Recipe Review

Who Wins the Title of “Best Pie Crust Ever”?

updated Nov 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshots, from left to right: Bobby Bank/Getty Images, Steve Granitz/Getty Images, Jason Merritt/Getty Images, Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The idea that anything is “easy as pie” is kind of laughable, because in my opinion pie crust is arguably the most intimidating holiday baking task. That’s surely why you can find so many types of pre-made pie shells at the grocery store.

But still, pies are an absolute staple at Thanksgiving. So this month, we decided to pit pie dough from four of our favorite celebrity cooks against each other to see whose recipe yielded the most fail-proof crust. I tested all four of these crust recipes side by side, following each exactly as written, and baked each one with filling. It is worth nothing upfront that both Ina and Martha’s recipes make two (9-inch) pie crusts, while Ree’s makes enough for three (9-inch pies) and Alton’s makes a single 9-inch crust. Here are the results!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Most Similar to Store-Bought: Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust

Calling something similar to store-bought isn’t subtle shade; I actually use Pillsbury dough a lot when testing pie fillings for the first time or when cooking with my kids. This pie dough is as smooth and easy to roll as the packaged stuff.

What Ree’s pie crust has in ease, it lacks in flavor with a little too much shortening and no sugar to speak of. It also bakes up a little bit crumbly and pale.

Rating: 4/10

The Best Beginner Pie Crust: Alton Brown’s Pie Crust

Full disclosure: I worked for Alton for 10+ years, and this has been the pie crust I’ve made ever since. I actually have it memorized because I made it so often for recipe testing on Good Eats and the Good Eats books. And I never really questioned if it was the best or not — it was just the go-to pie crust.

Alton’s pie crust is the only one to use a combination of lard (for flakiness) and butter (for tenderness). It also has the most detailed instructions of any of the four recipes, which is incredibly helpful if you’re just learning to make pie dough from scratch.

I was honestly shocked, though, to learn that this is not my favorite recipe of the four. I disliked that it only makes one crust (sure, you can double it, but who wants to do more math when they’re already prepping Thanksgiving?), plus it didn’t bake up as sturdy as some of the other recipes.

One smart takeaway, though: Use a gallon-sized zip-top bag to store and roll out your dough.

Rating: 6/10

The Advanced, All-Butter Crust: Basic Pie Dough from Martha Stewart

Oh, Martha! You got all the parts of the pie crust right — the right ratio of flour to butter — but you left us hanging in the instructions. This recipe is great if you’re a pie crust master and just need a refresher on the order of the steps and timing for an all-butter crust.

If you do decide to try Martha’ s basic pie crust for the first time, try adding the butter in two additions to yield a flakier, sturdier crust.

Rating: 7/10

(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

The Very Best Pie Crust: Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust

This recipe has it all, folks — a combination of butter and shortening that makes the dough easy to mix and roll, a little sugar for flavor and browning, and simple, easy-to-follow (but detailed) instructions.

Ina Garten’s perfect pie crust is the only recipe to deliver on all its promises. The instructions are detailed enough to give confidence to the most beginner baker, and teach an experienced baker a thing or two. Plus, it makes two generously sized pie crusts in one fell swoop. This is my new favorite pie crust recipe. (Sorry, Alton!)

Rating: 9/10

What’s your number-one tip when it comes to pie crust? Tell us in the comments below.