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Tell me, what utensil do YOU use to cut shortening into pie dough?

jmcarthur8 Jul 16, 2012 08:50 AM

I made up some pie dough yesterday for the first time in many many years. I think I had a mental block about my ability to make it, even though I have been baking competently for 40 some years.
To cut in the shortening, I started out using a nice heavy pastry blender, then switched to my 'granny fork'.
What do the pros use? They make it look so easy on TV, but I don't recall what tool they use there to cut in the cold butter or shortening. I'm thinking about those ladies in the kitchens of diners or restaurants on the travel shows or DDD. They whip out a pie crust like it's nothing, and do scores of them each day.
What do you, yourself use? I'd do it more, if I felt that I was doing it efficiently.

  1. a
    acgold7 Jul 16, 2012 09:00 AM


    2 Replies
    1. re: acgold7
      escondido123 Jul 16, 2012 05:37 PM

      Ditto. The trick I learned is to cut the butter into small cubes and put in the freezer for a bit. Then toss it with a little flour before adding to the FP so they don't stick together.

      1. re: acgold7
        Delucacheesemonger Jul 24, 2012 04:15 AM

        The same, it is the best thing the appliance does.

      2. m
        mizmintz Jul 16, 2012 09:03 AM

        Cut the shortening with two knives from your flatware set. Then blend it with your fingers. It would be quicker with the Cuisinart, but I think my way makes a more tender crust.

        1. f
          FrankJBN Jul 16, 2012 09:07 AM

          Used to use two table knives, now I mostly use wire pastry blender

          1. g
            gotsmack Jul 16, 2012 09:33 AM

            Paddle attachment for the kitchen aid or if doing it by hand use a bench scraper to chop in the fat then smear the remaing pea sized dough clumps and flour onto the table in hand fulls and scrape into bowl. This is how they teach it at the French Culinary Institute in NYC, now the ICC.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gotsmack
              lseavey Jul 16, 2012 09:46 AM

              A whisk! Instead of whipping as you normally would with a whisk, sort of jab it into the shortening and flour several times, hit it against the side of the bowl to release what's trapped and repeat until you have what you need. I also use this method to chop eggs for egg salad. My husband the professional chef taught me this trick years ago and I haven't looked back.

            2. j
              jujuthomas Jul 16, 2012 12:11 PM

              i tried using 2 dinner knives and found it to be a challenge. probably because I don't do it much. I spent $3 on a pastry blender. I will use it if I make scones again, and to cut up hard boiled eggs for egg salad.

              1. w
                wyogal Jul 16, 2012 12:16 PM

                food processor

                1. g
                  gnomatic Jul 16, 2012 12:18 PM

                  food processor with frozen chunks of butter/shortening. Fast and easy way to make pie crust, scones, shortbread.

                  1. jmcarthur8 Jul 16, 2012 02:42 PM

                    Thanks, everyone. I'm going to try some of these and see what I like. I've done the two knife thing now and then.
                    I've got a Cuisinart and a Kitchenaid, so I plan to test both of them.

                    1. e
                      ellabee Jul 16, 2012 04:03 PM

                      I learned using a pastry blender ( D-shaped device with four parallel blades forming the D), don't have a food processor, and haven't ever done it another way.

                      But for several years I've shortened the process considerably by grating frozen butter into the flour with a big-hole grater, so much so that I'm pretty sure I could finish incorporating it with the two-dinner-knives method if I had to.

                      1. roxlet Jul 16, 2012 04:36 PM

                        I make my pie crust with a combo of butter and shortening. I freeze the butter, and then I grate it into the flour. I use a pastry blender to then cut in the shortening.

                        1. tim irvine Jul 16, 2012 05:41 PM

                          Tried pretty much all of these and always go back to two knives and using a pastry cloth.

                          1. jmcarthur8 Jul 16, 2012 08:23 PM

                            I grate frozen butter to make scones, and it makes sense here, too. I may have to think of good excuses to make pie so I can practice with dough.

                            1. Chemicalkinetics Jul 16, 2012 09:50 PM

                              I don't know what do pros use. I just use a kitchen knife to cut the butter/shortening into big chunks and then use a mixer to blend it in. Sometime I use my fingers or fork to work the shortening into the dough -- depending the need I think.

                              1. l
                                latindancer Jul 21, 2012 10:47 AM

                                I use a pastry blender and then my hands...works every time and my dough is always excellent.

                                1. c
                                  ChillyDog Jul 21, 2012 02:21 PM

                                  Pastry blender! That's how I learned eons ago.

                                  1. r
                                    rasputina Jul 21, 2012 03:21 PM

                                    I don't use shortening, but I cut solid fats in with either, the food processor, a pastry blender or a fork depending on the size of the batch and what I feel like using that day. They all work fine.

                                    1. t
                                      togijiru Jul 22, 2012 07:20 PM

                                      I have used every method mentioned here except the popular two-knives method, will have to try that. I use the pastry cutter for the best combo of speed, ease of use, and ease of cleaning.

                                      1. wekick Jul 23, 2012 09:31 AM

                                        Mostly pastry cutter-for me the best texture and better control. I am learning to use the food processor with better results(frozen little cubes of butter/shortening)

                                        You didn't ask but I use a spray bottle full of ice water to incorporate the water/vodka.

                                        1. BIGGUNDOCTOR Jul 23, 2012 10:01 PM

                                          Foley fork.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR
                                            drongo Jul 24, 2012 07:46 PM

                                            I don't know if the Foley fork is still available. But we can still buy a "granny fork": http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-1178-Gri...

                                            1. re: drongo
                                              jmcarthur8 Jul 24, 2012 08:21 PM

                                              That's the one I use. I love that fork!

                                              1. re: jmcarthur8
                                                BIGGUNDOCTOR Jul 25, 2012 11:26 AM

                                                If the granny fork is made in China, I would look for a vintage Foley. But that is just me.

                                          2. p
                                            pinotho Jul 23, 2012 11:49 PM

                                            a rolling pin, the Jim Dodge method.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: pinotho
                                              jmcarthur8 Jul 24, 2012 02:24 PM

                                              Jim Dodge method? Tell me what that is!

                                            2. sunshine842 Jul 24, 2012 12:50 AM

                                              Two knives (what my grandmother taught me) or my fingers.

                                              disclaimer: I'm one of those people whose fingers are almost always cold. YMMV

                                              1. w
                                                will47 Jul 24, 2012 02:52 PM

                                                I use a roux whisk usually... seemed kind of silly to buy a pastry blender specifically, and I find it's a bit faster than knives or forks.

                                                I also used bare fingers to do it recently for cobbler dough (following a recipe), and that worked pretty well, though guessing that might heat the fat too much for pie dough.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: will47
                                                  longtimecook Jul 24, 2012 08:02 PM

                                                  Just my fingers and hands. Do not use any utensils for it. Learned in the service. Just put it in the cooler for a bit and then cut it and drop it in the flour mix and pick up with plenty of flour and just squish and repeat the process. Pretty soon you will have little flour covered butter nuggets.

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