Dear The Practical Kitchen,
I know when you make bunt cakes or even quick breads you’re supposed to grease and flour your pan to prevent them from sticking. When you make cookies you usually grease your cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat. But what about pie and tart pans? Do I need to grease and flour my pie pan?
To Grease, or Not to Grease
You definitely do not need to flour pie and tart pans (unless, for some reason, the recipe explicitly calls for it). That said, I haven’t actually tried to flour a pie pan, nor can I find a good resource that explicitly says why you shouldn’t (so if you want to experiment, please let me know how it goes). But as soon as I read your email my brain began conjuring visions of the butter from the pie crust forming a hardened paste with the flour, forever imprisoning your pie inside its dish. Yikes! Please, step away from the flour. If your pie dough is dusted with flour from rolling it, that’s more than enough.
As for greasing your pie or tart pans, it all depends on how you plan on serving them. If you plan on removing the pie or tart from the dish for serving, a quick blast of cooking spray will certainly help keep it from sticking. If you’re going to serve the pie in the same dish it bakes in, there’s no need to do so, but it also can’t really hurt. As King Arthur Flour’s expert bakers note, a quick spray of your favorite cooking spray will make it easier to remove that first slice of pie, “especially if any sticky filling has seeped out and is acting like glue.”
Pie and tart doughs have so much butter in them that they almost self-grease as they bake and the butter melts and turns into steam and browns the bottoms making them crispy. On top of that, pie and tart crusts have been known to shrink slightly while cooking (the result of moisture evaporating — which is why you want to resist adding too much water to your dough) but if all goes well, your tarts and pies should shrink just enough to easily release from their baking vessels.
Tarts, which often bake in scalloped-edged pans with removable bottoms, and which have hard, crisp crusts, are usually meant to be removed from their baking dishes before serving. The dough gets firmly pressed into the metal tin, making sure to form a hard right corner at the base and molding around all the sharp points of the sides. As I noted in the Pear & Gruyere Tart recipe, you absolutely need to grease the stainless steel tart pan well before pressing the dough in, or you risk tart cracking and breaking when you try to take it out.
Pies, on the other hand, have thinner, flakier doughs and bake in pans with smooth, gently sloped sides. They’re usually served out of the same dish they baked in, and are less at risk of cracking or crumbling. Spraying your pie pan with cooking spray or greasing the pan might change the texture of the bottom of the crust, so if you’re not going to remove the whole pie from the dish before serving, it’s probably best to refrain from greasing the pan.
Whether you’re making a pie or a tart, always remember to wait until it’s completely cool before removing it from the dish. It’s fragile while it’s hot or warm, and far more likely to break/crack/fall apart on you.