The Homemade Pie Crust Test. How to make the best!

It’s pie season, friends! Homemade pies have long been a tradition during the holidays for our family. Berry pie, Cherry pie, Pumpkin or Chocolate, who doesn’t love pie?

I learned how to make pie crust as a kid…the old fashioned way…with a very simple recipe, and a fork. Ugh. How I hated making pie crust. My mom would slide a bowl of flour and shortening across the counter, and I’d mash, mash, mash until the shortening was “pea-sized.” It seemed to take forever. And just when I thought my task was finished, Mom would exchange the finished bowl for a new one…and I’d mash, mash, mash again until she had enough pie crust ready for all of our family favorites. (Turns out…Mom hated making pie crust as much as me, which is why she outsourced it to her free labor. Ha!)

Homemade pie crust may not be the most exciting recipe to bake. But, it might be one of the easiest. The recipe comes with a short list of simple ingredients (flour, salt, fat, and water), and an easy (albeit slightly boring) method. Some recipes come with a little more intrigue (like the addition of vodka), and some recipes boast the longevity of generations. Some people swear by lard, while others prefer all-butter crusts.

Most pie crust recipes are relatively alike, but many change the type or ratio of fat. That’s because fat is the biggest driver of key attributes like flavor and texture (and some would argue, appearance) in the finished pie. Other optional ingredients (like sugar) impact the flavor of the crust, or the gluten development (looking at you, vodka).

Curious as I am, I did a little testing…


Question:

Which type of fat makes “the best” homemade pie crust?

Step 1: Research. Ahem. Having consumed a great number of pies in my day, I considered myself well-researched to start. 🙂

Taste-testing aside, pie crust recipes/methods have always made me curious (nerd alert), so I’ve done my share of reading on the topic. Perhaps you’ve seen many of the same recipes I have…some common themes include: The Butter Crust, The Shortening Crust, The Butter/Shortening Combo Crust, and The Lard Crust (which my dad will always consider to be the best. Always.)

Step 2: Decide on recipes to test. Well, that was tough. I finally landed on the below recipes. It’s the same recipe four times, each with the same amount of a different fat. Next round, I may take a look at total fat and/or how the fat ratio impacts the crust. You know…more “testing” means more pie…

Recipes tested:

  • The All-Butter Crust
  • The All-Shortening Crust
  • The Butter-Shortening Combo Crust
  • The Lard Crust (you’re welcome, Dad)

Step 3: Make pie!

Method:

While not included in these tests, there are a variety of methods for making pie crust. I stuck to the old fashioned way, just how Mom taught me decades ago. At home, I often switch up my methods according to the latest recipe that claims to be “the best.” 🙂 Always fun to see the results.

Okay…okay…so you’re going to see in the pictures…I made different flavors of pie. Duly noted, you smartypants foodies. When running kitchen experiments (like all experiments), it’s important to keep variables at a minimum. So, the pie filling, pie plate, plate material, (etc, etc) should be consistent for every version. This is a highly-simplified test – if I was in a lab (with a lot more time and a few more pie plates), the experiment would look a wee bit different. There are so many “tests” to be done when it comes to a question like “which recipe is the best.” Because, of course, there are so many factors…ingredients, amount of ingredients, prep method, storage method (or not), bake time/temperature…you get it. For this post, I decided to focus on the type of fat. But let’s not get fussy, huh? 


the pie crust test - how to make the best!

Homemade Pie Crust - All-Butter Pie Crust From Scratch

  • Servings: 1, 2-crust Pie
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pie crust from scratch made with all butter!

Ingredients

  • 2 c. All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 c. COLD Butter, cut into pieces
  • 5-7 Tbs COLD Water
  • Extra flour, to roll out dough

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Add in butter, and toss gently with the flour mixture to coat.
  3. With a fork or pastry blender, “cut in” butter. (Mash it into small pieces.) Continue cutting in the fat until its the size of peas.
  4. One tablespoon at a time, add the cold water to the dry mixture, stirring as you go. Continue to add cold water until the mixture comes together like dough. Do not add too much water or the dough will be tough.
  5. Form the dough into two balls (one ball will become the bottom crust of the pie, the other will become the top crust).
  6. Fill the pie with filling, top with the second crust, and bake according to instructions for your pie of choice. 😊) 

The pros of the All-Butter Crust

  • Tasted great, especially to a butter-lover like me.
  • Good, flaky texture
  • Great appearance – nice, even browning

The cons of the All-Butter Crust

  • I suppose it’s not the easiest to work with.

the pie crust test - how to make the best!

Homemade Pie Crust - All-Shortening Pie Crust From Scratch

  • Servings: 1, 2-crust Pie
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pie crust from scratch, made with shortening

Ingredients

  • 2 c. All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 c. COLD Shortening, cut into pieces
  • 5-7 Tbs COLD Water
  • Extra flour, to roll out dough

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Add in shortening, and toss gently with the flour mixture to coat.
  3. With a fork or pastry blender, “cut in” shortening. (Mash it into small pieces.) Continue cutting in the fat until its the size of peas.
  4. One tablespoon at a time, add the cold water to the dry mixture, stirring as you go. Continue to add cold water until the mixture comes together like dough. Do not add too much water or the dough will be tough.
  5. Form the dough into two balls (one ball will become the bottom crust of the pie, the other will become the top crust).
  6. Fill the pie with filling, top with the second crust, and bake according to instructions for your pie of choice. 😊)

The pros of the All-Shortening Crust

  • Easy to work with
  • Great appearance – nice, even browning

The cons of the All-Shortening Crust

  • Texture was less flaky than the all-butter version
  • Flavor was better in the all-butter version

the pie crust test - how to make the best!

Homemade Pie Crust - Butter + Shortening Pie Crust From Scratch

  • Servings: 1, 2-crust Pie
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pie crust from scratch, made with butter and shortening

Ingredients

  • 2 c. All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 c. COLD Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c. COLD Shortening, cut into pieces
  • 5-7 Tbs COLD Water
  • Extra flour, to roll out dough

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Add in butter and shortening, and toss gently with the flour mixture to coat.
  3. With a fork or pastry blender, “cut in” the butter and shortening. (Mash it into small pieces.) Continue cutting in the fat until its the size of peas.
  4. One tablespoon at a time, add the cold water to the dry mixture, stirring as you go. Continue to add cold water until the mixture comes together like dough. Do not add too much water or the dough will be tough.
  5. Form the dough into two balls (one ball will become the bottom crust of the pie, the other will become the top crust).
  6. Fill the pie with filling, top with the second crust, and bake according to instructions for your pie of choice. 😊)

The pros of the Butter-Shortening Combo Crust

  • Easy to work with
  • Great appearance – nice, even browning
  • Nice flavor
  • Flaky texture

The cons of the Butter-Shortening Crust

  • Still thinking…

the pie crust test - how to make the best!

Homemade Pie Crust - Lard Pie Crust From Scratch

  • Servings: 1, 2-crust Pie
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pie crust from scratch, made with lard

Ingredients

  • 2 c. All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 c. Lard, cut into pieces
  • 5-7 Tbs COLD Water
  • Extra flour, to roll out dough

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Add in lard, and toss gently with the flour mixture to coat.
  3. With a fork or pastry blender, “cut in” the lard. (Mash it into small pieces.) Continue cutting in the fat until its the size of peas.
  4. One tablespoon at a time, add the cold water to the dry mixture, stirring as you go. Continue to add cold water until the mixture comes together like dough. Do not add too much water or the dough will be tough.
  5. Form the dough into two balls (one ball will become the bottom crust of the pie, the other will become the top crust).
  6. Fill the pie with filling, top with the second crust, and bake according to instructions for your pie of choice. 😊)

The pros of the Lard Crust

  • Dad likes it
  • Nice appearance, and good, even browning

The cons of the Lard Crust

  • Not the easiest to work with.
  • Different flavor and texture than the previous versions.

My Conclusions:

There are several pie crust recipes out there and most yield a reasonably good crust. Likely, a “favorite crust” all comes down to personal preference. My mom likes the all-shortening crust because she finds it easy to handle. My dad prefers the lard crust. My preference is an All-Butter Crust because I love the flavor. However, the Buttter + Shortening Combo Crust yielded a flavorful, flaky crust that was easy to work with. It’s a great basic recipe.

Now to the big question…What’s your favorite pie?

the-pie-crust-test

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s