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Pie Weights

How we tested

Many of our pie recipes call for blind baking—baking the crust either partially or completely before adding the filling. But without a filling to hold the raw dough in place, the bottom can puff up or the sides can slump as it bakes, resulting in ugly, misshapen pies. To prevent this, the test kitchen uses pie weights. We do this not just for aesthetics: A slumped pie crust provides less room for filling.

    While bakers can use dried beans, raw rice, and granulated sugar as pie weights, we wanted to find the best product designed specifically for the job. We tested four models of pie weights, priced from about $6 to about $60 per package, in a range of materials and styles, including a set of ceramic balls, a set of aluminum beans, a 6-foot-long stainless-steel chain, and a steel disk ringed with soft silicone flaps. As opposed to the balls and beans, the steel disk model consisted of just one piece, theoretically making it easier to use and store than traditional loose pie weights.

Were They Easy to Use?

We used each model to partially bake 9-inch pie shells (Three-in-One All-Butter Pie Dough) and 9½-inch tart shells (Sweet Tart Pastry). For each test, we evaluated how easy the pie weights were to use, how evenly the crusts browned, and how successfully the weights prevented the doughs from puffing up or slumping down.

    At the start of testing, we had high hopes for the chain and the disk models. It was a breeze to position both of them snugly in the dough-lined plate and extract them with one simple movement once the crust was baked, but those were the only things they excelled at. In every other evaluation, they flopped (more on that later).

    To test the ceramic balls and aluminum beans, we followed our recommended test kitchen procedure. We placed two layers of aluminum foil on the chilled raw dough, loaded in the pie weights, and baked. To remove the weights in a tidy fashion, we pinched together the sides of the foil (holding two corners in our right hand and two corners in our left) and lifted. Placing the weights on top of layers of foil kept them from touching the raw dough, which meant that we didn’t have to wash them afterward. And while using the balls and beans was a little more time-consuming than using the chain and the disk, the balls and beans gave us much better results, so we didn’t mind the extra steps.

Weighing the Results

Next, we turned our attention to performance. Unfortunately, the chain didn’t live up to the promise on its packaging that said it “prevents crusts from bubbling.” We tried arranging it on the dough in a variety of ways, placing it free-form right on top of dough, placing it free-form on top of dough that we’d lined with foil, and coiling it tidily in a circle on top of dough. In each test, the dough puffed up to different degrees between gaps in the chain, leaving behind bumpy, bubbled crusts. In addition, the chain, even at 6 feet, was too short to cover the sides of the dough, resulting in slumped sides and less room for pie filling.  

    The second innovative model, the disk-shaped pie weight, performed a bit better than the chain, but not by much. The disk fit snugly into the bottom of the dough-lined pie plate and gave us bottom crusts that were evenly browned and baked. But the silicone flaps encircling its perimeter barely covered the sides of the dough, leaving them unsupported and resulting in slumped and shrunken sides. We tried the model with a third type of dough, made from butter and shortening, which is less prone to slumping than an all-butter dough, and it worked much better. But overall, its results were too inconsistent for us, and we didn’t want our dough choices to be limited by the pie weights we’re using.

The Best Pie Weights: Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Ceramic Pie Weights

The traditional ceramic and aluminum beans were the best performers overall, but even they weren't perfect: Neither came with enough pieces in a single package to completely fill our pie shells, which is critical to ensure that both the bottom of the dough and its sides remain snugly pressed against the pie plate during baking. One package of ceramic balls contained just 1 cup of weights, while one package of aluminum beans contained 2¾ cups. This is where cost entered the equation. To adequately fill pie shells with these weights, we’d need multiple packages, and two packages of aluminum beans would cost more than $100. So we zeroed in on the less expensive option, Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Ceramic Pie Weights, purchasing four sets (for a total of 4 cups) for about $25. This amount weighed more than 2 pounds and filled the pie plate. With these ceramic balls piled high and pressing firmly against the dough’s bottom and sides, the bottom of the crust turned out crisp, flaky, and golden brown and its sides stood tall. We had a winner.


Methodology

We tested four models of pie weights—one set of ceramic balls, one set of aluminum beans, a stainless-steel chain, and a silicone and steel disk—ranging in price from about $6 to about $60. We rated each model on its ability to deliver evenly browned crusts without bubbles or slumped sides. All models were purchased online. Scores were averaged, and models appear below in order of preference.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*