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Everything You Need to Bake a Pie From Scratch, According to Pie-Baking Experts

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Baking a pie can be intimidating. You don’t want to overwork the dough for fear of losing that flaky crust, you don’t want to underbake the pie for fear of the dreaded “soggy bottom,” and you don’t want to overfill it for fear of the explosion it’ll cause in your oven. But setting yourself up for success is as simple as gathering the right tools (and, well, a little practice). To make sure you’re as well equipped as you can be for what we’re calling the official start of pie season — apples are about to hit farmers’ markets, cans of pumpkin purée line supermarket shelves, and you know your mom has already thought at least once about what she’ll ask you to make for Thanksgiving — we talked to pastry experts about their must-haves and exactly how to put them to use. And if your fall and winter baking goals go beyond pie, you can find our guides to baking cookies here, and baking cakes here.

Our experts say a food scale is a must-have in any kitchen, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to baking. “Weighing ingredients is the gold standard in a professional kitchen,” says Lani Halliday of Brutus Bake Shop. “It’s particularly useful “for something like pie dough that’s notoriously finicky.” Petra Paredez, owner of Petee’s Pie Company in New York and author of the new cookbook Pie for Everyone, agrees: “Since volume measurements can have drastically different weights, it’s important to weigh certain ingredients for optimal results,” she says, namely “the flour in your crust and the fruit in your filling.”

Erin Jeanne McDowell, author of The Book on Pie, says she prefers “French-style, handleless pins with slightly tapered edges.” Claire Saffitz, author of Dessert Person, likes a dowel-style pin, which has an even diameter all around (both types are available at this link). The main advantage of each of these is that they’re handleless, which gives you a lot of control when rolling out your dough. “The handleless style responds better to pressure,” Saffitz says, “which gives a good feel for what’s happening.” She also notes that the substantial length is helpful. Both Paredez and British pastry chef and author of The Pie Room, Calum Franklin, agree that no matter what you choose, it should be on the heavier side. “A heavy pin will help you roll more evenly, as it does a lot of the work for you,” says Franklin.

If you’re a beginner, both Saffitz and McDowell recommend using a glass pie dish — in particular, this relatively cheap and virtually indestructible one from Pyrex. Most pies need to bake longer than home bakers typically think, and “with glass, you can monitor the browning on the bottom and sides,” explains Saffitz.

While Saffitz sticks with glass most of the time, McDowell prefers a metal or ceramic plate once you’ve developed your “bottom-crust muscle memory,” as she puts it. “I love ceramic for its ability to get the bottom crust nice and crisp. And I love metal because it’s nonstick.”

Both McDowell and Saffitz agree that a bench scraper is nonnegotiable. “I use its blade to cut butter into cubes and portion pie dough after mixing, and I especially love it for scraping my work surface clean when I’m all done,” says McDowell. Saffitz employs one to loosen her dough as she’s rolling it out so that it doesn’t stick to the counter when all is said and done and to transfer fruit to a bowl once she has cut it up. This one, she notes, is particularly helpful for latticework because it comes with a handy ruler etched into the edge.

There are two options when it comes to pastry brushes: silicone bristles and natural. Both help you slick on egg wash that gives a beautiful, shiny finish and help demerara sugar adhere to the top. Halliday and Paredez prefer silicone brushes, with Paredez saying they “tend to be extra gentle, and the egg doesn’t get caught in the base of the bristles, as can happen with a natural-bristle brush.”

Saffitz, on the other hand, prefers natural bristles. “They hold liquid much better than silicone,” she says. “This one is super-durable so long as you wash it thoroughly with hot soapy water when you’re done. Otherwise, it will stiffen up.” She uses the tool for egg wash as well and to brush excess flour off her pie as she’s assembling so that the dough sticks to itself. “It helps you work clean,” she says.