Skip To Content

    31 Pie Tips From A Professional Baker

    May we all be spared the horror of a soggy bottom.

    Pie is delicious. You know this, I know this, we all know this. However, if you've ever tried to make a pie, you know they can be a little tricky to nail.

    Enter Erin Jean McDowell, professional baker, pie connoisseur, and literal author of The Book on Pie. She's also the star of her very own YouTube show, Bake It Up a Notch on Food52.

    Here are the most important things you need to know about pie, straight from the source:

    1. Make sure to have out all the equipment you need before you start.

    2. Think about what kind of pie plate you want to use.

    Metal and ceramic plates have their own baking advantages (for example, ceramic heats more evenly), but a glass plate might be best for a beginner because it lets you see if your crust is golden underneath.

    3. Putting a baking steel or pizza stone in the oven under your crust will ensure it gets enough heat at the bottom to be nice and crisp.

    4. If you're using pie weights, you should fill the plate all the way to the top — not just the bottom.

    Filling the dish all the way up will ensure that the sides of your crust don't come away from the edges.

    5. There are a couple of substitutions that you can make for the main crust ingredients, but no matter what, they should be as cold as possible.

    6. You can add up to a tablespoon of vinegar or vodka to have more of a safety net when you're kneading your dough to make sure it stays tender.

    Erin herself doesn't add it, but she says it's a good tip for beginners. It also adds a bit of hydration, so you should add before the water so you don't over hydrate your dough.

    7. The size of your pieces of butter will affect the texture of your pie.

    different combinations of flour and butter, with the butter in different pieces

    8. Keep everything as cold as possible, and if your butter starts melting while you're mixing, stick everything in the fridge or even in the freezer.

    9. Make sure your butter is completely coated in flour, otherwise it will be easier for it to leak out of your crust while it bakes.

    10. Adding the water for hydrating your dough is often not an exact science.

    It varies depending on what kind of flour you use and the humidity of your kitchen. Your recipe will give you a ballpark amount, but you might add a little more or a little less of it.

    11. Take out the parts of your dough that are already well hydrated before adding more water. That way, you'll only add water to the part that needs it, which will in turn help you avoid overhydration.

    12. Don't knead it like you are kneading bread, you're just trying to combine.

    pie dough with the right consistency

    13. If you're using a food processor or stand mixer to incorporate the butter, still add the water by hand.

    Hydrating your pie dough is a delicate process, so you need to add your water slowly.

    14. Chill your dough three times: After it's mixed, after you've lined your pie plate before trimming the edge, and after you've filled and assembled your pie before it goes in the oven.

    15. Turn your pie plate upside down on the dough to see if you've rolled it out wide enough, rather than going by an exact thickness.

    16. Make sure the pie dough is closely pressed into the corners of the plate and there's no air between the dough and the pie plate.

    This will be easier to do with a glass pie plate, which is another reason why you might choose it if you're a beginner.

    17. Use scissors for trimming the edge instead of a knife. You'll have a much cleaner cut that way and won't pull on your dough.

    18. If you're making a free-form pie (like a galette), you can see if it's ready by gently shaking the pan. If your pie moves, that means it's ready.

    fruit galette on a cooling rack

    19. You can do so many things with your pie scraps! Don't throw them away!

    pie scraps that have been turned into croutons and small pies

    20. There is a difference between parbaking and blind baking, and you should know what it is!

    Parbaking is partially baking the crust before adding the filling, and blind baking is baking the crust the whole way through because the filling does not need additional cooking. A lot of recipes benefit from parbaking, but not all of them call for it.

    21. If you're making a custard pie, make sure you bake it until the edges of the filling are set but the center is still a bit wobbly.

    If you bake it until the center is fully set, the surface will dry out and crack.

    22. You absolutely HAVE to parbake your crust if you are making a custard pie, because the crust won't fully cook in the time it takes to bake the filling.

    23. You can add a seal to the bottom of your custard pie to ensure that the crust stays crispy after parbaking.

    three pie crusts with different kinds of seals at the bottom

    24. Defrost your fruit if you're using frozen, because it will release a lot of liquid that'll make your pie a soggy mess.

    25. Cooking your fruit before adding it to the pie will ensure that it is sturdy when you cut it and give it some extra flavor.

    apple pie

    26. If you're using raw fruit as your filling, you need to make sure that the fruit is heavily bubbling or steaming in the oven before taking your pie out.

    27. Roll your dough out to a thicker width for a lattice because it will stretch a little as you lift and pull back.

    pie with broken lattice

    28. The crust for a cold set pie has to be fully baked and cooled before you put any filling in it.

    29. You don't need to egg wash the edges of a double crust fruit pie because the edges brown enough on their own. Just put egg wash in the middle area.

    someone putting egg wash on a pie crust

    30. If you see that part of your crust is already done, put some aluminum foil over the section that's ready so that it doesn't burn.

    31. Finally, when it's time to serve your pie, clean off your knife between each slice. It'll help you get clean cuts.

    Now that you have all this crucial knowledge, go make a delicious pie!