Pie weights are one of those pesky kitchen tools that you either never buy because you don’t use them enough, or that you constantly misplace. Either way, there never seem to be any around when you need them the most!
Pie weights are, however, an essential tool when blind baking pastries and crusts. They help push down the crust to prevent any air bubbles from forming and to help the crust bake evenly.
Luckily, even if you don’t have this precise product, there are a bunch of substitutes for them.
So, what are the best substitutes for pie weights? Our top recommendations include raw dried beans, raw uncooked rice, and granulated sugar. Alternatively, you can use glass marbles or polished river stones, another smaller pie dish inserted into the larger one, spare change like pennies, or other metal objects.
All of these substitutes are oven proof, easy to find, use, and clean, and most importantly, will conduct heat evenly and create a beautifully flat evenly cooked pastry crust.
In today’s article, we will be looking at all the various substitutes for traditional pie weights and exactly how to use them. But first, we will discuss exactly what they are, how they function, and how to choose an appropriate substitute.
What Are Pie Weights?
If you are new to baking crusts, pies, and pastries, you may have never heard of pie weights, or you have just read it in a recipe but have no idea what they are or why they are used!
Pie weights are incredibly handy tools to have when making any sort of pastry or crust. First, let’s have a look at their shape. Pie weights are weighted balls made from either ceramics or metals.
They aren’t very large in size and roughly measures around 3/8 of an inch in diameter per ball. They are however used in large numbers (you will shortly see why) and are sold in different packets sorted by their weight.
The larger the weight, the more balls you will have, and naturally the bigger surface area they will be able to cover.
These balls come in a wide variety of colors, but more often than not you will find them in a stone white, cream, or grey.
These balls are easy to use, don’t require any washing (or at least all that often), and are reusable for years to come, usually even decades!
So, now that we have had a look at their appearance, let’s discuss their uses, including why they are actually necessary!
When making a pastry or crust (for pies and quiches), the dough itself naturally contains moisture. When you bake this crust, moisture will evaporate which will create steam, and ultimately air pockets.
While many pastries need these air pockets (like puff pastry for example), a ton of crusts don’t and should have a denser texture.
By adding weights to the pastry when it bakes, the pastry won’t be able to rise at all and no pockets will form. You will have a perfectly flat, dense, and uniform pastry crust.
This method of baking crusts is called blind baking.
So, bottom line, pie weights will help you perfectly blind bake crusts. It will help prevent any air bubbles from forming and will leave the crust beautifully flat and evenly baked.
It will also help prevent the crust from shrinking during baking, especially the sides!
How To Blind Bake Crusts And Pastries
Blind baking is an essential part of making many pies, quiches, and other pastries. As we have mentioned, you need pie weights to do this method.
To blind bake, simply line your baking tin with the pie dough, making sure it covers the entire area and that the pastry is pressed into the corners.
Then you take a piece of baking paper and place it over the pastry. Fill the paper with your pie weights and make sure it fills every corner.
Bake your crust for roughly 10-20 minutes. The blind baking time will depend on the type of pastry you use, the entire size of the pie, and the thickness of the rolled-out dough.
After the pastry has been blind-baked, then the filling is added, and the pie or quiche is baked until the filling is set. This usually takes about another 15-30 minutes depending on the filling and its size.
Choosing The Best Substitutes
So, finally, we get to the substituting part! When choosing a substitute for pie weights, the most important thing to consider is whether or not the substitute is oven-proof.
This, in our opinion, is even more important than the weight of the object.
If your substitute cannot handle the heat of the oven, there is no point in using it. You have to use something that can handle temperatures of at least 390°F (200°C) without changing in weight or form.
Then, secondly, you have to look at the weight of the… well, weights! Most ovens have some type of fan that evenly distributes the heat.
If you were to, for example, use flour, it will blow all throughout the oven and not actually weigh down the pastry.
A better option is ingredients like rice, beans, or other types of metal weights like pans – all items that won’t easily move despite the air circulating.
And then finally, make sure your substitute has a bit of shelf life. Let’s use the flour example again; if you were to use it in the oven as a weight, it would simply darker, and eventually burn. You cannot continuously use it again and again.
A better substitute then would be something that doesn’t change form in the oven, like rice, or again, beans.
Tips And Tricks When Using Pie Weights
Before we dive into all the substitutes we have prepared for you guys, let’s cover a few tips and tricks that you can implement when baking your pie crusts!
Remember, it’s always important to use baking paper, parchment paper, or even aluminum foil between the pastry dough and your pie weights (regardless of which you choose to use).
This layer will help you handle the weights better, keep them all together, and even more important than that, help prevent any contamination from the weights.
We always prefer using baking paper. This is simply because some foils may discolor the dough or even make indentations.
To get good and even coverage in a pie dish, take a large piece of baking paper, scrunch it up into a ball, then fold it out again. These bends will help you get the weights into tiny corners. A straight piece of paper cannot bend as well.
Always use a larger piece of baking paper (or alternative sheet). Your paper should extend well over the edges of your chosen dish.
This is mainly for two reasons. One, it makes the weights much easier to handle, especially if they are small pieces like sugar or rice.
And secondly, it helps prevent any of those tiny sugar or rice granules from spilling into the dough. Sugar especially is nearly impossible to completely remove from the pastry once spilled.
Lastly, always remember that these pie weights will get hot! Some, especially the metal ones, can retain heat very well and can burn you quite badly. Always allow your crust to cool a bit before handling the weights.
Also, make use of the baking paper layer to remove the still hot weights without touching them.
The Best Pie Weight Substitutes
So, now that we have explained exactly why you need pie weights, how to use them and how to choose substitutes, let’s have a look at our top 7 recommendations!
1. Dried Beans
This is by far the best type of food substitute you can use for pie weights.
Dried beans are extremely easy to find and very affordable. Compared to other substitutes and even pie weights themselves, it cost about a fraction – you may even already have some old beans lying around the pantry at home.
We haven’t yet found a type of bean that doesn’t work as a pie weight. Virtually any bean you can find will have enough heat resistance to keep its shape and weight.
We always use brightly colored beans like black beans, red kidney beans, or pinto beans. This is because they are very easy to distinguish from the pale pastry – especially if you have smaller broken pieces.
Then, of course, we also like using the larger types of beans. They are easier to clean up and pack away, compared to pulses like lentils.
If you accidentally spill lentils, it will take you quite a while to clean from the pastry, whereas beans can more easily be cleaned up.
What is even better about using beans as pie weights is that you can still use them for food after about 3 uses. This makes them a fantastic substitute if you don’t want to invest in expensive weights.
2. Dry Rice
After beans, we love using raw, uncooked rice – you know, the hard granules. As with the beans, you can use any type of rice that is in your pantry or that you can find in the supermarket.
Rice is another type of food that can withstand the heat of the oven without changing its form, color, or even flavor.
You can easily re-use rice after a couple of uses to make a delicious pilaf or risotto. It will add a toasty flavor to your dish.
The one thing we will say about using rice as a blind baking substitute is that it makes a mess if you spill it.
We always recommend making the baking paper lining (the one between the dough and the weights) much larger than the actual pie dish. It should far extend over the edges, even if they are high.
This will help you contain all the tiny granules of rice and even regular pie weights. It makes them much easier to remove from the pie and decant into their container.
Another thing to consider is that these weights do heat up quite a bit, so the paper will help you easily handle them.
3. Granulated Sugar
Another food item, and our last on today’s list, is granulated white (or brown) sugar. What makes sugar such an amazing pie weight is that it is a fantastic distributor of heat.
Because of its small granule size, it fits together tightly and can reach all corners. This means that it will easily cover every inch of pastry and distribute the heat evenly to all areas.
We love using white granulated sugar, but you can also use brown granulated sugar. Neither of these will melt in the heat of the oven, but they will toast and become more caramel-like in flavor, especially white sugar.
This sugar can easily be re-used in a number of recipes, and will add a much more complex and deep flavor – a must-try!
Try and stay away from wet sugars like muscovado, simply because of the moisture content. The syrup that creates the moistness in muscovado sugar will completely melt and run all over.
It won’t necessarily make a bad substitute, but it is just too much of a hassle to clean and also expensive.
Also stay away from castor sugar, palm sugar, or coconut sugar, simply because they are much too expensive to use for this purpose.
Also, don’t use artificial sweeteners as they usually have a fine powdery texture. These types of products are too light to be placed in the oven and will blow away when the air circulates.
They are also way too expensive to use as weights – just go buy weights then!
4. Glass Marbles
Yes! Glass marbles! You know, the ones used for decorations, or even the ones your kids play with! They make excellent pie weights. They have a ton of weight to them and are easy to use, clean, and pack away.
First, always remember to wash your marbles before using them with food. Even though they might look clean, just give them a good wash in warm water.
A very important thing to keep in mind is that some marbles might crack in the oven – not all, but some. It all depends on the type and quality of marbles.
A great alternative to marbles is polished river rocks. They cannot be unpolished as the raw edges may break off and land inside your pastry, creating a gritty product that can also be unsafe to eat.
Polished river stones conduct heat well and also distribute it evenly and effectively.
5. Another Pie Dish
This is a method that is so obvious and easy, it’s surprising that more people don’t think of it.
If you don’t have any of the substitutes above or you simply don’t want to use them, all you have to do is insert a pie dish that is slightly smaller in size.
It has arguably the best weight compared to any other substitute, and it will evenly distribute it. A pie dish is also definitely oven-proof and an excellent distributor of heat, meaning your whole surface will evenly bake.
To use this substitute, you can follow the same method as with the others. Simply line the pastry with baking paper so that it extends over the edges, and then place the other pie dish inside.
Your second pie dish should not be too small, but also not tough on the sides of the dough.
Most people have some sort of jar, drawer, or pocket full of random change. You can use these as weights too!!
Change has a lot of weight to them and is completely heatproof, so will hold up perfectly in the oven. And what makes them great as well is that you don’t need a lot of them to have sufficient weight.
As with the other substitutes, make sure to wash your pennies or change them before using them as pie weights. Even though they will still have dirty and residue, at least the majority of it has been removed.
Again, line the pastry with baking paper before placing the change on top of it. Change can and will stain the pastry and leave it with a metallic taste if it touches it directly.
7. Metal Objects
There are a few examples of metal objects that we wanted to specifically mention in this category, the first being metal chains. Metal is a fantastic conductor of heat and usually has a bit of weight to it.
With metal chains specifically, they are easy to use, move, and clean. Make sure you have a chain that is heavy enough and large enough to cover the entire area properly.
Your chain however should also not be too heavy to create indents in the pastry.
The next metal object is steel balls. These will work in a very similar way to regular pie weights but are made from metal.
They will definitely help hold down the pastry during the blind baking time, and they will help distribute the heat evenly.
You can also use other metal objects, just make sure you know that they are safe to use in the oven.
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