This easy flaky pie crust recipe turns out every time just like grandma’s! Step by step tutorial and tips and tricks to getting it just right!
Making a perfect flaky pie crust recipe, that is tender and flakey and not at all a crumbly mess is truly an art form. Luckily for you it’s one that I am confident we can work on together to get right. I have lamented for years that my pie crusts just never came out like my grandma’s (the world standard for perfect pie crust).
After a lot of practice I’m happy to say this pie crust is on par with grandmas!
It takes a little finesse but once you get it, you’ll be able to whip up a perfect flaky pie crust recipe in five minutes flat without even checking a recipe. The secret lies in the 3-2-1 Pie Crust ratio….3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and one part ice cold water….and a pinch of salt of course.
Before we jump into it let me share a few tips I have learned over the years of making terrible pie crusts to perfect ones.
Make pie crusts in the morning if it is hot outside.
Almost everything about pie crust has to do with the temperature of your butter. Having a cool house will give you the best chance of pulling this off.
Cold cold butter
I determined in Georgia that because it was so hot there that I needed to actually put the butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes before making pie crust or biscuits. I also will just store my butter in the freezer and remove for 20-30 minutes if that is more convenient. If your kitchen is super hot you can even pop it back in the freezer for a minute after you slice the butter to cool it back down.
Cut the butter in a variety of shapes
I cut half of my butter lengthwise in fourths and then slice thickly (just a bit less than a cube). The other half I slice in a variety of thicknesses.
Measure your flour correctly or (IDEALLY!) use a kitchen scale.
Dipping your measuring spoon into the flour container and then scraping off the excess will result in close to an extra ounce of flour PER SCOOP! To properly measure use a spoon and gently spoon the flour into your cup, then scrape it off. But even with extra vigilance in this area you can still end up with a flop due to mis-measuring. Not to mention that different kinds of flours weigh widely varying amounts per cup.
We HIGHLY encourage the use of a kitchen scale for making pie crusts and other pastry products. Not only does it make it easy to nail it each time but it also makes swapping flours a cinch.
Use a food processor or pastry cutter
This flaky pie crust recipe exponentially improved when I started using my KitchenAid 16 cup Food Processor. What takes me 5-7 minutes with a pastry cutter takes 30 seconds with my food processor.
This helps prevent the butter from melting because it is faster.
Not cold water or tepid water! It must have ice in it and have set for at least five minutes and been stirred to bring the water temperature down.
Marble rolling pin or cutting board
Optional but amazingly helpful. The cold stone again helps prevent the butter from warming.
Use a flour bag for rolling out.
My mother-in-law actually taught me this trick. Buy an old cloth flour bag and use it as your base for rolling out pie crusts and biscuits. Lay it flat and rub all purpose flour firmly into the bag until the bag absorbs the flour and creates a smooth surface.
Whole wheat or spelt flour does not work for this purpose so even if your pie crust uses those, use all purpose flour here.
THE #1 SECRET TO FLAKY PIE CRUST RECIPE: Stop over mixing your butter!
The biggest culprit to my quest for a flaky pie crust is that recipe after recipe tells you to cut the butter into crumbs no larger than a pea. THIS IS NOT TRUE FOR A FLAKY PIE CRUST RECIPE!
I went to culinary school a few years ago for a stint and in my quest to perfect this I went back to my old culinary text books. When I saw the picture of their flaky crust vs their mealy crust I knew I had found my problem. I was drastically over mixing my butter.
The image on the left shows what your butter should look like for a flaky pie crust recipe. Some small chunks but plenty of chunks the size of walnuts NOT PEAS! I don’t mean to yell but I was so excited when I discovered the source of my problem.
This is what your butter should look like if you are looking for a flaky crust. See all the large pieces of butter still? That’s what causes all those beautiful flakes. This batch even could err a bit on the side of being too mixed still.
Certainly you don’t want every piece as large as that one big chunk in there but the point is that a variety of sizes and larger sizes of butter is key to producing those lovely layers we are all aiming for.
Pulsing very little when you add the water is also key, it should remain very shaggy and lumpy. I do 2 very short 1 second pulses for each addition of water.
There may still be flour on the bottom, that is okay.
Then pour it all out
on the table (update: pouring it directly onto the plastic wrap is easier/less clean up!) and gently bring it together into a ball. No kneading or aggressive squeezing! Use your fingertips to start to pull the wet areas to the dry area than at the very end give it a quick squeeze to form a ball. You don’t want to melt that butter just get it somewhat cohesive, split it into two pieces and wrap them up in plastic cling wrap.
If you can’t get it to come together you may have not added enough water so add a little bit of water to the super dry areas. I tend to prefer my dough to err on the wetter side vs being too dry as I find it easier to add more flour in roll out then to have a crumbling dough.
After 30 minutes in the fridge pull it out and roll it out on a well floured flour bag (more info on that above in my tip section). Fold it in quarters and lay gently into the pie pan.
If you want to use the second crust you can just lay it on top, crimp it and slice some vent holes or take a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut yourself a lattice top.
Finish the edge with a simple pinch crust edge, press it down with a fork or get fancy and weave a beautiful lattice top (How To Weave a Lattice Top (Easy Step by Step Instructions). Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle some course sugar on top and bake according to your recipe (blind baking instructions are included in recipe below).
And at the end of the day you will end up with a stunning easy flaky pie crust and a very happy mouth.
Ready to get baking?
Easy Flaky Pie Crust Recipe
- 2 3/4 cups flour 12 ounces flour
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks (8 ounces butter)
- 1/2 cup ice water 4-6 ounces ice water
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar for sweet pies only
- 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
- Large granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of sweet pies
- Place flour, salt (and sugar if using) into food processor. Pulse several times to incorporate ingredients.
- Cut half the butter lengthwise into quarters. Then slice thickly. Slice the remaining half thinly but do not quarter. This provides a variety of sizes of butter to add more layers.
- Immediately add to flour mixture and pulse several times in short bursts until butter is just beginning to incorporate. The butter should be in a variety of sizes but some should be the size of walnuts.
- Open the food processor and add the first 4 ounces of ice water, pulsing 4-6 very short times. If still too dry add remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time pulsing the dough until it holds together when squeezed between your fingers. Pour out onto plastic wrap and gently press the dough together until it combines.
- The dough should form a ball with only a few crumbles when pressed together. It is better to err on the slightly wetter side than to be too dry.
- Split dough in two and wrap in plastic wrap (double wrap if storing more than an hour) and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Lay out the cloth flour sack and dust with flour. Use palms if hands to work flour into fabric. Flour rolling pin and hands lightly.
- Unwrap first crust. Roll out from the center pushing towards the edges, turning it frequently to start and then occasionally to help prevent sticking.
- Roll out so that 1-2 inches are left for crimping edge. Depending on how deep your pie pan is this will be 3-4 inches larger than the pie pans edge when turned upside down.
- Very gently fold the pie crust in half and then in half again and transfer to pie plate. Unfold and smooth into pan.
- Finish pie crust with a second pie crust (if desired) in a lattice pattern or simply slashing vents into top crust or crimp single crusts edges.
- Place crust in freezer for 15-20 minutes to allow it to chill thoroughly. Preheat oven to 425 degrees during this time (do not put pie crust in until oven is fully up to temp).
- Bake according to pie directions if a filled pie or if you are blind baking, line pie crust with foil or parchment paper and weight with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges of the crust are just starting to turn golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and take out pie weights. Poke bottom of crust several times with a fork to help release any steam and finish baking: 5 min if pie crust will be finish cooking with filling, 5-10 minutes until golden brown and dry if it will not be baked again.
Makes enough for a standard sized top & bottom pie crust or a deep dish crust plus lattice. If you are using the small very shallow pie pans you will have extra! Wrap it tightly in double layer of plastic wrap and freeze in a ziplock.
Recipe updated 11/9/2014.