I can be a bit of a nag in the kitchen.
I don’t generally care how fancy your butter is, which set of copper measuring cups you use, or if your oven is gas or electric or hamster-wheel-powered. If you’ve been around here for even just a few days, you know that I’m a stickler, a nag, a nuisance, a pest, a finger-wagger about making your own pie crust.
Proof: Five Tips For the Best All-Butter Pie Crust From Scratch
Pie crust requires patience, guts, practice, flour, butter, buttermilk, and a rolling pin. But wait… why are there so many different kinds of rolling pins? Different strokes for different folks. (Is that rolling pin humor?) Let’s discuss the differences. The right rolling pin and you’ll be on your way to pie crust success.
Did someone say pie!? (yes. me. a lot.)
Perhaps this is the most familiar rolling pin to you, the American or ‘baker’s’ rolling pin. A wooden, in this case Maple, center dowel that turns in the center of two handles. You can comfortably curl your fingers around each of the handles, using leverage and arm strength to push the rolling pin forward and back over dough.
Pro: comfortable handles. Great for everything from cookies, biscuits, pizza, and pie.
Con: I’ve found that these rolling pins can be a bit heavy and are slightly less maneuverable that other, handleless options.
Overall, I love this style of rolling pin. It’s comfortable, versatile, classic. If you only have one rolling pin in your kitchen (because you’re a reasonable person), this Maple Rolling Pin is great. Not too large or heavy, making it wonderful for pie crust and other rolling needs.
You may have run across a Tapered or French-style rolling pins and thought… nope, too fancy for me. I did. I was wrong.
French Rolling Pins don’t have handles, so you won’t be grasping at the sides of the rolling pin to push and pull. Instead, you use the heel of your hand to press a French Rolling Pin away from you. Since you aren’t grasping the outside handles, you naturally place your hands, more towards the center of the rolling pin, applying pressing and pressing the dough with more control and intimacy than a rolling pin with handles.
Pro: maneuverability, controlled pressure, more control in general, lightweight.
Con: great for soft bread doughs and pie doughs… not good for a stiff or chilled cookie dough.
Overall, this is a wonderful rolling pin to have.They’re beautiful, simple, and really easy to work with.
Mahogany French Rolling Pin or Food52’s beautiful Tapered Wooden Rolling Pins.
Let’s talk about show-off rolling pins. These are them.
These, personalized laser-cut rolling pins (they totally say Joy the Baker) are for two specific purposes. One: making awesome custom sugar cookies and Two: as decoration on my kitchen shelf.
This is not your pie crust rolling pin. It’s just not.
Maybe it’s your grandmother’s rolling pin. Maybe it’s a great find from that awesome vintage shop you found in Nashville. Either way, a vintage rolling pin is lovely to have… especially if you’re a food stylist who collects various dilapidated wood props.
Did people have smaller hands in the 1940’s? I’m thinking yes. Vintage rolling pins are often smaller than modern rolling pins. This one in particular feels like something between a traditional and a tapered rolling pin.
Pros: way good vibes, and often smaller in size making them great for single pie crusts and food photographs.
Cons: sometimes they’re too small and questionably splintery. These things are hard to ignore, but they’re still lovely to have in the kitchen.
Marble rolling pins are for the aesthetically aware and the laminated dough enthusiasts. These rolling pins are rather heavy in weight but it can be chilled before rolling, making it a great tool for cool-sensitive doughs like puff pastry.
Pro: will hold a chill for the two times you might make puff pastry a year. Two!? Weight of the rolling pin can work for you… less arm pressure. Oh so pretty.
Con: can be heavy and tedious to maneuver, but it’s hard to be mad at a piece of pretty marble.
Overall, a splurge.
To clean a rolling pin, here’s a trick: use a soft bench scraper to scrape any flour and dough bits off the pin then use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the rolling pin. No submerging in water. Don’t even think about the dishwasher.
Update: I love reading your comments below about your favorite, feel-good rolling pins! Tell me tell me! What’s in your kitchen?
I did not know there were that many different types of rolling pins. I only have the basic wooden kind, but when it comes to making cookies in such an extreme amount like I do around Christmas, maybe I should think about getting myself a marble rolling pin!
I’m glad you specified that the marble rolling pin has to be _chilled_ to work its laminated-dough magic. A lot of people with substantial audiences insist that marble is simply “colder” than wood, as like an inherent trait. You and I both know that’s not the case. For the same reason that room-temperature marble feels colder than room temperature wood to our hands, that marble will feel warmer than wood if you’re a slab of chilled, laminated dough. And you’ll express that feeling by letting all your fat go soft, turning yourself into brioche dough and giving that fancy rolling pin a big greasy kiss.
Same with stone countertops. I’ve seen people insist that they’re better for laminated dough. Not if you don’t chill your countertop, you know?
Using commercial puff pastry. Using a vintage wooden rp. Can’t roll dough thin enough. Could it be the rp? Should I try a metal rp that I have?
I have the old
Fashioned wooden with handles and a marble one with a wooden stand it sets in. I Love love love it. I have a French one on the way. And I bake my own pie shells cuz they are the way to go from apple pie pecan pie shepards pie that’s the only way to make a pie is home made crust.
What about a heavy metal rolling pin with handles?
I have my Nan’s porcelain one that is like the top one with a wooden central handle. It’s beautiful if you need a light touch, however I’m a firm believer in my marble one for most of the work.
Oh dear oh dear. I’ve got them all and then some. Apart from one which I really must get. I’ve got them stacked on the wall in easy reach: My grandma’s at the top, of course. Then a lasered one for pretty cookies, a french pin which is my day to day go to, one with different sized ends to screw on so I can get dough thickness just right, and a maple and cherry one that is just pretty. Despite all these, I really do need a marble one. I make laminated pastry a lot more than a couple of times a year, and we don’t have air conditioning. Fortunately there is still one place left on my pin holder. lols.
I have never been so jealous of someone.
I am now convinced that I need the French tapered rolling pin. Now to decide whether I want walnut or maple. Thank you for this blog. We are both happy bakers. You are Joy and I am Gaye (middle name). I have a very specialized baking pin for rolling out dough for Springerle cookies. Oddly enough it came from the now out of business company called “Spingerly Joy”. I wish I could post a picture. It is a dark brown very heavy composit material made to look like wood and it has handles. It is covered with rows of squares, each with an intricate picture that is a replica of an original hand carved wooden Springerle mold made in the 1800s. I use it to make our traditional Christmas cookies. It is worth Googling Springerle cookies.
Typical, I suppose, of a man, I posess a french rolling pin, a marble rp, a home made wooden rp (I made it with a slight taper at each end rather like an overweight french rp) and a standard plain old wooden rp. The marble rp is kept in the fridge. Today, making croissants, I believe I used all the rp’s at different times; just to give them some exercise, I guess. I think the french rp beats them all for its manoeverability. I can wheel it around like Mazeratti on the track and, as I made it myself, it feels good in my hands. Now, if the results of my efforts were as edible as my rp’s are beautiful, I would be a happy man!
I’ve always had a marble pin, because of the prettiness, but I was happily surprised at the idea tho chill it for puff pastry! Never crossed my mind!
Besides the con of the heaviness of the marble, is there a reason to choose a wooden one over a marble one for bread or pie crusts? I would imagine the chilling could help with pie crusts in particular.
Should the handles on a standard rolling pin be fixed to the pin or be able to rotate?
I find it easiest to use when the handles rotate.
I use a cold full wine bottle from the refrigerator door…but am thinking about trying the tapered french one after reading your excellent post!
I have a beautiful glass rolling pin that can be filled with ice water for rolling pie crusts. It was my Granny’s and I love it. She made the best apple pies and I used to help her when I was visiting. Great memories there.
Thanks Joy! I’m shopping for a rolling pin for my wife and didn’t know where to start. This was perfect, thank you.