People are unnecessarily intimidated by pie crusts. Your first 10 crusts may look like kindergarten art projects, but so long as the edges are presentable — so long as there are edges — no one who eats the pie will know or care.
Many recipes are very specific about what type of fat to use. Cooks swear by all-butter pie crusts, Crisco crusts, lard crusts, even vegetable oil crusts. My favorite is this butter-lard crust, which has the most flavor and shatters when you bite into it. But, use whatever fat you want; the crust will be better than anything you can buy.
Homemade crust tasted against Safeway’s frozen shell was delicate and rich, as opposed to brittle and bland. Likewise, it outperformed Pillsbury roll-out dough.
Make it or buy it? Make it.
Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a large bowl or a food processor. Add the butter and lard, a few bits at a time, blending with your fingers or pulsing in the processor, until the mixture forms a coarse meal.
Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time (you probably won’t need all of it and should use as little as you can get away with), and mix just until the dough begins to form a ball. Shape it into a disk, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours.
Flour the work surface and roll the dough into a rough circle, ¼-inch-thick or less. The circle doesn’t have to be perfectly round — ragged edges are fine. (This recipe makes a little extra dough in case of mistakes.) Lift the dough and place it in a 9-inch pie plate. (If you fold the dough in half and then in half again, it’s easier to place in the pan.) Don’t stretch the dough. You should have a lot of overhang.
Tuck the edges over and pinch decoratively. I like to squeeze the dough between the side of my middle finger and my thumb to create a tall, fluted crust, like a garland. It will collapse during baking, but the ruins of its beauty endure. You can also crimp the pie crust by pressing it against the rim of the pie plate with the tines of a fork.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a piece of foil in the shell and pour in enough rice, dried beans, or pie weights to keep it from puffing. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil and return the dough to the oven. Bake 5 more minutes. Cool before filling. If not using the crust immediately, cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 day.