Slumping, Sagging, Soggy Pie Crust? Four Tips for Baking Perfect Pies

Preventing these pie crust disasters are key to a successful baking day.

Many of us assess the success of our pie on the success of the crust, no matter the type of filling, and can feel vexed and disappointed when our pie shell slumps or sags in the pie pan, or turns out soggy on the bottom. Here are some tips for making attractive and effective pastry pie shells.

Single-Crust Pie Pastry
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Make Sure the Pastry is Large Enough

Whether rolling out a homemade crust or turning to the quick convenience of a store-bought pastry roll, make sure the round is large enough to cover the rim of the pie pan. There needs to be sufficient pastry overhang to turn under and press firmly against the rim to hold it in place, and to make an attractive crimped edge. Some brands of store-bought pastry rolls are sized for a shallow pie tin and will not reach the rim of a larger deep-dish pie plate.

Chill Your Pie Shell

Chill the pie shell until firm before placing it in the oven, whether it's empty or filled. Cold pastry going into a hot oven is key to a flaky crust, and a chilled empty pie shell is less likely to slip down as it bakes.

Weigh Down Your Pie Crust

Use pie weights when partially or fully baking an empty pie shell, a technique known as blind baking. The pie weights help hold the pastry in place so that it can't sag or slump as it bakes. For generations we've been told that dry, uncooked beans or rice make great pie weights, or we've bought ceramic pie weights or a metal pie chain. But in recent years, innovative pastry chefs have turned to sugar instead. Yes, plain granulated sugar. Line the pie shell with a sheet of foil (not parchment) large enough to cover the rim of the pie pan. Use overlapping sheets, if necessary. Fill the pastry to the rim with sugar, pressing it firmly so that it fills every corner, which most pie weights cannot do, plus the sugar is heavier than rice or beans, so it makes a better weight. Bake the crust at 350°F for one hour or until deep golden brown. (This is different from the traditional method of starting the baking with a few minutes high heat followed by lower heat. The high temps actually cause the pastry to shrink and slip.) The granulated sugar will turn golden brown in the oven as well, but it is fine to use in other recipes, although some bakers prefer to reserve this toasted sugar to reuse solely in blind baking.

Go With Glass

Use a glass pie plate and a baking sheet to help a filled, unbaked pie shell brown on the bottom. Some pie fillings, such as pumpkin and other wet, eggy fillings, go into an unbaked pie shell. To encourage the bottom of the crust to bake evenly and sufficiently, use a glass pie plate instead of a metal pie tin. Also, place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up while the oven preheats. Baking the pie on the hot metal baking sheet instead of the oven rack will help brown the bottom of the pie shell.

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