When you’re strolling through the aisles of your favorite kitchen or baking store, you’re bound to notice some objects labeled “pie weights.” Pie weights are typically small, somewhat heavy objects that are used to weigh down a pie or tart crust with it is being blind baked, to prevent the crust from pulling away from the sides of the pan. Pie weights can come in many different forms. Small ceramic balls are one of the most popular varieties, although stainless steel balls are also very common. These small balls can be strung together on a chain, as well, which makes them easier to keep together when you’re taking them out of your pie crust. Despite their name, pie weights do not need to be particularly heavy to be effective, which means that instead of going out to buy specialty products, you can use dried beans or lentils as weights, too.
Before they go into your pie crust, the crust should be lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Weights shouldn’t stick to a buttery crust, but this protective layer keeps the pastry clean (particularly important when I’ve heard of people using coins to weigh down their pastry). I mentioned that the weights don’t need to be too heavy – a few ounces is usually plenty – but to be effective, they do need to cover the surface of the crust well. Many commercially available weights come with just enough ceramic balls to cover the base of the pie. I tend to use two sets for a regular 9-inch pie so that the weights come slightly up the sides of the crust and keep the side crust nice and flat against the sides of my pie plate. If I am using dried lentils (my weight of choice), I typically fill the crust about 2/3 of the way.