pie crust crisp and sturdy, preventing the filling from leaking down. It's crucial when making fruit pies in the summer or pecan pies in the fall: Poured over raw pie dough, these particularly juicy fillings can compromise the integrity of your pie, leaving you with the dreaded soggy bottom. Your recipe might also call for a blind-baked crust if the filling is not cooked. Get the full lowdown on blind baking a pie crust here.
What are pie weights?
Pie weights are small ceramic or metal balls specifically designed to weigh down your pie crust during the step of blind baking. This keeps the pastry that will form the bottom of your pie flat and level, resulting in smooth, even layers of crust and filling. Simply cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the pie crust and fill the parchment paper with pie weights.
Here's the lowdown: Pie dough—a flaky, buttery pastry—has the natural propensity to puff and bubble in the oven. Weighing it down with pie weights helps the shell keep its shape and prevents any air pockets from forming. You can order pie weights on Amazon for just $12.99; this tool will seriously upgrade your pie-baking game.
When should I use pie weights?
If your recipe calls for a blind-baked pie crust, you'll almost always want to use pie weights to weigh the crust down and prevent it from puffing up. Now, there are a few exceptions to the rule; not all recipes that call for blind baking will require the use of pie weights. Since pie weights are designed primarily to weigh down flaky pastry, pies with any type of crushed cracker crust—from graham cracker to Oreo—likely won't call for the use of pie weights. This is because these types of crusts, like the saltine crust in Bill Smith's famed Atlantic Beach Pie, will stay compact as-is.
And not all pies call for a blind-baked crust: Some pies, like our summery Watermelon Pie will simply require a press-in crust. In other pies without extra-juicy fillings, you can bake the components all together.
Pie weight substitutes
If you're not ready to invest in pie weights, not to worry. Plenty of common household materials will do the trick; many home bakers will use dried beans as pie weights. Some substitutes for pie weights are dried beans, rice, or popcorn kernels.