You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to make a pie, but having some of the right tools can certainly help. And when you really get into being a PieChef, you may want all the right tools of the trade to make baking quicker and easier.
You may already have most of these tools in your kitchen. If not, don’t let that stop you! In a pinch, you can make pie crusts with your fingers, rather than with a food processor or pastry blender. You can bake your pie in a cakepan instead of a pie plate. I’ve done all these things many a time and the pies come out fine.
But the right equipment can make the process quicker and easier.
Here’s my preferred equipment list. If you’re missing an item or two, click on its name to go shopping.
Most Useful Pie Equipment
You probably have these, but if you don’t, there’s quite a selection.
I like the good old Pyrex glass ones, but the metal ones are more durable (though not best for hot liquids).
I’ve got my mother’s traditional one with the handles, and also a beautiful French one, made of olive wood, and tapered toward the ends. The modern non-stick ones might be best for beginning PieChefs.
When a recipe calls for shaking a little flour on a rolling pin or rolling surface, this is the easiest way to do it and get it evenly distributed.
A blunt spatula can’t easily get under a rolled pie crust adhering to the rolling surface….
If you cook at all, you have one. Is it sanitary? If not, get a new one! Here’s a good, handy, practical set, not expensive.
A kitchen essential. Again, no need for it to be fancy or expensive, just durable, and comfortable in the hand.
I think of them as rubber, though these days the scraping part is made of silicon or plastic. I like the inexpensive, flexible, old-fashioned type.
I prefer glass: they’re sturdy, cook evenly, and are reasonably attractive. Metal pans are alright, though not as good-looking.
Again, simple is best, as long as it’s sturdy. Doesn’t have to be expensive. (Note: you do not want to take pie plates right from the oven and put them on a cold surface! Glass pie plates may shatter. Use a cooling rack to protect the pie plate and your counters.)
Okay, it’s my quirk, other tools can do what this does, but I find chopsticks very useful. Save one from your next Asian restaurant meal, or get yourself a good, durable set and put one aside for PieChef use.
Other Useful Pie Equipment
Equipment I use less often:
Electric hand mixer
For meringues, whipped cream, etc.
For some fillings.
Fruit & Vegetable Peeler
For apples and other fruit that needs peeling.
For some crusts and some fillings.
For pre-baked crusts. You can also use dry beans or you can put a slightly smaller aluminum pie pan atop the crust in a larger pan, then put some weight in it.
A ceramic blackbird (as in “four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie…”). For a covered pie, you put this in the middle of the pie crust before adding the filling and top crust. Like cutting holes in the crust, it allows the steam to get out—and it’s cute.
Grater or lemon zester
For the citrus peel you need. You probably have a grater in your kitchen, and you don’t need a special one for lemons and other citrus, though you may find a smaller one easier to use for small fruit.
If you have a lot of fresh strawberries that need the leaves removed, this little gadget is very handy.
Supplemental Pie Equipment
Other equipment some people like:
Marble stays cold and provides a solid surface for rolling. I used to have a slab but didn’t have a convenient place for it in my kitchen, and eventually found I was just as happy working on my formica counter top. But it is good to keep your dough cool. It keeps the gluten from developing and making your crust tough.
This handy plastic mat shows you just how big to roll out the dough for a variety of crust and pie pan sizes. It’s useful for other dough dishes as well: pizza, cookies, etc.
Some cooks like to roll the dough between two sheets of waxed (or parchment) paper, to keep it from sticking and to make it easier to move to the pan. You probably have some in your kitchen already. Again, I’ve just never used it that way, though it sounds like a good idea. I guess I just like the feel of the dough. I do use waxed paper when measuring flour or for wrapping crust.
A small instrument used to make fancy crust edges. I usually just shape the crust with my fingers or crimping it with a fork, but this tool does add a note of sophistication to your pie.
My friend Janice has one of these cool tools. You place the apple on the spindle, turn the handle, and voila! A peeled and cored apple sliced into spirals. Lots of fun, but unless you’re planning to bake a whole lot of apple pies probably not essential.
About pie pans
Steel or aluminum pie pans work fine too, though I personally don’t find them attractive. Some are made with a few small holes in the bottom, to help keep the crust dry and not soggy.
Though flimsy, these useful single-use pie pans are fine, particularly when you’re making pies to take to a party or other event, and you don’t want to bother with finding, washing and taking home (or losing) a more expensive pan.
About Those Disposable Pans…
However, a word of caution: the disposable pans are not very strong, and a pie that’s filled with yummy fruit gets heavy. I once had a near disaster taking a Celestial Blueberry Pie out of the oven, and watching the thin pie pan fold up the middle!
Fortunately I put it down quickly and it survived, although it was not the most attractive pie I’ve ever made.
So if you use disposable pie pans, be sure to lift them carefully and support the bottom of the pan!
Any pan will do!
And in a pinch, any sort of pan will do—round, square, glass, metal—whatever you can find that can support oven temperatures safely and is a reasonable size (8 to 10 inch/20cm to 25cm diameter works best).
Making-Do Pie Equipment
Pie-making is easier if you have all of the items listed above, but I can get by with lots less if need be.
Once while at a summer house with a group of friends, we decided to make some pies for a large dinner party. We bought all the ingredients and then discovered we had neither rolling pin nor pie pan, only one small measuring cup, and no measuring spoons.
Approximate measures worked fine, a wine bottle proved a fine rolling pin, and we commandeered every reasonable size pan in the house—cake pans, oven dishes, etc. The pies were great and no one minded the odd presentation.
In case you’re wondering about the chop stick, that’s my universal kitchen tool. Use it for leveling off flour when you measure; for poking in the food processor or electric blender (turn it off first) to loosen stuff stuck in the bottom; and many other uses! My husband used to tease me about it, until he saw how useful it was.