Blind baking is crucial to pie baking because it ensures that the finished pie crust is crisp, golden, and holds up to soft, creamy fillings. The terms blind baking and par-baking are often used interchangeably, but some baking professionals feel there is a distinct difference. For the purposes of this showdown, we’re defining blind baking as completely baking a pie crust, and par baking as partially baking it. Blind-baked crusts get filled with fillings that don’t need to be baked; par-baked crusts are used for fillings that need to be cooked in the oven.
In anticipation of all of the cool, creamy pies we plan to bake this spring and summer, we put six popular methods for bind baking pie crusts to the test. As it turns out, the type of pie weight you use matters a little less than the baking temperature and the material you use to line the pie dough. Here’s what we learned during this bake-off, including the surprisingly delightful winner.
How We Tested These Blind-Baking Methods
While from-scratch pie crust is both easy and fun to make, for the sake of ease and consistency, each of these methods was tested with store-bought pie crusts. Each sheet of dough was rolled out into a metal pie pan, crimped, and chilled for at least an hour before being lined and baked according to the directions. After baking and cooling, each crust was filled with a simple chocolate cream filling. The rankings were based on ease, baking success (evenly browned crust with minimal shrinkage), how well they held up to filling, and how they fared after chilling overnight.
Note: We also have a Tools Showdown for the best pie weights. If you’re looking to buy a pie weight-specific tool for the job, head on over there to read more.
Blind-Baking Method: Parchment Paper and Dried Beans
About this method: Using dried beans in place of pie weights is so ubiquitous that you could almost consider this method the control for our experiment. After rolling out and chilling the dough, you line the crust with parchment and pour in the beans. You then bake the crust at 425°F for 15 minutes until the edges are browned, then carefully remove the parchment and the hot beans. The crust then goes back in the oven for 5 minutes or until dry. After cooling, the dried beans can be reused again and again as pie weights.
Results: This method might be the standard, but we can’t say that it’s the best. Beans vary widely in size and shape, which determines how well they fill the parchment liner and weigh down the crust. Depending on how the beans fit into the pie pan, you can get uneven browning and/or dents in the crust. This won’t ruin your pie, but it doesn’t look pretty either. But the biggest problem with this method? Removing the hot beans in their parchment sling inevitably results in lots of cussing, especially since you’re doing this tricky maneuver with oven mitts on. The blind-baked crust wasn’t unusable, but it was unevenly baked — the edges were quite brown, while the bottom was quite pale even after the second bake.
Blind-Baking Method: Parchment Paper and Uncooked Rice
About this method: Another riff on the standard, this technique swaps the beans for rice. For this test, we baked the crust exactly as we did the dried bean method above: Chill the dough, line the shell with parchment paper, and fill with uncooked rice, then bake the pie crust at 425°F for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and rice, then bake for 5 more minutes. Bonus: After cooling, you can cook and eat the rice.
Results: The rice does a slightly better job of evenly filling the crust and weighing down the parchment than the beans, but it’s actually harder to get out of the hot crust. In addition to the cursing, you’ll also also have the pleasure of brushing the spilled rice off of the screaming-hot oven door and sweeping it up off the floor. The finished crust did bake a little more evenly than the bean version, but not by much.
Blind-Baking Method: Double Pie Pans
Results: Despite a bit of hot pan hot potato, the crust baked surprisingly well. The edges browned first, but the bottom was crisp by the time sides were golden. The big issue here was that the crust still shrinks a bit, which gives you a pie shell that doesn’t sit flat. When we spooned in the filling, the crust broke immediately. This method might be a better choice for par-baking, where the filling is added to the partially baked crust.
Blind-Baking Method: Parchment Paper and Pie Weights
About this method: While pie weights are often bemoaned as a single-tasker in the kitchen, they can last a lifetime with regular cleaning. There are a few varieties of weights, but we chose the classic ceramic balls that recently won our pie weight showdown. Just like the bean and rice methods, you chill the pie shell, line it with parchment, fill with the weights, and bake the crust for 15 minutes before removing the weights and finishing the bake. We followed the directions from American’s Test Kitchen, which suggested a slightly lower temperature of 375°F, as compared to the 425°F temperature for the bean and rice tests.
Results: Pie weights are a specialty tool you don’t see in every kitchen (which is why you see so many folks trying replace them with pantry staples), but there is truly something unique about them. The ceramic spheres evenly fill the space and distribute heat very evenly, which should give a uniform bake. Still, even this crust browned a bit unevenly — the edges browned before the bottom — but it did crisp up beautifully, thanks to the lower oven temp.
Blind-Baking Method: Parchment Paper and Sugar
Results: This method gave us a more evenly baked bottom crust than the rice or beans method, thanks to the better weight distribution from the sugar. The toasted sugar and the fact that you don’t have to struggle with it midway through the bake helped push this method up to second place.
Blind-Baking Method: Aluminum Foil and Sugar
Results: As much as we love sugar as a pie weight, this method proves to be even better. Not only is there no need to handle the pie after it goes into the oven, but this method also gave us the best browning of any method we tried, which helped the crust stay crisp when we added the chocolate cream filling. In her directions, Stella explains that it’s the combination of the heat-conductive foil; the even weight and fine texture of the sugar, which can sneak into every nook and cranny; and the low-and-slow bake that make this method magic. As with the parchment-and-sugar method, you also get toasted sugar, which is ideal for turning into lemon curd or custard filling, creating a never-ending cycle of blind baking, pie-filling, and, of course, pie-eating — all of which we can get behind.