Dear The Practical Kitchen,
I know when you make bundt cakes or quick breads you grease and flour the pan to prevent sticking. When you make cookies you grease your cookie sheet or line it with parchment 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 your pie pan or tart pan (unless, for some reason, the recipe explicitly calls for it). As soon as I read your email my brain began conjuring visions of a dusty, raw-flour covered tart crust.
Yikes! Please, step away from the flour and the pie pan. But what about greasing your pie pan? That's a little more complicated.
If your pie dough is dusted lightly with flour from rolling it, that's okay. But the flour isn't actually doing anything to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan. It's just preventing the pie dough from sticking to itself and the counter.
Non-stick spray, butter, or shortening in the pie dish, on the other hand, will prevent sticking — but since most pie and tart crusts are pretty heavy on the butter already, you shouldn't need a lot of, if any, grease to get the job done. Using too much, or the wrong kind, can change the texture of your pie dough.
There are definitely things to consider — like the type of dough and pan — before you start greasing up.
Know what your pie needs
When deciding whether or not to grease your pie or tart pans, it mostly depends on how you plan on serving it. If you plan on removing it from the baking dish for serving, a quick blast of cooking spray will 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 hurt.
As King Arthur's expert bakers note, a quick spritz of 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. The butter melts and turns into steam and browns the bottoms making them crispy.
If you add more grease into that situation, the texture of your pie crust may change in the oven. So you definitely don't want to overdo it.
Shortcrust vs. Flaky dough
Tarts, which often bake in scalloped-edged pans with removable bottoms, and tend to have hard, crisp shells made from shortcrust pastry, are meant to be removed from their baking dishes before serving.
Tart dough gets firmly pressed into the metal tins, 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 my Pear & Gruyere Tart recipe, you absolutely need to grease the stainless steel tart pan before pressing the dough in. Otherwise you risk the tart cracking and breaking when you try to take it out.
Tart crusts often 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 tart will shrink just enough to easily release from its baking vessel.
Pies, have thinner, flakier doughs and bake in pans with smooth, gently sloped sides. Pie crusts are less likely to shrink on you, because they're weighed down by filling or pie weights.
They're also 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 and it doesn't have a sticky, messy filling, it's more than okay to refrain from greasing the pan.
At the very least, use a very, very light touch with the non-stick spray.
NOTE: While shortcrust doughs are more common in tarts and flaky pastry dough is more common in pies, there are tarts with flaky pastry bases and pies made with shortcrust doughs. Always read your recipe carefully and consider 1) what the texture of the finished pastry will be and 2) the material of your pie dish to determine the best way to treat the pan to prevent sticking.
Whether you're making a pie or a tart, 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.
What to use to grease a pie dish
There are a lot of cooking sprays and non-stick sprays out there. What should you use to grease your pie dish?
- Butter wrapper - This is my go-to for ceramic pie dishes. I use the wrapper from the stick of butter I used in the pie crust and rub it all over the surface of the pie. This way I get just a very light coating and don't risk changing the texture of my flaky pie crust.
- Melted shortening or butter - Brush a thin layer onto the surface of the pie dish so you don't overdo it or end up with patchy spots from an aerosol non-stick spray. Chill the pie pan before you place the pie crust in the pan.
- Aerosol non-stick sprays - Use a very, very light and even coating so the spray doesn't pool in the pan. Hold the pan over the sink and spritz gently in short bursts, so that just the edge of the spray hits the pan at an angle. Spraying directly into the pan results in a heavy patch of grease in the center with a lighter coating on the sides and this can make your crust bake unevenly or even bubble up in the oven.
- Vegetable oil - Lightly moisten a paper towel with vegetable oil and rub it over the surface of the pie dish to prevent sticking.
Remember: Pie dishes come in all sorts of materials — ceramic, glass, aluminum, etc. The amount and type of grease you do (or don't need), and the baking temperature can change based on the type of pie dish you're using.
It's always a good idea to double check what your particular pie dish needs before you start greasing up!
FAQ - Preventing pie crust sticking
Honestly, it will be fine. If you flour your pie pan, you might just end up with a raw flour taste on the outside of the pie. It won't necessarily hurt the pie. Personally, I'd rather not risk the taste of raw flour, but you do you.
I usually pop the pie dish in the oven for a few minutes. This helps warm up the butter in the crust (which firms up in the fridge) so that it releases from the pan.
I've also seen people recommend dipping the bottom of the pie dish in warm water for 20-30 seconds to achieve the same effect. The warm water technique is also better for pies that meant to be served cold, or that aren't meant to be baked.
This is entirely up to you! I don't think you need it, but you can certainly use a parchment paper round on the bottom of the pie dish to prevent sticking.
I don't recommend having the parchment paper come up the sides of the dish as the wrinkles will bake into the crust and can be hard to unstick later. Cutting pies can be messy business and you don't want to accidentally cut shreds of baking paper into your pie when you slice it.
That said, if you do want to use parchment paper to prevent your pie crust from sticking, lightly grease the pie dish, then place the parchment paper round down and smooth it out so that's seamless with the bottom of the pan and lies flat with no wrinkles.
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This post was originally published on Feb 1, 2020. It has been updated with new photos, and even more detailed information on preventing pie crusts from sticking.