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How to keep a pie crust from shrinking

Imperfect Pie Crust
When you put the effort into making a homemade pie crust for a Caramel Banana Cream Pie or other recipe that calls for a prebaked crust, it can be very disappointing if the crust that you worked so hard to make shrinks and gives your pie a less-than-perfect presentation. There are two ways that pie crusts can shrink and a couple of things that you can do to prevent it.

Pie crusts can shrink away from the bottom of a pie plate when you’re pre-baking the shell if you don’t put pie weights inside of the crust. Pie weights can be anything from a set of ceramic balls designed to be pie weights to a big batch of dried beans that are poured into a parchment-lined pie crust; pie weights are anything that will hold the pie crust down while it “sets” in the oven (more on How to Use Pie Weights). This typically happens with pastry crusts and you don’t need to use pie weights for graham cracker or crumb crusts.

Pie crusts can also shrink away from the sides of a pie plate, giving a crust a very uneven appearance and creating openings for filling to sneak into and make the crust soggy. This shrinkage can’t be solved with pie weights because it is primarily the result of not resting the pie dough enough. Just like when you are baking bread, gluten develops when you work with pie dough. Rolling out the dough and working with it to fit into your pie plate tightens up the gluten, and if you bake it straight away, that tightness will result in the crust shrinking and becoming tougher during baking. To prevent this type of shrinkage, rest the pie dough for about 5 minutes after you roll it out onto your work surface and before you press it into your pie plate. Once it is in the pie plate, put it back in the fridge (or leave it on the counter if your kitchen is very cool) to rest for about 15 minutes before baking. This resting gives the gluten time to relax and will help keep your crust from shrinking during baking.

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  • Linda
    December 3, 2010

    Good tips. I admit to avoiding pie baking for that very reason–I always seem to get crusts to shrink. I knew about the pie weights but not the resting. I’ll try that next pie crust. Thanks!

  • The cute Pie Guy
    December 4, 2010

    I found these things caused pie shrinking:
    Too much water in the dough
    Not enough fat in the dough
    Dough was over mixed
    Back and forth rolling of dough
    Dough was not chilled before baking
    Dough was rolled out too thin
    Dough was streched to fit pie pan

  • Dawn
    December 6, 2010

    Aha! I used pie weights for my T’day pie crusts and they still shrank – now I know why. Thanks!!

  • D. Schertz
    March 8, 2011

    A pretty simple trick is to prick the sides and bottom of the crust with a fork. Don’t worry, even the most runny filling will not ooze through because when the pie shell is baked, the smalls holes fill in. Make sure that when your crimp the edge that you crimp over and on top of the plate. This will aid in keeping the crust from shrinking. Have never used weights as they seem like too much extra work.

  • lowell
    December 24, 2012

    Thank you for the tip, very helpful.

  • Holly
    July 30, 2013

    I’ve always gotten great pie crusts without all the complicated procedures, and I don’t chill anything except for using ICE water as my dough moistener (as in, ice cubes floating in a custard cup of water).

    To me, the easy solution for both shrinkage and to making rolling easier has been to simply use a larger recipe for all of my pies. I’ve got 9 inch pie pans but use the standard recipe for a 10 inch crust — then there’s plenty to have some of it hanging over the edge after it’s tucked, so then it won’t matter if it shrinks a little. And I just prick the crust well on all its surfaces before baking it.

    So no weights, no refrigeration, no fuss. Hope this helps!

  • Anne
    February 17, 2014

    I have never used weights too much in a hurry I always make big recipes of pastry tart shells.
    Today I am doing 4 recipes=20 cups of flour so I will make them a bit bigger to prick the edges. with a fork.
    See how it goes.

  • Brenda
    November 28, 2014

    Thank you!!! Every year I somehow screw up the lemon pie by having the crust shrink or fall. This year I did just as you said. I put the pie crust back into the fridge for 15 minutes, and also used two bags of beans as pie weights.. crust was perfect!!

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