Pie weights are used to weight down pie or tart pastry when you are baking. They’re typically used when a crust has to be partially baked – blind baked – before filling to ensure that the crust keeps its shape. If they’re not used, the pastry will often pull away from the sides of your pie plate and shrink or distort its shape.
To use the pie weights, lay your uncooked pie crust in your pie plate. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the crust and gently press it down until it covers the bottom and sides of the crust. Fill foil with pie weights and bake as your recipe directs. The weights are generally removed halfway through baking to give the bottom of the crust a chance to crisp up and cook through.
The exact weight of the pie weights doesn’t matter so long as they are heavy enough to keep the pastry in place. Chains of some kind are a popular design, as are ceramic balls or beads. I prefer to use either dried, uncooked lentils/beans or uncooked rice. Both work just as well as anything specifically labeled a “pie weight” and they’re much cheaper. After baking, I cool them back down and store them in a plastic bag for the next time I’m baking a pie.