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Our favorite pie crust recipe uses butter and shortening for the best flavor and an oh-so-flaky texture.

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Credit: Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christine Keely, Food Stylist: Ana Kelly

Recipe Summary

active:
25 mins
total:
1 hr 26 mins
Yield:
1 pie crust
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You're only 25 minutes of hands-on time away from flaky, buttery pie crust that will make you question why you ever bought pre-made crusts. We promise. In this Perfect Pie Crust recipe, you can choose to work with a food processor to cut fat into the mixture faster or opt to work it out by hand. The fun begins once you've preheated the oven and floured your pie plate. Add your own personal touch to this homemade pie crust by shaping and crimping the dough. 

This simple and satisfying pie crust recipe is easy to master, and you may find yourself signing up to bring homemade pies to more potlucks than ever before. Especially when you use it with some of our old-fashioned, Southern pie favorites, like our Classic Southern Buttermilk Pie. Your friends and family will thank you by slicing a second piece.

How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust

While some find pastry intimidating, making pie dough involves six ingredients (one is water) and only three steps. You'll need flour, sugar, salt, cold butter, cold shortening and ice water. 

A crucial step is incorporating the flour and the fat. Most recipes stress that the fat should be cold to ensure a flaky crust. To cut the cold butter and shortening into the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt), you can use either a pastry cutter, two butter knives, or a food processor, as we call for in this recipe. Whichever method you use, combine the fat into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal or small breadcrumbs. The fat should be evenly distributed in the flour mixture, and no large chunks should be present. 

Add ice water to keep the dough chilled and prevent the fat from melting in the flour. Suppose you're making pies in the summer, or in an especially hot kitchen. You may want to put your fat and flour mixture in the refrigerator before adding the water to prevent any additional melting.

pie crust with pie weights
Credit: Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Ana Kelly

In this recipe, we call for par-baking, or blind baking, the crust so that it's partially cooked before you add a filling. It's a quick process—we call for baking the crust just 8 minutes. But this very important step will help ensure the bottom of the crust remains crisp and snappy, not soggy.

If you're making a recipe that doesn't call for par-baking, you can skip step 3 of the recipe below. You'll make the pie crust dough, chill it, roll it out, and then fill the pie plate. From there, follow your recipe's instructions on filling and baking.

Should I Blend the Dough by Food Processor or by Hand?

A food processor is recommended for newer pie dough makers, as it can evenly distribute the fat through the flour. Some folks who have more experience may enjoy working the fat into the flour by hand as they can feel when the butter and lard are adequately incorporated, though this is a honed skill.  

A pastry cutter, a handheld tool with several rounded blades at the end, is an affordable option between a food processor and your hands. It may require more elbow grease but simply move the tool through the fat and flour until incorporated.

Should You Use Butter or Shortening for Pie Crust?

This recipe uses a combination of butter and shortening, as our Test Kitchen has found the combination of fats provides the best flavor and texture. Butter is often preferred in pie dough as it provides rich flavor. Conversely, it can be more challenging to work with as it melts quickly (we don't want this when making dough, see above). Shortening lacks flavor but produces a tender, flaky pie crust and is much easier to work with. 

Some recipes also call for lard, which is the rendered fat from pigs' kidneys. Lard has a distinct savory flavor which sometimes doesn't work well with sweet pies. But it does create a super flaky crust and can be easier to work with than butter.  

Why Is My Pie Crust Tough?

Pie dough is like Goldilocks; too little and the dough won't come together; too much dough will be overworked; just right is that illusory place we're aiming for.

The dough will toughen if you overwork, mix too much, add too much water, or roll it out. Learning where "too much" is takes practice. Keeping the fat cold, the water icy, and being mindful of how much you're mixing the fat and flour are also crucial. 

Can You Make Pie Dough Ahead of Time?

Pie dough can be stored in the refrigerator for three days. It should be wrapped in an airtight zip-top bag or in plastic wrap. It can also be kept sealed in the freezer for three months.

Thaw pie dough by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight. Depending on how cold your fridge is, the dough should be left on the counter before working with it. If the dough is too warm, it will stick to the rolling pin and dough that's too cold will crack.

Editorial Contributions by Alexandra Emanuelli.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined, 3 or 4 pulses. Add cubed butter and shortening; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 pulses. Drizzle 4 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Pulse until dough clumps together, 4 or 5 pulses, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary. Gently shape dough into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.

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  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle (about 1/8 inch thick) on a flour surface. Fit into a lightly greased (with cooking spray) 9-inch pie plate, and crimp edges. Prick bottom and sides with a fork. Line pastry with parchment paper; fill with pie weights or dried beans.

  • Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment; bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer crust to a wire rack; cool completely, about 8 minutes.

Tips

This recipe originally appeared in our November 2021 issue.

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