I blindly tasted pie crusts from Trader Joe's, Pillsbury, Marie Callender's, Kroger, and more to find the best. There's only one I'd buy again.
Recently I took a poll and asked 14 of my family and friends: Do you buy pie crust or do you make it from scratch? With the exception of three who are trained bakers (I'm one of those people too) everyone said they use store-bought the vast majority of the time. This is because homemade, though always better, takes time and effort. Even pro-baker Claire Saffitz made the case for not making pie dough from scratch during Thanksgiving because it's finicky.
Those who frequently make pie dough at home turn up their noses against store-bought. But you don't have the feel bad about buying instead of making it from scratch! The good news is that there are lots of options out there. Within a 15-minute radius of my house, I found nine different frozen and refrigerated pie crusts. Are they as good as homemade? I had to find out for myself by blindly taste-testing them.
What Is the Ideal Store-Bought Pie Crust?
Pie crust shouldn’t shrink or crack because there's no point in having a crust if it can’t actually hold the filling. It should taste good—buttery, well-salted, and a little sweet. It shouldn't taste greasy, stale, and artificial. It should be tender, flaky, and smooth, not chalky, sandy, or tough. The ideal store-bought pie crusts are all these things with the convenience of not having to make and roll out your own dough.
The 9 Store-Bought Pie Crusts I Taste-Tested
I visited four grocery stores and bought every kind of prepared pie crust available in freezers and refrigerators. Some came in an aluminum tin pan and others rolled up in a box. All of them came with two crusts.
Here are the nine brands I blindly tasted and compared to find my favorite:
Pillsbury Pie Crusts, Deep Dish ($3.29)
Wholly Gluten Free Pie Shells ($6.99)
Trader Joe’s Pie Crusts ($4.49)
Note: I paid these prices where I live in Central Virginia on September 17, 2023. The price of products fluctuates and varies by state and city, so these prices may not be what you see at your store.
I baked each crust following package instructions, without any fillings or pie weights. Then I labeled each with a number so that I could keep track without seeing and being swayed by the brand during the taste test.
The (Almost) Perfect Pie Crust
Simply Recipes has endorsed Trader Joe's pie crust in the past and for good reason. Of all the pie crusts I tried, this is the only one I would buy again and recommend to family and friends.
For $4.49, you get a box that contains two pie crusts that are each sandwiched between layers of plastic. This not only makes it easy to unroll, but the plastic layers also help with the one issue I had with the dough: it cracked when I tried to unroll it. The good news is that it's easy to fix.
Don't peel off the plastic layers. Unroll the pie crust onto the counter, still between the plastic. Pinch the cracked dough together with your fingers or use a rolling pin to gently nudge them back into one piece as I did in the picture below.
Trader Joe's pie crust has the best texture and flavor—it's a little sweet, perfectly salty, and it actually tastes like butter. I could see the flaky layers in the crust, which melted in my mouth.
Sad Pie Crusts: My Observations
These are my notes from blind tasting the remaining eight brands of pie crust, and the reasons why I wouldn't recommend them. Listed from best to worst:
Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts: There is nothing wrong with this pie crust per se. It tastes great though more savory than sweet with no butter flavor. I could see the flaky layers in the crust. The only problem is that the rounds were about nine inches wide, so they wouldn't fit a standard pie dish. This is best for a pie dish that's eight inches or less, if you're cutting the dough into smaller rounds, or making a crostata or galette.
Kroger Deep Dish Pie Crust Ready-to-Bake: The edges are beautifully crimped, and the crust kept its shape and didn't shrink in the oven. However, it cracked in a few spots as it baked. The crust is light and flaky, though didn't taste like anything other than salt.
Marie Callender's Deep Dish Pastry Pie Shells The crust is tender like a soft cookie and tastes greasy—my tongue felt like it was coated with oil. This is the only pie crust that came in a tin pan and didn't crack while baking.
Pillsbury Pie Crusts, Deep Dish Though the crust looks thick and sturdy and there were no visible cracks when it went into the oven, it came out full of giant cracks. This one had the sweetest crust of all.
Kroger Unroll and Bake Pie Crusts This pie crust comes rolled up in a box. It's very hard to unroll because it stuck to itself. This was also the only crust that stuck to the pie pan when baked. Whatever I could scrape off did taste good.
Kroger Traditional Pie Crust Ready-to-Bake This pie crust shrank down to an almost flat disk, so I would recommend the deep dish version above if you had to pick between the two.
Gillian’s Wheat Free & Gluten Free Quiche & Pie Crust This pie crust is really dry, crumbly, tough, and almost chewy. I guess the crimping is pretty, but not enough to make up for the texture.
Wholly Gluten Free Pie Shells The crust is really dry and has a sand-like texture. It felt and tasted like what I imagine chalk does.
Simply Recipes’ Guides To Perfect Pie Crust
Read the original article on Simply Recipes.