This flakey pie crust works perfect for both savory and sweet pies. Everyone will be complimenting you on the crust just as much as the pie itself.
For the longest time I could not figure out the secret to a really good, flakey pie crust. I could make ones that were okay, but they never could match store bought crusts. That should tell you how much improvement I needed!
I tried all the tricks, from adding a small amount of vodka to the flour to trying different types of fat, and nothing worked. The crust always ended up not tasting like much of anything, if it didn’t just fall apart on me completely.
My mom was a baker, she could make just about anything involving sweets. I grew up knowing what a good pie crust tastes like, but I just didn’t have her touch to make it work.
You should have seen some of the crusts from all those trials. No, wait, you shouldn’t see them they were so bad!
How Did I Learn To Make a Good Pie Crust?
The short answer to this question is trial and error. Even though my crusts kept coming out terrible, I was determined to get it right. It turned out determination and the ability to learn were the only things I needed.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve read just about every pie crust recipe out there. I’ve read through the instructions, the ingredient list, and compared one person’s technique to another person’s.
All in all they never seemed to be all that different but everyone seemed to have that one trick you needed to get the perfect crust.
I don’t have any tricks, just a few tips that will have you making an amazing crust for your next pie adventure.
Tips To Make The Perfect Crust
Here’s a few tips I learned through many trial and error batches to hopefully help you avoid the same mistakes I made.
- Keep all of the ingredients as cold as you can
- Use either butter or leaf lard as the fat
- When cutting the butter into the flour, keep the butter chunks about the size of a pea
- Add only enough ice cold water for the dough to start coming together
- Handle the dough as little as possible with your hands
- Chill the dough for at least an hour before using
When I say keep the ingredients cold, I mean as cold as you can get them. Put the flour and salt in the freezer for at least an hour before using it. This might seem a little strange if you’re new to making pies, but trust me and give it a try.
Have the butter very cold, but not frozen. I’ve tried frozen butter before and almost broke my food processor. Keep it as cold as you can get it without it being frozen.
Use Butter or Lard in the Pie Crust
Using butter or leaf lard (the fat surrounding the kidneys of the pig) gives the best flavor and flake to the crust. If you’ve been using any kind of hydrogenated shortening, replace it with butter or leaf lard. You’ll thank me when the crust comes out better and your body will thank you for feeding it something that isn’t inflammatory.
Keep Some Butter Chunks
Do not mix the butter all the way into the flour. Keep some of the butter in chunks that are about pea size. It’s okay if some of them are smaller than that, but don’t go bigger. If you do you may end up with areas of crust that melted in the oven instead of becoming flakey.
Adding The Right Amount of Water
Add ice water (just the water, not the ice) one tablespoon at a time and only add enough to start bringing the dough together. Do not add so much that the dough is fully formed before you chill it. When it comes out of the bowl or food processor, it shouldn’t be a fully formed dough. The dough should come together only when you press it together with your hands.
Handling the Dough
Do not handle the dough with your hands more than you need to. Your hands are warm, and they will start to melt the butter if you handle it too much. This will turn your pie crust more chewy than flakey. We’re aiming for flakey here, so hands off until you absolutely need to touch it.
Chill the Pie Crust Dough
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour after your make it. This will let all the ingredients cool back down after they’ve been worked and touched by your hands. If the dough does not stay cold, it will not turn out flakey. Cold is the number one key thing when making a flakey crust.
Making the Pie Crust
Mixing the Ingredients
As mentioned, get your ingredients as cold as you can without having them frozen. Do not start making a pie crust until your ingredients are cold.
I like to use a food processor to make my pie crust. We have this one and really love it. I find it the easiest way to get my butter cut into the right size, and it keeps my hands out of the dough. The food processor will generate some heat when you turn it on, so just make sure you pulse slowly instead of turning it on either high or low.
Add 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt to the bowl or food processor. Add 3/4 cup butter, cutting it into small pieces before adding it. Doing this will just help the pie crust come together faster and you’ll need less time either using the food processor or a pastry cutter.
If you’re using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour forming some pea sized pieces.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse, or use a spoon to mix it in. You’ll probably need more water than this, so add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you can see the dough just starting to come together. It should still look mostly like crumbs in the bowl but if you grab some of it with your hand it will stick together and form a dough.
Forming the Pie Crust Dough
Once you get to that point, stop adding water. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap or a beeswax wrap and dump the flour/butter crumbs onto it. Use the wrap to press the dough together. This helps keep your hands off of it to keep it a little colder.
Chilling the Dough
When you have the dough pressed together in the middle of the wrap, cover the dough completely with the wrap and place it in the fridge for at least one hour.
The hour in the fridge is going to allow the dough to cool back down from being in the warmer environment of your kitchen and from being worked. It will also allow the flour to continue soaking up the water that was added.
After the hour is up and the dough has chilled, it’s ready to use!
Using the Pie Crust
This recipe makes enough for a 2 crust pie. When you go to use it, cut the dough in half and form the half into a circle shape to roll it out. Take the half of the dough you are not working with and place it back in the fridge to stay cold until you are ready to top your pie.
Roll the bottom crust out on a floured surface. As you are rolling it out, you will notice large chunks of butter in the crust. This is exactly what you want to see, those are your flakey layers!
After you roll the pie crust out, it’s easiest to move it the pie pan by folding it in half and laying it into the pie pan. I’ve found that helps keep the crust together and prevents you accidentally pulling it apart.
You’ll want to butter the pie pan really good, especially where it bends. This will prevent the crust from sticking to the pan and make it much easier for you to get your slice of pie out later. You can even dust it with a light coating of flour if you want to take an extra step to keep it from sticking.
If you are not filling the pie right away, place the pie pan with the crust inside back into the fridge until it’s ready to be filled. You want this pie crust as cold as possible until the moment it goes into the oven!
That’s all there is to making a good pie crust!
With just a few simple steps, you will have the best pie crust you’ve ever eaten.
Now fill it with your favorite fillings and enjoy!
Check out these posts for a few ways to use the pie crust you just made:
Pot Pie Recipe
- 2 c cold all purpose flour
- 3/4 c. cold butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 8-10 Tbsp ice water
- Add cold flour and salt to a food processor or bowl
- Cut butter into 1/2 tablespoon pieces and add to flour and salt
- Pulse food processor or cut butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until the butter is about half mixed but there are still peas sized pieces
- Add water, one tablespoon at a time just until dough starts to come together when you squeeze it with your hand
- Pour dough onto a piece of plastic wrap or beeswax wrap
- Press dough together with wrap, trying to touch it as little as possible with your hands
- Place in fridge for 1 hour to chill, then it's ready to use
It is very important that all ingredients are as cold as you can get them. Put the flour and salt into the freezer at least an hour before you plan to make the crust. The butter should be cold but not frozen.