1. Cold Is Key. The colder your ingredients, the better your crust will be. You can even freeze flour and tools in advance. If your dough is kept cold until baking, the individual pockets of solid fat will melt in the oven, creating flakiness in the dough.
2. Find Fabulous Fat. For the absolute best texture in pie crust (and results like your great-grandmother used to get), go with real lard—ideally from pastured animals. If you opt for butter, use a tangy, cultured, European-style butter with a high fat percentage. The offerings of Vermont Creamery, Organic Valley, Plugrá and Kalona Organics are all widely available.
3. Use Your Hands. It is possible to use a food processor to make pie dough, but making pastry by hand is the best way to learn.
4. Plan Ahead. Tightly sealed, pie dough can be frozen for up to a month. If you bake frequently, save time by doubling, tripling or quadrupling your recipe.
5. Let It Be. As a baked pie cools, it becomes firmer. Most pies will be best if allowed to cool for at least an hour before serving.
For more on making pie crusts—and fabulous pies to go in them—check out our collection of Perfect Pies and Tarts.