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A rolling pin is a long, cylindrical device used to flatten dough for pie crusts, cookies, pastries and other treats. There are many different varieties on the market, in a number of sizes and materials. The most common are those made of hardwood, but they also can be found in plastic, glass, rubber, silicone and even marble.
Thanks to a thin handle on either side of the rolling pin, the chef's hands don't have to touch the dough underneath. Rolling out dough isn't a completely hands free task, however. If the dough sticks, the chef will have to sprinkle a little flour on the offending area so the dough easily peels off. Cooks who want to avoid this type of sticking should opt for a rolling pin made of either metal or marble. These can be placed in the freezer for a few minutes to chill before using because they are less likely to stick to the dough when cold. Many marble, glass or silicone ones can be filled with water to keep them cool.
Many chefs prefer a "French" rolling pin, which is one without handles. Proponents of this style claim that it allows them to work the dough more easily. A heavier rolling pin is usually preferred over a lighter pin as it's easier to flatten dough with. Cooks should choose what works best for them, though. The tool should glide easily over the dough and flatten it without a lot of straining and pushing. The handles — if it has them — should fit comfortably in the hands and move freely while the cook rolls the dough.
It is interesting to note that many chefs use a rolling pin for tasks other than rolling dough. For instance, if they want to crush crackers, cookies or nuts, they place the food in a paper bag and beat it with this tool until it's completely crushed. It can also work in the same manner as a meat tenderizer, acting as a hammer to pound thin cuts of meat such as cutlets.
Chefs who are in the market for a rolling pin should take the time to visit a store selling several different models. It's best for the cook to find one that feels comfortable in his or her hands and ask those in charge for recommendations.
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