The Great British Baking Gear

Great British Baking Show Baking Beans (weights)

August 29, 2021

TLDR: The Great British Baking Show baking beans (weights) are Procook Baking Beans (best guess) (Similar On Amazon).

What is blind baking?

Ceramic Baking Beans in unbaked pie crust. Ready for blind baking.
(KROCKSHEAT Ceramic Baking Beans - Amazon)

Mary Berry, Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood all lament, and make a huge deal, over 'soggy bottoms' on The Great British Baking Show. They watch like hawks for this transgression, and thankfully it is quite easy to avoid by blind baking the pastry / crust / shell (your nouns my vary). Even if the soggy bottom is not the end of the world, it is a shame to put in so much work on a pie and not have it turn out 100%. So what is this 'blind baking' and why does it involve 'baking beans'?

Simply put, blind baking is pre-cooking a pie's crust. This is done to solve 1 problem, soggy bottoms, which can occur for a few reasons.

First, if you're baking things with wetter ingredients, like fruits or meats, which tend to have juices in them, the crust may not cook all the way. During the baking process water needs to evaporate before the crust starts to cook. This can take quite a bit of time, and while the bottom may brown, the layer between the bottom of the pastry and the filling is going to be raw. If the crust was pre-baked it may absorb some of the liquid, and this will need to dry, but it is a lot faster than drying out then baking.

Secondly if you're cooking something that does not need a long time in the oven, the crust will simply not have enough time to bake. If it takes 20 minutes at 375F to bake the crust, and the filling only takes 15 minutes at 325 degrees, neither math nor physics are on your team. What to do? Blind bake the crust, pull it out of the oven, set your pie, and then bake it at the correct temperature for the correct time. Just like that, Robert is your father's brother.

How do you blind bake?

Lucky for you there are myriad ways to blind bake a pie. Most of them are at 375 F for 20 minutes - just keep that in mind.

First - the wrong way - put your pie crust in the oven. If you do this the crust is simply going to shrink in and crumble under its own weight. Before it is baked the crust simply does not have enough integrity to hold itself up. Even if it is sitting on the edge of the pie tin, its going to weaken and slump into the middle. Bonus horror - it is also going to bubble up in the middle. So if you're looking for an amazing way to ruin a pie crust - you. are. welcome!

So now that we know why we'd want to blind bake and the problem with just tossing a pie crust in the oven, lets look at some crafty solutions. Basically, we want something to hold the sides up, is roughly the size the filling will be, won't stick to the crust, lets heat through, and will hold the bottom down.

The 'won't stick to the crust' is the easy part of this equation. Putting down a layer of parchment paper (Reynolds Single Sheet Parchment Paper on Amazon - love these things) will keep anything from sticking to your crust. Enjoy step 1 - line the pie crust with parchment paper.

Step 2 is to find something to accomplish all the other tasks. And here you have some options. The easiest option may just be a second pie tin, the same size as the first, placed onto the parchment. The metal conducts heat well (you can bake this at 350F), and the shape and weight are nearly perfect and the clean up is almost non-existent - save washing the bottom of a pie tin. You can see the bakers on The Great British Baking show employing the same strategy while baking puff pastry they want to keep from 'puffing' too much.

Other things you can put over the parchment paper include: sugar, rice, or literal beans. All of which, after being used for blind baking, are not really edible in future meals - so save them for future blind bakes. Lastly there are some made-for-the-task tools, one of which we have seen on The Great British Baking Show.

These include blind baking pie crust holders, which are shaped like the interior of your pie tin, but are commonly plastic - which I try to avoid. Baking chains are typically metal beads on a cord that lazily lay atop the parchment paper allowing the sides to slump. Metal baking beans - also known as baking weights are a decent option. Look for anodized aluminum which allows for good heat transfer and will not leech into your food, or stainless steel which heats slower, but also do not leech and can be machine washed! Please be wary of other metals which may be toxic. Lastly we have ceramic baking beans. The Great British Baking show provides ceramic baking beans to their bakers for all their blind baking needs.

Baking beans holding it down & ready to bake.

Which Ceramic Baking Beans?

Procook Baking Beans - 600g

Long story short - I'm not sure which ceramic baking beans they use. As they never show the containers for the baking beans, rather just the shot of the pie crusts full of them, I have to venture a guess at the brand. Please forgive me if I'm not 100% accurate - and I'll keep my eye open for containers on shelves on the show! I assume that the baking beans are the Procook Baking Beans (Similar On Amazon). I assume this because most of the show's smaller utensils and tools are Procook. It would be easy to source these from the same place and at the same time.

The Procook baking beans - are roughly 10 mm (3/8th of an inch) ceramic balls. They are non-porous, slightly off white, can be baked at upto 600 F and have a substantial amount of heft to each little ball. They are re-useable provided you wash them by hand and thoroughly dry them before storing them. Failing to do so can cause some... funky smelling... issues. Additionally it is suggested that you wash them before using them for the first time, as they can bang around in their container creating ceramic dust. This dust should be non-toxic, like eating clay (children - no!), but the dust is harder than your teeth and can every so slowly ware on them.

To fill a 9 inch pie you're going to want roughly 600 grams (roughly 1 & 1/3 pounds) of baking beans. This should be enough to ensure that the bottom is thoroughly held down and the sides can't slump in. Thankfully Procook provides you with ... about 600 grams of baking beans! yay.

Other Ceramic Baking Beans

Being that ceramic baking beans are literally just balls of ceramic, you can find them almost anywhere and they are not too expensive. However, you'll want to make sure they have some basic characteristics. Not all ceramic baking beans are created equal - and some come from China with really sketch marketing materials, have weird colors and even weirder textures, covered in all sorts of odd powders. Let's avoid those.

First you want the ceramic baking beans to be non-porous - otherwise liquids and food solids can creep into them and ... get funky.

Secondly, make sure they're non toxic - no reason to bake in love horror.

Thirdly, make sure the beans themselves have been baked at a high temperature, this will prevent them from outgassing or popping when you use them.

All that said there are some decent options readily available on Amazon. My pick is the K ROCKSHEAT Ceramic Pie Weights Baking Beans. These are non-porous, non-toxic and have been baked at 2,200 F. They're good up to 600 F when baking and have crazy good reviews. They claim to have high thermal conductivity, and come in a 1kg (2.2 lbs) storage bin. All around they look like decent quality! They even make decent 'how to' videos.

The Harold Import, Mrs. Anderson's Pie Weights have roughly 7x more reviews than the K ROCKSHEAT, but only 74% of the reviews are 5 star (vs K ROCKHEAT's 83%). This mostly seems to be due to 2 reasons. First they come covered in dust, which can be from manufacturing or just rubbing against each other in the container - wash them before you use the for the first time. Second - much to my chagrin - is that you need to buy 2 or 3 packages to fill a 9 inch pie (some people say 4?!). Which is not cool - even if you get 4 containers, then you need to store them or get a larger container. Lastly, they can only bake up to 480 F. While I may never stick them in my oven at 550 F, I'd like to know I could without issue.

In conclusion, you have some options when it comes to blind baking. The easiest in my opinion is a second baking tin - if you already have one on hand give it a try! If you want something specific to the task - you can't go wrong with the ceramic baking beans (baking weights). Procook ceramic baking beans are nice, and if you're in the UK you can easily get them. For the rest of us, K ROCKSHEAT Ceramic Pie Weights Baking Beans are a great option.

K ROCKHEAT Ceramic Pie Weights Baking Beans - 2.2 & 1.3 lb containers (Amazon Link)