How to Make Pie: Nicole's Best Tips

Demystify the pie! Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, shares her best tips for making pies, from crusts and fillings to baking and serving.

Choose the Right Pie Plate

Read your recipe to determine what size pie plate you need, either deep-dish or a standard 9-inch pie plate. You want to make sure the size of the pie dish is just right for the amount of pie filling in the recipe.

Dough Crusts and Crumb Crusts

Tips for Dough Crusts

Dough crusts (also called pastry crusts) are made from flour, salt, fat (butter, shortening, lard, or a combination), and water.

Making dough crust:

  • Keep ingredients cold, especially the butter. A great tip for the butter is to cut it up into small cubes and pop it into the freezer until you're ready to use it. Floating a few ice cubes in the water keeps the water nice and cold, too.
  • After combining the flour, salt, and fat, you'll add the water a little at a time just until the dough holds together. Get more tips for making pie crust.
  • Pat the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill it before rolling it out.

Rolling and crimping dough crust:

  • Roll out the pie crust so that it's larger than your pie plate. You want it large enough to fit down the sides with a little overhang on the rim. You can trim the overhang to even it up if you need to.
  • Crimp the edges of the pie to make a decorative border (Nicole demonstrates a simple method in the video above). Pop the pie crust back into the refrigerator to chill.

Blind baking dough crust:

  • Blind baking is simply prebaking a pie crust so it doesn't end up undercooked and soggy. You usually blind-bake custard pies such as pumpkin pie.
  • To blind bake, start with a chilled pie crust and prick it all over the bottom and the sides with a fork. This allows steam to escape as the crust bakes.
  • Lay a sheet of parchment paper in the crust so that it covers the bottom and sides. Pour a generous amount of baking weights or dry beans into the lined pie crust, making sure they rest right up against every surface. This prevents the crust from puffing up as it bakes.
  • Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, or per your recipe instructions. Some recipes have you remove the beans after 15 minutes, brush the inside of the crust with an egg wash, and then continue baking for another few minutes. Get more tips for blind baking pie crust.

Tips for Crumb Crusts

Crumb crusts are made from crushed cookie crumbs (think graham crackers, Oreos, etc.) and melted fat.

  • Crumb crusts are often used with custard and pudding pies.
  • Nicole's top tip for crumb crusts is to use a light hand when you're lining the pie dish. If you pack the crust too firmly, it makes it hard to slice.
  • Crumb crusts are often baked for a few minutes before filling. Get more tips for making and baking crumb crusts.

Tips for Custard Pies and Fruit Pies

Pie filling fall into two main categories: custard pies and fruit pies.

  • Some custard pie fillings are cooked before being poured into a crust. The filling should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • For fruit pies, Nicole likes to thicken the fruit with tapioca starch instead of flour or cornstarch.
  • Fruit pies are often baked with a top crust. You can help ventilate the steam by making decorative cutouts in the top crust, or by weaving a lattice top. Nicole demonstrates an easy lattice top technique in the video above. Brush the top crust with a simple egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar before baking.

Tips for Baking Pies

  • Bake fruit pies on a baking sheet to catch any drips.
  • If the crust around the edge of your pie starts to brown too much before your pie is finished baking, you can protect it with strips of aluminum foil or with a pie shield. (Try this adjustable $8 pie shield from Bed Bath & Beyond.)
  • If your pie has a streusel topping, Nicole suggests you don't add it until your pie is about three quarters of the way through its baking time. This prevents the streusel from browning too much.

Tips for Serving Pie

  • Make your own whipped cream. Just don't make it too far ahead of time otherwise it can separate.
  • If you're serving a baked pie, wait until it is thoroughly cooled before slicing; a warm pie is a runny pie.
  • Dunk your knife in warm water between slices.
  • A wedge-shaped pie server makes serving neat slices a lot easier. (Try this $7 best-seller from Target.)
  • No matter what you do, the first slice might not be pretty, so keep that one for yourself.

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

More tips and tricks from Nicole:

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