How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom: location, location, location

With pie-baking season in full swing, now’s the time to examine one of the most common issues we hear about on our Baker’s Hotline: how to get pie crust to brown on the bottom.

Baking pie isn’t an endeavor for the faint-hearted (or hurried) baker. Unlike brownies or biscuits that can go from zero to on-your-plate in under an hour, pie requires a significant investment of time. Between making, chilling and rolling the crust, prepping the filling, then baking the pie and letting it cool before you finally sample a slice — you’re putting several hours, off and on, into the endeavor.

That’s why it’s so disappointing when something goes wrong. Like cutting into a blueberry pie to find berries swimming in a deep puddle of sloshing juice.

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Or eagerly forking up a bite of warm apple pie and discovering its bottom crust is as white, soggy, and limp as an underdone pancake. BLECH!

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Hey, it doesn’t have to be that way; there are simple steps you can take to produce a bottom crust that’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Metal pan, glass pan, stoneware/ceramic… doesn’t matter. It’s all about location in the oven — and time.

Want to make pie whose bottom crust is just as brown and crisp as its top crust? Here's how. Click To Tweet

Metal browns faster than stoneware or glass

Getting a brown, flaky/crispy bottom crust on your pie is all about quick and effective heat transfer. That’s why aluminum or aluminum/steel pans — rather than glass or stoneware — are your best choice for baking pie. Metal, especially aluminum, transfers heat quickly and efficiently from oven to pie crust.

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

If you always bake in an aluminum pie pan, you probably never experience the dreaded pale and flabby crust. In tests for this post, apple pie baked in an aluminum-steel pan had a lovely brown bottom crust when baked anywhere in the oven: in the center (1, above); on the bottom rack (2); or on a pizza stone on the oven floor (3).

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Not so with the stoneware and glass pans I used. Placing them on the oven’s middle rack to bake resulted in pie with damp, pale bottom crust.

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Bake on the bottom rack

“But I love my grandma’s old ceramic pie plate,” you say. And you can keep using it — so long as you place it on your oven’s bottom rack when baking pie. Without getting too heavily into thermodynamics, metal is a better heat conductor than air; so you want your pie’s bottom as close as possible to the oven’s metal floor, which means the bottom rack.

Why not place your glass or ceramic pan directly on a hot oven stone? Thermal shock — a quick temperature change, like from room temperature to a super-hot stone — can shatter a non-metal pan. And imagine the mess THAT would make — to say nothing of losing your pie.

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Bake thoroughly

If your fruit pie has been in the oven for the amount of time directed in the recipe, and you don’t see juices bubbling up through the vent holes or around the edge of the crust — trust me, it’s not done. I like to let my pie bubble in the oven for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

And you know what? It’s nearly impossible to over-bake a fruit pie. I’ve baked apple pie for 3 hours at 350°F (tenting the top with aluminum foil after 1 hour), and it’s come out just fine: crust brown and lovely, apples not over-cooked. So don’t put a stopwatch on that pie; the longer you let it brown and bubble, the better your bottom crust will be.

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Also, bear in mind that crust browns first at the edges, then the center. So the larger your stoneware or glass pan, the longer it’ll take for the entire bottom crust to brown.

 

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Custard and cream pies: a different solution

So far we’ve focused on fruit pies. What about pumpkin or other custard-type pies whose fillings simply can’t take high/prolonged heat without danger of curdling or cracking?

Blind-baking — baking the pie crust before adding the filling — is your answer. Bake your crust, add the filling, and bake until the filling is done. I promise you, the crust won’t burn on the bottom; the filling will insulate it. As for the crust’s exposed edges, simply cover them with a pie shield or strips of foil to protect them. For complete details, see how to blind-bake pie crust.

Is it necessary to blind-bake crust for a custard-type pie even if you use a metal pan? For best results, yes.

Three final tips

What about baking in a cast iron skillet? Love this solution; cast iron is a great heat conductor, and serving pie from a cast iron skillet makes for great presentation: equal parts tradition and casual comfort.How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Always set your pie pan on a larger baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment. The metal baking sheet will help conduct heat to the pie’s bottom quickly; and parchment will catch the inevitable spills, making cleanup super-easy.

And if you simply don’t have any luck browning pie crust in your favorite stoneware pan — but still love the pan for its presentation value?

How to get pie crust to brown on the bottom via @kingarthurflour

Bake it and fake it! Bake your pie in a metal pan. Then, depending on the size of your stoneware pan, set the pie, metal pan and all, into the stoneware pan. Or very, very carefully loosen the pie from its metal pan and place it, whole, into the stoneware pan. If you can’t manage that, try cutting the pie in half or quarters before moving it; it’ll simply look like you started cutting slices in the kitchen, before serving.

I’m sure I’ve missed some other valuable tips for how to get pie crust to brown on the bottom. Please share your favorites in comments, below. 

PJ Hamel
About

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!

comments

  1. Marci

    Hi, PJ. Thank you for this great research. It explains a lot. I have been using Pyrex because I read somewhere that it did the best job on browning the bottom crust. But it has been hit or miss until I discovered, as you’ve said here, that I have bake the pie on the bottom rack.

    There’s another good reason for some people to use a big cookie sheet and parchment under a pie. Many new self-cleaning ovens have a sheet of metal across the lower heating filaments. It makes cleaning easier, but if a drop of flour or apple pie juice falls on the oven floor, a small fire will start. It is a pain in the neck to work around that fact, but I must. 🙂

    I have a question. I have been looking and looking for a nice crumb topping recipe to put on my Thanksgiving apple pie, and I haven’t found one. The one shown in the top photograph is exactly what I’m looking for. Can you give us the recipe for that topping?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks, Marci — the crumb topping is simply 1/2 cup each all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and butter (use a pinch of salt if you choose unsalted butter). Work together until sandy. Makes an awfully nice finishing touch in place of a top crust. You’ll find the ingredients listed as a tip at the bottom of the Apple Pie recipe, BTW — enjoy! PJH@KAF

    2. John

      Marcy… I have always added cinnamon to my crumb topping, especially apple pie & cobblers. The slight ‘hint” of cinnamon adds great flavor.. after you make the crumble , start with a Tsp of cinnamon, then if you want more add 1/2 Tsp at a time, then toss until blended. . I have found that @ 1 1/2 Tsp. works in most toppings. For larger, (9X13) it might take 2 Tsp.

  2. sandy

    I really like the focus of this post and the help from PJ. Over the years I have learned that where you place things in the oven makes a really big difference. In fact, I have started writing on my recipes what rack I bake things on. So if it is a fruit pie I put it low (2nd rack in my oven – 2″ from the bottom). If it is pumpkin I bake it one rack up from that – was getting a big bubble in the middle of the pie on the lower rack. But both very low and close to the bottom of the oven. I write the position down on my recipes so I don’t forget from year to year for the seasonal pies – cannot always trust my memory any more (unfortunately). I also bake pies in pyrex so I can get a look at the sides and bottom crust before I pull the pie out of the oven.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks for sharing this, Sandy — what a smart idea, actually writing down oven rack position on your recipes. Something we should be better about here — guiding readers to the best rack position for each recipe on our site. Good thing for me to keep in mind! PJH@KAF

  3. Kristin

    I like to preheat the sheet pan that I’m going to use to catch any drippings from the pie as it bakes. By pre-heating it, the bottom of the pie will get a quick dose of heat right when I place it in the oven. I think it helps the bottom of the pie finish baking closer to the same time as the edges.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Good advice, Kristin — especially when dealing with that pale inner circle of bottom crust. Thanks! PJH@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Donnie, we’d love to help with your pie crust woes. We’re not exactly sure what you’re describing: is the bottom crust actually floating up through the filling and rising to the top? We haven’t ever experienced this for ourselves, but we’d be happy to troubleshoot if that is indeed what’s happening. Feel encouraged to give our friendly bakers on the hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253) so we can look into this further. Kye@KAF

    2. Joy

      Make sure your pie crust does not have any holes or thin areas. I’ve had this happen a couple of times when I had “patched” the crust.

    3. Cindy chartier

      What is happening is that somehow some of the pecan pie filling is getting UNDER the crust….either by holes in the crust or when transferring the pie to the oven….the filling “splashes” over the edge and under the crust…then when baking the filling expands and forces the crust up…as though it is floating! Good luck!🍀👍🏼

    4. sandy

      I think I had the same problem with my pumpkin pies but I am not sure if it is the same as what you are describing. The crust on the bottom of my pies would raise up like a volcano in the middle of the pie. It left a big hole under the center of the pie and the bottom crust was close to the top of the filling. Weird! My theory is that the crust on the bottom lifted because of steam building up under it. I solved my problem by using less water in my piecrust dough and placing the pie up a little higher in the oven so the heat was a little less intense and produced less steam. I still place it low in the oven to get the nice browned bottom – but not low as I do fruit pies. Up one rack… Every time I bake a pumpkin pie now I hold my breath hoping there is no pumpkin pie volcano in the making!

  4. Sonja M. Hickmon

    Hello PJ, how generous of you to share these tips with me. I thank you because from now on my crusts wheather for pie or quiche will taste more delicious all around. Blessings to you! Sonja

    Reply
  5. Elianna

    You explain everything so beautifully. My mother in law is always baffled as to why the bottom crust of my bread/cookies is softer and lighter than hers, and I can never quite make her believe that where you place it in the oven matters. Baking on the bottom sure seems to go brown!
    Confession: I love the soft “blah” pie crust!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Elianna, show this post to your MIL; maybe she just needs to hear it from another source. 🙂 And everyone’s entitled to their pie crust bottom opinion — no baking police! Enjoy — PJ:)

  6. Gigi

    Thanks for these tips!! Never thought about the placement in the oven as making a difference! And, SANDY, thanks for suggesing to ‘write the placement in the oven down on your recipe’ tip …that’s GENIUS!!

    Reply
  7. Ann D.

    So, possibly a dumb question. When you blind bake a crust and fill it with beans (or whatever) can you still use the beans later for actual bean dishes?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Ann, they tend to get really dried out and you’d have to soak/cook them longer, but I’d think you could still use beans (or rice); I wouldn’t make, like, a dozen crusts and then try to use them, but just one? Sure, go ahead. PJH@KAF

  8. Jo

    One thing I learned from a sweet New England friend, I brush my bottom crust with egg white prior to filling it to seal it. I believe it does help. Especially with a custard pie. I have even just used a pastry brush and the inside of the egg shells to get the white.

    Reply
  9. Pat

    I butter the pie pan and start baking at higher heat for about 10 minutes then reduce to the regular temperature for the remaining time. I’ve had some nice bottom crusts doing this.

    Reply
  10. SoozNolan

    LOL! Talk about timely. I was one of the callers on the hotline with this question last Monday morning! ; ) One last question: For apple (fruit) and pumpkin (custard) pies: How much in advance of the big Thanksgiving serve can I risk baking them without moisture working into that bottom crust I worked so hard to crisp up? Would love to make the day before…but worried about the encroaching sog.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Making the pies the day ahead should be just fine if you follow the tips illustrated here (and shared with you on the hotline) to fully brown the crust during the bake. Leave the pies at room temperature, well wrapped and reheat slightly before serving. Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

  11. Bonnie

    My mom taught me to always bake a fruit pie for longer than the recipe states, and that the juices need to be bubbling out and browned. Sometimes this means another hour in the oven. Also, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on the top crust helps make the top crispy as the sugar sticks and caramelizes just a bit.

    Reply
  12. MaryLynn Mc

    So glad I follow this page. I’m going to make my pie crumbs this week and then next Wednesday blind bake 3 crusts for pumpkin and coconut custard pies. Thanks for all of the tips.

    Reply
  13. Janet romano

    When I bake a pie,I usually put plain crumbs on the bottom crust befor filling.it drys them and the pie taste is absorbed into the crumbs.

    Reply
  14. Denise (from Ohio)

    This is slightly off topic but it is about pies! You mentioned above about leaving the pies at room temperature. I’ve always refrigerated my pumpkin pie. Is it safe to leave out?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Pumpkin pie tastes better at room temperature than it does cold, but since it’s custard based, it’s best to refrigerate it once it’s cool from baking. I don’t cover mine; it can get a pool of liquid on top if you don’t let it “breathe”. When dinner is ready, I take out the pie to let it warm up some before we dig in. Susan

  15. SHARON ESTREMO

    Am I to understand that a pumpkin crust should be blind baked first then add the pumpkin to bake ? If so that is fabulous…thank you…if not then…:/

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sharon, because pumpkin pies typically bake for quite a long time (50 minutes to over an hour), most recipes don’t call for blind-baking the pie crust before adding the filling. If you’re having trouble getting your pumpkin pie crust to brown, consider putting it lower in the oven as described in this blog here. Also, you can try the baking technique that’s used in this recipe for Golden Pumpkin Pie: Preheat the oven to 425°F and bake your pie for 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, move the pie to the middle rack, and bake for an additional 35 minutes until the custard is set. This helps ensure the bottom is nicely browned. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. David Dickerson

      We’ve had good luck with a partially blind baked crust for pumpkin pies – crust in freezer for 30 min, line with foil, add pie weights, 15 minutes at 400. Then, we use pie shields for pretty much the whole baking time. And, we’ll definitely try the bottom rack tack.

  16. Susan Berry

    PJ, when you say aluminum pans do you mean a real aluminum pie pan? Not one with the non stick coating and not the disposable aluminum type, right? Finding a plain old fashioned aluminum metal pan won’t be easy. 😉

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Hi Susan: Non-stick coating or not, aluminum is my choice. These 9″ steel/aluminum pans are my first choice; they’re what we use in the test kitchen, and I have three at home. As for the disposable pans, I find they’re awfully shallow and just small overall, and don’t fit a typical 9″ pie recipe. PJH@KAF

  17. Dale A. Mainville

    Several years ago I bought some pans about the size of a small pizza pan about 14 in. The center is cut out and it is non-stick Love this for baking fruit pies in a pyrex dish. With the center removed it allows the heat to get to the center of the dish and brown the crust. I wish I could still find them. I got them some where in Canada on my travles, and have not seen them since.

    Reply
  18. Carla

    I make my pie crust and pre-bake it in a 400 oven to get it ready for the item to fill it. Like I made Sweet Potato Pies and Pumpkin pies and the crust was great. I learned from my since past mom.

    Reply
  19. Ethel

    Thank you for the bottom crust browsing information. I was wondering about using convection back or just regular bake cycle for baking your pies, which is best or does it matter?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      depends on the pie, Ethel. For a two crust apple pie convection bake would work, but I would avoid that cycle for a custard-type pie like Pumpkin. If you’re looking to get the most efficient use of your oven, you could pre-cook apple pie filling and go for convection bake, which would give you a finished pie with less than 30 minutes baking time; you’d only have to bake the pie until the crust looks done and golden. Susan.

  20. Barbara

    I am very excited to try a long-baked apple pie! I’ll try the foil tent you mentioned. I like my baked apples, sauce, and pies well done.

    Reply
  21. Donna Wright

    I have an Induction oven, I can bake five cookie sheets of cookies at once, no burned tops or bottoms and pie crust come out baked on the bottom. I can not understand why people like gas stoves, I burned at least one tray of cookies while some were undercooked and burnt on same cookie sheet. Love my induction stove.

    Reply
  22. JoAnn Billitti

    Does it make sense to blind bake a gluten-free crust, as well? Pumpkin pie is my favorite, but the last GF ones were very very pale 🙁

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      JoAnn, you’ll want to blind bake your crust if your recipe calls for this step, if you’re converting to gluten-free. If the recipe doesn’t call for it and it’s from a trusted source, it’s probably not necessary. It’s true that gluten-free baked goods tend to brown less than gluten-full ones; you can try to compensate for this by adding a bit of additional sugar to the dough, and/or brushing the bottom of the crust and edges with an egg wash before baking. Also take the tips shared here to heart: when baking gluten-free, it’s even more important to use a metal pie pan and to place it in the bottom part of your oven for best results. Don’t be afraid to leave the pie in the oven until you start to see color. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  23. Deborah

    My question is: why does my pie crust always stick to the bottom of the pan? Getting a piece out is always a mess with the crust glued to the bottom.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Because, Deborah, NO ONE TELLS YOU you can grease the pie pan! I spray my pans with pan spray before putting the crust in. Greasing the pan helps with browning, too. The only time I don’t grease my pie pan is if I’m blind baking. Susan

  24. Barbara Saulsbury

    How do you recommend a Quiche be placed in the oven? Should I place it on the bottom shelf or will this risk having it crack? Do you have a favorite quiche recipe?
    Many thanks..from PA

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Barbara, whether you’re baking a fruit pie or a savory pie (like quiche or pot pie) you can use the tips shown here to get the bottom crust to brown. Use a metal pie pan and place it in the lowest part of your oven, on a preheated baking stone if you have one. One of our favorite quiche recipes is this one for Roasted Butternut Squash & Spinach Quiche — it’s a perfect dish to make this time or year, and it’s wonderfully colorful! Kye@KAF

  25. Dawn K

    This article is really helpful, thank you. Just a quick question, looking at the photo above where you have the pie on the lowest rack and then what looks like a stone below it, is it correct that the stone is one the base of the oven? Didn’t realize you could do that and it would be okay for the oven and for the stone. Is it a particular type of stone vs say, a pizza stone?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Dawn, it’s a regular pizza stone, and if I’m not supposed to put it on the floor of my electric oven — I didn’t know that! It lives on the floor of my oven, and has for years, and neither seems the worse for wear. I can’t tell you it would be OK for your oven, but maybe you could call the manufacturer and ask? Good luck — PJH@KAF

  26. PMMaurer

    PJ,

    Thanks for this info. I’m curious to know if baking and browning with convection vs. conventional makes a difference?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Convection browns more quickly, and if your filling has firm fruit like cooking apples, the crust can be done way before the filling has softened. If you want to save time and use convection, it’s a good idea for an apple pie to precook the filling, so everything is evenly cooked. Susan

  27. Bobbie

    I lightly brush the bottom of all my pies with corn starch and it seems to work. I will also use bottom shelf as well in the future. Thanks

    Reply
  28. Mari

    Thanks PJ for the tips! I thought you’ve forgotten to answer my question in the previous topic of pie crust crumble… I am surely going to try this for Thanksgiving!

    Reply
  29. Tiara

    Love the tips! I always have problems getting the bottom crust to brown especially I use the Pyrex glass dishes. Another problem I noticed is that with the sheet pan underneath, I have to bake longer. I’ve been toying in my mind about slab pies – any thoughts about what level to bake them at? I may try baking them on the lower rack to see how the bottom browns.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Cheryl, a few other bakers have asked about using a convection oven, and one of our baking experts, Susan, shared some tips. Here’s what she had to say when someone asked about whether using the convection setting to bake pies was a good idea: “Depends on the pie, Ethel. For a two crust apple pie convection bake would work, but I would avoid that cycle for a custard-type pie like Pumpkin. If you’re looking to get the most efficient use of your oven, you could pre-cook apple pie filling and go for convection bake, which would give you a finished pie with less than 30 minutes baking time; you’d only have to bake the pie until the crust looks done and golden.” To another baker she shared, “Convection browns more quickly, and if your filling has firm fruit like cooking apples, the crust can be done way before the filling has softened. If you want to save time and use convection, it’s a good idea for an apple pie to precook the filling, so everything is evenly cooked.” We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  30. Sue

    Thank you for the helpful tips!! I never thought of placing the pie on the lower rack. Will definately do!! My question is: My pies brown beautifully on the top ( i white egg wash them and sprinkke ‘sparkling’ sugar on top). But inevitably, the bottom doesnt brown and the apples are still firm. Do i have to protect the crust with foil? I cook my pie for 55 min ..

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you don’t need to cover your crust with foil if it’s browning beautifully, Sue. Try putting your pie lower in the oven to remedy the bottom crust problem, and keep an eye on the top crust during the last ten minutes of the bake. If it’s getting a bit too brown, tent with foil for the remainder of the bake. Happy pie baking! Kye@KAF

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