Amy Keyishian

Pie Crust: Buy It vs. Make It

Pie CrustI 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!


Isn’t it about time you baked a pie? Try one of our luscious pie recipes!

33 Responses to “Pie Crust: Buy It vs. Make It”

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  • Rick says:

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  • Janet Neely says:

    Here’s my recipe from my 88 yr old mom who still makes crusts. In a 9 inch pie plate, combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup milk, and dash salt. Mix all together with spoon or fork pressing to the top of the plate. Bake @350 for 15-20 minutes or fill with fruit etc to bake. Its flaky and delicious and u only have 1 dirty spoon.

  • Roll your pie crust inside a one gallon zip loc bag. Pop in the fridge until ready to use. I do this for many delicate crusts such as for lemon tarts and it works out great – you can get the crust thin enough without working it to death (just check your pie baking dish to make sure the finished crust fits nicely.

  • Ken Acre says:

    And lard has 0 trans-fats.

  • Robin says:

    The pro’s and cons of the pie crust!!!
    I have made wonderful pie crusts for years, and always had pies, and separate crusts frozen in the freezer for years. Having down-sized for our senior years, and having a very small kitchen Not making pies in the quanities of the past, I have gone to Pillsbury pie crust. Never a complaint, never a mess, always a compliment.

  • Dawn says:

    I am 66 years old and still remember the day I found the secret to a perfect, flaky crust in an old cook book. You MUST use lard and keep things cold. No matter what the nay-sayers say, today’s lard works just fine in piecrust. I have shared this with many friends over the years who thought they could never make a decent piecrust. The only stipulation I put on sharing the secret of lard, was that they must share it with anyone else who had trouble. :)

    • Elizabeth Miller says:

      ABSOLUTELY!!!! I’m 80 and my mother taught me to use lard. Funny story, I was visiting my son and his family in suburban Washington, DC. They asked me to make a pie. Fine!! So, I went to two fancy grocery stores, asked for lard and was met with completely blank stares! NEVER had any. So I had to use Crisco, and it tasted like it.

  • Marsha J says:

    37 years ago when I first got married I made terrible pie crusts because I was trying to be healthy and cut down on the fat. It took a few tries before I realized I had to have the fat- but I refuse to use Crisco which is 100% trans fat – hydrogenated shortening. I use butter or tasting olive old(the lighter olive oil which still has benefits but not the strong taste) My favorite is either whole wheat pastry flour or oatmeal pastry. They are excelent and I still roll the leftovers and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon like my grandmother did.

  • Jackie says:

    I made my first pie when I was 12 and did it by myself from a recipe book. I still use the same recipe (same cookbook!) and every single person thinks I make a pie to die for. (I don’t particularly care for it so I am taking their words for it.) My friend has nothing but problems with hers, must be somewhere in the genes.

  • Patty P says:

    I’m a very good cook (really!) and have been baking for 45 years. I’ve followed all the directions for any pie crust whether hand mixed, food processor, etc. and cannot make a nice flaky pie crust to save my life. It’s either too tough, soggy, or some other failure. I KNOW that too tough is too much handling and soggy is too much water, but I still haven’t found that perfect crust. And I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried! I just found Wholly Wholesome Organic Whole Wheat Pie Shells at my local health food store and they are tastily awesome. Your blog entry is inspiring and I may give it yet another try, but I’d much rather drive seven miles into town just to buy pie crust than face another pie crust failure.

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  • Yvonne Laffoon says:

    Another easy way to measure Crisco, or other sticky things, like peanut butter, molasses, etc. Line your cup with plastic wrap sprayed with Pam. It falls out and you don’t have to wash your measuring cup either.

  • marilyn fetter says:

    Don’t give up! I was determined to make a flaky pie crust and tried all recipes and watched tons of you tube videos. I made about 10 crusts until I got it.
    This is what worked for me :
    Keep everything cold.
    Use 2 parts plus 1/3 part flour to 1 part crisco.
    The tricky part is mixing. Pinch the crisco and flour together gently until size of peas. Lumps will not be uniform.
    Drip 1 tablespoon of ice water over flour mixture gently mushing flour mixture together until dough forms. Use 2-3 tbps water per cup of flour.
    wrap dough and put in refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Roll out between wax paper with flour dust.
    Recipe ingredients for a two crust pie :
    21/3 cups flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp sugar
    1 cup crisco
    5-6 tbsp ice water
    Repeat : Do not give up. The taste and accomplishnent are so amazing!

    • Evelyn Zimmer says:

      Hi Marilyn, I read your recipe for pie crust, and Im going to try it. My mom taught me to make pies when I was a little girl, and Ive only made the crust one way. I am going to try your way and also the recipe using vodka—that sounds interesting.. Evelyn Zimmer

  • Marjorie says:

    Butter makes the least flaky crust (but arguably the richest-flavoured) and lard makes the flakiest. Shortenings such as Crsco fall somewhere in between. So you need to decide what you are going for—-I tend to use butter for crusts for quiche, whereas for fruit pies where I want an ultra-flacky texture I use lard.

  • M says:

    i prefer the NO FAIL oil crust…you can use healthy oils and you really can’t go wrong! i made the swich years ago and haven’t looked back. These also freeze well or keep in the fridge for make ahead meals/recipes.

  • rosemary says:

    yes, you can use a food processor to combine all of your ingreds. You put the flour, salt and lard in and pulse until mixture is like peas–crumbly, then slowly add liquid until it all starts to ball up. You still have to roll this out, so you do get to use your arm muscles.

  • Karen says:

    A food processer..REALLY? What is wrong with the rolling pin? The ladies are always complaing of “bingo wing” upper arms-and why is that? All these short cuts are making us softies! Come on, use those muscles! I saw a recipe for potato pancakes-food processer again! The fun part is getting out the grater! Ok, my rant is done! lol

    • Tonnie says:

      Karen; you still have to use the rolling pin. The food processor is for blending purposes only. Besides, it keeps the ingredients cooler since it is mixed in an instant or two.

  • Loretta says:

    It is very easy to make a crust look pretty. Just put thumb and forefinger on left hand on outside of edge and push forefinger of right hand in inside of edge to make a fluted edge. It is really very easy and comes our very pretty.

    Even easier is to just press the tines of a fork down along the edge; not as pretty as fluting but still looks nice.

  • Alan Brown says:

    I have been making pie crusts for my pies from scratch which i think is the best way to go for your best crust. I freeze my lard first and then I use it in my recipe with excellent results that come out better every time. I do not have a food processor that I could use to make the crust so I just use a fork and stir until it binds together easily and makes a nice dough to roll out on my counter and the rest is easy with just a cut around the edges my crust is ready to go into the oven for further baking.

  • M says:

    To measure shortening, fill a measuring cup with 1/2 cup water. Drop shortening in and push it below the surface of the water until the water measures 1/2 cup plus whatever amount you need for the recipe. i.e. if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup shortening, the water level should read 1 cup since 1/2 cup water plus 1/2 cup shortening equals 1 cup. Keep adding shortening and pressing it below the surface till the water reaches the correct measurement line on the cup. Removing the shortening is then a cinch since it is floating in water and not stuck to the measuring cup. For large amounts of shortening, use a larger measuring cup and a larger amount of water, such as 1 cup of water. No mess, no problem!

  • Steffie says:

    I saw the secret for adding Vodka to your piecrusts on the food network. I also saw somewhere that if you freeze the butter and grate it the pie crust comes out flakier. Thanks Amy for advice! will be recommending this site to all of my foodie friends!

  • Lois Pristel says:

    The part I don’t like is measuring out the Crisco or whatever shortening you use. It is messy.

  • Lisa says:

    Rock on with that food processor! That is the only way for me to make my crusts. I have also made up extra crusts, rolled them out and put wax paper in between. I layer them in a Tupperware cupcake/pie container and in the freezer they go.

  • Linda Melaney says:

    I make my own piecrust the store botton seems to taste terrible.

  • LIDA SHAFFER says:

    i usually make my own crusts and their much flakey then boughten crusts.

  • Doreen says:

    I am bookmarking this page and can hardly wait to try. Thanks and thank your mom :)

  • Marcie says:

    I’ve never made pie dough with a food processor. Do you literally just put the flour, salt, crisco in & process? then add the water/vodka, just like normal? I’ve started making crusts by hand lately too, it doesn’t look pretty but I’ve never gotten complaints about the taste! :)

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