When it comes to the question of store-bought vs homemade pie crust, for most pros, there’s no question: homemade is superior. But even pastry chefs can concede that sometimes, the convenience of store-bought crust can’t be beat.
“I will always side with tackling homemade pie dough,” says Ann Kirk, head pastry chef at Little Dom’s in Los Angeles. “The flavor and flaky texture is absolutely worth the effort!” Though she says if you’re truly pressed for time, grab one out of the freezer section of your local grocery.
Speed and ease of use are the key benefits of store-bought pie crust—assuming you’ve got one on hand and ready to go. You can even pick up a frozen pie crust in its own baking pan with little prep involved. Homemade pie crust may require just a few ingredients, but it can take some time and technique to pull together.
“If you haven’t planned ahead and need crust in a hurry, and you have a purchased frozen crust in your freezer, all you need to do is unfold it and go. Easy,” says PJ Hamel, longtime baker and blogger for King Arthur Flour. “However, sometimes it may be easier to simply use the flour, butter, water, and salt you already have at home to make your own crust.”
But you might have more time to make homemade pie crust than you think. It might take you about 15 minutes to pull together pie crust ingredients, then 30 minutes of chill time. While your crust is chilling, you can use the time to work on prepping the filling.
Pastry chef Teresa Shurilla, program coordinator for the culinary arts program at University of Hawai’i Maui College remembers making pie crust with her grandma: “She showed me how easy it was to cut in the shortening and roll the dough. It takes practice, of course, to improve those techniques,” she says. “But it takes just as much time to go to the store, buy the frozen product, place that in the oven, and call it “homemade.”
Think it’s too hard to make pie crust at home? Don’t overthink it. Shurilla encourages home bakers to focus on the key details: Keep the fat cold, don’t over mix, don’t over flour the surface, chill the dough.
You’re likely to save when you opt for homemade, but either option is inexpensive. The flour, butter, salt, and water needed to bring together a homemade crust add up to about $1 to $2 per serving, compared to $2 to $3 for a package of store-bought crust. That dollar or two of savings might not make much of a difference if you only make pies occasionally, but it could add up if you’re a regular pie baker.
You can choose your fat base to adjust the flavor, whether you prefer butter, lard, or shortening (or a combination of all three). Plus, you can tweak your recipe depending on the filling you’re planning.
“Add a touch of sugar if your filling is on the bitter or tangy side,” suggests Hamel. Making an apple pie? Make it even better by adding cinnamon to the crust.”
Nicole Guini, pastry chef at Blackbird likes to make cookie and graham cracker crusts in large batches, then freeze them. “Most people have cookies stashed away in their pantry. All you need is some butter and salt and you have a quick, homemade pie crust,” she says.
You’re more in control of the ingredients with a homemade pie crust, too. That matters for taste—and your health, too. The typical homemade pie crust is made of flour, salt, water and butter. A store-bought crust is likely to contain partially hydrogenated lard, preservatives and even food dye, which might give you pause.
When you’re in a time crunch and you have a store-bought crust ready to go, save yourself the trouble and use what you’ve got. But if you’ve got the time and energy to dial up your pie crust game, homemade is the way to go. And maybe, double your recipe so you’ll have some stashed in the freezer for the next time you need a quick crust.