How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

  • Author: Ann Marie Michaels


  • Unbleached flour, or a combination of 1/2 unbleached flour and 1/2 sprouted flour (3 cups total)
  • Very cold lard or beef tallow — if using beef tallow, chop it up or grate it (1 cup or 8 ounces)
  • Very cold butter, straight from the fridge or frozen; grass-fed if possible (10 tablespoons, or about 5 ounces)
  • Sea salt (1 tsp)
  • Sugar, organic (2 tsp)
  • Ice water (3/4 cup)


1. Add sprouted flour, sea salt, and sugar to a large mixing bowl.
2. Cut butter and lard up into large chunks and add to the bowl.

3. Slowly add cold filtered water, a little at a time, as you mix the pie dough with your (clean) hands until the lard and butter hunks are no smaller than the size of peas. Better yet, the size of olives.
DO NOT OVERMIX! This is the most important part of making a good pie crust. You must have little blobs of fat — this is what will make the pie crust flaky and light, not dense and hard like a rock.

This is what good pie dough looks like with the hunks of fat:

NOTE: If you are using tallow, you will need to cut it up smaller because it will not roll out as it stays hard at room temperature. If you like, you can grate the tallow with a box grater. If you are using lard, leave it in big pea- to olive-sized blobs just like the butter.
4. Pat the dough into two large balls, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

5. Set an oven rack at the lowest level and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Lightly grease a tart pan with butter.
7. Roll out one of the balls of dough on a floured surface. You should clearly see the blobs of butter and lard in the dough.

8. Transfer the dough to pie or tart pan, and trim the edges. An easy way to do this is to simply roll your rolling pin over the tart pan (as shown).

9. Poke holes in the pie crust with a fork.
10. If your recipe calls for “blind baking” (this means you bake the crust first without the filling — refer to your recipe), line with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights.

You can use dried beans or rice if you don’t have any pie weights. If your recipe does not call for blind baking, go ahead and fill it with whatever you are filling it with.
11. For blind baking, bake for 15-20 minutes and remove from oven; let cool for at least 15 minutes before filling.


This recipe for pie crust is tried and true. I swear, it comes out perfect every time. It comes from Marion Cunningham. (No not the mom on “Happy Days”. This Marion Cunningham — the baker.) Her recipe was meticulously transcribed and published by the inimitable Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue magazine food writer (and my very favorite food critic), in his book, The Man Who Ate Everything.

“I have also developed a never-fail American pie crust for the most inexperienced baker. The secret is extra fat.” The detailed instructions are in the chapter, “Pies from Paradise,” in Mr. Steingarten’s book. Most Americans use Crisco, but I discovered that the best pie crust uses some lard,” he said. “Lard actually has less saturated fat than butter; it’s better for you than Crisco because it contains no trans-fatty acids,” Mr. Steingarten said. (Source: New York Times)

If you have not read Steingarten’s book, The Man Who Ate Everything, pick up a copy immediately. If you love food like I do, you will relish and devour every sentence of this delicious book.

As you will see if you read the The Man Who Ate Everything, I have vastly simplified Steingarten’s recipe. If you want more detailed instructions, read the book (or at least the chapter).

If you don’t have sprouted flour, you can use regular white (unbleached all-purpose) flour. I always use 1/2 white flour and 1/2 sprouted whole wheat flour.