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Par-baking a pie crust can sometimes feel like a magic trick gone wrong. Into the oven goes a tall, perfectly crimped dough, and out comes a shrunken-down crust that barely reaches the top of the pan. What gives?
It’s easy to assume the problem lies with the dough itself — maybe it was rolled too thin, or it didn’t rest for long enough. And while either could be true, the more likely culprit is actually much easier to solve for: You’re simply not using enough pie weights!
This aha moment was shared by expert pie baker and cookbook author Erin McDowell this past weekend during Kitchn’s virtual Thanksgiving Food Fest. While walking us through her Cardamom Crème Brûlée Pie — which she says is already one of the most popular recipes from her new book, The Book on Pie — she revealed that what many people assume is a shrunken crust is actually just a slumped one, caused by too few weights. Here’s how to do it right.
A Pan Filled with Pie Weights Is the Key to Better Pie Crust
Erin explained that the job of pie weights is two-fold: to weigh down the bottom of the crust and to provide support to the sides. Don’t be misled by the small containers of pie weights sold in stores — every time you par-bake a pie, you should fill the pie plate all the way to the top edge with weights. This rule holds true no matter what type of pie weights you use, from dried beans to sugar to ceramic weights.
Wondering when par-baking (or partially baking) is necessary? Erin says anytime you’re baking a pie that has a wet filling, you’ll want to give the pie crust a head-start to crisp up, because it wont bake sufficiently in the amount of time it takes for the custard to bake. And remember: Par-baking is different than blind baking, which is when you’re fully baking the crust. Blind baking is used when the filling is cold set (or never goes into the oven), like lemon curd.
You’ll know your pie is properly par-baked if it looks set, not doughy, and you can easily rotate it and remove it from the pan. If the dough sticks to the bottom of the pan, that means it’s soggy and needs more time. Erin’s rule of thumb is to par-bake the crust at 425°F for 12 to 15 minutes with the weights on, then another three to four minutes without the weights.