Pie weights are small metal or ceramic balls used during blind baking. This baking tool helps pie crust keep its shape, size, and crispness, and prevents the bottom from bubbling up. Suitable pie weights substitutes include uncooked rice, dried beans, granulated sugar, a pie dish, and pennies.
What Is Blind Baking?
Blind baking, also known as pre-baking, involves partially baking a tart shell or pie crust on its own without the filling. Blind baking ensures the pastry is thoroughly cooked, maintains its shape, and can hold a filling without leaking or becoming soggy.
This kind of baking is a vital step in pastry dishes where wet, moist fillings are added — such as fruit pies, quiche, and cream-based savory pies. Blind baking is also necessary if the baking times of the filling and crust differ, or if the filling doesn’t need to be cooked.
The crust is typically lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and pie weights — the small metallic or ceramic balls — are added. Using pie weights ensures that the bottom stays even, and doesn’t shrink, blister, or puff up.
Pie weights are easy to use:
- Prepare your pastry shell and line it with foil or parchment paper
- Evenly distribute your pie weights of choice on top of the shell’s lining
- Bake the pie until it slightly browns at 425°F for 12 to 15 minutes, or follow the recipe’s guidance
- Slowly remove the pie weights, using the lining to lift them out
- Transfer the pie weights to a rack or heat-proof bowl to cool down
The 5 Best Pie Weights Substitutes
Pie weights are readily available in homeware stores, cooking shops, craft stores, and online. However, there are many ingredients and items around the house that can be safely used as substitutes for pie weights including uncooked rice, dried beans, granulated sugar, pie dishes, and pennies.
These pie weights alternatives deliver similar results without affecting the pie crust’s taste or texture.
Dried beans are an excellent substitute because their shape and size replicate pie weights. These beans won’t cause a mess if spilled, can tolerate high temperatures, and can be reused multiple times as long as they’re properly stored in an air-tight container.
Most varieties of beans work well. Black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans are particularly ideal because they’re large, weighty, and easy to distinguish from the pastry.
Once used as pie weights, dried beans shouldn’t be eaten or reused as a cooking ingredient. The more the beans are cooked, the drier they become, which affects texture and taste.
Uncooked rice is readily available, affordable, and can be evenly distributed across a pie shell’s surface. Rice can handle high temperatures without its texture, flavor, or color being greatly affected, which also allows you to reuse it as a cooking ingredient afterward. All types of rice grains are suitable.
Because the rice grains are small, extra care should be taken when handling and preparing them during blind baking. The grains are difficult to see and can be extremely messy if spilled.
Granulated sugar is affordable and is typically a pantry staple. This substitute works particularly well because its fine granules fill up nooks and crannies in the pastry shell, allowing for an even cover.
Sugar has a good heat resistance and can be reused multiple times, or cooled and used in dishes. When cooked in the oven, sugar develops a tan hue and a toasted, caramel-like flavor, which can elevate desserts and baked goods like sugar cookies, meringue, and banana bread.
Sugar is extremely messy and a hassle to clean if it spills, so make sure the lining is durable and overhangs the pie shell. Both brown and white sugar are suitable substitutes.
Another common blind baking technique is to forgo pie weights and use a slightly smaller pie tin. This method distributes weight evenly, isn’t messy, and doesn’t require a lining. Simply grease the small pie tin with butter or cooking spray, place it onto the pastry shell, then bake inverted (upside down) to prevent shrinkage.
Although an ideal substitute, finding another pie dish of the appropriate size is difficult. The tin needs to fully cover the crust and press on the sides lightly. If the pie dish is too small, the pastry’s outer edges may shrink, puff up, or cook unevenly, but if the pie dish is too large and has to be squeezed in, it’ll apply pressure onto the pastry, affecting texture and denseness.
Although unconventional, pennies make great pie weights. Pennies are relatively heavy, uniform in shape, and conduct heat efficiently. Also, only a few pennies are required to cover the whole surface of the pie crust.
While pennies aren’t messy like sugar and rice, they do need to be thoroughly cleaned before use. Pennies can also stain food they touch and impart a metallic taste, so use at least two layers of lining to ensure that the coins won’t come in contact with the pastry.
Additional Tips About Pie Weights Alternatives
Follow the tips and tricks below to ensure your pie weights substitute brings the best results:
- Make sure the parchment or foil extends over the pie crust. This prevents the pie weights from falling into the pastry and allows you to remove the pie weights easily at the end of the blind baking process
- Add enough pie weights for the pastry to be covered entirely, and ensure they’re evenly distributed. Add heavier weights for deep-dish pies
- Never place pie weights directly onto the crust. Always use parchment paper or foil as a lining, otherwise, the pie weights can stick to the pastry and leave indents. Pie weights substitutes like pennies and beans can also cause staining, affect the taste, or leave an unpleasant aroma
- Cool the pie crust before blind baking. This process helps the pie crust maintain its shape and prevents the lining from sticking to the pastry
- Create a crispy, golden crust by removing the pie weighs halfway through blind baking
- Prick the pie crust before putting it in the oven to speed up the blind baking process. While convenient if you’re short on time, this technique isn’t suitable for pies or pastries with wet fillings because the liquid will seep through the holes
FAQs About Pie Weights Substitutes
The most commonly asked pie weights questions are:
Can I Use Marbles as Pie Weights?
Marbles can work as pie weights because of their heat resistance and weight. However, marbles can sometimes crack in the oven, so be cautious and handle them with care when removing them from the pie dish. Thoroughly wash marbles before use, and always put them on top of a liner like aluminum foil.
Can I Blind Bake a Pie Crust without Weights?
Blind baking a crust without any form of pie weights, while possible, won’t deliver the best results. The pie crust is likely to shrink and bubble up. An alternative, effective method is to poke the crust with a fork several times, though this technique shouldn’t be used on pies or tarts with wet fillings. Freezing or cooling the pastry beforehand can help it retain its size, texture, and shape in the oven.
Can I Use Pasta as a Pie Weight?
Pasta can work in a pinch if there’s no other suitable alternative on hand. Pasta has the right amount of weight, is readily available, and can be reused. However, pasta is messy if it spills and often varies in shape and size, which can make it hard to cover the pie crust evenly.