Do you ever wonder when you should pre-bake (par-bake) (blind-bake) a pie crust before filling it? I’m here to take the guesswork out of it for you and answer any questions you might possibly have on pre-baking a pie crust.
First things first! Blind baking, par-baking, pre-baking!!! What does all of this mean and why is it an integral step in many pie recipes? What is docking a pie crust mean? Learn these simple basics and you’ll be a step ahead, anytime you get ready to make a pie!!
Let’s talk about 3 basic terms you’ll hear about when it comes to baking an empty pie shell…
How to Blind, Par, or Pre Bake a pie crust. First, we’ll answer the burning question of what’s the difference between the three? The answer is quite simple, nothing!! All three terms are used interchangeably when describing baking an empty pie shell and they mean the same thing. To blind, par, or pre-bake an empty pie shell, simply means to bake the empty pie shell prior to filling it. In this article, we’ll refer to the term “pre-bake”, versus using all three terms.
Docking the pie shell: Docking the pie shell simply means using a fork to poke holes all over the bottom and sides of the crust. This, along with using pie weights, keeps the pie shell from puffing up as it bakes.
Pie Weights: Pie weights can be either ceramic (store-bought) pie weights or dried beans. Pie weights are used to weigh down the pie shell as it bakes so it will not shrink or puff up while baking.
Note: Some recipes, how-to articles, and posts related to pies will use the terms pie crust and pie shell interchangeably to describe pie dough that has been rolled out and placed in a pie dish. This no doubt causes confusion for the novice baker, and it’s incorrect information. A pie shell is a result of rolling out pie dough and placing it into a pie dish. It is in the raw dough form. The dough becomes an empty pie shell. A pie crust is a result of baking an empty pie shell in the oven until it becomes a browned crust.
PIE SHELLS THAT MUST BE PARTIALLY PRE-BAKED
The picture below shows a crust that has been partially pre-baked and is waiting to be filled with pie filling and returned to the oven to finish baking. As you can see, the bottom crust has lost its raw dough appearance but is still not baked through. Also, the edges are just barely a light golden color.
In some cases, a pie shell is only partially pre-baked, such as pies that do not require a long baking time. This is done because the pie filling might get done before the bottom crust has time to thoroughly bake, resulting in a soggy crust. The empty pie shell is partially pre-baked for a few minutes, prior to pouring the filling into the shell. The pie goes back into the oven so the filling can bake while the crust finishes baking.
Some pie recipes such as pumpkin, custard, chess, and pecan require partially pre-baking the crust. This happens frequently with recipes that are baked in a shallow pie dish. The filling bakes quickly, not allowing the bottom crust to get baked through unless you partially pre-bake the crust first.
PIE SHELLS THAT MUST BE FULLY PRE-BAKED BEFORE FILLING
Other pie shells get pre-baked until the pie shell is totally baked into a crust. These crusts are used for pie fillings that do not require getting baked in the oven, such as cream and refrigerator pies. The pies pictured above are all pies that don’t require the filling being baked in the oven. The fillings get cooked on the stovetop and poured into a pre-baked pie shell.
TIPS FOR MAKING A PERFECT PRE-BAKED PIE CRUST
- The first thing you need to do is choose a pie crust recipe for a single pie crust. Here’s my go-to recipe for my Aunt Elsie’s Flaky Pie Crust, if you don’t already have one. This recipe makes a double crust. You can use half and freeze half. It is also made with all shortening.
- You need to read your pie recipe to determine if you need to just partially bake the pie shell or bake it until it’s totally baked.
- Make pie dough and form it into a disc. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. Roll out the pie dough and place it in a pie dish. Trim edges, and fork or flute.
- DO NOT pull or stretch the dough. This will cause it to shrink as it bakes.
- Take a fork and prick the bottom and insides of the pie dough. This is called docking. Some bakers don’t do this if they are using pie weights, but I do both. This step keeps the pie dough from puffing up as it’s baking.
- Allow the pie shell to set for five minutes and rest. If you’re recipe calls for butter, place the pie shell in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes before baking. If your recipe calls for shortening, place the pie shell in the freezer for fifteen minutes, as shortening doesn’t set up as firm as butter. If using a frozen pie shell, allow it to set out for about fifteen minutes prior to baking.
- Place a piece of foil or parchment paper in the empty pie shell. For years I used foil, but have found over the years the easiest thing to use is parchment paper. Crumple the paper into a wad and then un-wad it. Works perfectly! The paper only needs to come up to the bottom of the top edge of the pie shell.
- Fill the paper or foil-lined pie shell with pie weights. These can be store-bought ceramic pie weights, (found with baking supplies, such as rolling pins and pie dishes), or don’t waste your money and use what most bakers use…dried beans. Any dried lentils, peas, beans, etc.. will work.
- Bake the pie shell as your recipe directs. Pie crust is usually baked at a high temperature of around 425 degrees. Bake the pie shell on a cookie sheet on the lower-middle rack. Whether you are baking it until it’s all the way done or partially done, the recipe will direct you at some point to remove the pie shell from the oven, remove the pie weights and finish baking the pie shell. It usually takes about 12-15 minutes to partially bake a crust, and about 7-8 minutes longer, depending on your oven, to bake it until it’s all the way done. When the crust is baked until done, the edges should be a golden brown and the bottom should be very dry.
- Here’s another tip some bakers use. If baking the pie shell until it’s totally baked through, bake the pie shell, brush the bottom with an egg white. Place the pie shell back in the oven for about 45 seconds, just long enough to set the egg white. This will also keep your crust from getting soggy if you’re filling it with a cream filling and not returning it to the oven.
WHEN IS IT NOT NECESSARY TO PRE-BAKE A PIE CRUST?
Double crusted pies such as fruit pies, don’t require pre-baking the pie crust. This would be hard to do since you’re using a top crust. For fruit pies, I recommend baking them on a cookie sheet on the lowest oven rack. I also recommend baking them in a glass pie dish for even browning.
Check out Pie Crust Washes – The Perfect Finishing Touch to see how to finish your pie crust and make it look beautiful.
Originally posted in August 2017. Post updated in June 2021.