Choosing a rolling pin

rollingpinsSince so many bloggers are taking advantage of the numeric poetry of tomorrow’s date (3.14= ∏) by making pies, I thought that today we should discuss an essential pie making tool: the rolling pin.

Rolling pins are an iconic kitchen tool and almost everyone — even infrequent bakers — have one stashed in a drawer or at the back of a cupboard. Some people love their rolling pins because they help them to create flaky pastry and others find them a reassuring part of their home security kit. While any kind of pin will work as a weapon, choosing the right pin is more important when making pastry.

Although rolling pins can be made from wood, stone, plastic, stainless steel or even glass, in my opinion, wood is the way to go. I have a fancy marble pin but I find it too heavy for making laminated doughs such as puff pastry and Danish pastry; it literally shoves out the butter on the first and second turns of the dough.

In terms of shape, there are two kinds of pins to choose from:

Rods: Also called French rolling pins, these tools are rolled across dough using one’s palms (see above). This style of pin is my preference since it’s easier on your hands and wrists and it exerts fairly even pressure on the dough, so that each sheet is evenly thick after just a few passes.

Rollers: These pins have a thick centre cylinder and two thinner cylindrical handles on each end that are attached to an inner rod that allows the larger cylinder to roll freely. Roller-style pins are used by grasping the handles and pushing the pin across the dough.

Although rollers are likely the most common rolling pin for sale here in North America, they require the exertion of a lot more force than a rod since your energy isn’t distributed evenly along the pin. As a result, dough is often stretched less evenly when you use a roller-style pin since more force is exerted closest to the ends. And for me, grasping the pin at either end leads to hand and wrist fatigue, especially when you’re baking a batch of pies or doing big batch holiday sugar cookie baking.

What about you?  Do you have a preference for one kind of pin over another?


21 Responses to Choosing a rolling pin

  1. Barb says:

    Years ago I was at a home Tupperware party and purchased their hollow rolling pin. The idea is that you fill it with ice cubes and water to prevent sticking. I usually can’t be bothered with the ice and just dust the outside with flour. Not sure if it is my favorite kind of pin but it’s what I have. Now I am baking less than I used to so I’m not sure if I will buy a different one at this point. Maybe I’ll come and try yours one day?

  2. I have only ever used the roller kind. I had no idea it would make a difference. I heard marble rolling pins were the Cadillac of pie making, but there’s no way I could deal with anything that heavy.

    Since I rarely make pastry, being a cookie and cake person myself, I’ll stick with my current roller. However, I’ll try rolling it with my palms and see if that makes a difference.

  3. Charmaine Broughton says:

    How ironic…I literaly just put down my wooden roller, dusted the flour off my hands and sat down at my computer to read your blog. Every Friday we celebrate Fresh Pie Friday at our Muskoka Food Boutique and I’m a wodden roller all the way!!

  4. danamccauley says:

    Barb, drop by any time.

    Char and Char: thanks for writing. Charmaine B, I wish I could get one of your pies right now. I’ve got a hankering!

  5. Cheryl A says:

    I would love a rod, but I have the roller I bought back in grad school. I got tired of rolling out cookies and crusts with a flour dusted wine bottle (preferably empty). I’m on the look-out for a mini rod too, for The Monster.

  6. Rosa says:

    I think that I’m going to invest into a French rolling pin (I have the handle one)… Thanks for the useful explanations!



  7. Amy says:

    I have yet to step into the baking department yet…I’m more or less a practiced cook…Baking is my next agenda (that or a bigger kitchen)…Either way I’ve had the intent on baking at some point…

    And your input on rollers/pins has helped me greatly – thank you!
    I’ll purchase a french roller in…well…soon. : )

  8. Diva says:

    Thanks for the chuckle about the “home security kit”, funny!

    The odd thing is, as much as I bake (a ton), and as long as I’ve known (eons) that rods are the better option … I’m still using my decades old roller. I guess because its what I grew up using. I always mean to purchase a rod, yet somehow have never gotten around to it. One of these days my sieve brain will remember!

    Will you be making a pie tomorrow, Dana? Anyone else?

  9. danamccauley says:

    I don’t plan to make a pie today. I made pear tartin this week already so I think I’ll take a break from pastry. My ass could definitely benefit from a hiatus!

  10. The rolling pin I have must be 60 yrs old. It lost its handles in the dark ages. A pin with handles is awkward. I always roll with my hands on the centre

  11. Jude says:

    Looks like we have the exact same rolling pin. Love using the french style rolling pin. Straightforward and works like a charm.

  12. Kristina says:

    I loved your post. See, I was sitting here thinking that I’d reached the end game, the point at which there are no more kitchen gadgets to possibly accumulate. I have all the appliances, the apple corer, the pastry blender, etc etc, I’m done.

    But now I see that my journey isn’t complete, for I cannot rest until I have a French-style rod rolling pin! Thanks for the informative post!

  13. danamccauley says:

    Glad I could be of help Kristina!

  14. […] I’ve found another way to use the new rolling pin you bought to make a pie for 3:14 day last […]

  15. Amy Snider says:

    I have a collection of rolling pins – some where the centre wheel can roll independently, some attached, and one like barb where you add ice. But, as Dana will confirm – there is great debate in the office about which style is preferred. My mother taught me on the wooden roller – I still like it best because I can roll out my dough faster without overworking it.

  16. danamccauley says:

    Is it too obnoxious a pun in this case to say “different strokes for different folks”?

  17. Kevin says:

    I use a rod style rolling pin just like the one in the picture above.

  18. lucrari de diploma…

    […]Choosing a rolling pin « Dana McCauley’s food blog[…]…

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