10 Tips for Baking Perfect Pies Every Time

Want to nail that flaky golden crust, juicy fruit filling or silky custard center? Here's how to make your pie-in-the-sky ambitions a reality.

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Bake the Best Pies Ever

Pie baking is a commitment. So there's nothing sadder than when your crust comes out slumpy, soggy or burnt, or when your filling is so runny it looks like a swimming pool. Whether you're making a summer cherry pie or a chocolate extravaganza for the holidays, success is in the details. Follow these tips and never apologize for mediocre pie again.

Butter Must Stay Cold at Every Step

You know those iconic, delicious flaky layers in your pie crust? Cold butter is what makes them happen. But butter is slippery — it wants to melt (and will do so!) at every opportunity. And if it softens before reaching the oven then you'll end up with a tough, misshaped crust.

To ensure this doesn't happen, use ice water and cold butter when making pie dough. Minimize handling the dough and roll it out on a cold surface like a pre-chilled marble stone or a countertop quickly cooled with chill packs. If you're worried your dough is getting too warm, you can always pause and give it a quick cool-down in the fridge or freezer.

To really make butter to behave, you can freeze filled and formed pies for at least 10 minutes before baking. And if your kitchen gets balmy in the summer, you might be better off replacing about two-thirds of the butter in the crust with vegetable shortening, which won’t soften so quickly at room temperature.

Roll Dough So It Won't Stick

A dusting of flour won't always prevent dough from sticking to the counter. The solution? Chill your dough rounds before rolling them between two pieces of floured parchment or wax paper. You won't have to scrape up stuck scraps, and you'll have an easier time transporting the dough to your pie plate.

Blind Bake the Crust

Some single-crust pies need a little extra prebaked love so they don't get soggy, especially if they're destined to hold a pumpkin or pecan pie. Place the dough in a pie dish, line it with a large piece of foil or parchment and fill with dry beans or raw rice (to stop the dough from puffing up). Bake at 350 degrees F until the dough looks matte instead of wet, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the bottom of the crust is just lightly golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let it cool, then fill and bake.

Mix Up Your Apples

We've baked hundreds (maybe thousands!) of apple pies in Food Network Kitchen and we almost always use a combination of apples. Not only does it make for a more balanced flavor, but it also means the filling won't end up too mushy or too crunchy. Our winning formula: three-quarters sweet-tart apples that hold their shape (like Granny Smith, Honey Crisp and Mutsu) and one-quarter good applesauce-making apples (like McIntosh). This will ensure that your filling is sweet, tart, toothsome and just a tad saucy.

Thicken Fruit Fillings to Stop Sogginess

Juicy summer fruits release water while they cook. To prevent a soggy pie, toss fresh fruit with a thickener like cornstarch or tapioca starch. Or find a recipe that has a partially-cooked fruit filling — this is especially helpful for blueberry pie. You'll end up with picture-perfect slices with just the right amount of juiciness.

Weave the Lattice Off the Pie

If you save the lattice for last, you'll end up fussing with soft, warm strips of dough over messy filling. Work neater by simply drawing a circle the same circumference as the top of your pie on a piece of parchment. Then, using the circle as your guide, weave your lattice directly on the paper. Chill until you're ready to top the pie and then slide the prebuilt lattice directly onto the filling.

Brush Your Pie to Change Its Appearance

What's on your pastry brush's bristles determines whether your pie will have a high-end sheen or rustic look. For a matte finish, brush the unbaked top crust with whole milk or heavy cream. For a glossy look, use beaten whole eggs or just yolks. And if you want your pie to sparkle, coat with egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake With a Pizza Stone

Another way to stop a soggy bottom is by preheating your oven with a baking sheet or pizza stone on the bottom rack. Bake the pie directly on this seriously hot surface; it will offer the bottom some extra heat and produce a beautifully browned crust that will stand up to your filling. For even more insurance, sprinkle some graham cracker, cookie or bread crumbs on the bottom crust before adding the filling — they'll soak up any excess moisture.

Let Custard Filling Jiggle

Custard pies, especially pumpkin, are notorious for splitting down the center — or overbaking and curdling. To minimize this risk, embrace slight underbaking and remove your pie from the oven once the filling is set around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the center. If a split still happens, don't despair — that's what whipped cream is for!

Protect the Edges

Sometimes, the border of the top crust starts to darken before the rest of the pie is finished. You can stop over-browning with a pie shield — a store-bought metal or silicone ring that covers your crust's edg. Or make your own ring out of aluminum foil. For top crusts in danger of burning, cover the entire pie with a large piece of foil.