One key to a delicious pie is how the crust is made. That means it’s not too puffy nor has soggy bottoms from the pie filling. And for this to happen, you need to have an excellent flaky crust that remains crisp and firm.
The reason why pie crusts become soggy is due to the crust not being able to hold the pie filling. Pie fillings are often wet and can cause the crust to get soggy if the latter is not firm enough.
Pie crusts lose this firmness when they become too puffy. This results from the fat used, butter, shortening, or lard, in the pie crust melting during baking, which creates air pockets and separates the flaky layers, making the pie more permeable.
When making flaky pie crusts, you want them firm with little to no separation. And the best way to do that is to prevent the formation of air pockets between the layers of the flaky crust.
One way of preventing these air pockets is to weigh down the crust using pie weights.
What are pie weights?
Pie weights are small ceramic or metal balls used to weigh down a pie to prevent it from puffing up during blind baking. As much as possible, you want a smooth and even pie crust when making a pie. You can achieve this even surface for your crust by using pie weights.
What is blind baking?
Blind baking refers to partially baking a pie crust before adding the filling. When you blind bake a pie, you can keep a pie crust crispy and prevent the pie filling from creating a soggy bottom. You can think of blind baking as pre-baking your pie crust to give it a head start before adding your filling.
It’s important to blind bake a pie crust to prevent that dreaded soggy bottom when making certain types of pies, especially with custard and pecan pies. This baking process is also used for making tart shells.
When should I use pie weights?
Pie weights are best used when making pies that require blind baking or using pie fillings that that are overly wet and can make the pie crust soggy.
By weighing down the crust, you eliminate the possibility of forming air pockets while the butter, shortening or lard melts during blind baking.
Pie weights can help prevent your pie crust from shrinking during blind baking and falling down the sides of your pie plate. They are there to basically weight down and hold the pie crust in place, since there is no filling yet added.
What are the benefits of using pie weights?
We can summarize the benefits of pie weights as making your pie crust crisp and usable. Having a pie crust that puffs during blind baking can be troublesome, as this can mean the pie crust becomes unusable, which equates to wasted ingredients and even time to prepare the pie.
You can use pie weights to prevent pie crust wastage and create the perfect pie crust every time.
Do all pie recipes need pie weights?
Not all pie recipes need weights. For instance, a pie crust made of crushed crackers or cookies can hold down without needing pie weights.
What are the types of pie weights?
There are three types of pie weights that you can choose from, with their respective benefits.
Ceramic pie weights can fit any pie pan, and you can move quickly to cover the surface of the pie crust as they are composed of small ceramic balls.
Metal pie weights are small metal balls often connected in a chain, making them easier to remove.
A disc pie weight can cover a whole crust and come in different sizes for different pie pans.
What are good pie weight substitutes?
Not everyone will make pie regularly, and although pie weights are not that expensive, some people prefer using substitutes for things they won’t use regularly.
You can use dried beans, uncooked or dried rice, and popcorn kernels if you prefer to substitute pie weights. Note that you cannot cook these substitutes after using them as pie weights, but you can still use them for another batch of pies. I have two containers of beans and rice that I’ve used for years!
Alternatively, you can buy metal ball bearings from your local hardware store. These ball bearings are often stainless steel, making them safe for cooking. Just wash them before using them to ensure that there are no residues of chemicals. Just add them as you would generally put the pie weights.
You can also put your dough in the pie pan, weigh it down with another pie pan, and press them. If you take this route, you must bake the pie crust upside down to cook correctly. Don’t forget to spray the second pan with baking spray to prevent the crust from sticking to the pan. You may also use a heat-proof bowl for this purpose.
As long as you use something food-grade and oven safe, it should work as pie weights.
How do I use pie weights?
Using pie weights is rather easy.
All you need to do is prepare the pie crust and line it using parchment paper, ensuring that there are a lot of overhangs, which makes removing the pie weights easier.
Once you’ve lined the pie crust, put the pie weights on the parchment paper, ideally filling the inner surface. After that, you bake the pie crust according to the recipe.
Recipes to use pie weights with
- Pumpkin pie – I love making this pumpkin pie made with heavy cream during Thanksgiving!
- Coconut cream pie – This is the BEST coconut cream pie with a homemade pie crust, coconut custard made from scratch, topped a coconut whipped cream and for a twist
- Pecan pie – This pecan pie recipe is thickened and sweetened with pure maple syrup All you need is some whipped cream!