Creating a beautiful lattice top for a homemade pie or tart can feel like a brain-teaser. How do you get those crisp, straight edges? Which strip goes where? And is it really worth the trouble?
In this video, America’s Test Kitchen test cook Joe Gitter shares our simple technique for building a “no-weave” lattice top—that is, an easier way to get the same beautiful results. But first, here’s a little bit more about this type of crust and what equipment you’ll need to make one.
What Are the Benefits to a Lattice Top?
If you divide the world of pies by crust styles, there are two main categories: single crust and double crust. Double-crust pies generally require a bit more effort to prepare than single-crust pies, in part because they always rely on pie dough (a cookie-crumb crust isn’t an option). A lattice-top pie is simply a double-crust pie with woven strips of pie dough rather than a solid sheet.
Beyond aesthetics, a lattice top allows for greater evaporation of fruit juices, a benefit when working with particularly juicy fruits. (There are other ways to create these air vents in the top crust, such as using a small biscuit cutter to cut holes in it or a knife to make slashes. But you can’t beat the look of the lattice top.) For drier fruits, a regular top crust is generally preferred, but that doesn’t stop us from using this decorative topping on recipes for some apple pies, sweet potato pies, crabapple pies, and linzertorte around the holidays.
What You Need to Make a Lattice Top
Having step-by-step instructions to follow isn’t the only thing you need to guarantee the best-looking—and best-tasting!—dessert. The other key is having the right equipment. Here are the tools you’ll need, as well as the specific products that came out on top of America’s Test Kitchen’s comprehensive, unbiased equipment testings.
Rolling Pin: Forget about the fancy rollings pins you see on the market. An old-fashioned wooden pin does a better job than marble, nonstick, or other high-tech options. America’s Test Kitchen’s favorite rolling pin is the J.K. Adams Plain Maple Rolling Dowel. We find that pins with ball bearings and handles can exert too much pressure on the dough, and the 19-inch straight barrel of this pin capably handled all types of pie dough, plus those for cookies, pizza, and yeasted rolls.
Pie Plate or Tart Pan: It’s difficult to make a great pie or tart without a high-quality pie plate or tart pan. But both of these come in a variety of styles, and the differences aren’t just aesthetic—the material, thickness, and color all affect the final product. We prefer pie plates made of gold-colored aluminized steel or ceramic, and tart pans should be steel and dishwasher-safe (tarts tend to get greasy!). Our favorite is the Matfer Steel Non-stick Fluted Tart Mold with Removable Bottom 9½.
Kitchen Shears: Kitchen shears are an essential component of any cook’s knife kit. In addition to cutting twine and parchment, snipping herbs, cutting florets from heads of cauliflower and broccoli, and butterflying chicken, shears are the best tool for trimming pie dough. The Kershaw Taskmaster Shears/Shun Multi-Purpose Shears easily accomplish all of those tasks. With razor-sharp blades, they easily cut through excess pie dough and were a cut above all of the other kitchen shears that America’s Test Kitchen tested.
Pizza Wheel: A paring knife will work to cut pie dough into even strips, but a pizza wheel will make easier, cleaner work of it. The OXO Good Grips 4” Pizza Wheel does it all—it’s comfortable to hold, and its blade is sharp and visible for precise, straight cuts. (Its blade is also tall, at 4 inches, so it rolls right over stacked toppings and towering crusts for when you do use it on pizza night.)
Pie Server: You’ve baked the most beautiful showstopper of a pie. Don’t ruin it by slicing it with a knife. (Knives do many things well, but slicing a lattice-top pie is not one of them.) A pie server, essentially a pointed spatula, is specifically designed to cut, remove, and transport pie slices and should produce picturesque, intact pieces. The OXO SteeL Pie Server has a sharp, serrated blade that is able to slice through all types of pie (even tough pecan pie) with ease, and it slid neatly under wedges, making removal quick and tidy and producing picture-perfect slices.
What are your tricks for making your pies look as good as they taste? Let us know in the comments section below.