When reading different recipes for pie crusts, you may have come across a few that suggest using pie weights…what exactly does that mean? Why do you need to weigh down your pie? And, most importantly, is this a direction you can just skip or will there be terrible baking repercussions?
I can answer all of those questions for you while we learn all about pie weights and if they are worth purchasing.
When making a pie, recipes frequently ask for you to par bake the pie crust which means you need to bake the pie crust, with no filling, until it is almost fully cooked. The reason you would need to do this is simple- you want the crust of your pie to not be gooey.
When you pour the filling into your pie crust, you are dumping a ton of moisture on top of the crust. All of that yummy, wet pie juice will prevent the crust from really cooking.
So, if you skip par baking and just bake the entire pie at once, crust, filling and topping, chances are the bottom pie crust will not be cooked. No one wants raw pie dough!
The solution is to bake the crust all by itself before adding any filling to the pie. This guarantees that your crust is cooked and will be flaky and delicious rather than a raw, doughy mess.
Par baking is something you do not want to skip when making a pie (p.s. the same goes for tart dough or really anything that suggests par baking….always par bake).
Not So Flat
So you made a perfect pie dough, rolled it beautifully and carefully placed it in the pie pan, nicely crimping the edges. You dutifully place it in the oven to par bake.
Then, ten minutes later, you open the oven to find that the crust has shrunken into the pan and the bottom has puffed up really high. Your flawless pie crust just looks like a big inflated dough blob. What happened?!?
Pie dough is made with butter or shortening layered into the dough and when that fat begins to cook, it releases steam which will puff up the dough. That steam can be powerful- It will make your pie dough rise high which is, unfortunately, not what you want when making a pie.
You want the bottom of the pie to be flat! Otherwise, there will be no space for all that yummy pie filling you want to add. So how to hold back that steam…
Wait, Pie Weights?
Of course pie weights are the answer! I bet you already guess that though. By placing something heavy in the bottom of the pie pan, on top of the pie dough, the steam will not be able to puff up your crust and the dough will bake flat.
Steam is powerful but it can really only lift so much weight. Pie weights are the easy answer to getting the bottom of your pie crust to stay nice and flat.
What to Use…
Because pie weights are so great and imperative to baking a nice uniform pie crust, you can buy many types of weights to use. From small ceramic balls to smooth stones, pie weights come in all shapes and sizes.
The main keys when choosing pie weights are the following:
- It is a material that will not be damages when placed in a super hot oven
- The weights are heavy (obviously as they are called weights!)
- The weights cover the entire bottom of the pie crust (you don’t want any puffy random bubbles!)
Yes, there are many types of pie weights you can easily buy, but guess what? You can also use things you may already have in your house. Dried beans or rice are both great options that you can use as pie weights and they check all the boxes you need.
In a pinch, you can also use small teaspoons or ceramic coffee mugs. When using unconventional pie weights, try to cover as much of the bottom of the pie crust as possible to keep the crust looking flat and uniform.
How To Weight
While you may be tempted to just dump the pie weights straight onto the crust, don’t! First, line the pie crust with foil or parchment to prevent the weights from baking into the crust (yes, it can happen!).
Once your raw dough crust is lined, now you can add your pie weights. Even them out and bake away!
Once your crust is par baked, remove it from the oven and let the crust and the weights cool. Do not try to remove your pie weights while they are hot!
Remember how they were just in that 350 degree oven? They will also be 350 degrees when they come out of the oven. Just wait to remove the weights.
Once the pie weights are cooled, lift them out using the foil or parchment liner and pour them back into the container they came from. Save the weights for the next pie.
Now sit back and admire your perfectly flat pie crust! It is so ready to be packed with tons of yummy filling.
If you do not have pie weights or anything you can use to weight down the crust as it par bakes, you can try a few things to prevent your crust from rising.
Prick the raw dough all over with a fork once it is in the pie pan. Adding lots of little holes gives the steam a place to escape as it heats and will hopefully prevent the crust from rising.
You can also place a second pie pan on top of your pie crust, making a pie crust sandwich (pie pan, crust, another pie pan)! This will weigh down your crust for sure.
However, before you skip the pie weights, really take a look around your kitchen for anything you may use- your pie will thank you for it!
Get Some Weights!
Hopefully by now you see the importance of using pie weights when blind baking (par baking) a pie crust. You really do need to use something to make sure your crust stays flat.
Pie weights are not too expensive (especially when you use one of our awesome alternative options…heck yea $1 dried beans!), they are easy to use and they are reusable.
All of these things make pie weights a necessity to any baker’s kitchen. Perfect pie crusts are in your future!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.