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A simple pastry crust can transform a boxed pudding mix into a chocolate pie, or leftover chicken into a savory pot pie. You can bake an unfilled crust ahead of time and keep it in the freezer, or make it just before filling to bake a dessert or main dish. Choose a pastry or tart crust recipe or purchase pre-made pastry dough.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat keeps the crust crisp and bakes it quickly.

Make your pie crust recipe or unfold a purchased refrigerated dough in your pie pan. Press the dough firmly into the pan.

Crimp the edge of the crust with the tines of a fork, or crimp it by pinching it between your finger and thumb all the way around the crust.

Prick the bottom and side of the pie crust with the tines of a fork, many times, close together, all over. This keeps the crust from puffing up during baking.

Slide the pie pan into the oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Check the crust—if it's bubbling up in any place, press down gently on the area with the back of a spoon.

Return the pie crust to the oven and bake another 6 to 8 minutes. The crust should be light brown.

Remove the pie crust from the oven and cool completely before adding the filling. You can also freeze the crust in the pan to use later.

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