Pie Crust: Buy It vs. Make It
I am going to cut to the chase with this one: Quit buying pie crust. Today. You have bought your last crust; never, never do it again. I don’t know how many times I’ve sent someone out to the store to grab a frozen pie crust because I thought it was hard. It’s so insanely easy. It takes ten minutes. I feel like a dolt for ever not doing it myself.
That being said, I did ask my friends why they don’t make pie crust, and it all came down to appearance. The hard part is making it look nice. Since this is almost never a priority for me—wait, make that never, I never care if my concoctions are pretty on the outside—I crowd-sourced some tips for presentable pie crust:
- Keep it cold. The shortening, the liquid, even the crust itself—once it’s made, stick it in the fridge (or freezer, if you only have 10 minutes) so it can get even colder. Brr.
- Handle it as little possible. (Cold and hands-off, like a proper British nanny.)
- Roll out between two pieces of wax or parchment paper, so you don’t bork the whole thing trying to get it into the pie pan.
- Don’t skimp on the flour (on the rolling pin, on parchment paper, and on your work surface).
- Substitute ice-cold vodka for all or some of the water.
Wait, what was that last tip? Seriously! It’s real! It comes straight from Cook’s Illustrated, doesn’t change the flavor, and makes for a much flakier crust. Sssh, it’s our new secret!
Other than these tips, it’s just the standard recipe you’ll find anywhere, and I can’t state this enough: It’s really crazy easy!
And now for the nitty-gritty:
Cost: My best bet is the “Wholly Wholesome Organic Whole Wheat Pie Shell,” which runs about $4.50 for two shells. Not bad, and you can also get the rolled-out kind. Honestly, if I didn’t have a food processor, I’d just go with this. Or you can go with the Safeway house brand, which is perfectly delicious, for $3.50. Making it yourself? With all-purpose flour and Crisco, about 70 cents per shell. With King Arthur White Whole Wheat and organic shortening, about $1.07 per shell. So, I mean, it’s less than half the price if you make it yourself.
By the way, it’s cheaper with butter, even organic butter—45 cents per shell for the down-and-dirty kind, 80 cents per shell for the fancy. I don’t think you can even get premade butter pie-crust, so there’s that. (Of course, you might want to add in the increased health-care costs of using saturated fat.) (My mom made me write that last part.)
And as long as we’re talking about health and fats, from my brief survey of the store-bought pie crust, aside from the Wholly Wholesome brand I mentioned, most are made with lard. Lard?! Sure, lard (pig fat), has been a pie-crust mainstay, but today’s industrially produced product is nowhere near the quality that granny used in her crusts. In fact, it can make them taste downright greasy.
Effort: There is no effort. I’m going to repeat that: This. Is. So. EASY. (if you have a food processor and a dishwasher.) I would much rather stay in my pajamas in my kitchen than haul my hiney into the car for a pie crust.
Taste: It’s pie crust. The worst pie crust you ever had is still the best part of every pie. There are no losers here.
So go on, give pie crust a try. Let me know how it goes. Or if you’ve got more tips for faking a store-bought crust, let ‘em rip in the comments!