The Foolproof Way to Get Perfectly Even Crumb Crusts Every Time

published Feb 15, 2023
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What do cheesecake, no-bake peanut butter pie, and lemon bars all have in common? Other than being incredibly delicious desserts, these after-dinner treats skip the pie crust pastry in favor of a crumb crust

Crumb crusts are made from crushed store-bought or homemade cookies and melted butter, which are mixed and then pressed together to form a sturdy base. Most recipes for crumb crusts instruct you to press the butter-soaked crumbs firmly into the pie plate with your fingers or a glass. That technique, however, can sometimes result in a crust that is too thin in some places and too thick in others.

But the secret to perfectly flat crumb crusts is already in your kitchen. 

A Second Pie Pan Is the Secret to Perfectly Flat Crumb Crusts

Instead of pressing buttered crumbs into the pan with your fingertips, start by gently spreading them out into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan. Once the entire surface of the pie dish is covered, place a second similarly sized pie pan on top and press down all over until the crust is firm.

A second pie dish that fits snugly into the original helps to evenly distribute the pressure and results in a perfectly smooth crumb crust across the bottom and up the sides. The bottom of a glass or measuring cup may make the bottom smooth, but it’s difficult to completely smooth the sloped sides of a pie plate with them, as their sides are completely vertical. Another pie dish eliminates this problem and makes sure the sides of the crust are just as smooth and balanced as the bottom.

Lastly, there is little risk of the crumbs sticking to the bottom of the second pie pan — especially if you are using one that is metal. In the event that the crumbs do start to stick, lay a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap over the crumbs before adding pressure with the pie dish. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

If You’re Trying This Trick, a Few Tips 

  • Press with a pan that fits just inside the one you are serving in. If you are serving your crumb-cradled dessert in a pie dish, use a second pie dish for pressing. For a 9×13-inch pan, use the base of a smaller baking pan, like a 7×11-inch pan to press the crumbs. 
  • Keep disposable pans on hand for this purpose. Disposable aluminum pans are perfect for more than storing freezer meals. Instead of doubling up on high-quality pans that you might not use, pull out a disposable aluminum pie plate or baking dish to press the crumb crusts evenly.