How to Make Pie Crust with a Flaky Texture

The best pies start with the best crusts. Learn how to make pie crust from scratch using these step-by-step instructions.

When it comes to baking pies, the most daunting part of the process is making the perfect flaky crust. After all, you want a great foundation to hold all those delicious fillings. But once you master the technique for how to make pie crust from scratch, you can whip up flaky homemade pie crusts that everyone will be talking about.

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What Makes a Pie Crust Flaky?

In a word—butter! Although shortening, lard and butter are all used in pie crusts, our Test Kitchen proved that butter makes the flakiest and tastiest crust. Crusts made with shortening tend to create crumbles rather than flaky layers, and crusts made with lard have a greasy consistency.

“Always start with cold butter,” says Taste of Home Executive Culinary Director Sarah Farmer. “That way, the heat of the oven will melt it, creating pockets of steam. The steam then gives lift to the pastry, resulting in flaky layers.” (Psst: Here are the best butter brands, according to our Test Kitchen.)

How to Make Pie Crust

This top-rated butter pie pastry recipe is a favorite among readers and our Test Kitchen cooks. It makes a single crust, so double the recipe when making double-crust pies.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

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Directions

Step 1: Cut the butter into the flour

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The first step in making pie crust is to quickly whisk together the salt and flour in a large mixing bowl. Then, use a pastry blender to cut cold butter into the flour. Work the butter into the dough until the bits are about pea-sized. Avoid using your fingers to mix—your hands are warm and will melt the butter!

Editor’s Tip: If you’re short on time, use a food processor to cut the butter into the dough. Add your ingredients into the food processor and pulse as needed until the crumbs become pea-sized.

Step 2: Add water

Next, add ice-cold water to your pastry mix. Start slow with just 2 or 3 tablespoons and add more as needed, a tip from Grandma’s pie-making rulebook. Your crust is at the right consistency when it holds together when pressed.

“A gentle hand is needed to create flaky layers,” Farmer says. “Using a fork, toss (don’t press) cold butter and water into the flour just until everything is mixed and thoroughly coated.”

Test Kitchen Tip: Avoid over-mixing the pie crust dough—handling the dough too much will create a tough crust.

Step 3: Chill the pie pastry

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Before doing anything else with your pastry, let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour to help firm up the butter. We’ll say it a thousand times if we have to: Cold butter equals flaky crusts.

To chill, form the pastry dough into a disk and cover it tightly with plastic wrap or waxed paper. (Learn more tips on making perfect pie crust.)

Step 4: Roll the pie crust

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After allowing your pie crust to chill, it’s time to get rolling. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. As for the best rolling pin to use, it’s all personal preference. If you have a stainless steel or marble pin, pop it in the fridge or freezer in advance—this will keep the pastry dough cool.

To roll, work from the center and move outward to the edges. To help ensure an even shape, give the dough a quarter turn after each roll. Roll until you reach the appropriate size and thickness. If necessary, add an extra sprinkling of flour to prevent sticking as you go. Learn our secrets for rolling out pie dough perfectly every time.

“If the pastry rips when it’s rolled out, dip a finger into cold water and patch with a bit of extra dough,” Farmer says.

Test Kitchen Tip: Most pie crust recipes call for dough that’s 1/8-in. thick—about the same thickness as two quarters stacked on top of each other.

Step 5: Move the crust to your pie pan

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The most stressful part of pie baking is moving your perfectly rolled crust into the pie pan—it can make even experienced bakers tremble. But if you work quickly and confidently, you’ll be just fine (and remember that you can always patch or re-roll the dough if needed).

To move the crust into the pan, rely on your rolling pin. Drape the crust over the pin and quickly move it to your pan. Allow the pastry to ease into the plate and let it settle before you manipulate it. Trim the edges, leaving some excess to crimp.

If you’re making a single-crust pie, all that’s left is to finish the edges. If you’re creating a double-crust pie, it’s time to fill the pie and work on rolling out the second crust. You’ll use the same rolling pin drape method to transfer that crust to cover the top of your pie.

Editor’s Tip: If you’re making a double-crust pie, don’t forget to add some vents to allow steam to escape. This can be as simple as adding slashes, but you can also do it by creating a decorative topper like a lattice crust.

Step 6: Finish the edges

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You can finish off your pie crust in a variety of ways. Pinching the pastry around the edges is the most traditional method, but you can make decorative pie crusts with all sorts of nifty edges, like ropes or braids. You can also just make pretty impressions using a fork.

For a fluted crust, position your index finger on the edge of the pie facing outward. Then place your other thumb and index finger on the outside edge and pinch the crust around your finger to form a V. Continue around the entire edge of the pie crust.

After all that, it’s time to bake your pie. Just remember to place it on the center rack and keep an eye on it as it bakes to prevent over-browning.

Editor’s Tip: Making a pie crust shield is a handy trick that can help prevent a burnt crust.

Storage Tips

Once your pie dough has chilled in a disk shape, you can stash it in the fridge for a few days or even freeze it if you’re working in advance. Ensure that it’s completely covered by sealing it in a freezer-safe plastic bag. It will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

If you’re freezing the dough, wrap it tightly in waxed paper and freeze it in an airtight container for up to several weeks. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Sarah Farmer, Taste of Home Executive Culinary Director, contributed to this article.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.