What is a Rolling Pin?

Deborah Ng

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.

Rolling pins are used to flatten and smooth out doughs.
Rolling pins are used to flatten and smooth out doughs.

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 French rolling pins, which have no handles.
Many chefs prefer French rolling pins, which have no handles.

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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Discussion Comments


@Scrbblchick -- I sort of have a handmade rolling pin. It's actually in the French style. I bought a wooden dowel from the home improvement store and had a friend cut down the ends and sand it to a satin finish. It works and I like it.

I've seen the marble rolling pins, and they will set you back a bundle. I'd be scared to use one filled with ice water. It would be just my luck for it to leak. I'll just stick with my nice, cheap, safe, wooden one. It does exactly what I need it to do, so it's fine for me.


My rolling pin is a handmade one. I bought it at a craft fair. It's solid pecan wood and it's beautiful. I have small hands so I wanted a rolling pin with handles that fit my hands well. I just flour it and it isn't too apt to stick to the dough. I just make sure it's always floured.

I actually bought several other things from that craftsman over the years, including a spatula, wooden spoon and a pie server. He made beautiful items and I loved being able to have handmade wooden utensils in my kitchen. I wouldn't take anything for them.

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