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. Mariann

    Hi my apple shortcake use to be cooked properly but now I find the bottom is not cooked properly I even cooked it for an extra 10 minutes.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Mariann! There are a few things that could change the way a recipe turns out that you’ve been making for a while. The oven could be running low, you may be using a different pan, you may be using a different ingredient, or, you could be measuring things in a different way than you used to. For example, you might be weighing ingredients rather than measuring by volume. We’d recommend starting by making sure your oven is running true by putting an oven thermometer in it. (Most ovens lie.) Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Cheryl! It sounds like your pie filling could have benefited from additional thickener. Check out our Pie Filling Thickener Chart for the recommended amount, and increase it 1/4 teaspoon per cup of fruit if you’re going to freeze anything. This article also recommends baking pie at the bottom of the oven, closer to the heat source. We hope this helps! Annabelle@KAF

  2. Tona

    To brown an empty pie crust approximately how many ounces of rice or beans do I need and can I still cook them after baking?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Tona. The weight will vary depending on the type of rice our beans you’re using, but you generally use between 1 and 2 cups. We’d recommend designating those beans/rice as your blind-baking beans/rice, saving them for your next pie as they can be used for this over and over again. Annabelle@KAF

  3. Sarah

    I baked a cherry pie today in a glass pie pan on a cookie sheet on the bottom rack, and it came out great! One advantage of a glass pan–I just lifted up the pan and looked underneath to see if the crust was browned enough. It took almost 1 1/2 hours, but it was worth waiting for. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Timpi

    I made apple pies but the bottoms of both are white while the top is more brown. Can I re bake and just cover the top with foil? Help! Tomorrow is our late Thanksgiving.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sure thing, Timpi. Covering the pies with foil and extending the bake time is an option you almost always have when baking pies. Be sure to also follow the other tips outlined in this post for best results: put the pie close to the bottom heating element, and bake in a metal pie pan if possible. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  5. Louise

    I’m having a nightmare time making pastry base in my vintage commercial gas oven..the heat travels up the back to the top..there’s a huge difference in temperature between the bottom and top shelf with the bottom being used to keep things warm only and not actually heat anything. I don’t know how to cook the underneath of my base. I’ve tried everything from cooking at a high heat for short time (gas 6, 40 mins) but it results in a burnt top and raw underneath..it’s got to a stage the edges are charcoal but the base is still raw!.. I’ve tried the slow cook trick (3 hours at gas 2) but results in burnt edges and still raw underneath. I’ve bought specialist dishes with holes in them and i’ve tried thin foil tins and thick heavy tins and glass dishes. Exactly the same problem with millionaire shortbread base..please help. I’m at wits end and ready to donate all my baking goods to the local charity shop and take up fishing instead.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like a baking stone might be something helpful to try out, Louise. It’s able to gather and hold heat for a long time, so if you were to put it towards the bottom of your oven, (you can keep it in there all the time) and give your oven a good 40 minutes preheat, it would grab and only onto heat at the bottom of the oven. This could help bake things without them being too close to the top to burn. It may also be a good idea to reach out to the manufacturer to see if they have any ideas as they know the machines inside and out. Annabelle@KAF

  6. Erica

    So in this article you specifically say to blind bake crusts for custard and pumpkin pies, but then the link for perfect pumpkin pie says use an unbaked shell? Which is it?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It’s truly up to you, Erica! It isn’t necessary to blind bake the crust when making a custard pie, but if you want it to have a browner bottom, it helps to do so. Annabelle@KAF

  7. Sharon Sproul

    I tried your stand-mixer pie crust yesterday and could not believe how easy it was to make AND to work with! I’m sold. It will always be my “go to” pastry recipe! The photos were a great help! Thank you for simplifying my pastry baking!!!

    Reply
  8. Stephanie

    I always bake in glass pie plates because that’s what I have. You mentioned baking on a stone.. do I place the pie on a cold stone in the oven or is the stone pre heated with the oven? Would this be the same for apple and pumpkin? I bake the the crust and filling of the pumpkin at the same time.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Stephanie! You’d want the stone to preheat with the oven so it’s good and hot and ready to evenly heat the bottom of your pans. This goes for any pie recipe. We always recommend sticking a sheet tray or some foil below the stone to catch any drips. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *