Butter vs. Shortening: the great pie crust bakeoff

Pie crust – gotta love it, right?

Flaky and tender when you nail it, tough as rawhide when you don’t, pie crust divides all of us bakers into definitive categories: those who succeed; those who fail, but keep trying; and those who buy Mrs. Smith’s.

Why is pie crust so tough – often literally? Well, it’s all about the fat, the water, and the flour. Three simple ingredients that, together, can create a masterpiece – or mayhem.


Flour does make a difference; but not as much as you might think. A lower-protein pastry flour, like our Perfect Pastry Blend, will inherently make a more tender crust – and will also be a bit more fragile when you’re rolling it out.

Truthfully, I use our all-purpose flour in my pie crust; I have to be careful not to work it too hard once the water is added (for fear of developing its gluten), but for me, it offers an ideal blend of good results, and ease of handling.

photo 1

Water – make it ice water. Simple enough, right?

Ah, now comes the ingredient that arguably makes or breaks a pie crust, and also creates the most debate:

photo 2


Butter vs. shortening in pie crust

Your grandma used lard. Your mom used shortening. You use butter. Are all fats created equal?

I decided to find out.

First thing I did was rule out lard. NOT BECAUSE IT’S NOT A PERFECTLY GOOD FAT AND CAPABLE OF MAKING WONDROUSLY TASTY PIE CRUST.  After all, our ancestors made lard-crust pies for centuries and, like lard-fried doughnuts, they were delicious.

I’m ruling out lard simply because good, fresh lard isn’t as universally available as shortening and butter. So if you love lard, and have a good supplier – stick with it.

But if butter and vegetable shortening are your choices, read on.

Butter vs. shortening in pie crust: how do you choose which fat to use? Click To Tweet

For years, I’ve alternated between two favorite recipes: Classic Double Pie Crust, a crust made with both shortening and butter; and All-Butter Pie Crust.

One Thanksgiving I’d go with an all-butter crust for my Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie; the next, I’d make my Apple Pie with the shortening/butter clone.

But never had I made both crusts in tandem, and done a side-by-side comparison. Which was flakier? Which tasted better?


Butter makes a lighter crust

This was the year. Having signed up to do a pie demonstration at a local bookstore, I decided I’d best practice both – at the same time.

And I made an amazing discovery (amazing to me; we pie geeks are easily amazed): something I’d always believed to be true was absolutely, categorically, without a doubt not true at all.

I’d always told people that a shortening/butter pie crust would have better texture than an all-butter crust, due to shortening’s higher melting point. Why?

Fat keeps the layers of flour/water “matrix” separated as the pie bakes; the longer fat is present in its solid form (score one for shortening, with its high melting point), the more flakes will form, the more tender/flakier the crust will be.

Now, that may be true. I didn’t actually count the number of flaky layers in each crust.


But one thing was abundantly clear: the all-butter crust (above left) made a much LIGHTER crust, with more defined flakes, than the butter/shortening combination (above right).

I was totally puzzled, until it dawned on me: butter contains more water than shortening.


As the crust bakes, that water is converted to steam, puffing up the crust (and its flakes) like someone blowing up a balloon.

Each fat adds its own distinct flavor

And flavor? The all-butter crust tasted – well, buttery, of course. The butter/shortening crust (which was, by the way, just as tender and flaky as the butter crust, but without its light texture) tasted a bit like butter, and a bit like pie crust – that indefinable something that tells your taste buds, yes, I’m eating a piece of pie.

Both were good – just different. And one of the chief differences was looks: the butter crust produced a very ill-defined edge. My careful fluting basically went up in smoke – er, steam.

So if you’re after looks, stick with the butter/shortening combination (or all shortening). If looks don’t matter to you, I’d go with the all-butter crust.

What about substituting vodka for water?

While I was at it, I decided to test the famous Cook’s Illustrated secret to tender, flaky pie crust: using vodka in place of half the water in the crust.

The theory is that vodka, being alcohol rather than water, will develop flour’s gluten less than plain water, thus creating a more tender crust.

Is that true?


In front, all-butter + vodka, and shortening/butter + vodka. Behind, butter and shortening without vodka.

The verdict? I couldn’t discern any difference in the flakiness/tenderness of the vodka vs. non-vodka crusts. BUT the vodka crust rolled out more easily; with its silken, smooth texture, it was a pleasure to work with.

So would I add vodka to pie crust? Sure. I think I’ll even keep a little jar of it in the fridge, so it’s handy for pie crust or a gimlet – whichever comes first!

OK, I’ve given you a map. And here you stand at the crossroads, ready to make a decision on the butter vs. shortening in pie crust debate.

Which will it be: Classic Double Pie Crust, or All-Butter Pie Crust?


Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie, made with an all-butter crust.

May the best crust win!

There’s more to pie crust than ingredients; technique plays a big hand in a successful crust, as well. For a wonderful pictorial on making pie crust, see our blog post Pie, Any Way You Slice It.

And for more tips, check out Perfect Pie: A Baker’s Dozen+ Tips.

Note: This blog post focuses on the difference between shortening and butter in pie crust, without examining the relative health benefits of each. For health information concerning these fats, speak to a doctor or nutritionist. 

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Tiara in Washington

    Thank you, PJ, for doing the test between butter and shortening! Pie crusts is the next challenge for me to take on and since my family has a severe lactose intolerance issue, butter is not always an option. Do you think if we added more water to the crust it will help with the steam and puffiness of the layers when it bakes? I definitely want to try the crust with the vodka, too. Thank you again for showing the difference between the two type of fats.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You’re welcome, Tiara. I wouldn’t add more water; it would be difficult to add just the right amount, as too much would make it tough. How about substituting vegetable margarine for the butter? Good luck – PJH

    2. Patty

      I believe that butter is free of lactose. Check your butter package’s nutritional information; if there are no carbohydrates listed, it’s lactose free.

    3. Bridget

      I’m so sorry that you left out lard, because I would have been interested in how it stacked up. I have never, ever, ever had any pie crust that was better than my mother’s lard crust. I don’t care from how fancy a bakery or what renown the baker had. No crust had the wonderful flavor and flakiness (I am alarmed that so many people confuse crumbliness with flakiness) of my mother’s pies. There is no doubt that her crusts were not as beautiful as some, but who cares? I’m not in it for the beauty, I’m in it for the taste. That’s why your concern over losing the beautifully fluted edge to your butter pie bothered me. I have learned that the crusts that look the best taste the worst. Just saying.

    4. The Baker's Hotline

      To each their own, Bridget. You can have a bad looking crust with a bad taste or a great looking crust that tastes wonderfully or any combination of the two! It all depends on the baker and how they handle the dough. Jon@KAF

    5. Prudence

      This is an encouraging experiment. I stink at crusts, which have proven a 50/50 proposition for me. And yes, I do resort to store-bought crusts to reduce the risk. But VODKA? What a revelation! I will give it a try.

      Thanks for all you do. And greetings from Wisconsin, PJ !

    6. PJ Hamel, post author

      Enjoy the crust, Prudence – and stay warm out there! Say hi to all my Badger family in the Madison area… PJH

    7. LC

      Depending on your taste buds, I have made a vegan pie crust with coconut oil that turns out wonderfully. I have used it in pecan and apple pies. I wouldn’t recommend using it with a vegetarian pot pie. I tried that and didn’t like the coconut flavor mixed with the vegetables.

      2 1/4 cup ap flour
      1/2 cup coconut oil (should be solid not liquid)
      1 tsp salt
      1 tbsp sugar
      1/3 – 1/2 cup water (i suspect the vodka substitution would work here too)

      Good luck!

      p.s. smart balance makes vegan butter which i believe is lactose free

    8. Gianne

      Hi, im doing this chemistry internal assesment and im doing pie crust density with different types of fats! I tried your recipies out but i can’t seem to get the ‘lighter texture’ of the butter, like the height of the crust. My butter vs shortening pie crusts seem are about the same height. I’ve followed everything step by step, including the cold butter, having different chunks etc. What other factors could explain why the pie crusts for shortening and butter be the same? Could it do with temperature and time cooked perhaps? What temp did you set your oven to?

    9. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Gianne- The most important factor for your pie crusts is how you work the fat in, so it may just be a matter of reading up a bit more on the techniques of incorporating a more “chunky” flaked butter from pieces in contrast to the more “smeared” incorporation that tends to occur with shortening. If you are doing an experiment, then you would want to bake them the same temperature and time I would assume as a control, and around 375-400°F would be an average baking temperature. I am guessing that you are incorporating your butter into your crust a bit too much, which is causing it to turn out more like a shortening crust. Keeping the dough cold throughout the mixing and shaping is also important. I hope that helps and if you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-2253 and we’d be happy to provide you with further assistance at that time. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    10. Sierra

      There are also kinds of butter you can buy without milk in it.. I’ve encountered issues similar to this with vegan cooking. Earth Balance was a good brand I used to in some of my baking. I hope this will help!

    11. Suzanne Gerard

      I have tried the vodka and found it good and when it was not available, I found gin worked as well but I use lard for my crust and often in the form of cleaned bacon drippings. Only use bacon drippings if they are clear white ( bacon cooked in the oven is good for this) and well strained to remove any bits and pieces. This is especially good with apple, pumpkin and mince pies.

    12. E. Flint

      Please do some research. Butter contain only VERY SMALL TRACES of lactose. It is almost all FAT. Lactose is a sugar. Sugars are carbohydrates.

    13. Sara

      What do you think of oil instead of butter or shortening? I have been using a Betty Crocker recipe for years that is very flaky, tasty and easy to work with that calls for vegetable oil. I use canola.

    14. J. M. Cornwell

      You might want to try a crust using vegetable oil. It’s not the kind of crust to roll out because the dough is looser, but you can pack your dough into a pan and spread it by hand. The crust will be flaky, but less formed, and that will avoid your family’s lactose intolerance.

    15. KimberlyD

      I use to fail at making pie crust, it didn’t matter if I used butter or the combination of the two! Than I went to work as a baker at a apple orchard and learned how to make pie crust from them. People would drive from all over to buy our pies and would say it was because they loved our crust!

      1/4 water
      1/3 oil
      2 cups of flour (pastry or all purpose)

      Mix all together and roll out. it makes 2 pie crust.

    16. Sharon

      I’ve done them all. There is a running battle between me and my dad as to whose piecrust is better. (mine of course) I am a big fan of an all shortening crust, AND a 2 step addition of the fat. First I add about 1/3 of the shortening and cut it in until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Then I add the rest and cut it in until there are pea sized clumps. Then comes the ice water and I handle it as little as possible from this point on. What I end up with is a very tender crust (I believe from the first addition) and a beautifully flakey crust. The reason I am a fan? I think an all shortening crust (with a sufficient amount of salt) gives the filling top billing with a perfect vessel in the crust. Oh, btw, Dad uses all butter.

    17. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Sharon – Your method is exactly what we teach in our Baking Education Center. The result is both a tender crust due to the smaller pieces of fat and a flaky crust due to the larger pieces of fat. A win-win! We use butter though. To each their own! Elisabeth@KAF

    18. Mimi

      For the lactose intolerant, or milk protein allergic folks, what about ghee rather than butter or margarine? Would ghee produce results more like shortening, since what makes it ghee is clearing the rest of the milk-liquid from the milk-fat?

    19. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Mimi,
      We haven’t played around too much with ghee in baking lately, but we did find that cold coconut oil worked very well as a substitute for shortening for our dairy-free baking. ~ MJ

    20. Deby Hogue

      Hello PJ, did I get this right? Take the shot of Vodka and roll out the crust? If nothing else it will make you feel better about your crust. Thanks for all the info. I loved it. I always use all butter, but now I will be drinking more Vodka with it.

    21. G J Wilder

      I have successfully used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter sticks in many baking recipes, if I run out of butter. It has 79% oil content and no dairy products or hydrogenated oils. Here is their benefits statement.
      Item Benefits / Features

      I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® Sticks are perfect for baking. Specially formulated to bake and taste like butter, you can use them in all of your favorite baking recipes. They contain a blend of oils, including soybean and canola, so I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® Sticks have 50% less saturated fat than butter, no partially hydrogenated oils, 0g trans fat per serving* and provides a good source of omega-3 ALA per serving.**

      *I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® Sticks 79% vegetable oil spread contain 11g of fat (3.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat) and 100 calories per serving.

      **A blend of soybean and canola oils. Contains 500mg of omega-3 ALA per serving, which is 38% of the 1.6g daily value for ALA).

    22. Ellen Matthewson

      My most recent experiment with pie crust is using half clarified butter, a little browned and half butter. That keeps all the flavor of butter, and more because of the browned butter, while reducing the amount of moisture inherent in the all butter crust. It is working well.
      I have been working on my pie crust technique for years now. This one is a winner.

    23. Jocelyn

      I have found that adding White Vinegar makes the perfect crust. That is what my Aunt Kay used and she made the best pies ever.

    24. Emilie Knapple

      WOW, I’m so glad I stumbled on your post. I have used both butter and shortening and a combination. I much prefer the butter. I usually do all butter for a savory pie, like chicken pot pie, but I think I have to try the vodka thing. thank you thank you for your experiment!

    25. Teri

      Thanks PJ! I don’t make pie crust often enough to be good at it, but after reading this, I might be a little better by applying what I learned from your article. My Mom made a great pie crust but as the years went on and she made them more infrequently, we used to joke that you could tell how flaky the pie crust would be based on the number of times we heard a mild expletive coming from the kitchen. If more than one, the crust wasn’t going to be as flaky!

    26. Rosemary Griffis

      I have severe lactose intolerance. Butter is made from cream (fat). If you’re really, really concerned, use ghee — clarified butter — which you can find at any Indian or Asian market. But butter may have some lactose, but not enough to measure.

    27. Lauren

      My grandmother and mother were expert pie makers and their all-lard crusts were flaky and divine in flavor. But they were also able to buy the lard directly from the Farmer, and they knew which Farmer made the best lard. I don’t have much access to lard and have used a butter/shortening combination with good results, although not as tasty and flaky as my mom’s were! Having said that my husband prefers storebought pie crust to my homemade crust! He values that salty taste over the lack of flakiness.

    28. Cindy

      I use shortening and buttermilk, or sour milk instead of water. I like to freeze the shortening before cutting it into the flour and salt. I also chill the dough and chill the assembled pie before putting it in the oven.

    29. Walter Blevins

      What about lard/manteca? That’s what I use in pie crust. (non-shelf stable, that I keep in the freezer)

    30. The Baker's Hotline

      Lard is another great option, Walter. It tends to result in an extra-flaky crust (though the flakes are small in size, rather than large). Mollie@KAF

    31. Lonnie

      I’ve found using half chilled Lundy’s Refined Lard and half chilled Crisco with the ice-water, working quickly is best for a perfectly flaky, golden crust. Also? Best on a chilly, clear day also helps. Weather makes a difference in ideal pastry crust development.

    32. The Baker's Hotline

      Shawn, try replacing half of the water in your pie dough recipe with vodka. We find that tends to be just about the right ratio to give you the best results. Kye@KAF

    33. Sharon

      I have found that all butter pie crust (while it tastes lovely when first made) seems to get softer when the pie is eaten on the second or third day. Nice for a holiday or event if it is all going to be eaten that day.

    34. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you might be looking for our No-Roll Pie Crust recipe, which calls for using vegetable oil as the base. If that’s the case, you can find the recipe here. Canola oil would be a suitable choice for this recipe. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

    35. LP

      Butter is pure fat (all calories in it come from fat). Lactose is a carbohydrate. There is no (or at worst, perhaps a trace amount) of lactose in butter.

    36. Susan Reid

      Actually, butter is roughly 80% fat, 18% water and 2% milk solids. Clarified butter is pure fat. Susan

  2. Shirley

    I used the recipe from the previous post. Used butter and shortening and rolled it out between 2 layers of parchment. It was the easiest roll out I have ever done and I will continue to use it if it tastes as good as I hope it does. They are in the freezer now
    I have tried the vodka addition and didn’t like the flavor, believe it or not.. I have had difficulty rolling out all butter crust but it sure did taste good.

  3. Anneedelweiss

    I have been gathering ingredients and emptying freezer space to make half a dozen pies this weekend – and then I saw this post by PJ. Look at those amazing pictures of those amazing crusts, all four different versions! I’ll take any one and all of them, please.

    The virtue of a pie is how accommodating this pastry could be – just about any filling could be fashioned into a pie. Or, in the case of ‘pie fries’, no filling is called for. Inspired, I think I’ll just do that – make a few extra and reserve them for ‘fries’ later.

    (The ready-made crusts are fine for ‘fries’, but with justifiable bias I think homemade is better. Ready-made pies? I remember they are rather good, but I haven’t had one for years.)

    Many blog readers sent in comments about how they learned to make pies from their moms or grandmas. How precious, and enviable! Fond memories of favorite foods aside, ‘watch and learn’ is a sure way to get the gist of making a good pie. Short of that I really appreciate the many KAF posts on making pies and crusts. PJ, I am glad you ‘practiced’. What a fun saga in the discovery of making a good piecrust!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks so much, Anne – your kinds words are truly appreciated! Have fun making the pies this weekend – you actually get into a rhythm when you’re making that many, don’t you? Sounds like a festive Thanksgiving is in your immediate future… 🙂 PJH

  4. Patty

    I wish you hadn’t ruled out lard! I’ve never used it before but I’d love to know how it works in baking. I only use natural fats so for me it’s all butter unless I give lard a try.

    I assume coconut oil would not be a good choice for crusts with it’s low melting point.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lard is more difficult to find, but some bakers think it’s worth the search! There are some great recipes out there for coconut oil. We hope you find the pie crust recipe (and pie crust fat) that meets your taste and texture expectations. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    2. member-nancylanderson37

      I find lard in the ethnic food section of the supermarket, more toward the Hispanic area of food. I think it is the best!

    3. auggy

      You can render your own if you can find a good source of leaf lard. Ask your butcher. I get raw leaf lard from the Farmers’ Market and I render it myself. Be careful of buying shelf stable lard in the grocery store, it’s usually hydrogenated. There are also places on line you can buy it in bulk if you like deep frying: This stuff is pretty good – https://www.prairiepridepork.com/products/index.php?catid=20&utm_content=Ad-2-Already_09-2011&gclid=CN7P-JiJs70CFTIV7AodHRoAMQ

    4. georgine

      Patty if you live in Maine you will find lard in any grocery store. It is a staple used in many home cooking here.

      I myself prefer using European butter but I find that other butters are okay. Store brands seems to have a higher water content that name brand butters. I usually cubed my butter and then freeze it while getting the other ingredients together. My water is always ice cold. I put water in the fridge the night before with ice cubes. Hope this helps. Happy Baking.

  5. Cactusneedle

    I recently purchased some as I heard it is better than the chemically preserved stuff available in stores. I am looking forward to trying it out to see if there is any difference. I have homemade butter made from raw cream. Do you think there will be any difference in that and storebought, processed butter? Maybe I need to do a side by side like you did!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’d love to see (or hear about) those side by side results! BTW, if homemade butter was good enough for the first Thanksgiving – won’t it work for us? Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  6. "Mandi F."

    I LOVE the vodka crust. I still use traditional crusts from time to time but only b/c I really want to learn how to do it the way my grandma did. But when I need a crust that is no fail, I turn to the vodka crust.

    PJ, have you tried the overworked pie crust? It was developed by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt who developed the vodka crust for Cooks Illustrated. You can find the recipe and a very interesting article about it on the Serious Eats site: http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/07/the-food-lab-the-science-of-pie-how-to-make-pie-crust-easy-recipe.html. I haven’t tried it yet but it’s on my list of must tries.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Mandi, I haven’t tried that. But the article is fascinating; I’ve printed it out and am trying to figure out how I can shoehorn it into my baking schedule before Thanksgiving! Isn’t it fascinating how many ways there are to make a great pie crust? PJH

  7. Shirley

    I always use all-butter crusts, and my fluting never stays intact! No matter how much resting time I give it in the fridge. I have a bias against shortening, but now I’m reconsidering.

    Here’s another question: does the use of butter vs. shortening impact crust shrinkage? Shrinkage is another problem I have (only with partially prebaked, single-crust tarts; my double-crust pies don’t shrink) no matter how much resting time I give it in the fridge between rolling and assembly and baking.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Shirley, shortening should help with shrinkage, as shortening’s melting point is higher – thus the crust will stay in place longer, hopefully until it’s set. And yes, all-butter crusts don’t hold their shape as well; it’s just a fact (for the same reason mentioned previously – butter’s melting point is quite low, so it melts before the crust’s shape is truly set. All you can do is make a plain flat fork-tine edge; or accept that looks aren’t everything! 🙂 PJH

    2. debzy

      I have found with blind baking that it’s important to not stretch the crust too much. When rolling it out make sure you use gentle strokes, rolling it out but not pressing too hard so it stretches. When you put it in the pie plate keep pushing gently towards the center and make sure there’s a little sag in the sides. Then flute it. I use foil in mine and I fill it right up to the top with dried beans which I keep in a jar and use over and over. Then I bake it until it’s nearly done before taking out the foil and beans to finish letting it bake and brown. Since I figured this out my pie crusts don’t shrink! I hope I explained that correctly…

      I sometimes use a butter/shortening mixture in case you’re wondering. 2/3 shortening 1/3 butter.

    3. Shirley

      This is enlightening. You might have converted me to the combo butter/shortening dark side, PJ! Or at the least, convinced me to try it. I won’t lie … looks do matter. 🙂 Thanks!

    4. "Dianne Price"

      I use shortening sometimes, butter sometimes and lard (when I can find it these days). I usually use butter when making squares or turnovers or dumplings, something that doesn’t depend on “the flute appearance”, but when I do use it for pies, before fluting, dip your fingers in flour – it adds flour just to that fluted edge and helps hold them up better.

  8. Deborah

    I have been making butter pie crusts for years . The important thing is I am lactose intolerant now so I have to make my own butter to make butter pie crusts . I tried the crusts with vodka and Wow. The crust was better even with my butter. Thank you so much for the tip!
    With all baking its the tips that make anyone a good baker.

  9. Haley

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s something I’ve always wanted to try but never had the patience to actually compare all of the options side by side. For the butter, is there a particular percentage of milk fat that should be used? I normally can only find 80%-81% but I know that 84% milk fat is ideal for some recipes. Thank you!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      There really isn’t a “best” option, but I personally prefer a higher fat percentage for my crusts. Just keep in mind that you may need to add a little more water when using a butter with a higher fat ratio. Jon@KAF

  10. Pamela Newberry

    I make my own lard…don’t rule it out! My SIL uses vodka in his pie crusts (made with butter) and they are awesome!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sadly the lard used for crusts is not easy to find everywhere. However, I hear it really is the fat of choice for pie. Jon@KAF

    2. Tresa

      So, is leaf lard the only kind that’s good for crust? I was going to try the Field brand which is not hydrogenated.

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Leaf lard is the “creme de la creme” of lard, but you can certainly use other types in your baking, Tresa. PJH

  11. Sue

    I am one of the pie geeks. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I do like to bake, and pies are one of my favorites. Looks DO matter. I have always used all Crisco shortening…am wondering-to try butter/shortening combo, can I simply swap half the shorting 1:1 with butter? or would I be better served to use the recipe that is specific to the combo? Thanks for this pie testing, PJ!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you will need to use a 1:1 ratio or shortening to butter. Just keep in mind that the butter will add more moisture to your dough so you may not need all of your water. Jon@KAF

    2. Ginnie

      I use a 1:1 ratio of butter:shortening *by weight*. Also use half vodka, and add a bit of vinegar to the water. Then the flour mixture is half all-purpose, a quarter whole wheat, and a quarter *oat* flour [great flavor!]–and I add a *tiny* bit of baking soda to the flour.

      The flavor is heavenly, the texture is light and flaky, and the dough is easy to work.

      I need to make pie again soon!

  12. AZSobyrd

    My question is how does atmospheric humidity factor in making a crust? I am always successful with my crusts when in MA and have the experience to make my measurements without having to measure using cups, simply ‘eye’ my measurements. I fail miserably when in AZ. Our house is in the high country elevation 5000 ft. However, I suspect humidity is the factor. When I have followed recipes or added extra shortening or attempted to add more water, it is then hard to work with to roll and plate and ultimately it is dry. From your research, i should likely use butter (for steam effect and humidity) and typical water amount? Thank you!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, humidity plays a large role in most baking and pies are no different. I imagine you have a very dry climate in Arizona! In that case I would certainly suggest butter and more water in your dough. Also, a 30-60 min rest in the refrigerator should help it roll a bit easier. Also, as PJ mentioned, vodka did make for a crust that was easier to roll. Jon@KAF

    2. Victoria

      When baking in a really dry climate/season, the flour will be drier so it will take more time for the flour to hydrate fully. Supermarket flour is generally shipped and stored in ambient conditions before it hits the shelf. (Not sure if that is true of KAF, especially their whole grain flours.) Flour will have weeks or months to dry out in desert locations, high elevations and areas where is is extremely cold.

      It will probably require more water, but use just enough water for the dough to barely hold together when squeezed — if it holds its form easily, it is too wet. Let the unformed mixture rest in the fridge sealed tightly for at least a couple hours so the flour can absorb the moisture. After the flour hydrates, it will be easy to form into a disk. You may need to let the butter soften ~30 minutes before rolling.

      My mother used to make the craggy-crumbly mixture in big batches a couple weeks before the holidays. She put it in mason jars, and used it for quick pastry appetizers, quiche, pies, etc. I doubt she even realized that was the secret to her delicate, flaky yet sturdy crusts. We were all transplants to the High Desert. The Southern ladies all despaired, whether they used lard, butter or Crisco, because the crusts that worked so well “at home” turned out like shoe leather in the foreign climate.

      At high elevations, water boils at a lower temperature, so the flour/water in the crust takes longer to set and the filling takes longer too cook. You will probably have to bake the pie a little longer, but don’t increase oven temp. Cover edges loosely with foil to prevent over-browning. Since it takes longer for the flour in the crust to set, don’t skip the step to let the rolled crust(s) rest in the fridge at least 30 minutes before blind-baking or filling.

  13. Peggy Ann

    I have always used olive oil (or canola oil) and I get my water very cold, ice cubes in it, then add the tablespoons of cold water to a bowl with the oil in it and whip with a fork until it is thick and bubbly. Then add it to my flour. Everyone asks for my recipe and raves about my flaky crust. Its just the way mom always did it.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Ahhh an oil crust, another type I have not tried. I’m glad to hear that this type works so well for you! Jon@KAF

    2. Clay Pendleton

      Very interesting! After you form the ingredients into the pie plate, do you then chill the crust so the olive oil will form into a solid so when it comes out of the oven, it will be more flakey?

    3. Linda

      For 50 years I’ve also made the crust my Mom taught me and it always turns out flaky and golden. It is a bit more work and you have to get the hang of it!
      1/2 cup oil ( I use canola)
      1/4 cup milk
      2 cups flour (more or less as needed)
      Combine and then gather up into 2 balls. Roll each out between waxed paper and then peel away one side and flip into pie dish. Fit and peel off the other waxed paper. After top crust is on flute edges.
      I’ve had lots of people ask for this recipe and I would never make any other kind of crust!

    4. PJ Hamel, post author

      Interesting, Linda – I have a friend who makes an olive oil/milk crust, and it’s wonderful, and she never seems to get around to giving me the recipe (it’s her mom’s), so I’m definitely going to try this. I tried figuring it our on my own, and my crust was greasy; so thanks for sharing this. PJH

    5. jsgcls79

      I use the oil crust recipes from the King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook. They are very fast, easy, and fool proof, if you handle them the way the recipe says. I have two friends that pride themselves on their pastry, pooh-poohed the very idea of an oil crust, and then asked for my recipe after trying mine. I use a strong tasting olive oil for savory pies, and vegetable oil for sweet.

  14. liv

    thank you for this incredibly informative and in depth look at pie crusts! pie is my very favorite thing to bake and i’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. i usually do a butter/butter flavored shortening combo crust or, when cooking for my vegan pals, all shortening. i’ve never actually done an all butter crust before. after seeing your results, i may have to experiment with a combo of crusts – butter/shortening for the base with all butter for lattice tops and/or simple decorative cut outs. yay new kitchen projects!

    dear fellow lactose intolerant people,
    i’m seriously confused about why you live with this. just take lactase pills (lactaid). they’re in the drug store with the other upset tummy remedies. one or two pills taken with dairy containing foods and you’re fine. honestly. i’ve been using them for years. if they don’t work, you’re not lactose intolerant and may have an allergy or something but, for plain old intolerance, they’re great.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I find that it is sometimes easier to go without the dairy as I don’t always have the pills on hand! I still need to try my hands at a lard crust, just have to find and render it myself. Jon@KAF

    2. Kathy Hawthorne

      Kefir and lactase enzymes take care of any milk intolerance. I can even eat ice cream without any upset to my digestion. That is true, if they don’t work it’s something else.

  15. Janet

    I also experimented before. I found the Vodka advice from CI not as good as my butter/ shortening crust I was already was using, but I don’t use hydrogenated shortening I buy palm shortening from the health food store and like it much better, think it works better than the standard brands and healthier; it may be that it has higher water content it seems a lot less dense and creamier then hydrogenated. I did all butter crust and had the same issue of it not holding it’s shape and did not work for trying to bake a pie shell; yikes a blob of dough in the center of the pie plate. I am careful not to overwork the dough and make sure everything is really cold and have great success every time.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Interesting! Maybe the palm oil shortening is allowed to have more water than butter…for the next test! Jon@KAF

  16. Susan

    I use shortening, but I also add 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 large egg and 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar; my pie crust gets raves reviews and is a “no-fail” for all those beginning bakers.

  17. Cindy Crowe

    I have followed KAF for years and love and appreciate all the testing that you do, but my question is …. how temperature controlled was this test? I mean as far as the temperature of the shortening/fats that were used. Were they used as close as possible to the “same” temperatures for accuracy? I am in no way trying to be disrespectful, but for my scientific side, I would really like to know 🙂 , Thank you

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Cindy, the butter was cold for both recipes; the shortening was at room temperature in the butter/shortening recipe. But it didn’t really matter, as both crusts were thoroughly chilled before baking, so there was plenty of time for all the fat to become the same temperature. As I said, both were the same as far as flakiness goes; but the butter crust was lighter textured, revealing more of its layers. Hope this helps – PJH

  18. Clay Pendleton

    I know that French pastry chefs always use butter but their butter has a higher fat content with less water than ours, that we use in the states. I would think that if you wanted to make a nice flakey pie crust or have some pastry dough on hand to make croissants or butter horn rolls it would be better to look for European style butter instead of the regular grade butter that you can buy. Also the secret is layering and cooling the dough to achieve flakey layers.

  19. Gina

    Great article. I prefer a lard crust but, you are right, it is so hard to find! My nephew found a source, a local meat market, and bought a batch. My crust was fabulous. But the next time I purchased from the same shop and it created a wet crust. There was too much water in the lard. I was so diappointed! I find a lot of shortening has the same issue. I often do not have to add water, to the pastry. I use KAF all-purpose flour and carefully measure. Any suggestions?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Gina, you could try our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe, using a combination of butter and shortening; it makes a nice crust. And use good-quality shortening, like Crisco; that should help with the “too much water” in the shortening. Good luck – PJH

  20. Kristen

    Thanks for sharing the comparison! I have to admit: I’m an all shortening kind of gal. Shortening, flour, and cold water, hand mixed. It makes for a flaky but firm crust – the kind of pie slice you can pick up with your hand and know it’ll hold up. …what? Am I the only person who likes to grab a slice on the run? 😉

    1. Jennifer

      Kristen – Absolutely not! When I make pumpkin pie I often have a slice for breakfast (pie is ok for any meal, right??) as I walk out the door. I also sneak a slice of any type of pie late at night and want to be: 1. really quiet and 2. not have to wash the plate & fork. Yes, cherry, apple, etc can be a little messy, but wiping the counter is a very quiet activity. Slice, pick up, eat, repeat. 😀

  21. k.g.mom

    Love crust made with lard. Really makes a difference IMHO.

    Racheal Ray gave a great tip last week. She uses a cocktail shaker for her ice water. A great way to keep ice out of your dough!

  22. Kattrinka

    Good to know since I’ve been using all butter for many years. Since we’ve found out how deadly Trans Fat (hydrogenated fat) is!

  23. Melissa

    Even after all these centuries of pie crust making with basically,a handful of ingredients, and we are all still excited to see if we can make a ‘better’ pie crust! What a crazy FUN bunch of people! I am TOTALLY intrigued by the Vodka replacement!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I rarely see two people make pie crust the same way, just one of those baked goods that have a 100 different versions that all seem to work. Jon@KAF

    2. Anneedelweiss

      ONLY 100 versions, Jon? Sometimes I sneaked in a tablespoonful of almond flour or a dash of this or that spices into the flour, just to break the monotony. Did that create any break through, bring out the ‘wow’ factor? Probably not. But it was fun and I was delighted that I could do a crust in more than one way.

      My mom didn’t bake – we didn’t have an oven. But she used to make her own lard by rendering a piece of fatty pork. This homemade lard turned out snow-white in color when cooled to room temperature and had its own distinct aroma, something prized in her cooking. Is this the same kind of lard that could be used in making pie crust?

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Yes, you can really use any type of rendered fat in pie crust – including bacon fat, chicken fat, etc. Just let it harden first. And be aware that each will add its own distinctive flavor. Funny, I never thought of spicing my crust – I think cinnamon would be awesome with most pies. Thanks for the tip! PJH

  24. Marni

    I’ve tried them all and I have always come back to lard. It has always garnered the most compliments for its flaky, light texture, wonderful flavor and ease of working. It’s a superior product for pie crust. I have always been able to find it and I do think it’s well worth the search. It’s sad that more people don’t even try it.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It has been dragged through the mud for many years, which is unfortunate. Hopefully it will come back into our kitchens if it becomes easier to find. Jon@KAF

  25. Deborah Evenich

    I have gotten away from using shortening because of the transfats, so I have gone to the non-transfat shortening. Used by itself the crust is not very good. Adding 2-3 tbs of unsalted butter makes the difference. So, I combine the two to make 1/2 c. of shortening altogether, then cut it in. I always use ice water, and my crusts turn out great every time.

  26. Bernadette

    This is actually going to be the first year I will be making homemade pie crust (sad to say I’ve been using the pre-made one to save time and effort) so I am very thankful you did the test of butter vs shortening. My aunt always used lard for her pies, but as you said it is really tough to find it readily available. Those were the best pie crusts though. Over the last couple of years I have been making an effort to make everything from scratch and pie crust is next on the list so I’m looking forward to having entirely homemade pumpkin and apple pies for the holiday!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Well I bet your crusts will turn out great too! If you need any help, please feel free to contact us. Jon@KAF

  27. Shelley

    I LOVE making pies and now use my grandmother and great aunt’s variation for a nice flaky pie crust. I use the butter crisco, all purpose flour and my liquid is carbonated liquid like sprite or gingerale. It always works us so well. Not sure of the science behind it but it works 🙂 Thanks for all the information. I may try the vodka sometimes.

  28. Tom

    My first good pie crust was the CI vodka recipe. Since then, with some discussion and help from Susan Reid, I’ve been able to use a variety of recipes (it turns out that I wasn’t adding enough water to my dough). I made a pie yesterday with a crust that was half coconut oil and half butter. It’s flaky enough to shatter into shards, but the shards are a bit too hard for my taste. The next pie will be butter/canola oil. I’ve made canola oil pie dough, and it’s wonderfully flaky – but I don’t like the taste. I will just continue on, making pie after pie, trying to get it right. That’s such a burden! 😉

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sometimes trial and error is the best (and sometimes only) way to know what works best for you! Keep on going until you find the perfect blend for you. Jon@KAF

  29. Linda

    My mother taught me with all Crisco and Betty Crocker. It makes what I see as a traditional New England crust and I no interest in broadening my pie making horizons. I will enjoy the pies of others who like to venture out and try different things!

    Now that I think about it I have no idea how long Crisco has been around so maybe it’s not really a traditional pie crust. But I don’t care, if you come to my house you’ll get homemade pie from my kitchen, never from Mrs. Smiths. I did enjoy seeing your test results!

  30. Paula

    I have used orange juice as the liquid in my pie crust for years. Before that, I made shoe leather crust and had about given up on making pie crust, until a friend clued me in to that little secret. But I have always used shortening- ready to try the butter or part butter recipe! Thank you, KA!

    1. Julie

      I’d bet the acid in OJ does the same thing as the vinegar in my shortening/egg/vinegar crust. I think I’ll have to try this variation myself.

  31. Jamie Jo

    Perhaps because I am in the south, lard is so easy to find. I’ve used shortening and lard and I have been told NEVER use shortening again by those who eat the pie. 🙂 I also love the vodka tip. I bought a small hip flask full of vodka from a liquer store that holds exactly the right amount and keep refilling it.

  32. Cheylyn

    I am disappointed that you did not compare an all shortening crust to. However I have my No-Fail crust recipe (that calls for an egg and vinegar) that I will always use.

  33. Steve

    I personally use half butter and half shortening due to butter adding a little more flavor too the crust and with my liquid it is always 50/50 water/ vodka. This combination allows me to roll out the dough a bit easier plus when baking the vodka will evaporate off quicker then the water allowing the dough too bake with less liquid and it at least too me seems too be more flake.

  34. carmenfehn

    I made this crust today and I am SO PLEASED!! Flaky, light and a beautiful golden color. I very much enjoyed the tutorial and will probably never use another recipe. Happy Holidays and thank you for making mine. <3

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Ah, so wonderful to hear about your successful crust, Carmen – we love being able to add great new recipes to people’s collections! Happy holidays – PJH

  35. Libby Howting

    I’ve rarely used butter in pie crust, feeling that it would be too difficult to handle. I always use lard, which is commonly available in most areas today. But I’ll try the butter/shortening version. I woulds be great in pecan pie.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Libby, I think there’s room in our lives for different types of pie crust – lard is good, butter is good, shortening, a combo… just like I don’t make chocolate chip cookies all the time but also make peanut butter, or shortbread, and enjoy them all. Branching out into different areas keeps our baking lives interesting, doesn’t it? 🙂 PJH

  36. Mary

    I use a combination of butter & shortening. The butter adds flavor, the shortening helps make it flaky. Plus I’ve been making it with 50/50 water/vodka & always have a tender, flaky, delicious crust.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      That’s exactly how I made our Classic Double Pie Crust last time, Mary – using half vodka for the water. As I said, I didn’t notice a difference in texture of the pie, but did notice a difference in ease of rolling. Thanks for sharing here – PJH

  37. Beth Bilous

    Now I’m really confused as to which one to make, but I’m leaning on the all butter and vodka one. Or mabye the butter/shortening/voda one. Now i’m not sure. I need to be sure by tomorrow. I wish to know which one will be the easiest to get a pretty edge on, since that is my nemesis.And I might add, that living in south Florida, its way too hot to make any decent crust anyway.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Beth, if you want a pretty edge, definitely go with the butter/shortening combination. To get ahead of the game, make and roll out your crust today, put it in the pan, and refrigerate until you’re ready to fill/bake. And turn up your AC! Hopefully south Florida is at least somewhat moderate, temperature-wise, right now… PJH

  38. Lynn

    Thank you for a most insightful and enjoyable read. I was raised in Canada on the very best ‘bar none’ never fail pie crusts my Mother consistently made with lard, an egg and apple cider vinegar. My Mom was specific on the brand of lard she used. I have difficulty finding lard in my area so stock up if I make north of the border. I dislike the taste and feel of Crisco pastries. Butter has a nice flavour but lacks that exquisite richness and flakiness I crave from the lard recipe. In your experience, are there differences in the types of lard available? I am not sure if my Mom was sold on a brand or if there may have been a significant difference. I would be very interested to what insight you may have on lard specifically. Thank you.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Lynn, I’m sorry, I don’t have any insight on specific types of lard at all; it’s very hard to find where I live, so I just don’t use it. Readers, would anyone like to chime in here? PJH

    2. Martin Thompson

      Yes there are significant differences in types of lard.
      The animal used makes a difference Pork and Beef fats are quite different, Most modern lards are a blend. However Kosher Lard is beef fat only.
      Then there is the part of the animal used, The best fat was always what was known as Leaf Lard, this is a harder fat than the general subcutaneous fat on the rest of the animal and is found around the internal organs. Within Leaf Lard there is one specific fat that stands alone… Suet… this is the perinephric fat found only surrounding and protecting the animals kidneys. This has a higher melting point than any other fat, and is very firm. This is why it was treasured for making dumplings and puddings as it did not melt until after the temp was high enough to set the structure of the dough, thus leaving behind lots of airy holes. Suet is also more healthy than regular lards as it’s fat constituents are those considered less harmful. If you can find a butcher that still breaks down full carcasses you can buy suet there, it is also available on the internet, frozen it keeps indefinitely, and while frozen it can be grated or chopped to the coarseness you need in the recipe, no cutting in needed just mix in to the flour so that each piece is coated with flour before adding any wet ingredient.

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Martin, I confess I never thought of using suet in baking, though it absolutely makes sense. Thanks for all the great information you’ve shared here. PJH

    4. EL

      Another thing to consider on the health issue is that most shortening contains trans fats which break down at oven temperatures to highly unhealthy constituents. That is why they are solid at room temp and also why they have high melting points.

      That is the reason I prefer butter or lard. I think I’ll try the suet sometime. I’m also going to try the oil recipes (with a suitable oil that withstands high temps).

  39. Sue Conrad

    Learned how to make piecrust in 7th-grade Home Ec class and have stayed with the Crisco/flour/ice water formula ever since (use the Butter-Flavor Crisco now, however). Come Thanksgiving, my contribution to the feast is pies ~ apple, mince, and pumpkin. Somehow, there’s always room for pie, even if it’s a small sliver!!!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I’m with you, Sue – despite how full everyone feels after the feast, there’s always room for pie! (And yes, I remember that home ec formula…) 🙂 PJH

  40. Debby

    For years I only made the “no fail” pie crust. 1lb veg shortening (Tender Flake brand) 4.5 cup flour. Then you mix an egg, 1tbs of vinegar ( I used lemon juice) and enough water to make a 1 cup measurement. I was told that its the vinegar that was the secrecy to a fluffy crust that was workable. This made 4-5 pie crust. I usually use butter now and the fact I also own a food processor made making crust as easy as pie. Thanks for your research. I found it very

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      And thanks for sharing your recipe here, Debby – I’ve seen variations of this for years. so clearly it’s something that works! Happy Thanksgiving – PJH

  41. DD

    what about the vodka content is it harmful for children or does it evaporate or is it considered a minute amount after it’s cooked

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      The alcohol dissipates during baking to a minute amount; you can’t taste it, and you certainly can’t feel its effects. The kids probably get more alcohol from rinsing their mouth at the dentist’s… so no worries. PJH

  42. T.K. Whalen

    My only problem with using shortening is the trans fat – Hydrogenated oils are very bad for you – so I will stick with butter. Lately I have been using a hybrid butter/canola oil from Land o’ lakes – It does a pretty good job and contains less cholesterol than real butter.

    The pastry flour from King Arthur and their recipe on the back of the bag are both just great!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I don’t believe shortening contains trans fats anymore – at least Crisco doesn’t, and hasn’t for some years. But sticking with butter is a tasty path to choose! PJH

  43. Mitch in Memphis

    About 4 years ago at Christmas, I got fed up buying pie crusts already rolled out. Yes, I’d do that to make French Canadian Tourtiere (meat pie) at about 6 at a time. Too much work to make that many pies by hand with any consistency. My sister visited and brought my late mother’s recipe for the tourtiere and 100% lard crust. I failed miserably at making it, hence, the use of the store bought shells. The costs just became too much one day for these miserable tasting shells and one of my issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine made reference to that same article PJ Hamel refers to, vodka and all, and I made my first blueberry pie that tasted out of this world. However, I do have access to lard and do mix it at 1:1 ratio with butter and ever since then, my children fight over the last piece of tourtiere; and blueberry pie. I read this blog with great interest including all comments and encourage people to use lard over shortening; the flavour is worth the effort.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about lard,Mitch – it really does make a distinctive crust, both flavor- and texture-wise. I think a lard/butter combination would be wonderful – I’m definitely going to try that one of these days. Happy Thanksgiving! PJH

    2. Rick and Sue

      I am curious. I have made homemade pie crusts for years using a Martha Stewart pate brisse recipe. Living in the South, finding lard isn’t a problem but have never tried it, opting for 100% butter. Do you take the total butter amount and divide it by 1/2, half butter and half lard?

      Thank you.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      This fat combination will give you the best of both worlds – the flavor of butter and the wonderful flakiness of using lard. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  44. Bridgid

    For the person who was wondering when Crisco hit the stores – it was the late 1940s and it was the mid 1950s when people began having enough heart attacks that it attracted national attention. I have read there is a direct coorelation between the two.

    I use a tart crut recipe from Maida Heatter – made by hand, food processor or stand mixer, and everyone raves about it. It uses flour, salt, 1 egg, 1 stick of butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. It rolls beautifully and holds its shape.

    I would love to try an all lard recipe – I know my grandmother (who was known for her cooking & baking) used that but alas, there is no recipe that was handed down. 🙁

    Many thanks for the comparision!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You can always rely on Maida for excellent recipes, Bridgid. As for an all lard crust, why not try our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe, and substitute 3/4 cup lard for the butter and shortening? I think that would work out nicely. Good luck – PJH

  45. Sue Trone

    I decided to try homemade pie crust two years ago. My first pie out of the gate was a smashing success. Crusts after that were awful. I’ve grown to be a fan of America’s Test Kitchen and my crusts have improved with some predictability since I learned about the vodka trick that helps prevent the gluten bonds but lets me, the slob, get a wetter dough! The last frontier for me and pie crust is my angst over butter vs. shortening (I am too pragmatic to consider lard!). Thanks for sharing!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sue, I find pie crust an ongoing learning experience – unlike yeast bread and some other types of baking, I’m never QUITE comfortable with pie crust! However, after baking so many crusts to write these last two pie crust blogs, I’m a whole lot better at it than I was before. Sometimes it’s as much the journey as the destination – keep on rolling! PJH

  46. Gail

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! (Note that I haven’t read all the other comments so this may be repeating–who knew we were ALL so concerned about butter vs shortening.) After searching dozens of recipes, worrying about flakiness (the crust’s and my own) and wondering whether to spring for real butter or Crisco or just give up and get ready-made, you solved the eternal question. Butter or shortening? I love the taste of buttery crust, but worried about achieving that light, airy crust. Now I can go with the butter and lose the worry. Thanks again! Gail

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      And thank you, Gail, for connecting with us here. As I said, the only thing I have against that butter crust is its failure to hold a “sharp” crimp; it puffs up. But I think the loss in looks is more than made up for by the awesome flavor and texture. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving – and a delicious pie(s)! PJH

  47. Chau

    Hopefully you can give me some tips on perfecting an all-butter crust. I have made 7 different pies leading up to Thanksgiving (all-butter vs butter/shortening). The butter/shortening crust comes out great but flavor is not as good compared to the all-butter. I followed the Cook Illustrated (without vodka recipe) and the Martha Steward’s recipe. Each time I blind bake the all-butter crust for my pumpkin pie there is a layer of butter on top of the crust when I remove it (20 minutes with weights and 15 minutes uncovered). I even tried to bake the crust longer, had less butter, but still had the same problem (had to dab the butter with a napkin). Then I baked the pie with the filling for 40 minutes (I noticed a layer of melted butter on the bottom of the crust). Each time, the pie crust is tough, chewy, and can’t be cut with a fork. I tried different methods (vitamix, pastry blender, and by hand) and always cut the butter refrigerate another 30 mins, and refrigerate the pie crust once rolled out for 30mins-1 hr. Can you please help? Thanks!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Chau, please use our All-Butter Pie Crust recipe; and the preparation techniques in this blog post (ignoring the reference to Crisco); I think you’ll make a wonderful pie crust. Also, make sure you’re using King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, as the recipe directs; and top-quality butter (we recommend Cabot). Finally, if you have any questions along the way, please call our hotline: 855-371-BAKE (2253). We’ll help you through this, one way or another! Good luck – PJH

  48. Rita

    Pie crust (& yeast breads) and I have never gotten along so I’ve always used premade. I went to my niece’s to “help” the day before Thanksgiving and was given the task of making pie crust. Needless to say I was more than uncomfortable especially when the little girls wanted to help. The recipe she gave me was different but not totally foreign….flour, shortening, vinegar & egg. I’ve never made this one before but had heard of using vinegar. We mixed the dry ingredients and worked in the shortening, then added the vinegar & egg. Water last and let it rest. I’ve never made such a tender, flaky crust! What did I do right?
    (P.S. The joke is that my niece uses premade but didn’t think I’d approve!)

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Probably not using very much water (I assume) kept the crust from becoming tough, Rita – congratulations! Since you’ve found a recipe that works for you, stick with it. It’ll be wonderful to never fear pie crust again, won’t it?! PJH

  49. Red @ Adventures of a Hungry Redhead

    Thank you PJ for convincing me to try pie crust again! For so long I’ve feared pie crust and was never satisfied with the end result. I try the vodka theory and wow! The dough was so much easier to work with then I remember and it was the flakiest dough I’ve ever had! My apple pie (first attempt at lattice ever) was a huge hit at Thanksgiving. So I blogged about it immediately 🙂 http://hungryredhead.com/2013/12/04/apple-pie/

    Thank you so much!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Red, so glad you had a successful pie crust experience at last! Love your blog about it… PJH

  50. Dee

    I have made a lard pie crust for as long as I can remember – and never had a soggy bottom issue until recently. I chill my crust before I had the fillings – I put the pie in the freezer while the oven is heating. My pie pans are ceramic. I do not grease the pan before hand.

    I use flour and lard – mixed by hand – then add water (iced with lemon juice) and mix by hand until it feels right. I make a disc and refrigerate overnight – then roll out on parchment paper.

    Any insights to help me?

    I will try the vodka recipe soon – it sounds great!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Dee, if you’re using the same pan, same recipe, and same oven as always, then it sounds like maybe your lard has changed, which can happen. Like any product that started as a living thing (apples, rice, lard), there are bound to be variations due to climate, season, food, etc. If everything has remained the same except the lard, then you’d have to assume lard is at the bottom of it – unless your oven has started malfunctioning and you don’t know it. Make sure you use an oven thermometer, and don’t rely on the oven temperature dial, OK? PJH

  51. Guy Huettel

    I was just watching an old episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown was making his pie crust using 6 oz. of butter and 3 oz. of lard, both quite cold. In addition, he also used a spray bottle with water and ice cubes, to moisten the dough. Here in Pittsburgh we do have stores that carry lard, so I think that will be the next recipe I try.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sounds like a plan, Guy – lard definitely adds that “old time” flavor, and the spray bottle is a big help, too. Good luck! PJH

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Peter, are you looking to blind bake an empty, but full sized crust? or are you literally trying to bake squares? Sounds like a good time to contact our hotline at 1-855-371-2253. ~ MJ

  52. Tibyan

    is it okay to use butter only? because we don’t have shortening in my country 🙁
    i am 15 years old and I want to make pie crust for first time because I want to try to make Apple Pie for my family =D

  53. Michelle

    Having a soy allergy, I can’t bake with shortening (unless I get the super special, expensive non-soy version). I have made pies with lard, butter, and lard and butter. I found the all-butter pie crust tastes the best hands down. I also use frozen butter in my food processor. The flakiness is divine and is surprisingly super easy to work with.

    Now, my question is SHRINKAGE! I have yet to find a flaky pie crust that doesn’t shrink too much. I never had much problem before I moved to the mountains. I’m trying hard to believe that altitude (8,000 ft.) isn’t affecting my pies like it affects everything else. Could it be the water content and the lack of humidity? I’m grasping. PJ! Help!

    1. Susan Reid

      Michelle, are you resting the dough after rolling it out and putting it in your pan? That’s the single most effective way to counteract the dough shrinking. It lets the gluten relax and stay put better. Susan

  54. drunogluten

    I hope that one of these days you will find time to test principles of pie crust baking, using gluten free flours/starches. Pie crusts remain my only challenge after years of GF baking. GF flours are delicate and difficult to transfer to the pan without breaking, consequently I use 1.5 x the recipe, roll it out, and transfer it, which makes a thick crust. I’ve tried various recipes and combinations with varying degrees of success, but have never been completely satisfied with the outcome. There are now becoming available frozien pre-made pie crusts in pans, most of which are tolerable, a couple of which are downright awful. My discouragement with pie crust baking process has led me to pay the high price for the Whole Foods Bakehouse GF crust, which is the best of the pre-made lot. However, their crusts are usually cracked in the pan, so after defrosting them, I knead the cracks together with my fingers. I’ve purchased the new KAF pie crust mix. I’m waiting for KAF to develop a GF pie crust mix, as all of their mixes are far and away the best on the market, and most especially their Baking Mix. I have read the GF pie crust recipe using Clear Jel on your website, and for the same reason I don’t like xanthan gum (texture), I’ve resisted using CJ, but this will be the next recipe I try. Thanks for all your GF contributions to our community.

    1. Amy Trage

      I think you’ll love our GF pie crust recipe. I’ve made it many times and NEVER had trouble with breaking or cracking. I will add your suggestion for the GF pie crust mix to our customer wish list. We really appreciate your feedback- keep the comments coming! ~Amy

  55. anam

    Hi there! Please tell me can i use butter or vegetable butter instead of shortening or wax to make candle at home?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Save that butter, vegetable butter and shortening for baking and use the wax for candle making! Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

  56. Gambles

    This is a fascinating, informative blog so thanks very much from someone who has previously had NO success with pie crusts.

    I do have a question though. I was actually sitting here reading my latest KAF catalog with the tv on when I heard a viewer question to a cooking test kitchen show. The viewer was asking a general question about GF flour. Part of the answer was that GF flour can’t be used because you end up with just dry crumbles with no structure for a crust. That makes perfect sense since it seems that one of the tricks to a good pie crust is minimal manipulation so you don’t form much gluten.

    But it made me wonder: Has anyone ever tried using a combination of gluten free and any flour that contains gluten to end up with a crust with more flakes but enough structure to hold together???


    Wow!! I just saw my very first KAF commercial/sponsership while I was typing this question. Is it sad that I found that very exciting?? I’m truly addicted to KAF.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Gambles – It is possible to make a completely GF pie crust using the same technique you just learned. The texture is not identical to a crust made with a wheat flour but comes close. We have a recipe on our site called Gluten free Pie Crust. Please take a look! An addiction to King Arthur Flour is not a bad thing! Happy baking! Elisabeth@KAF

    2. Gambles

      Thanks Elisabeth, but I guess I wasn’t clear. I’m not gluten free. I was just wondering if GF flour would lower the gluten in the pie crust dough to make it flakier. I’m fascinated by the science behind baking so it seemed a small amount of GF flour added to regular flour might make it easier to prevent too much gluten from forming during the process of making the crust which, of course, makes a tough crust..

      I thought perhaps someone at KAF might have tested that hypothesis at some point. I just realized that could actually make an interesting science fair project for any young bakers out there….

      If the quest is to lower the protein, the best thing to do is to use a flour with lower protein in it, like pastry flour. The GF blend, while finely ground, can give a gritty texture if mixed with a low-water formula. While it’s tempting to use ingredients as the ticket to a desired result, technique is really the key, as in not mixing any more than you absolutely have to, and giving the dough a chance to rest/chill/hydrate evenly. Susan

  57. Patissiere

    All pie makers know there are few things as rewarding as a well-made/good-tasting pie crust. Look, smell, feel, workability and ultimately taste, all come together to create that “just what I was wanted” experience. And when baked and eaten, it’s a sensory experience capable of creating a one-of-a-kind in-the-moment delight, or transporting us to the plates of our youths. As a professional baker, to this day I often still experiment with my pâte brisée (pie dough), tweeking here, trying different ratios and raw materials there. Good luck to all. Chef Dave Galasso

  58. Joan

    Thank you PJ for your helpful tips on pie crust!!! I just made a braised beef pie using shortening and butter and it was easy to work with. However after making an apple pie, I found the all butter was a nice balance with the sweetness of the apples.
    I love the vodka test! I will try for sure. I grew up right near Brown Univ and live in California now but love going back to visit RI and New England as often as possible, especially summers. Every time I make a pie, I think of fond memories of New England 🙂 Your pie testing was so helpful!!!
    Thank you again!!

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      You’re very welcome, Joan. I’ll be sure to say Hi to Thayer St. and the Hill next time I’m in Providence! PJH

  59. KathyTobby

    Availability aside, it wouldn’t have been fair to the competitors to put lard in the running. Leaf lard is the best and most delicious for a rolled pie crust (not a shortbread type which calls for butter) and for Southern biscuits too. Thankfully I live in the South where lard is always available at the local grocery store. Y’all could probably order online.

  60. Melody

    Great article! Every so often I’ve given homemade pie crusts a whirl…meaning I try try again until finally I give it up because I get so frustrated at the roll out stage. Then I revert back to my old standby – Pillsbury crusts…an acceptable ‘substitute’ but definitely not homemade. I long ago ruled out lard. I detest the taste of the crust. Reminds me too much of the ready made pies in the freezer section. On this go round, I found a site from a pastry chef who said the perfect crust is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part water (by weight). Wow! *Every* pie crust has come out perfect and it was a breeze to pull it all together, form into discs and refrigerate for 30 minutes. It rolled out beautifully on a pastry cloth with not even one split edge! I’ve finally opted for a half shortening, half butter for the texture and flavor I like the best. All butter looked poofier, but didn’t seem as flaky in the mouth when I bit into it.

  61. Janet

    I have used the CI method for making pie crusts for years and they always turn out great.
    This year for Thanksgiving, I was asked to make the pie crusts (and pies) without any dairy and without the vodka. I am distressed because that means no butter and no vodka!
    Here are my two questions:
    1) Can kosher margarine replace the butter for consistency and taste (will still use crisco also)
    2) is there another liquor that I can use instead of the vodka for the same effect? For instance, what if I used gin?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      As long as the margarine is full fat, Janet, it’ll replicate the butter texture-wise, though not I fear in taste. And sure, you can use any liquor – gin and vodka are both straight grain alcohol, simply flavored differently, so they should act exactly the same. Good luck! PJH

    2. ksmatz

      Rather than vodka, etc. I keep a small amount (250ml) of straight-grain alcohol (95%) in the fridge. Everclear is one brand. Adds no flavors to the mix that might be found in vodka or gin.
      Unlike other spirits used in the kitchen, it is not advised to make any taste tests while cooking.

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Makes total sense. Vodka and gin are both just straight grain alcohol with flavors added. Thanks for the tip about not “tipping,” though! 🙂 PJH

  62. Myrtie

    My aunt made her crust with butter flavored Crisco and be sure to use ice water and bake longer at 325-350 degrees for about 1 hr.. The ladies at our church just can’t figure out how my crust is so flakey. The first time she told me how long to bake it I could not believe it. But cannot argue with what works.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s right Myrtie! Some of my favorite goodies come from recipes that defy all baking logic but taste too good to not be right! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  63. Susan

    I’ve been making pie crust since I was 13 yrs old…so a long time. I go by the feel of the dough, I can just tell when it’s ready to roll:) I used to use Crisco shortening and nothing but. Just recently had some left over lard from feeding the birds over the winter and thought, why not use it in pie crust to use it up. I found a mixture of half Crisco and half lard worked the best. I thought the lard only made the dough too soft and hard to work with. (But OMG, use all lard in your biscuits…sinfully delicious.) I now use the 1/2 and 1/2 mixture for taste and texture.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Marsha, vinegar “tenderizes” flour’s gluten just a bit, making for a more tender pie. But you don’t want to add more than a tablespoon, as your crust will start to taste sour. Hope this helps – PJH

  64. Michael Jubinsky

    Hi PJ,
    Great article. We just did a pie class with a guest pastry chef and saw the loss of edge with the all butter crust very graphically.
    As usual, you did a super job with the whole article.
    Warmest regards – Michael

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks, Michael! Glad to hear you’re still doing classes and spreading the good word(s) around baking. PJH

  65. Janet

    thanks for your bolog
    what do you think of putting chocolate chips in the cherry pie?
    can I just drop them in, or do I need to do something else.?
    we have some chocolate lovers at Thanksgiving and i thought maybe this would be a nice change.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Janet, that sounds like an interesting combination. You could either pour them in a layer on the bottom crust before adding the cherries, for a chocolate layer; or mix them with the cherries, for chocolate bits studded throughout, your choice. Either way, I’m sure your chocolate lovers will be happy! Thanks for sharing your idea here – PJH

  66. Sandy

    I strongly believe that it isn’t water that makes crust tough, it’s just due to overmixing. People work so hard to add minimal water, then can’t get the crust to hold together, so they add more water that they should have put in in the first place, and mix it a second time. Hence, the dough has been mixed twice and becomes tough.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sandy, this could certainly be the case for a lot of people who complain of tough crusts. It takes practice to really understand the perfect balance of water – just enough, added at the right time, but not so much that the gluten is encouraged. Sounds like you’ve got it nailed! 🙂 PJH

  67. Mark Kyle

    All butter all the time for me. But stick with the Cabot’s or an equivalent butter. During some lean times I switched to cheaper butter and thought I’d totally lost my touch with pie crust. The cheaper the butter the more water is in it and the more the gluten develops. It gets you a crust that hard to roll out, gets overworked too easily and always comes out tough. I tried rendering my own lard for a while but really wasn’t happy with the crusts I made with it but the slight pork flavor really complimented an apple pie. I tried vodka once and wasn’t impressed but I’ll give it a few more tries now based on this new information. Great article, I appreciate the tips and the side by side comparisons.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Mark, I agree about inexpensive butter; for pie crust, good-quality butter is an absolute must. As for vodka – as I said, it didn’t seem to make a difference in crust texture, but for whatever reason seemed to make for easier rolling. Enjoy your Thanksgiving pie making; as an obvious pie aficionado, thi smust be one of your favorite times of the year! PJH

  68. Gary

    PJ – my Mom also made great pie crust. She used “Spry” shortening (no butter), but her recipe came from a booklet called “Aunt Chick’s Pies”. It was a pretty standard recipe with pretty standard instructions, EXCEPT after you rolled out the dough, you would smear the crust with a thin layer of shortening, then do a tri-fold (like puff pastry), a little more shortening smear, then another tri-fold. Then you roll out the dough a final time. Would this technique produce a flaky crust or did she just have magic hands?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Gary, your mom’s rolling method does sound like it would promote layers of fat, resulting in a flaky crust. I’m sure her magic hands contributed to her wonderful crusts as well! Barb@KAF

  69. darla10

    I have tried the same experiment. My family prefers the crust made from shortening and since I make at least one pie a week, I do what make the family happy. I happen to agree with them too, shortening works best for me.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, Darla, it’s always good to make the family happy, particularly if you agree with them! Barb@KAF

  70. Athena

    I use a combination of butter and shortening. For a single crust, I use 1 c. flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 4 Tb. butter, and 1 1/2 Tb. Crisco and 1 Tb. ice cold water. I cut my dough with a dough cutter in a big bowl and try not to handle it more than necessary.

    This crust has a very delicious, delicate, fine crumb, but it isn’t “flaky,” per se. Everyone I serve it to actually loves this crust, but I’m interested in experimenting a bit.

    I’d like to know how to achieve just a bit more actual horizontal flaking. I don’t want it to be overly puffy, or flaky like a croissant, nor do I want to brush the top with egg white…any suggestions as to how to just get the crust itself to have more visible layers? Thanks!

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Athena,
      When you are putting in the fats, try putting in the shortening first, and cutting it in more. Then, put in the cold butter and “squish” some of the pieces of butter between your fingers to make little leaves of butter. These little leaves will get coated in flour, and then when they turn to steam, the flour will form nice, large flakes. Hope this helps. ~ MJ

  71. Bill

    Why would anyone use Shortening in place of butter, suet, or lard? While none of the ingredients in dessert qualify as health food, shortening is far worse than the other three combined!! Hydrogenated fats are poison.. If you are going to indulge, use natural high quality fats.. Choose organic if possible..

    1. Brooks

      Bill is correct. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (shortening) are poisonous. If you look at Crisco’s label a portion is 1 Tbsp. They keep the portion size so low that they then don’t have to claim trans fat content. Trans fats are not found in nature and in addition to tailor made cigarettes contributed to the marked increase in coronary deaths in the 20th century. Oleo margarine and cigarettes came in at the same time.

  72. Deb Copithorn

    Try freezing the flour overnight before combining with your other ingredients, it also helps to contribute to a very flaky crust. I also freeze my butter and combine all the ingredients in a food processor to reduce the formation of the gluten by the heat of hands when handling the ingredients.

    The dough is then rested in the fridge for atleast an hour before rolling and baked in the lower half of the oven for a filled pie so that the bottom crust will cook before the filling makes it soggy. I got this tip from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s pie book. It has been such a success that I now make shells for my family to put in the freezer for baking later.

  73. Jean Boot

    I have been using vodka in my pie crusts for a number of years. Probably the best effect is that it keeps the crust from shrinking after it has been trimmed to fit the pan. I’ve never noticed a difference in the taste. I also use lard when I want to make a special pie crust. My mother grew up on a farm, so using lard was a family tradition. My mother’s pies were always the flakiest I’ve ever had. Part of her secret was also rolling the crust as thin as possible. Part of the reason I have access to fresh lard is because I live in a small town in Iowa, and there are a few local lockers that have it available. It is getting harder to find, but it freezes well so I store it in one cup margarine containers in the freezer for ease of use. I’ve never made a pie crust using all butter, but I may try a test the next time I to make several pies.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your pie crust tips, Jean! Sounds like your mother was a great baker, and you are following in her footsteps! Barb@KAF

  74. Rose MV

    Thanks for all of this information and experimentation on pie crust, I make pie crust that no one can eat they just eat the pie filling and rave over it. I stand back with a big smile on my face, and say at least something is worth eating. I have really tried to make pie crust and just gave up and use Mrs. Smith. You have inspired me to go back to the drawing board and keep trying until I get it right, and I will be using the Vodka right out the gate.


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad we inspired you to try again, Rose! And remember, we’re only a phone call away at the Baker’s Hotline if you need help along the way: 855-371-2253. Barb@KAF

  75. Chris R

    I’m sorry about not being able to read all the posts and possibly ask the same question. Were there any tests performed that tested clarified butter or Ghee vs. shortening? Since water adds gluten to the dough, using Ghee would possibly reduce the gluten and make a less tough crust.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We didn’t try using clarified butter, but it is a good idea. Though, preferably you are using very cold butter that shouldn’t impart too much water into the crust before baking. Jon@KAF

  76. wkrbee

    I was always told that there are cooks, and there are bakers. My mom can’t cook. PERIOD. When I was growing up (back in the ’60s/early ’70s), if it didn’t come in a box (aka: Hamburger Helper), we didn’t eat it. My mom’s mom didn’t cook much either, as she was a “Rosie the Riveter”.

    My Granny made the best cloverleaf rolls you ever put in your mouth. She made some kind of bread, every day, for my Grand-dad. She never told me her baking secrets. I always assumed my mom learned from her.

    Hands down, mom my makes the most consistently awsome piecrust ever. I know it sounds either biased, crazy, or both, but there’s a lesson here. Someone who can’t cook wants things to be easy. She uses only Crisco, and she makes no fuss over the dough. No ice water, no specific flour. Her mood never mattered. The weather never mattered. And she was ALWAYS CONFIDENT her pie crust would be great.

    I’m convinced that great pie crust is simply Criso + mind over matter!

  77. CJrMom

    One thing I have found with biscuits, pastry etc is when replaceing shortening with butter when it’s not the “ideal” , try grating frozen butter. I keep a pound in the freezer and just use a hand crank grater, it really makes a difference!

  78. Maria

    Excellent article on one of the most feared tasks in baking!! I have been inspired to do my own side by side test with the various combinations. I noticed Peter asked this question in Jan 2014, but didn’t see an answer, so thought I’d ask again. If I wanted to make my own pie crust test “squares”, what oven temperature should I use and how long do I bake them? Any other considerations with baking “squares”?

    Thanks again for a wonderful tutorial and the opportunity to ask questions of the experts at KAF!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Maria, I would recommend baking the squares at 400 degrees for 12-17 minutes, until golden brown. Barb@KAF

  79. mlaiuppa

    I have no problems with lard and can readily source it. I do have problems with shortening due to it’s unfood like ingredients and the process to create it. I could make lard or butter from scratch in my kitchen if I wanted to or had to. Not true of shortening.

    I have used a butter/lard combination and an all butter crust. Depends on the filling or what I am using it for. (I like to make Cornish pasties.)

    I also have a recipe for which I make an entirely whole wheat crust. For that it is not only all butter but also cream instead of water. Comes out flakey every time.

    I would like to hear a comparison for adding vinegar and an egg. I have a recipe that calls for those additions and would like to know what the advantages or disadvantages are to adding the egg and vinegar.

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi there,
      I happen to be a fan of lard, too, especially for more savory crusts.

      For the vinegar, it helps keep too much gluten from forming, to ensure a tender crust. I’ve used it for single crusts that I want to be really sure is soft and not too firm.

      The egg gives you added fat, making for a very rich crust. Try it for a two-crust savory pie, or a quiche.
      ~ MJ

  80. Judy Beals

    My pie crust abilities are sort of “on again, off again.” Once in a while they are an amazing delight, the rest of the time – problematic. I am interested in the leaf lard mentioned in several of the above comments. I had never heard of it. I have only used the 1/2# block of lard from the market….and then, only for bizcochitos, the traditional NM cookies. They don’t taste right without it. We live in Phoenix, AZ. Where would I go to obtain leaf lard and how is it rendered exactly? I am always up for trying something different than I’ve tried before. Thank you.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Unfortunately, leaf lard is not something that is too common these days. It can be purchased online, but it is costly. If you know of any pig farmers in your area, you may be able to get your hands on some. Most render it slowly in a dutch oven or slow cooker, there are some techniques online showing how. Jon@KAF

  81. Susan McCarthy

    I wanted to say a few words about my mother and mother-in-laws pastry. We lived in the UK and their pastry was beautiful. Just like shortbread (Scottish style) crumbly and tender. Both used half margarine and half lard. Can I duplicate it? No I can not try as I may. My best is with half butter and half lard. I have no issue getting Lard it comes in plastic buckets from any supermarket that holds a fair amount of Mexican foods. Not sure if I can say this but Save a Lot is my source. Publix used to sell it but they have ceased to do so. On another note in Belgium they fry chips (french fries) in lard and they are pure heaven. Loved all the comments.

  82. Susan Short

    I really love your columns. My favorite pie crust is made with lard. Pies are flaky with a great flavor. It’s too bad you have a hard time finding lard in the supermarket. It used to be sold in the meat department and was in the refrigerated section but now it’s in the grocery section next to the shortenings. If you can’t find lard just ask your grocer.

    Again, thank you for your great columns!

  83. Aaron Frank

    Thanks for this. Interesting to see the different results. It raises several questions.

    First, what would happen if you chilled the pie crust before you baked them? I always roll out chilled dough but then I either blind bake it or fill it and bake it. What if I popped it in the refrigerator or the freezer for an hour before putting it in the oven. It’s going to slow down the fat melting.

    Next, I use heavy cream instead of water as my liquid. I’ve noticed it requires far more cream than it would water to get the dry mixture to come together. I also use some powdered buttermilk. My crusts are always ugly but they are soft and taste good. I might try adding some vodka to see if I can make a prettier crust. Although some of this is just lack of practice too as I make pies very infrequently.

    How would these results affect other fat+flour, flaked layer baked goods like biscuits and scones?



    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Aaron,

      We are big fans of chilling any dough that has cut in fat, whether it’s pie crust, scones or biscuits. That chilling step sets up the fat so that it gives off bursts of steam in the hot oven, creating those flaky layers we love so much.

      And it’s fine to use cream instead of water if that’s your preference. As you said, it may take more but you know what texture you are shooting for, and that’s the important part. Definitely try different ratios until you have one you are happy with, and practice, practice, practice. ~ MJ

  84. Donna P.

    I have vanilla vodka in the freezer. Guess what’s going in my next pie crust! Peaches are in now, so there will be experimentation in our household this weekend. Thanks for the tips!

  85. Aaron

    Just thought of another question… How much difference does the method of blending fat and butter together make? I always use my fingers (I just acquired a pastry blender so I’ll try that). But what about finger tips vs. pastry blender vs. food processor?

    Thanks again


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The way the fat is added to the dry ingredients can make a noticeable difference in how tender and flaky the resulting crust is. Using your finger tips can make the butter melt slightly (especially if you are a baker with warm hands!) whereas a pastry blender will ensure that the butter stays cold. Cold butter means a flakier final crust. A food processor can be a helpful shortcut when making pie crust, but the danger is in over-working the dough and blending the butter in too finely–no pockets of moistness or flakes of butter. You can try pulsing the dough mixture just a few times and adding the butter in batches to avoid this. The best way to find out which method gives you the crust you prefer most is to make a few crusts side by side and invite some friends over for a Pie Day Friday event to help you taste test the final products! Kye@KAF

  86. Liz

    No one should consume shortening or margarine. Butter & lard are fine if you are baking treats such as these. Trans fats/hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated products should be avoided at all costs. Our bodies do not know how to digest these things.

    1. EL

      Hi Liz:

      You’re right that shortening and margarine are unhealthy because they contain trans fats. But it is not because we cannot digest these. In fact, the bacteria in your gut probably thrive on them. The problem is that trans fats break down at high temperatures (such as the temperatures in your oven) into incredibly unhealthy constituents (think free radicals). These do things such as cause DNA breakage and mutation in your cells. Certain oils also do this if heated at high temps (such as olive oil).

      So for pie making, I’ll probably stick to butter, lard or an oil (such as canola, sunflower or safflower) that can withstand high temps.

  87. Sande

    did not see duck fat mentioned. I recently found a place to purchase and love the smell and taste when making fried potatoes. Maybe to strong a smell for pie crust, not sure….yet!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Duck fat is a bit to strong in flavor for sweet pies, but I’m sure it will work fine for a meat pie. Jon@KAF

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Duck fat is a bit to strong in flavor for sweet pies, but I’m sure it will work fine for a meat pie. Jon@KAF

  88. mike sandarelli

    I use lard for my pie’s for over 25 years, And they come out perfect every time . I can count on my finger’s on one hand the amount that they didn’t come out exactly like i like. Also i put vanilla in my crust. the vanilla i use is the one i make personally,by useing vodka and real vanilla beans, iv’e mase it myself for years. the stuff you buy in the store’s is junk absoutley flavorless, do not know what they use for alcohol.will never buy again

  89. judy fitz

    Those little airplane size bottles of vodka are just the right amount for my pie crusts. I pick them up at the liquor store for about $1.00 each and store them in the freezer.

    I usually use the recipe for peach pie crust from Cooks Illustrated. Always use cold Crisco and frozen butter. I used to grate but found it wasn’t worth the effort, so I just chop it up. Most of my pies are lattice topped because it looks so good and it’s easy to see when cherry filling is bubbling, so I know it’s done.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Those small bottles take on a new purpose! Next time I’m on a plane, I’ll be sure to share the baking tip with my fellow flyers. Thanks for sharing, Judy! Kye@KAF

  90. Betty

    I found out one reason my crust was tough was that I worked it to much. It only needs to be worked enough to bring the dough together. Lately I used butter/coconut oil and it made a wonderful flaky tender crust. Also Found a recipe using cream cheese that turned out wonderful, flaky and tender, was a very soft dough.
    And I have made crust using lard which I liked very much.

  91. Denise Emry

    Reading about your Vodka test; I wanted to share with you what I do, just a little different. I have a FABULOUS pie dough recipe with Cream Cheese and Butter for the butter part of the dough. For the water part, I just add sweet wine for a sweet pie/pastry or dry wine for a savory pie/pastry and leave out the water altogether. It makes a wonderful pie crust! And now I know why, the alcohol!!

    Thanks for your blog, I thoroughly enjoy it!

  92. Frenesi Myers

    I was wondering if anyone knows a way to keep the bottom crust of pies like pumpkin, or
    lemon from getting soggy. Would like it to be more like the top crust which I have no trouble
    getting flaky.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The best way to prevent the bottom of your pie crust from becoming soggy is to “blind bake” it. This means you bake the crust without the filling in it for roughly 10-15 minutes so that it can start to firm up and become golden brown. Cover the crust with tin foil and then line it with pie beads or a pie chain (or dried beans can work here too!) to prevent the crust from bubbling up while it bakes. Allow the crust to cool for 5 minutes before adding your filling and baking until the center has set. Voila, no more soggy bottoms! Kye@KAf

  93. Beverly Spears

    I started using 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening and my crusts are much tastier. I was surfing the web one day and came upon a video from a famous baker who employs the pate brisee method of crust construction. I must say that using that method of smearing the dough on a board to bring it together produces the most wonderful, flaky crust. I am gonna give the vodka a try too. How much vodka do you use?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Beverly, you would replace half of the water called for in the recipe with vodka. Barb@KAF

  94. MikeM

    I don’t use water or vodka with my crust.
    I learned this crust from my mom what must be 40 years ago and have never made a bad crust since. It is so versatile I can use it for pies (sweet), quiche (savory), pasties (either), and even used it as a simple cookie sugar and cinnamon.

    2c. Flour
    1c. Butter (cold)
    1 Tbsp heavy cream
    1 egg yolk
    1 Tbsp sugar
    1 tsp. Salt.

    It’s very simple. Cut butter into flour till pea sized balls form. Add the remaining ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon till a ball forms. If the ball seems a little dry add more cream.

    Refrigerate for at least an hour covered with plastic wrap.

    This crust is so very forgiving. You can roll it out, or you can just press it in a pie plate. It works great in spring form pans too!

    Heavy cream is almost pure fat, very little milk if any. Lactose should not be an issue with this crust either.

  95. emmer

    I also make a leaf lard crust with some butter added. if I use 1 1/2 cups flour, I add 1/2 cup leaf lard and 2 tbs good butter. very flaky and tasty. i’m aiming to make the total fat 40% rather than 33%.
    I render the lard, which is easy. I don’t like the preservatives in the commercial stuff and the leaf lard just makes a better crust. I order mine from a local butcher shop. I put it in the freezer til I am ready to render it ( I have to buy 10# to get it). the fat that covers the body make great soap and pretty good pie crusts. there is a real diff, tho not huge between the two.
    I have tried the vodka trick and find it makes less diff than using “real” lard.
    I keep everything cold and after the crust is formed, I chill it for an hour before quickly rolling it out.

  96. Debbie

    I make the all-butter crust, but I have the same problem with it that I have with a shortening/butter crust–it is crumbly and impossible to roll out. I end up having to pat it into a pan instead of using a rolling pin. I know that additional water (above the amount specified in the recipe) would help, but I have read several times that it is best not to add too much water. What am I doing wrong?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Please remember that recipes are guides! Follow your instincts and add enough water to bring the dough together. Double check how you measure your flour, and be sure you’re not adding too much. Here’s a link to the flour measuring guide on our website:


      Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  97. SLd

    So how do you make a vegan pecan pie? It’s got eggs unless someone knows something I don’t. Not vegan, but wonderful is a recipe that I make that takes butter, shortening, 1 whole egg and vinegar!
    Love all the info! Thank you.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Have you tried egg replacers, or a flax meal substitute? We hope you’ll play around with those ideas to make your dream pie! Happy baking- Laurie@KAF

  98. Patty

    Making pie crust is intimidating. I’ve only been baking for a few years and probably tried every known method of making pie crust. I researched, baked, tested, researched, baked, tested…..until I arrived at the successful desired result. I now have my go to pie crust recipes that I use exclusively and always have success with the end result. Thankfully I had enough people to be my taste testers for critical feed back. To me making pie crust is an art form that is a labor of love and I always feel like I’ve created a masterpiece when I’m done. When I make a savory pie crust for meat pies etc I use lard that I render myself. For sweet pies I use an all butter, water/vodka mix with a little sugar. And I often use a flavored vodka like Cold River Blueberry flavor (or other flavor depending on the pie) as it adds the most delicious aroma.

  99. Linda Craig


    I made an all butter crust once, all the butter drained out of the dough all over the oven. Everything was very cold.

    Do you know of any reason why this would have happened?

    Thank you.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Can’t say I have heard of this happening in cold doughs. You may see some butter melting as it bakes, but not to the extent you mentioned. I think we will need to ask a few questions to figure out what caused this! Feel free to give us a call so we can troubleshoot. Jon@KAF 855 371 BAKE (2253)

  100. Judy from IL

    I love to bake but pie crusts are definitely not my strong point. I’ll try all the suggestions you made, especially the vodka one since rolling out a crust is usually a disaster. I’ve seen that idea before but have never tried it. BTW, we live 10 minutes south of the WI border and frequently go up to Madison to Trader Joe’s, Penzey’s Spices, etc., and always pass the Badger Stadium. That thing is huge!!

  101. Maria Geenzier

    I haven’t used shortening in many years – ever since health advice first came out concerning avoiding hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. That is what I had thought went into making traditional vegetable shortening. To be honest, I haven’t read the labels on any shortening in a couple of decades – since I avoid it completely. I have noticed lately that a few recipes have called for it- biscuits, crusts, etc. . . . so I have been curious. In the past I have used butter for pie crusts, with very good results. It has been quite a while, however, since I have made a pie crust. I did enjoy reading all the different tests done. I also enjoyed some of the comments about vegan choices. I am not a vegan but some of my friends are . . . always good to find recipes for them :-).

  102. Joy

    I’m about to embark on making Alton Brown’s epic apple pie recipe today and he puts Applejack in the crust. I would have never thought to put alcohol in the crust until he did his little demonstration in the episode so I might consider vodka next time I make pie crust instead of water. Does it have to be good vodka or doesn’t it matter?

    I use an all shortening crust which I’ve never really liked so I might try the butter crust next time I make pumpkin pie.

  103. Cyn1171

    I loved this article – loved it! I’m a good cook and a better than average baker but pie crust has always been hit or miss for me. I’m definitely going to try the all butter version soon now that apple season has arrived.

  104. grandmadot10285

    I am a definite fan of the butter crust. In my humble opinion if you don’t the stretch the dough to much when putting into pie plate, it will not shrink as much. You can always add little pastry decoration to the edge.
    I will definitely try this recipe for the butter pie crust with cold vodka.
    Thank you

  105. marilynr

    Interesting article. True, all butter crust is lighter, but is that what you want in a pie, necessarily? The purpose of the bottom crust is to survive having liquid poured over it, and then be baked, perhaps the lighter (all butter) crust is not the best option. Does the lightness turn soggy when covered with pie filling liquid then baked? Would it be better, in that case, to have the more sturdy (part shortening crust) there? Your experiment did not go far enough.

    You should have made pies using the same filling, but with the different crusts. Then look at which bottom crust survived in the best shape.

    Just a thought.

  106. Kayler

    Thank you so much for this very informative post! I have wondered about these very things! I have always used all butter because I never had a problem with the flakiness of the crust, but I did wonder if I was missing out on some additional flakiness! I have heard about the vodka idea and wondered about that too!

    I have another question for you. Would you be willing to try coconut oil and red palm oil in crust and let us know how they work out? I’d love to know the results without having to do the work!

    Thanks so much for all the awesome work you do!

  107. Vicki Martz

    NEVER NEVER use modern lard! Do the research and you’ll find out that the lard we see on shelves today is a totally different lard than our grandmothers used. The old-fashioned lard was called “leaf-lard” and came from an entirely different part of the pig than Armour lard is today. A good source of information is on Wikipedia although that article does not say that commercially raised pigs have what is considered “dirty” lard that is the main source of lard on our grocery shelves today. It has a distinct animal flavor, unlike the leaf lard of yesteryear. Leaf lard is still available from one or two sources and makes excellent baked goods but is very expensive. Unless you are a hardcore baking enthusiast, I’d stick with the butter or butter/crisco combo mentioned above.

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Jared,
      We didn’t use ghee as part of our testing. If you do any comparison baking, we’d love to hear your results. ~ MJ

  108. Rachiti

    Butter. All butter (I will try lard one day when I have the time to render it myself from the butcher’s) over heart-clogging artificially hydrogenated Crisco any day. I’m pleased to see that it is flakier than a combo crust. I wasn’t sure as it had been literally decades between when I made a combo crust and when I made all-butter crust for the first time a few months ago.

  109. Sondra Bingham

    What do you think of Cream of Tatar? I use it in my pie crust every time, I also use butter flavored shortening only, everyone loves my pie crusts.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I have heard of using vinegar or lemon juice as an acid in pie dough, but never cream of tartar. I am sure you have a very tender crust! Elisabeth@KAF

  110. Patti M.

    I used my mother-in-law’s pie crust recipe for about 20 years and never had a problem. It was flaky, delicious and fluted beautifully. I loved making pie crusts — no trepidation at all. In the mid-1990’s something changed in either the shortening or the flour (or both). The original recipe used Spry but since that was not even available when I got the recipe, I always used Crisco. I also used Pillsbury or Gold Medal all purpose flour. I quit making pies but really missed that sense of satisfaction I used to get. What do you think changed a once-very-successful pie crust recipe? I am going to try your recipe for the double crust using King Arthur Flour. Thanks!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is hard to say what may have changed during that decade of time. But, you are right. Manufacturers do change ingredients from time to time and sometimes even the slightest change can bring on a real baking crisis! We hope you will find the recipe for double pie crust to satisfy your every pie need or want! Elisabeth@KAF

  111. sue

    Hi. Thank you for this test, but I do have a question. The pics you showed look more like a puff pastry, not a pie pastry. So how to you make those puff pastry things? (The squares you are calling pie crust) and can you fill them by cutting them through the middle after they are cooked like you would a puff pastry dessert? Thank you!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Both of the squares in the blog pictures are made from pie dough. One was simply all butter while the other was not. They really won’t work well for filling, but your idea for using puff pastry will be better in that regard. Jon@KAF

  112. JP Garrison

    Here in Southern Appalachia, we have a wonderful tradition of fried apple (or peach) pies. We use dried fruit, which was mostly what was left in late winter or early spring. The fruit was re-hydrated overnight, then spices and sugar added. My late mother and grandmothers made wonderful pies. Granny used lard, both in the pastry and frying. I’d like to know if traditional pastry dough would work well in this application (I made fairly good pies last winter from biscuit dough.) The pies I remember had a flat, not flaky texture. They were traditionally pan-fried in a black iron skillet. Any suggestions?

    I enjoy the posts. As a retired pharmacist, I would caution against close-mindedness in the butter-lard-shortening debate, since pies should never be a large part of a healthy diet, rather as a treat for special occasions. In 30+ years of being in health care, I’ve seen several “ironclad” arguments fall to improving research, as science evolves and is refined. Enjoy life-all things in moderation!

    1. Cheryl

      We had fried pies growing up also. It seems to me the dough was more like biscuit dough rolled thin rather than flaky pie crust

  113. Mary Jury

    I have used this pie crust receipe since I got married in 1961, and it has never failed. You can find it in the Victory cookbook. Mix 1/3 cup very hot water with 2/3 cup lard until creamed together. Add 2 cups bread flour with 1 tsp salt (or less) and mix with a folley fork . The dough should be wet. Roll out between wax paper. Makes two crusts. I don’t use the tsp of baking pwd as it changes the texture of the crust. I have added more hot water if it wasn’t wet enough.

  114. Ken

    I use a combination of lard, butter, shortening, and margarine to make my pie crust.
    You get the best of each when you use all of these. I cut in lard and shortening in one half
    of the flour that consists of all purpose flour, salt, and dry milk. I use pastry flour for the other half and cut in the Margarine and butter. Combine both flours and add ice cold water, mix and roll out. Roll out with as few as strokes as possible. Perfection!

  115. Jolie

    Thank you so much for this! I have often been curious about how an all-butter crust would work out. And now that I know about the cold vodka, I will be doing all my fall and winter pie-baking with butter and vodka!

  116. Bryan

    You cheated! Your “reason” for leaving out lard is rubbish. EVERYONE in the USA can get lard. If you can get to a WalMart, YOU CAN GET LARD. Why? Because WalMart caters to people that most of you won’t ever associate with, and we still use lard.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Bryan, I’m sorry we didn’t include lard in this post. We know a lot of pie bakers swear by it! Perhaps we can address using lard in pie crust in another post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Barb@KAF

  117. Karen

    Thanks for an excellent post that really showed a difference. I use my Grandmothers recipe that calls for a little Vinegar also. I’ll keep all this information at hand as I make my girlfriend’s Birthday Apple Pie this weekend.

  118. Denise

    Interesting article because I never heard of an all butter crust. I have heard of shortening but my mother taught me to make it with veg. oil. I think I’ll try it both these other ways and compare.

  119. Ann P

    Hi PJ,
    Thank you so much! Believe it or not, I printed this article, frame it and hang it in my kitchen. I love reading your articles, they are informative, but fun and easy to read for all bakers regardless of our baking experience. Thank you again!

  120. Myra T Fink

    So those of us who have lard in our fridges want to know… Would it work better in an all-butter crust recipe, or would it work better in place of shortening?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I find that I get flakier crusts by using either all butter or a butter/ lard combo. Replacing the shortening with lard should work just fine. Jon@KAF

  121. AnaCruz5

    I made a pie with a homemade crust…once…back in college. I know for a fact that it was a butter crust because that was the only shortening I had on hand. It must not have turned out that bad, because I ate it.

    My mom and my aunt always bake the pies for holiday celebrations, and they have 100+ years of combined experience. This year, Mom said she’s bringing a cherry pie, my FAVORITE, but only ONE. So I offered to bake an apple pie, in the hope that some of the family who could try to eat the cherry before I can get a piece, might choose apple instead. Last night, I baked a practice pie. I used Mike’s mom’s crust recipe with pie spices added in with the flour, sugar and salt – 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch each of nutmeg and freshly ground pepper. Then I cooked up a batch of the “Deep-dish Apple Pie” filling from last month’s issue of Cook’s Country (sans the cinnamon since I put it in with the crust.) But when it was time to drain the juice and discard most of it, I couldn’t bring myself to lose all that beautiful, sweet flavor that I wanted in my pie! So I whisked in a few tablespoons of flour and tried to drizzle most of the juice mixture back over the apple filling. Oh, dear. I ended up with an “overstuffed” apple pie and had all KINDS of trouble trying to seal and crimp the dough, so I finally just settled for trying to get the thing mostly closed so it wouldn’t leak and shoved in the oven without turning my kitchen into a complete disaster. When it was done, I let it cool on the counter overnight.

    This pie is as ugly as sin, but hubby and I tried it this morning and the flavor is delicious! However, I found a couple of recipes using coconut oil for pie crust and I would like to see if I can make them work. I’m going to need more practice pies before Thanksgiving! (My kids will be thrilled.) I may need help, will KAF Hotline experts be checking this Blog through at least Tuesday or so? Please?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ll be around to help until around 3pm EST on Wednesday! Comment here or call for help, we’ll be here. Jon@KAF

  122. Mark

    My crust is slightly different. I use the butter/shortening combo. However, I chill my cisco shortening too. So everything but the flour is chilled. I also add a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar. I guess it replaces the vodka. I’ve never compared it with a crust made with vodka though.

    2c KingArthur AP flour or Montana Wheat Is another brand I like.
    1/3c cold unsalted butter, cubed
    1/3 cold cisco shortening
    1/2c ice cold water
    1 tsp of white distilled vinegar
    Pinch of salt.

    Definitely try that recipe variation! 🙂 good luck!

  123. Richie

    Just love your stuff…the learning from all the comments alone are just what one needs to start the day.
    At the end one wants to jump up and just go at it.. Most of the excitement is in the doing. If it turns out fine -great– if not back up a bit , have a coffee or tea and go at it again when there is a moment or two.. What grand therapy.. Should be more of it in those shut away places –one would think that one would now and then drop a pie or two off just to share … A good home made pie is just one step closer to enlightenment.

  124. ann roth

    Isn’t it wonderful that so many of us are still making pie “from scratch”!!!!! I think even a “bad” homemade pie is better than those purchased from the grocery store. My grandmother always kept a Crisco can full of “crumbs” [her flour, salt and fat premixed] in the refrigerator to pull out when she wanted to make pie. She took out the amount needed, added water and made her crusts. As kids, we thought her pies were wonderful. I have never tried this. Just want to encourage everyone to continue the baking tradition!!!!

  125. Erin

    I use my mom’s recipe except she used lard. Nothing like it for flakiness. I use shortening. Someone else on here does it almost the same as I do. Put half shortening in flour and salt mixture and use pastry blender till it looks like fine meal. Then blend rest of shortening till’it looks like giant peas. Then add a tbs. of ice water and combine with a fork. I usually have to use five tbs blending after each.. I try hard not to,work the dough too much. Anyway, my pastry is usually very flaky. What is aggravating with pie making ( at least for me) , every now and then I can really mess it up. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often. i know some people put an egg in their dough. I don’t get that at all.

    1. Susan Reid

      Putting an egg in the dough will make a big difference in its structure. It’s useful for things like a meat pie, where you might want a slice to hold together in a lunchbox. Also, pie dough with egg in it is more golden. Susan

  126. Susan

    I looked through many of the comments, and I use shortening with a tsp. of vinegar added to the egg & water mixture. Works like a charm! Makes a delicious crust that’s soft but still holds up to my apple pie. I’m telling you the secret weapon to a good crust is vinegar. The dough will be a bit sticky, add some flour to your work area. Make sure not to overwork the dough, it’s a crowd pleaser.

  127. Shalryn

    I’m definitely an all-butter pie crust girl. If I decide I really, REALLY need fluting, I brush on some egg wash and sprinkle the fluted edges with turbinado sugar. Somehow it seems to act like a setting-glaze and prevents too much rising and distortion of the edges. Plus, it appeals to the Bambi side of me. You know, the one that likes bright, shiny, sparkly things and nobody wants to admit to?

    Alternatively, I use cookie-cutters to cut out small shapes and line the circumference of the finished pie with them before I pop it in the oven. If I’m really in need of some entertainment, I’ll use lightly sprinkled spices such as cinnamon or ginger to color the decorations. And if Bambi gets away from me, I’ll use sparkling sugar, cake decorations, food coloring, and all manner of decorations to dress up the shapes before I place them.

  128. sandy

    Interesting post and I think the findings go beyond pie crusts. I think they also apply to cookie baking. Over the years I have converted many of my cookie recipes from shortening to butter. I found that I always need to add a little more flour when I use butter. Now I understand why – probably because of the higher water content in the butter.

  129. The Great Lorenzo

    Crisco has a fairly new formula: soybean oil, FULLY hydrogenated palm oil, and palm oil. It makes a shortening crust that’s flaky and tender as all get out. Talk about edge crimp blowout though. Crisco is no longer the devil disguised as shortening.

  130. Juan Roberto

    If I use home made butter instead of the store bought product, are all the amounts in the pie crust recipe the same, or are alterations needed?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Juan, can’t answer that, as I don’t know the percentages of fat/milk solids/water in your butter. I’d suggest you try your homemade butter in the pie crust and see how it works – I suspect it will be just fine. After all, how can you go wrong with butter – no matter what it’s specific numbers? 🙂 PJH

  131. Nathan Hollister

    Want flakiness? USE LARD! Think about your grammas pies, or ones from the amish girls at a farmer market. If you don’t have your gramma’s recipe, get it. It’s a DISGRACE to make a pie with any other kind of shortening, and you can’t compete with the flavor.

    I can’t believe that the author has trouble finding lard. Ever heard of amazon.com?


    $16 for 5 pounds, including shipping

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      There are many paths to delicious destinations, Nathan — lard is one of them, butter and shortening are another. Some people don’t care for lard’s strong taste; some don’t want to pay $16 for 5 pounds, and find that the lard in the supermarket isn’t the freshest, so turn to butter and/or shortening. From the blog post:

      “First thing I did was rule out lard. NOT BECAUSE IT’S NOT A PERFECTLY GOOD FAT AND CAPABLE OF MAKING WONDROUSLY TASTY PIE CRUST. After all, our ancestors made lard-crust pies for centuries and, like lard-fried doughnuts, they were delicious. I’m ruling out lard simply because it can be problematic for some folks to find these days. So if you love lard, and have a good supplier – stick with it.”

      To each his own, that’s how I approach baking. Thanks for the link, though, for anyone wanting to check out lard on Amazon. PJH

  132. Barry S

    I have been baking and making pies for my family for many years now (my has wife has had no complaints — so far). Over time this is what I have discovered: 1) The fat must be completely combined with flour (all particles coated) before water is added. It is best to use a pastry blender or food processor, 2) Use only minimal flour when rolling out dough. 3) Cook pastry at very high heat initially – 435 deg F for 15 minutes.

    For many years, I’ve used a leading brand of shortening, and the results were always excellent. Now I use lard and butter exclusively. I switched because of health concerns; I give my reasons below.

    Shortening used to be made from coconut and palm oils, high in saturates but low in polyunsaturated fats. Recently, shortening has been reformulated for environmental reasons and to further reduce saturated fats, adding oils higher in polyunsaturates, such as soybean oils. This is a problem.

    A study from De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K. a few years ago, found that oils higher in polyunsaturated fats, when heated to high temperatures, oxidize more readily, forming aldehydes and lipid peroxides that are extremely toxic to the body, and cancer-causing. Ergo, it is not wise to use reformulated shortenings or any oils high in polyunsaturates (soybean, corn, sunflower) for high heat cooking. Acceptable oils are olive and canola, which are lower in polyunsaturates.

    Although lard fell out of favor because of its high level of saturated fats, recent scientific studies suggest that saturated fats are not as unhealthy as was once believed. Lard and butter are higher in saturated fats, but are extremely low in polyunsaturated fat, thus are safe for high heat cooking and baking.

  133. Michelle H.

    The recipe my grandmother, my mother, and I use calls for lard. It is easy to find in our stores around here (I usually get mine at Save a Lot). I keep it on hand because I do a lot of 18th Century cooking. The recipe also calls for a small amount (1/4 tsp) of vinegar. I was always taught to work with cold ingredients. My sister uses the same recipe but hers tend to be tougher then the rest of us. I think she tends towards overworking the dough. I am interested in trying the vodka. I also would be interested in trying the coconut oil. I will have to experiment.

  134. Kelly Hechinger

    Thank you from one pie geek to another. Now if you want a really fun challenge, try baking in altitude. Whole nother animal. But I love a challenge!

  135. Patsy

    I make pie crust for pasties which have steak, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots and onions in them. Years ago I did an experiment with shortening and lard. My Mom used shortening and my Father-in-law, who was a chef, used lard in pie crust. Comparing their labels they have the same amount of fat and calories. Since my husband and I are both chemists we did a double blind experiment. I made a batch of each pie crust and made a tray of pasties with each. The lard dough was easier to work with than the shortening one. The lard pasties browned better and were flakier. We had 6 people with us for dinner, and I was the only one who knew which type of crust each person had received. The results was that everyone preferred the pasties made with lard. In more recent time I was making pasties at my daughter’s, we ran out of lard when we needed to make more dough. We couldn’t find any lard at the nearby store. So I made the next batch of dough with shortening and butter, and they were as good as the ones with lard.

  136. Wendy Sites

    My mom taught me to use the shortening butter combo, but the difference is we keep the shortening in the freezer! It keeps it a little more solid, then we cut up the butter into small chunks and process them in a food processor!

  137. Jan Fanning

    This has been the best article I have ever read. Thank you! I read every one of the comments and found them fascinating. I believe that pie making is almost a lost art. As a little girl in Lombard, IL, I would watch my Grandmother make dozens of Apple Pies for the freezer in the fall. My Mother was a great pie maker as well. They both used shortening and not just any shortening, it had to be Crisco. I don’t know the rationale, I just know that daughters learn from their Grandmothers and Mothers and so I do the same. I have been making pies for over 40 years with great success. I didn’t see that anyone mentioned what you do with any left over pie dough…..Pie Cookies of course! Roll out the left over dough, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, roll up into a tube and slice into pin-wheels and bake. OMG…almost better than the pie. I rationalized to my husband that I had to “test” the pie dough by eating all the cookies to make sure the crust was right…..and he always fell for that! Ha, ha. ha…… God Bless the Pie Makers of the world!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your enthusiastic comment, Jan! We’re so glad to hear you’re just as excited about the science of pie crust as we are. It certainly is an art that must be perfected over time. What a delicious endeavor to embark upon! Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

  138. Danielle

    You may have been asked this, I apologize if I missed it in the comments section, but would your results hold true for gluten-free pie crusts as well?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your question, Danielle. The same science holds true for gluten-free baking. Butter tends to give a richer flavor while shortening adds holding power. However, you should note that in general gluten-free pie crusts aren’t quite as lofty or flaky as wheat-based crusts. They’re still delicious and will be a worthy base for your favorite pie, but they’ll look more like the photos of the shortening-based crusts shown here, regardless of the fat you use. Check out our full blog post on Making the Perfect Gluten-Free Pie Crust for more details. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  139. Krista

    My favorite purchase has been the KAF Baker’s Cookbook. I have always used half butter/half shortening in my crusts, and they are always super delicious, but that classic double pie crust recipe is spot on. I even reduced it for single crusts and deep dish pie. I even use it for my pot pies! So super flaky and tasty. My mother is jealous of me because she could never figure out pie crusts, and I have always made my own, even when I was 16 and still living at home. I told her, “It is just the right combo of flour, water, butter and shortening; it’s not that hard!” (Guess who always made all the pies for holidays?)
    But I am curious to try it with vodka. I have noticed even after chilling, it still pulls weird when rolling. Does the alcohol cook out when you bake the crust?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, Krista. The alcohol will (mostly, if not entirely) cook out of the crust when it bakes. It is hard to tell the difference based on taste alone between a regular crust and one made with vodka. Good luck with your pie adventures — it sounds like you’ve already got a great method! Kye@KAF

  140. Elaine

    If one uses lard instead of butter or shortening, is the same amount of lard used? I’ve not seen a recipe that calls specifically for lard, so I am wondering if it can be substituted in any pie crust recipe?

  141. Ewlake

    Have really enjoyed reading through these comments. My grandma made an EXCELLENT all shortening crust, which will forever be the gold standard for me. I follow her recipe, but it’s always hard to get just fit. My mom jokes that the secret was grandma’s cold hands. 😊 Recently, a friend shared his recipe – all shortening, but uses HOT water instead of cold. He got the recipe from his Belgian uncle who was a cook in the Navy. I’ve had good success with it.

  142. dj

    thanks for the reminder. i have used ice cold butter for years then chill crust before rolling out. i love the layers and prefer the flavor of butter crust !

  143. Terry Ball

    Hello from a Wisc kitchen,
    The recipe that is an old faithful in our kitchen is the one with egg and vinegar in it. I have used lard and crisco but never butter for pie crust. Criso unlike lard, is the same year round. If lard is too soft you’re going to have a mess. I’ve found that using crisco in the summer months is best. Here’s my recipe that I’ve used for many years; 5C flour, 2 T sugar, 2tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder (yes you read that right); Cut in 2 C crisco or lard; whisk together 1 egg and 2T vinegar and then add 2/3 C ice water. We use a canvas covered board and a cover on the rolling pin. Most recipes say to chill your dough but I prefer it on the softer side. When your dough is too cold it splits around the edges, and then a pain to get in the pie plate. My wife
    and daughter have a hard time rolling pie crust, so they keep peeling apples and I keep rolling the crusts and with two stoves we can bake 6 pies at a time. One year we went through two bushels of apples in one day! We made pies, canned apple pie filling and sauce and the last of the apples went into a crisp and I’d had it! lol We freeze our pies after they’re baked. I use the plastic trays that you have on your desk for shelves in the upright freezer and it works great! 🙂 Sorry for writing a book!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      No need to apologize, Terry–we love hearing tips and techniques from other bakers. It sounds like you and your family have quite the apple operation and have developed your own recipe for success. Best of luck with this year’s harvest! Mollie@KAF

  144. Ross Hill

    I have readily available lard so that is what I use. You comparisons were/are most interesting and I thank you.
    I baked my first pie when I was about 14 years old. That was 63 years ago. I struggled with the magic of making pie crust for years. Then i learned of Baker’s math and weighed all of the carefully measured ingredients and discovered that 100% flour , 40% lard worked into the flour 30% cold tap water and 2% salt creates a very dependable pie crust. Now I can make the pastry for one small single serving pie or for a dozen 10 inch pies with the same confidence.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your pie-baking journey with us here and on Facebook, Ross! We’re sure other bakers will benefit from hearing about your experiences. Mollie@KAF

  145. Susan Young

    I’m the Thanksgiving pie baker in the family and have always used just shortening. Has to be Crisco, tho. But I think I’ll add vodka this year!

  146. Barbara Pompei

    I don’t find it difficult to get lard. It’s usually near the butcher counter -not refrigerated – in a box….with the word lard on one side and manteca on the other (which I’m pretty sure means lard in Spanish)

    I also use vodka instead of so much water and my crusts are pretty good.

  147. s.

    so using half vodka did not affect the consistency of the final product, but made the dough easier to work with. good to know, especially for beginners.

  148. SGM

    Butter has so little lactose (nearly none) that unless you are debilitatingly sensitive, the amount of butter in a pie crust should not be a problem. I am fairly sensitive to most dairy products, but real butter doesn’t isn’t even noticeable in any way.

    I concur with the results of this crust comparison. I now always use butter after having been raised with margarine crusts and spending some years with the butter/shortening blend recipe. I think I’ll have to try the vodka, especially if it makes the butter crust easier to work with.

  149. Kathy Hosmer Doutt

    My step-father’s recipe results in the best pie crust I have ever tasted. He used shortening, with some butter. However, he also used half regular flour and half cake flour. So wonderfully tender and flaky and delicious!

  150. Becky Braden

    Do you mind sharing your butter crust recipe? Also, stores here sell the expensive European butter..how is it different from regular butters manufactured here in the U.S.?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Becky, here’s the link to the all butter pie crust recipe we used. We hope you like it! As for your question about European-style butter, we recommend you check out our blog post called Butter for Baking to get a better idea of how it will behave in crust. It doesn’t have quite as much moisture in it, so it will behave more like shortening than the all-butter crust pictured here. It might also have a slightly more greasy mouth-feel and lose its shape more readily. We recommend using Grade AA butter for best results. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  151. Chrysoulla

    I didn’t see where you tested an all-shortening recipe… I have been using the old standby Betty Crocker, all shortening recipe for ever since I learned to make a pie crust (about 45 years ago). It is always light and flaky and anyone who has eaten it loves it.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Chrysoulla,
      We compared the results of an all-butter crust vs. a butter/shortening crust for this experiment, as we don’t have a recipe that exclusively calls for shortening. You’re more than welcome to use only shortening to make your pie crust if you’ve found you like the results, but we like the creamy flavor of butter, too. Therefore, we usually use at least some butter in our crusts for good measure. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  152. mary bowman

    I am in total agreement with Julia Child’s recommendation that butter makes a great crust, but needs a lesser percentage of shortening to tenderize the crust. It has worked perfectly for me for over 40 years. I also love the vodka crust from Cooks Illustrated, but I think they treated Christopher Kimball so badly that I might give up my subscriptions and the overpriced online add-ons. Since I have 15 years worth of magazines, I may never miss it! Fun to read people’s differing opinions about crust–much friendlier than today’s ugly political rhetoric.

  153. Candace

    PJ, please do a blog on lard crusts. Does it give the same results as the others? I generally use your Classic recipe with great results, but have a pound of lard in the freezer to try. Would I use the same amount as in the Classic recipe? What about a lard-shortening combo? BTW, my local Shaws supermarket stocks it in the butter section.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Candace, the folks at our baking school recently did a pie crust bakeoff, and a shortening/lard combination took top spot. Try our Classic Double Crust recipe, substituting lard for the butter; I think you’ll be very pleased. PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Vinegar is an acid, which tenderizes gluten in the crust by breaking down the long strands of protein that are in the flour. Vodka, on the other hand, evaporates more readily than water, which helps create steam and therefore flakiness. They’re both crafty ingredients that some bakers like to add to make their best pie crust, but they do function differently. Thanks for asking! Kye@KAF

  154. Peggy Minnis

    I am teaching a class on the chemistry of food and cooking and think it’s high time for an experiment. I believe that whipping the butter will produce the microbubbles that are in shortening. I’ll have my students make it from different fat sources.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Peggy, we’d love to hear your results – what a fascinating experiment! Please report back, if you have the time… PJH

  155. Deborah Horvath Rowden

    Always, and thank goodness because Crisco is a heart killer and clogger. A petroleum product at best. Butter and lard. Yep! Thanks!

  156. Paul J. Stamler

    I just checked the package of Land O’ Lakes butter w. canola oil. The nutrition label says 0 carbohydrates, which means no lactose (or very little — they round off). So if you’re lactose intolerant (I am), you can use it.

    I don’t use lard after having had a pie crust made from lard that was old and rancid.

  157. Lolly

    I just used this recipe/method. I used EverClear grain alcohol instead of vodka half and half with water, wanting to avoid vodka flavoring. It worked great. I think the claim of the alcohol cooking off is doubtful. We are not alcohol drinkers here, but I think the amount of accessible alcohol is negligible anyway, cooking off or not. Serious studies have disproved the vague claim of alcohol cooking off. Obviously when the alcohol blends into compounds, it does not necessarily cook off separately. The science is complicated. The amount of alcohol is too small to be significant is one serving; but leave us not reference unproved alcohol tales. I love KAF!

  158. Paula B

    I have been using vodka instead of water for several years now and my pie crusts are incredible every time. At first I used 1/2 vodka and half ice water and my pie crust were perfect. Then I “experimented” & just usedo the vodka which I chilled in the freezer for several hours along with the butter/ shortening combination . The crusts were even better after that change . My mother always used chilled vinegar which I have done several times myself when I dont have vodka . I also tried a bit of my homeade limoncello as a substitute and it still came out perfect. It’s always enjoyable to present a perfect pie, especially when I myself never liked any type of pie…but my family / friends certainly do!

  159. May

    It’s 2016…I’ve read all the comments. I’m an RN of 30 years experience ,from a family of Master Chefs and Bakers. PLEASE. ..stop using CISCO and shortening in your foods..Shame on you for advocating this..be Heart and Head smart. A heart attack or stroke is harder to swallow than crumbling crusts. !!!!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      May, rather than recommending one ingredient over another, our intention here was the explore the unique qualities of both of these fats in a multitude of recipes. We focus on the differences between these two ingredients in baking without examining the relative health benefits of each. As always, we encourage bakers to make food choices they feel most comfortable with and to consult a doctor or nutritionist for advice. Kye@KAF

  160. Clay Pendleton

    What about making good old fashioned ginger snaps. Will butter make them snappy or shorting be a better option. I have noticed that store bought ginger snaps use shorting but perhaps the reason is shorting has a longer shelf life over butter?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Clay, in our recipe for Gingersnaps, we call for vegetable shortening as opposed to butter. It makes the cookies crisp and slightly snappy–if you use butter, they’ll be slightly more puffy, cakey, and softer. For a truly snappy Gingersnap, try using 1/2 teaspoon Baker’s Ammonia instead of the baking powder. It’s the secret to making cookies as crisp as those found at the store. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  161. Cynthia

    I love this comparison. I’ve finally been able after many years of trial and error to make good pie crust. My tried and true one is from the Chickens in the Road site, Foolproof Pie Crust. This one makes four pie crusts and is perfect for holidays; you can put them in the freezer and be ahead. I also make the basic Crisco pie crust and again, put it in the freezer before using. The big trick I learned from KAF is to use less liquid than you think you need! Give the crust time in the fridge or freezer to hydrate, and you’ll have flaky results every time.

  162. Mama Harriet

    I used my mom’s delicious shortening pie crust for years and made exquisite pies. Then they began failing–Crisco had changed the way they made shortening. I now use 1/2 cheap vodka for the required cold water and the dough is so easy and the crusts come out magnificent. In everything else I use butter–butter is king. But for pies I still like the taste of the shortening crust…with vanilla in the water, of course!

  163. MA Eglesia

    I only use lard for my pie crusts and they are nice and flaky!! Never tried vodka in it but will consider this in future endeavors!! How about the flavored types to match your pie ingredients?? I have used orange juice and apple cider in place of the water with great results!! Happy Baking!! Pies are my family’s favs!!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s an interesting question, fellow pie baker. We haven’t experimented with flavored vodka (in baking), but we’d imagine some of the flavor would be left behind in the crust if you’re using more than just a few tablespoons of vodka. You’ll want to be mindful about the flavor that you use to ensure it pairs well with your filling. If you come across any tasty combinations, feel free to let us know about it! Kye@KAF

  164. Kevin Donohue

    Here’s something I’ve experienced and I’m wondering if anyone else has witnessed the same thing. I don’t like the idea of shortening, so for vegetable fat I use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. I often use a blend, but when I use pure butter, the crust seems to ‘contract’ while baking. For pies, any crimping on the edge is lost, or if I pre-bake a quiche shell, it wants to pull into a little ball in the center of the pan (even with beads or beans 0 I have to use a foil pie pan to keep it in an acceptable shape). Pure vegetable fat holds its shape through baking much better, and a vegetable butter blend, mezzo-mezzo. Has anyone else observed this? And a second question – your crust video shows a technique that is somewhat like an abbreviated version of the one I use for a rough paste – using big chunks of butter and folding the dough until it comes together (a rough paste would then chill and fold a few more times). Other tutorials use a technique of using the heel of the hand to push the dough out, theoretically making thin layers of fat. Any comments on the relative merits of these two techniques?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kevin, the shrinking all-butter pie crust is an enemy of many pie bakers. Butter has a lower melting point than other vegetable oils/shortening, which means it doesn’t hold its shape as well during baking. To prevent the shrinking crust, you can try chilling your crust for 30 minutes before baking, but if you’re looking for a defined design, it’s best to use at least a bit of vegetable shortening.

      As for your second question: the method shown in the video is more like a “rough puff” approach. It creates distinct, flaky layers and makes a delicate crust. The other technique you’re referring to is known as fraisage. This melts some of the butter and produces more of a “short” crust. It’s slightly more crumbly and is nice when combined with custard pies. We recommend trying both techniques to see which texture you prefer. You might find that each one is suitable for specific pies you make. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  165. Russell

    Great article, PJ. Two notes: 1) For a proper gimlet you should keep a bottle of Gin in the fridge 😉 and 2) Have you worked with sour cream? I’ve got an apple pie in the oven now with a crust that used sour cream in place of all of the water, and so far it looks gorgeous.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ll pass word along to PJ about how to keep her pantry stocked for when 5 o’clock rolls around. We have done some experimenting with using sour cream to add richness and flavor to certain baked goods, like biscuits for example. Typically we use it to replace yogurt or milk in a recipe that could use a little excitement. When it comes to pie dough, we like using sour cream to make more of a flaky, rough-puff-type crust. If you’re looking for dramatic puff and distinct layers, you might want to try using a pastry recipe like this one in our Blueberry Hand Pies. Feel free to use the dough to encase whatever tasty filling you’re baking. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  166. Sandy

    Interesting, but I would never use shortening again due to the fact that it’s just chemical poisoning for humans and not a good choice for the risks to health. Stick with butter!

  167. Linda Hoover

    Just stumbled across this on Facebook. So interesting to see the debate of butter vs. shortening or lard. I make my own pie crust with great success every time, using a recipe handed down from my grandma. My vote would be lard every time (which is what the recipe calls for originally), except that it is hard to find (though the Walmarts in our area usually carry it, due to a large Hispanic population). I typically use shortening when I can’t get lard. The other trick for a super-flaky crust is the “secret ingredient” in my grandma’s recipe – a very small amount of vinegar! Sprinkled onto the flour/salt/lard (or shortening) mixture just before the water is added, it helps make the flakiest crust imaginable! The dough is still easy to handle and you get no odd vinegar taste, but it makes one of the prettiest, flakiest, tastiest crusts ever (and yes, the fluted edge stands up beautifully during cooking, but is still very light & flaky, almost to the point of melt-in-your-mouth). We always get rave reviews for our pies and pie crust, which is why my parents ended up getting elected to make pies for the family gathering for Thanksgiving! 😉 I would be interested to see an experiment with vinegar to see if it really does help make the crust flakier, because it certainly tastes like it to us. 🙂

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for the suggestion, Linda. In all of our test baking, we’ve found that adding vinegar to pie crust in the hopes of tenderizing the gluten doesn’t yield any noticeable difference. That being said, we agree that a side-by-side, in-depth experiment exploring this method could be interesting and eye-opening. We’ve shared your feedback with our blog team to consider. Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Grace, we actually have a recipe for pie crust that calls for vinegar. It’s called Nothing in the House Pie Crust, and it’s worth giving it a try. The acid in the vinegar is supposed to tenderize the gluten, yielding a more tender, delicate crust. You can also try using vodka, as we did here, to see if you like the textural results. It’s certainly a tasty experiment! Kye@KAF

  168. Kelly Stillwell

    I work with an all butter crust. I make the dough, roll into discs and freeze before rolling. Once I go to use it I thaw until it’s easy to roll to the size needed, put in vessel and freeze. I find that if I freeze my crust completely before baking the shape holds up well. For a double crust, I refrigerate my pie before baking.

  169. Deb Barnett

    I just made a pie crust for chicken pot pie…I didn’t want to use up all my butter so I used two sticks of butter and about 1/3 cup of duck fat that I had in the fridge from a duck I had roasted about 2 months ago..{I kept removing the fat from the pan with a baster as it rendered off so it wouldn’t taste burned.} It was super delicious and very tender. I rolled it out and put it in the freezer for a few minutes so it would be very chilled and somewhat stiff so it wouldn’t melt going into the hot oven.

  170. Belinda Rice

    I have used my Grandmother’s crust recipe for years that has and egg with vinegar in it. Perfect everytime! Thank you for doing the experiment! I had always wondered which was best but I would end up using what I had the most of. But I also find that the quality of the flour is a must for the quality of the flake. I find that even with my hot water crust that when I started using King Arthur flour that I just ended up with a better product.

  171. Anne Malcolm

    Frankly, the hype that high-falutin’ leaf lard, found at a rare butcher or farm is just that: snooty, ignorant hype.

    For over 75 years, since my grandmother’s time, my family has bought Armour lard from the store.

    1. Lard is terrific pie shortened.
    2. Lard is tasty and flakey.
    3. Lard is economical, compared to butter.
    4. Lard is easy to work with, no need to fuss with refrigeration prior to rolling out…face it, busy house-cooks of the past often had no time for such fuss…my mother…of nine kids…didn’t.
    4. & Lard has contributed to our prize-winning pies.

    1. Anne Malcolm

      P.S. 5. Lard has received a bad rap regarding nutrition. Science has proven that it is a healthy fat.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pie crust is certainly a personal matter, Michael, that comes down to individual taste. We’ve found that lard, butter, and shortening all have their own unique flavors and textures. We find butter to be quite creamy and delicious, while shortening can be more bland but ethereally flaky. Lard is more of a wild card, since it can vary so drastically based on the kind you used. Some lard has a distinctively “porky” flavor, so if you decide to bake with it be sure to check out the taste before using it in a sweet pie. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  172. Molly

    I render my own lard so finding a source is not a problem. What I do is use 1/2 lard and 1/2 butter. Turns out wonderful every time.

  173. Nathan

    You can make your own ghee/ clarified butter. Take what ever amount of butter you want to convert and put it in a sauce pan. Heat the butter at low to moderate heat until all of the butter is melted. Carefully remove the pan from the heat and leave it for a while to let all the milk solids settle. Once they have settled, very carefully pour the butter fat into another container. If some of the solids get mixed in, let the remainder sit again for them to settle out. Be careful when heating not to let the butter get too hot as it may scorch or burn and become bitter. It’s a little more work, but this saves you from having to find a place where you can buy it, and I presume, save you a little money as it probably costs more to have someone else do it. BTW, it’s the milk solids that burn when you burn butter. Clarified butter is great for using for oil in frying, as in sauteing, browning fish before cooking, etc. I am finding out that the best way to cook fish is brown/sear it first and then finish in oven.

  174. Julie

    ok, I am a complete NEWBIE at making pie crusts. (I havent even tried it yet!) but my favorite pie crust to buy is Marie Calendars over ANY other brand. I never eat the edges of ANY pie (even homemade) EXCEPT Marie Calendars! Can you tell me what it is about that pie crust that makes it sooooo good? I would love to try to duplicate it.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Julie, it can be a challenge to replicate something store bought at home, but it’s worth giving it a shot. Try using half shortening and half lard (available in some grocery stores or online) to get the flavor that you’re looking for (assuming you’re baking a savory filling). Also try baking your pies at a high temperature to get the crispy, flakiness that’s characteristic of these Marie Calendar. Don’t be distraught if the results aren’t exactly the same as what comes from the store — you might find that you like the result even better, really! Kye@KAF

  175. Leslie M

    Hi, lots of great comments! So many, I did not read all of them so please forgive me if this was asked.
    Did the Vodka change the flavor? Thank you!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Leslie, PJ reported that she found the flavor and texture of the water and vodka + water pie doughs identical. The only difference was the ease of rolling out the dough. If you use a flavored vodka, you might be able to taste some difference. Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

  176. Anne

    I have a comment/question completely unrelated to the butter/shortening/vodka decision (but still post-related). I clicked on the link to the Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie because yours looked SO yummy and was surprised by the difference in the two photos! The post pic looks moist and melt-in-your-mouth good, but the recipe pie pic looks rather dry on the top.

    Is there a difference in the way the post pie was made, as opposed to the recipe pie?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Same recipe, Anne. The light-colored thin layer of sugar on top kind of does its own thing; sometimes it looks almost crusty, sometimes quite soft. But trust me, it always tastes good! Enjoy your pie — PJH@KAF

  177. Jody

    I learned baking from my great grandma and grandma many years ago but my great grandma used a wood burning cook stove that made the best breads, pies, etc and she used lard for her pie crusts that she rendered herself and my grandma used late or Crisco for hers (grandma also taught me cake decorating and the fancy pie crusts as she called them, I was 5 so 45urs ago now ) so I too have used mostly lard or Crisco for my pie crusts which I prefer but for certain things I will use all butter or a combo of butter/shortening or butter/lard which work well. I love to experiment with different liquids for pie crusts and have used water, buttermilk, milk, orange juice, vinegar, club soda, ginger ale, coffee (great for chocolate pies) and different alcohols from vodka to tequila! Tequila I use for my margarita pie. I have also used different spices in my pie crust like cinnamon and nutmeg for Apple and cherry or cardamom for mincemeat and even pumpkin pie spice for my pumpkin pies! I do tend to use mainly all purpose flour but once in a while I use a pastry or cake flour with interesting results that turned out great. I know baking is supposed to more chemistry but it doesn’t hurt to experiment with different options and now I have an endless amount of pie crust recipes by switching up one or two ingredients. I have never had someone eat my pies and not love them and they always ask for the recipe but then they have tried a couple of others and always say it’s a not the same crust, it’s not always surprising. I love the comparison of those crusts side by side and I agree with how it turned out but for me (and that I am lucky enough near a good source for lard here in ND) lard will always be my top choice for most of my pies because they are tender and flaky as well as easy to work with no matter what surprise ingredients I use with it! Great article on pie crusts though!

  178. Christine Garza

    I was wondering how much vodka is substituted for the water in your vodka pie crust. All of it? I’d like to try it, but I don’t know the ratios.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Christine, we followed the famous Cook’s Illustrated technique and replaced half of the water in our standard pie crust recipe with vodka (about 3 to 5 tablespoons in our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe). We found it made the dough easier to roll out. We hope you’ll share your thoughts if you decide to give it a try too! Kye@KAF

  179. Sheila Kenmuir

    I’m 62 and have never made a pie crust . I’ve always secretly wanted to and I remember my grandmother making the best pies ( probably used lard ) However my mother made making pie’s seem a whole lot like a holiday punishment that the family expected of her . Then dessert was accompanied by her critiquing and appolizing for her failure ! Personally I thought they were pretty good . So I’ve just never wanted to inflict that pain on myself . However long story long . You’ve given me the courage Thank You

  180. Tonya

    I use my mother’s recipe which uses oil instead of butter or shortening. It is failproof in that it’s always flaky. However, I am unable to make any fancy tops because it is so fragile. I’m afraid to try anything else, my family would revolt if it’s not flaky.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Have you tried chilling the dough before attempting to work with it to make a top design? That might help. You also may be able to pull off something simple, like layering pie dough cut-outs (a simple design) on top of the filling. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  181. Marilyn Hinkle

    i have always used lard and vinegar in my pie crusts and have never had trouble. They roll out perfectly and taste great even the next day as where the ones I have made with butter taste old and funny! My recipe was from two of my aunts and I have combined them to give me a very yummy crust!So easy to make and always turn out great!

  182. Diana Armes Wallace

    I live in the rural part of America, so lard, fresh and tasty is my go-to for most everything. I am all about taste when it comes to a crust, and next flakey. I never want a tough crust. And I use an old recipe passed down to me from my mother. So I go against ALL of your advice here, sorry, but my crust is delish and I’ll never change. I use lard, AND I use boiling hot water. And I whip my lard and hot water and salt until I have a creamy consistency. Next, it is the gentle folding in of the flour, and rolling it out. Oh, let’s not forget that I cook on a wood stove, so it’s into an oven that has differing temps on where you place your pie. I even cook Cheesecake in that oven with wonderful success.

  183. Lori

    I will have to try butter to make crust and see if my family likes it better. I’ve been buying palm shortening for several years (8-10) as we purged our house of all hydrogenated fats- so no vegetable oils of any kind in our house.
    And sorry, King Arthur Staff, the last person I would ask about dietary issues would be my doctor as most doctors are completely ignorant when it comes to real dietary advice as they only need 4 hours of nutrition in school, which is all most take. That is a ridiculously low amount.

  184. Laurie

    Is it possible to make a gluten-free pie crust that is flakey, tender and easy to roll out. Will the addition of vodka make the silken crust you got with all purpose flour? Do you know any tricks?
    Thank you.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Laurie, we have two different approaches you can try when it comes to making a gluten-free crust. The first recipe is this one here, which uses our Gluten-Free Flour. It’s especially easy to roll out if you include the optional ingredient of Instant ClearJel (though it’s not packed in a gluten-free facility). Another recipe to consider is our Gluten-Free Double Pie Crust, which tends to be a bit flakier but more delicate to work with. In either case, you can replace up to half of the ice water with chilled vodka to help make the crust more “silken” as described here. Lastly, check out this article on our blog that has all the tips you need to know to make a perfect gluten-free pie crust. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  185. Sheryl

    I render my own lard & do prefer that with a tad of butter frozen. I’ve even added butter flavoring. Plus I have used Apple vodka for Apple pies. Def a try if you haven’t. Flavored vodkas add great flavor.

  186. Kim Strong

    Lately I have added a twist to my all butter crust. I have been putting in a big dollop of coconut oil ( room temperature firm ) before adding the ice water. OK, I use just a little bit less water when I do this. It has made the crust easier to work with and is very flaky.

    Thanks for the comparison on fats. I continue to try new things and test the results on my husband, who is all too eager to play the guinea pig. Here in south central Oklahoma it can be very humid and I certainly notice that makes a difference in the outcome as well. I have to be very careful about not making a glutinous mess!

  187. Katharine sullivan

    I am disappointed to see Crisco as a shortening ( photo). It is hydrogenated, something that rules it out as a healthy food, or indeed, food.

  188. Kim Hund

    Thank you for a lovely article and for all your testing. Pie crust makes me nervous but I may just give it a go this year. Thanks again for the dose of courage! Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  189. Maria

    Interesting article. For me, at the end of the day, it’s about taste and not how light or flaky it is. I don’t like the taste of butter so I don’t use it in my crusts or even in my baking. Any time I do all I can taste is butter and friends and family have always enjoyed my non-butter items better than those with butter (I never tell when I use butter vs. margarine vs. Crisco, just make with what I have on hand sometimes). The exception is when I make a white cake, butter seems to be the key. Anyway, I digress, I like that someone showed a side by side comparison, but the final decision comes down to whether or not I like it!

  190. Susy Sams

    After reading your article I guess it’s time to try making pie crust again. After constant failures I gave up and have resorted to frozen or refrigerated crusts for the last 40 years. Wish me luck.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good luck, Susy! Don’t be afraid to call the Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253) if you have any questions or baking conundrums. Kye@KAF

  191. Jocelyn via Seattle

    I did not have grandmothers or a mother that made pies. I have made maybe one or two pies in my lifetime (I’m almost 62). So it’s weird that I read nearly every comment posted here. I’ve eaten a lot of pie and I sure do love a good pie. I really never think about the crust, but recently I ate some quiche where I commented, out loud, that the crust was amazing, flaky and flavor both.

    All that said, I do feel inspired to try making a pie. I feel like I’ve been given some great knowledge here. Thanks to KAF and posters who shared all their tips.

  192. Brenda

    I use home-rendered lard, sometimes with butter. I like to make enough for several crusts and then freeze the extras. I tried the ATK recipe with vodka, but found it too complicated for the result. Also, the crust made with vodka did not freeze well. When I thawed them, they were slimy.


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