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20 Tips for the Best Pie Crust Recipe, According to a Professional Chef

Written by the YesChef staff

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Nancy Silverton
Teaches The Pursuit of Delicious
Learn how to make the best pie crust recipe with a list of tried and true tips that results in a crisp, buttery, flaky dough every time. Become the star of the show at your next holiday party or casual get-together.
Chef Nancy Silverton
Teaches The Pursuit of Delicious

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Chef Nancy Silverton shares her professional baking tips so you can learn how to make an unforgettable homemade pie crust. Trust us when we say your family, friends, and whoever is eating this pie, will thank you.

Butter vs shortening: What is better for pie crust?

While Nancy prefers an all-butter pie crust, shortening and lard have higher melting points, which tends to make for an even flakier crust. Butter, however, has the richest flavor

What are the four ingredients to make a pastry pie crust?

The four ingredients for pastry crust are flour, salt, fat, and water. Chef Nancy Silverton takes it a step further with heavy cream. Read through the tips below, then watch her make her double pie crust recipe in her lesson, Mom’s Apple Pie.

Essential tips for easy pie crust recipe

  1. Freeze the butter. Freezing the butter cubes helps incorporate the butter into the flour without it melting. This is especially handy when using a stand mixer or food processor.
  2. Or, use your fingertips. If you are going to make the dough by hand, there is no need to freeze the butter. Just use your fingertips, the coolest part of your hand.
  3. Make a little bit more versus a little bit less. The best way to enhance your pie crust skills is with practice. Practice makes perfect pie crust, so consider this your excuse to have some extra dough hanging about in your freezer. Nancy even recommends it. Who knows when you’ll want to whip up an impromptu pie!
  4. Add just enough liquid until the dough comes together. Every brand of flour absorbs moisture differently. That’s why water measurements in every pie dough recipe states “plus more as needed.” 
  5. Don’t mix the dough too much. Unlike bread dough, we do not want any gluten formation. Pie crust should be tender and flaky, so it’s always best to under mix versus over mixing the dough.
  6. Disk it and chill. Flatten the dough into a disk and cool it down in the fridge for at least a few hours and up to overnight. It’s much easier to work with cold dough rather than dough that is room temperature. When it’s room temperature, it gets extremely sticky and you end up adding too much flour when rolling it out.
  7. Make the dough in advance and store it. The dough will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. After that, the butter will start to pick up odors from the fridge. For longer storage, freeze for up to three months.
  8. Use a large, marble countertop that’s not too high. If you have access to a marble countertop, use that! Marble is extra cold and great for rolling out pastry dough. You’ll also want the work space low enough so you can really get the weight of your body on top of the dough.
  9. Pound before rolling. Work with the dough gently to bring it up to temperature, then pound as thin as possible to get it much closer to the thickness you want. This will cut down the rolling time. 
  10. Roll dough like a pro. Start at the center and never roll off. Then, roll forward then back, starting from the center. Stop just before you reach the edge.
  11. Sticking prevention with the turn and lift. After every roll, gently lift and turn the dough a quarter-turn to prevent stickage.
  12. Don’t massage the dough. The palms are the warmest part of your hands while fingertips are the coolest part, so it’s best to touch the dough with fingertips only. You can use your hands, however, to warm up the dough only if it starts to crack. Cracked dough is a sign the dough is too cold. 
  13. Keep it thicker for pie. Most American-style pies require a thicker crust. A French tart or pâte brisée recipe, on the other hand, can be rolled fairly thin.
  14. Rest is best. Resting the dough before cutting will allow it to relax. If not, it will shrink back when cutting.
  15. Cut at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) wider than the pie pan. You’ll want to cut the dough wider than the pan to account for overhang. If you’re a serious baker, chef Nancy Silverton recommends investing in a set of graduated circles available at specialty baking shops.
  16. Ease the dough into the corners of the mold for a gorgeous, sharp edge. Do not force it in as it will shrink back during baking.
  17. Go for mile-high apple pie. Generously fill the mini pie shells with the caramelized apple filling. We’re talking overfilled. Then, lay on the top crust and create an even, rounded shape with your hands.
  18. Trim, roll, and crimp. Trim the excess dough with a pair of scissors, which is much easier than a knife. Roll the edges underneath itself and crimp with your fingers.
  19. Egg wash shimmer. Brush with egg wash which will create a deep, golden color. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar that will add another glimmer of shine.
  20. Always cut a steam hole in a double-crusted apple pie crust recipe. Creating a steam hole in the center allows steam to escape. We want crispy, not soggy, and a steam hole will help achieve this.

Nancy Silverton

Multiple James Beard Award-winning chef, best-selling cookbook author, and the restaurateur behind Michelin-starred Mozza, a Los Angeles gastronomic institution. One of America’s most influential chefs, Nancy is celebrated for her unwavering pursuit of making the most delicious food possible.

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