Pies require practice and patience to turn out just right. Once you have a filling and crust recipe that you want to try, you’ll need some basic kitchen equipment to do the job right. Assuming you already have the most basic equipment (measuring cups, measuring spoons, bowls), here are six specialized pastry tools that will help greatly with making your pie.
Also called a pastry blender, the pastry cutter is the unsung hero of the crust-prepping process. While the job can be done by using two knives in a scissor motion to cut the solid fats into the flour, a pastry cutter saves you trouble and time. The device itself looks like over-sized brass knuckles with slits instead of holes. The rubber hand grip lets you hold on and press the fats into the flour, cutting the mixture into small pieces. This tool is pastry-specific, so you should be able to find it at a specialty kitchen store or even in the utensil section of Bed Bath & Beyond or Target.
You can buy many different types of rolling pin from your local store, but a wider pin with handles works best for pies. The material of the rolling pin (wood, metal, sometimes glass) doesn’t really matter since you’ll flour it anyway. A wide rolling pin presses more evenly into the dough and gives you better control so the crust is uniformly thick. Also, transferring the crust to the pan is a breeze with a rolling pin that has handles; simply place the pin on the edge of the crust and roll inwards, pulling the crust gently over the pin as you do. You should end up with a rolling pin wrapped in pastry; once you have the crust on the pin, roll it slowly over the pie dish, unraveling the crust as you go.
The debate rages between which material is better for pie dishes: glass or metal. Metal is more traditional, but glass has a lot of perks. You can see your pie as it’s baking in the oven which lets you judge when it is really done. Also, glass heats the pie better and cooks more evenly than metal. And last, and more important, glass usually looks better laid out on a dinner table. Note to the glass fans: Pyrex counts as glass, but remember to look for clear Pyrex (rather than tinted) so that you can see the crust through it.
The pastry wheel is more for looks than function, though I think it adds a nice finishing touch to a crust. The tool looks like a pizza cutter with a smaller, scalloped wheel. You can use it to cut crimped strips of pastry to make a lattice crust or trim the excess pastry off of the pie dish and give the crust a lovely, scalloped edge.
The easiest way to make your pie look beautiful and taste phenomenal is sprinkle the top crust with sugar. To get the sugar to stick, use a silicone basting brush to spread milk or lightly whisked egg over the crust; this will give the crust a lovely golden-brown color. The sugar will adhere to the moist crust and glisten once the pie is baked. A small basting brush looks like a miniature version of what you’d see in a BBQ or grill set. Silicone is preferable simply because it’s so easy to wash.
Wire Cooling Rack
Whereas the glass pie dish helps the pie bake evenly, the wire cooling rack helps the pie cool evenly. Sufficient airflow and circulation around the bottom of the pie dish is what makes the difference between a flaky bottom crust and fruit-topped goo. Avoid sogginess; invest in a wire rack.
Cookware tips provided by Analise Marcus, an avid amateur baker who loves making pies for friends and families. She started baking in her teens and collected the right pastry-making equipment over the years from stores like Target. She advocates using Target promotional codes to shop for functional, affordable cookwares online.