So you’ve decided to make your family a delicious summer fruit tart or take advantage of the fall harvest by baking a sweet pumpkin pie.
However, there’s just one snag: the recipe calls for blind baking the crust and the addition of pie weights, and that’s not something you keep hanging around your kitchen.
But don’t fear. While there’s a large variety of pie weights (see how they’re typically used) available today for the home baker, you can use plenty of substitutes if you’re in a hurry and different techniques for blind baking.
Some simple alternatives for pie weights include dried rice, beans, corn, steel balls, metal chains, sugar, and a smaller pie form. We’ll take a look at each of these in more detail below.
But first, let’s take a step back and explore what blind baking is and when and why you might need pie weights.
What Exactly is Blind Baking?
Blind baking is the pre-baking of a pie or tart crust without the filling. It can be either partially or fully baked, depending on the recipe. Then, the filling is added to the pre-baked crust and baked further if required.
You can learn more about this process in my article about blind bakin
When Should I Blind Bake?
There are several situations when a crust may need to be blind-baked. In some recipes, such as those for fresh fruit tarts, cream pies, or chocolate pudding, you bake the crust but not the filling.
In such recipes, you have to blind-bake the crust fully before adding any filling.
Other fillings may require only a short baking period or a lower temperature than the crust, so the crust will need a head-start (if you want it to become crisp and tasty). Custard pies, for example, can curdle if baked for too long.
A pie crust can also become soggy (see my tips for preventing this from happening) if the filling is too wet, as with quiche and some fruit pies, and blind baking helps to prevent this.
Why Do I Need Pie Weights?
One problem with blind baking is that without a filling to hold down the pastry, the dough can puff up as steam produced during baking gets trapped in the dough’s gluten structure. This can lead to an uneven crust and over or under-baked areas.
Shrinkage of the sides, as they bake, can also be an issue, and the sides even tend to fall in or collapse. Pie weights solve these problems by filling the crust during blind baking and holding it in place.
Here’s a nice video showing the effects of using pie weights (dried beans in this case) when blind baking.
Alternatives to Pie Weights
Commercial pie weights usually take the form of ceramic balls. You place a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum over the crust and place the weight on top.
The paper or foil prevents the weights from sticking to or becoming embedded in the dough and makes removal of the weight easier later.
Pricking the dough with a fork – known as “docking” – is often suggested as an alternative. It helps the steam escape and can reduce the amount that a crust puffs up, but the sides can still be a problem, and wet fillings can seep through these holes into the crust, making it soggy.
Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to pie weights that you might have lying around the house or right in your kitchen, which can be used as a substitute and will work just as well.
1. Dried Beans, Rice, Popcorn
You may already have heard of “baking beans,” which are simply dried beans used as makeshift pie weights.
You can also use many items already available in your kitchen, like rice, popcorn, and other dried foods.
You can even reuse them and keep them as permanent pie weights.
2. Pennies or Change
Clean coins can work as pie weights. Wrap them in parchment paper or place them in a heatproof dish to prevent direct contact with the crust.
The pennies won’t melt, but you don’t want any reaction to occur under the heat between your pie and the pennies.
As such, the dish and the pennies must be above the parchment paper.
3. Steel Balls or Other Metal Objects
Small steel balls or other metal objects have the added advantage of holding and then radiating heat to the crust, which can help to give a more even bake.
Make sure that any items that you use are clean and oven-safe.
4. Metal Chain
In addition to the above benefits, a metal chain is much easier to handle – just ensure you have oven gloves on when you remove it!
Metals get hot much faster than most other elements, and you don’t want a burn served along with your pie.
Sugar is cheap and in every kitchen pantry. Simply mold some aluminum foil around the pie crust and up the sides, then fill the crust with sugar. It will fill every nook and cranny of the pie tin, ensuring the dough is firmly in place.
Re-use the sugar several times before using it in your favorite recipe for a toasted, caramel flavor.
6. Ceramic or Glass Marbles
Clean, oven-safe marbles can be used as pie weights. Ensure they are thoroughly washed and sanitized before placing them on the crust.
You should place those marbles on a dish or a parchment paper. If you don’t like how they slide around, you may consider replacing them with whiskey stones.
These stones are often used instead of ice in whiskey, which means they can be safely immersed (or get in touch in our case) with something you consume without worry. They’re also heavy and won’t rust, making them great pie weights.
7. Another Pie Form
Perhaps the most ingenious substitute is to lay another smaller pie form over your parchment paper or aluminum foil. This can then be inverted and baked upside down on a baking tray, to allow gravity to work its magic!
No more puffing, and no more shrinkage of the sides. A set of pie forms that fit inside one another would be perfect for this solution.
- Chilling or freezing your crust before blind baking can also help to prevent puffing. It also reduces the likelihood that your foil or parchment paper will stick or that you will damage any fancy fluting.
- Pricking your crust with a fork can be a good safety measure, even when using pie weights. Just don’t do this with very wet fillings.
- Always remember to have a layer of foil or parchment paper between your crust and the weights. This stops them from sticking, makes removal easier, and prevents flavors or aromas from transferring to the crust.
- If you find that the bottom of your blind-baked crust is a little soggy when using aluminum foil, try parchment paper instead.
- Make sure that your pie weights are evenly distributed over the crust’s surface, and pushed out to the sides. Keeping the weights in an oven bag can make removing them much easier.
- Commercial pie weights can be heavy, so adjust the quantity of weights you use accordingly. You may need two layers of dried beans but only one of the steel balls.
- Some recipes call for a crisp, golden crust. Remove your weights and foil or paper halfway through blind baking to allow the crust to fully bake and develop some color.
- If you find that the sides of your crust are burning or baking faster than the bottom, ensure to fully cover the sides with foil or purchase a silicone pie crust shield.
Follow the advice above, and you should be baking perfect pie crusts every time, no matter your choice of pie weights!
Now that you have the crust figured out, here are some clever ideas for your leftovers!
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.