Cutting the Fat

While in this post I refer to a pastry blender I actually have pastry knives (not to be confused with the butter knives) pictured here. They’re pretty much the same thing, in fact most people don’t know there’s a difference. A pastry blender has a set of wires while the pastry knives is stamped metal.

I prefer the pastry knives as they feel sturdier to me and I can use them on cold butter-some how I always seem to forget to put my butter out to soften. Any one else do that? The blender feels a little flimsier but can be used in a plastic bowl while the pastry knives tend to make cuts in the plastic if you push down too hard. So I just use a metal or glass bowl with my pastry knives.


When the hubster and I were newly freshly married (after 5 pregnancies, 2 kids, a couple of college degrees together we still act newly wed) we didn’t have a hand mixer. To add insult to injury it felt like every baked good recipe called for one. Sad day. 🙁 Luckily I grew up with a handy momma who taught us the way to cut fat in by hand.

Just use the fabulous pastry blender! It is not solely a substitute for the hand mixer so if you don’t have one you should probably get one (if you don’t have a pastry blender either, don’t lose heart I’ll get into that in a little while).

Don’t know what on earth I’m talking about? Just look at the top of this post and you’ll find it pictured there. It’s the piece that looks like a strange set of brass knuckles. Mine has five blades to it (no worries they aren’t sharp) and a black handle for my baking comfort.

This is the best tool I own for making fantastic pastry dough, aka pie crust. The purpose of cutting fat into a mix is to create little bubbles of air while baking. The fat will melt away creating those lovely [small] pockets of air, thus leaving a light crusty texture behind from their selfless melting act.

If a recipe calls for a hand mixer and you have one it’s still probably best to use it, an electric hand mixer also incorporates some air, in addition to the fat melting, helping create a lightness to your finished product. If not, no worries it’ll still turn out pretty well with the pastry blender.

To use it, just simply press the pastry blender down into the fat while twisting trying to incorporate some of it into the mix or vice versa. Continue cutting and twisting until the mix is in crumbles or smooth (depending on the desired texture for your recipe).

What if I don’t have a pastry blender?

Have no fear you have its grandmother right in your utensil drawer! 2 butter knives will do the trick. Just hold one in each hand and place them in an X to each other, with the point down and on the opposite side of the bowl from the hand holding the knife. Then just cut across, rotate the bowl and repeat.

Keep on doing so until the dough gets crumbly, then you might need to dig in with your hands and help the last little bit by bunching it together, if that’s the desired texture at this point in your recipe. Eh voilà, now you no longer have to fret about the lack of a hand mixer! Hip hip hurray!


Which kitchen appliance do you use the most?