Pies are a tasty treat but anyone who has tried to bake their own pie knows that while the filling is supreme, a soggy pie crust can ruin everything. Most pies require you to pre-bake the crust and to do so, you need a pie weight.
Pie weights substitute: Pies are a delicate balance. Sometimes the filling cooks quicker than the crust, such as with custard, and other times the filling is too soggy and won’t allow the crust to cook properly. In most cases, it is recommended to blind bake, or bake your pie crust separately, before filling it and cooking it again. However, with this process, the dough can fluff up. The solution is to use pie weights, which are specially crated to fill the pie dough and allow it to cook into a flaky masterpiece. If you don’t have special pie weights, you can use a number of substitutes, including dried beans, metal balls, chains, sugar, and even a second pie tin.
What are pie weights?
Pie weights can be many objects and their purpose is to keep the bottom of a pie crust from puffing up while you bake it. Because the pie crust is baked first, without a filling, there is nothing to naturally weigh it down and air bubbles can quickly form.
Why do you need pie weights?
With most pies, you want to pre-bake, or blind bake the crust first. This is because most pie fillings cook quicker than the actual pie dough and if you don’t bake the crust first, it will become soggy.
Pie weights allow you to bake that pie first by providing something sturdy to weigh the pie crust down.
Another reason to use pie weights is that your dough can actually shrink in the cooking process. Pie weights keep that dough in place to minimize shrinking.
5 Simple substitutes for pie weights
It may seem counterintuitive, but you can actually use metallic objects, such as ball bearings. They have the right weight to them and are easy to find.
Wash the ball bearings first, just in case, or better yet, buy them new from a hardware store. You will want to put a layer of parchment paper on the pie dough before putting the ball bearings down.
Metal has the added benefit of conducting heat, so it can actually help the dough cook a bit faster. Because of this, you will want to monitor your pie crust as it blind bakes.
If you have a long piece of metal chain lying around, you can use this as a substitute for pie weights. It should, of course, be clean, and long enough to fill up most of the pie crust.
Use a piece of parchment paper between the pie and the chain so there is no metallic taste to your crust. Just watch out as the chain will be very hot when you are done blind baking, so be sure to use oven mitts.
Beans, rice grains, or corn
Perhaps the most common form of pie weights, you can use any type of dried bean, rice, or corn. Not only do most people have at least one of these items in their pantry, but they won’t burn and they won’t leave a taste on your pie crust.
You can choose to layer your pie dough with a piece of parchment paper or place the dried beans right on top. Just note that once you use this item, it can’t be used for eating. Instead, if you are an avid pie maker, you can place the used beans or corn in a jar and have them special for pie baking.
If you have a smaller pie pan, you can simply place this over your pie dish and pie crust. It will keep everything together in a nice package.
A trick with this method is to flip the whole thing over. This way, the dough will travel down the sides a bit and you won’t have to worry about the dough shrinking as it cooks.
Somewhat dual-purpose, plain white sugar makes for an excellent pie weight. Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and then cover it with a thick layer of sugar.
The parchment paper is necessary as otherwise, the crust will meld with the sugar as it cooks.
During this process, the sugar won’t completely melt, as the temperature of the oven is pretty low. However, the sugar will caramelize a bit and you can use this in other parts of your baking.
Other Baking Tips
Chill your crust
Throughout the whole pie crust experience, you should try to keep your dough as chilled as possible. This means the butter or lard in your crust doesn’t melt as much, which means less flour and more crispness.
Once you have your pie dough in your pie tin, you can further chill it. The result will be a pie crust that doesn’t puff as much.
Prick the bottom
Take a fork and maneuver it around the bottom of your pie crust. Even if you are using pie weights or an alternative, the pricking will allow any trapped air to escape.
Use enough weights
You may not want to waste all those beans or rice, but you need a solid layer of weight on your pie dough for the best results. Pie weights are pretty heavy, so you may need to add an extra layer of your substitute weights to get a similar result.
Cover the edges
One reason bakers are apprehensive about blind baking their pie dough is that the edges cook faster and can even burn. If you are worried about this, simply use some tin foil and cover them up for a more even cook.
Pie crust is the unsung hero of a pie and while a flaky crust enhances the flavor, a soggy crust can lead to disappointment. If you don’t have pie weights, use one of these simple alternatives to craft the perfect pie crust.