Here’s what you need to know. 

By Corey Williams
December 10, 2020
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Beginner bakers may be surprised to learn that you can’t just stick a pie in an oven and call it a day. Depending on the type of crust you’re working with, you may need to do something called a “blind bake” before you add your filling — and, if you’re blind baking, chances are you need to use pie weights. Here’s what you need to know about pie weights and when/how to use them: 

What Is Blind Baking? 

Empty Pie Crust with flour background
Credit: DNY59/Getty Images

Blind baking is simply baking a pie crust without the filling. You may need to do this for two reasons:

  1. You intend to fill your pie with an unbaked filling (imagine a chocolate pudding pie filling that’s prepared on the stove). In this case, you’re going to want to fully bake the crust in one fell swoop. 
  2. Your filling has a shorter bake time than your crust (consider this pecan pie). In this case, you’ll only partially bake the crust on the first go-round. The crust will finish cooking when the pie is baked as a whole. 
  3. Your filling and pie crust have similar bake times, but your filling is exceptionally wet and prone to sogginess (think fruit pies). You’ll only partially bake the crust during the blind bake in this instance, too.

If you’re making a pie with a crumb crust, you don’t have to worry about doing anything extra to your crust during blind baking. Just throw it in the oven and bake it according to your recipe. If you’re making a pastry crust, however, things aren’t quite so simple. 

What Are Pie Weights?

Top view of unbaked tart filled with ceramic pie weights used to keep crust from shrinking during blind baking
Credit: Firn/Getty Images

When you’re dealing with a pastry crust, you have to consider a bit of chemistry: As the dough bakes, the fat melts at a different rate than the rest of the ingredients. This is a good thing, because steam is responsible for the flaky layers you associate with a perfectly prepared pastry crust. But, when there’s no filling to weigh it down, steam will cause the crust to puff up and deflate. You’ll be left with a wrinkly mess that’s not fit for filling. 

Pie weights, small ceramic or metal balls, serve as a temporary filling during the first round of baking. They’re not extremely heavy, but they’re substantial enough to weigh the dough down enough to prevent puffing. 

You can use legitimate pie weights (which you can buy online or in stores) or items you already have on hand, like dried beans or rice. Before we discuss what you can and can’t use as pie weights, though, we need to talk about how to use them.

Top view of unbaked tart filled with ceramic pie weights used to keep crust from shrinking during blind baking
Credit: Firn/Getty Images

How Do You Use Them?

It’s not hard to use pie weights, but you do need to follow a series of simple steps.

  1. Make your crust according to your recipe or unroll your store-bought crust. Press it into your pie plate and crimp the edges to create your pie shell. 
  2. Line your pie shell with parchment paper. You don’t want to skip this step, as your weights might stick to the dough otherwise. Just cut a large enough square or circle to allow for plenty of overhang — you’ll need to be able to easily grab the sides without spilling hot weights everywhere. 
  3. Add the pie weights to the crust. Fill the shell completely. If you’re baking a deep dish pie, you’ll need to use more weights. Bake the weight-filled crust according to your recipe, just until it’s beginning to brown. If your recipe doesn’t specify times or temperatures, 425°F for 10-15 minutes is a safe bet.  
  4. Carefully lift the pie weights using the parchment paper overhang. Pour them into a heat-proof bowl to cool down. 
  5. Place the crust back into the oven to expose the parts of the crust that were previously covered directly to heat. This should only take about five minutes. 
  6. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool to room temperature before proceeding with your recipe. 

Where to Buy Pie Weights 

pie shell filled with parchment paper and pie weights
Credit: Williams Sonoma

You can buy pie weights in cooking or home stores, craft stores, or online. These ceramic pie weights, from Mrs. Anderson’s Baking, are a popular choice — they have more than 3,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Reviewers are also loving these gorgeous unglazed ceramic beads, which evenly distribute heat, from Williams Sonoma. 

Another option is a beaded pie chain, like this one from Bed Bath & Beyond, that is linked together for easier storage. 

Pie Weight Substitutes

Filled screen with mix of beans
Credit: FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

While ceramic pie weights are nice to have, they’re not necessary if you have dried beans or rice on hand. They work exactly the same! Beans are a popular choice because their size and shape mimics that of store-bought ceramic beads. You won’t be able to cook with the beans after you’ve baked them, so take that into consideration before pouring the last of your beans into your pie shell. 

Common pie weight options are: 

  • Dried beans (it doesn’t matter what kind, just use what you have on hand)
  • Dried rice
  • Granulated sugar
  • Popcorn kernels

Related

This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com