Many sweet and savory pie recipes require pre-baking or "blind baking" a crust. No one really knows where the term got its name, but "blind" baking a crust means baking it without a filling.
Why Blind Bake a Crust?
Some recipes like quiches recommend partially cooked pie shells because the baking time wouldn't be long enough to fully cook the dough otherwise.
Pre-baking a crust can ensure that your pie or tart crust will be fully baked and browned, and not soggy.
Pre-Baking a Store-Bought Crust
Are you using a homemade pie crust? Or a store bought frozen crust? Most store-bought frozen crusts have much less dough in them than a typical homemade crust, so they'll brown much faster than a homemade crust.
If you are pre-baking a store-bought frozen packaged crust, I recommend following the directions on the package for how to pre-bake that particular crust. Most instructions will have you defrost the crust, prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork, and bake at 375°F to 450°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Pre-baking a homemade crust is an entirely different matter, as homemade crusts can have twice as much dough and a higher proportion of fat than store-bought crusts.
How to Blind Bake a Homemade Crust
The most challenging issue you encounter when pre-baking a homemade crust is slumping sides. Homemade crusts especially have a high fat content. The fat melts when heated in the oven, and unless there is a filling to prop up the sides of the pie crust, it can slump.
Another issue is billowing air pockets in the center. If you don't blind bake with weights, or poke holes into the bottom of the crust, the bottom of the crust can puff up.
For years I pre-baked crusts the way most people did, about 15 minutes at a high baking temperature using foil or parchment and pie weights, then removing the pie weights and foil, poking the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork, and continuing to bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.
This method works, but I've always found it a bit fussy. And even when you poke the bottom of the crust all over with little holes, sometimes you still get air pockets bubbling up at the bottom.
I have recently starting using a method I learned from Stella Parks at Serious Eats that consistently gives good results, even with hard-to-blind-bake crusts such as my no-fail sour cream pie crust.
Stella advocates lining a frozen crust with foil, filling with pie weights, and then baking at an even 350°F temperature for the entirety of the baking time. No removing of the pie weights mid way, no poking the bottom with a fork.
It works! The pressure of the pie weights keeps the bottom of the crust from billowing up, and the sides from slumping too much.
Sugar, Rice, or Beans for Pie Weights
Another thing that Stella recommends is using sugar for pie weights instead of beans or other weights. Why sugar? Because of its small granular size, sugar distributes the weight more evenly against the sides of the crust.
You might think the sugar would melt, but it's not in the oven long enough to reach its melting point. You can actually re-use the sugar in baking. In fact, cooking the sugar this way lightly caramelizes it, giving it more flavor.
You can also easily use uncooked rice or dry beans. I've extensively tested all three; they all work. I have found that sugar does give consistently better results, and helps keep the sides in place better.
Tips for Blind Baking Success
- Use a dough that will pre-bake well. A dough that has a ratio of 1 cup of flour to 4 ounces of fat (1 stick of butter) is a high fat ratio dough and is more likely to slump when pre-baked. A dough that has a ratio of 1 1/4 cups of flour to 4 ounces of fat will have better structure and will slump less. (See our All-Butter Crust recipe.)
- Roll out your dough a little bit wider than usual, so you can crimp the edges in the pie dish a little taller than usual. If the edges are taller or wider to begin with, they'll have more room to shrink.
- Freeze the un-cooked pie crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, before blind-baking. If the crust is frozen when it goes into the hot oven, the outside edges will have more of a chance to set before the fat melts.
- Line the crust with heavy duty foil. Heavy duty foil is less likely to tear than regular foil when you are forming it in the crust or when you are removing it and the pie weights. I've used parchment, but it doesn't mold to the edges of the the crust the way foil can.
- Use sugar for pie weights. Dry beans and rice also work, but sugar works even better, especially if you are using a dough that is higher in fat content like my favorite no-fail sour cream pie crust.
- Fill the weights to the top, they'll hold pressure agains the sides of the pie better.
Watch How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust
Reuse Your Baked Sugar
If you use sugar as a pie weight, you'll be left with about 4 cups of lightly caramelized sugar granules which you can (and should!) easily reuse. Let the sugar cool to room temperature, run it through a food processor to break up any lumps, then store it in a cool, dry place like any other granulated sugar. Use it to make sugar cookies!
How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust
If you know you are making a crust that will be pre-baked, form the edges of the dough higher than usual, above the edge of the pie pan.
- 1 frozen homemade pie crust
Preheat the oven to 350°F:
Make sure you are starting with a frozen pie crust, not defrosted. Your pie crust should been in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.
Line the inside of the frozen pie crust with foil:
Use heavy duty aluminum foil, pressing the foil against the sides and bottom of the crust, allowing the foil to extend by a couple of inches on two opposing sides.
Stick-free heavy duty foil works well for this, to help keep the crust from sticking to the foil when you remove it. You may need two sheets of foil to get full coverage.
Fill the pie crust with pie weights:
Fill the pie crust to the top with pie weights. You can use ceramic weights, dry beans, rice, or white sugar. Sugar works well because of its small granule size; it distributes the weight more evenly against the crust. (Baking the sugar this way also lightly caramelizes it, making it even more flavorful if you want to use it later for baking recipes.)
For a pie that you will cook further, like a quiche, bake the crust until it's dry and just beginning to brown, but still pale in color, 45-50 minutes. For a pie that will need no further baking, like a chocolate cream pie, bake the crust until it's evenly browned and crisp-looking, 60 to 75 minutes.
Remove from oven:
Remove the pie shell from the oven. Using the excess foil on 2 sides of the pie shell, lift out the pie weights from the pie shell. Let the pie weights cool. Store them for future use.
When baking a pie with your pre-baked pie crust, I recommend protecting the rim from getting over-baked with aluminum foil or a pie rim protector.