French versus traditional rolling pins

There are two types of rolling pins. Traditional rolling pins with handles provide more leverage and are usually easier for an inexperienced baker to use, while French rolling pins do not have handles and are preferred by bakers who want their hands directly on the barrel of the rolling pin to better feel the dough. French rolling pins have a rolling surface of approximately 20 inches, which is longer than the standard 12-inch barrel on rolling pins with handles. French rolling pins come in three shapes: straight dowel, tapered from the middle and tapered at the ends only. Additionally, French rolling pins are less expensive and have no crevices that can be difficult to clean.

Wood, usually maple or birch, is the most common material for rolling pins with or without handles. It's fairly inexpensive and durable, but prolonged exposure to water can cause the wood to crack or warp. Additionally, wood must be coated in flour to prevent dough from sticking.

Marble is heavier than wood and, if chilled before use, will help prevent dough from sticking. A marble rolling pin doesn't necessarily cost more than a wooden one, but the standard size is a smaller 10-inch length. Marble is prone to chipping, but many models are sold with a wooden storage base that allows them to be safely stored in the refrigerator or elsewhere.

Less common are rolling pins made of metal, glass or nylon. Metal or glass rolling pins can be chilled to prevent sticking. Some metal or glass rolling pins can be filled with cold water to create a rolling surface that stays cool longer. Rolling pins made of nylon have the advantage of being dishwasher-safe. Some rolling pins include a nonstick silicone surface to minimize sticking.

Specialty rolling pins have ribs to cut the dough or a texture to imprint a pattern on the dough. Ribbed rolling pins are mostly used to make pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti. Textured rolling pins can imprint patterns like crisscross or lace when rolling out a paste like fondant or marzipan. In this report, we focus on basic rolling pins you'd use to roll out pie or cookie dough.

Experts and owners suggest considering the following when choosing a rolling pin:

  • The weight of the rolling pin. A heavier rolling pin makes it easier to roll dough, especially into thin sheets. A marble, metal or wooden rolling pin that is long or that has a wider diameter tends to be heaviest.
  • The length of the barrel. The standard barrel length on wooden and nylon/silicone rolling pins is 12 inches, and marble is 10 inches. French rolling pins are usually 20 inches long, which is ideal for making large sheets of pasta dough. Some bowing can occur with rolling pins that are 32 inches or longer.
  • The diameter of the barrel. A thicker barrel means it's less likely that your hands will accidently gouge into the dough while rolling; however, it's easier to feel the dough with a thin French rolling pin. Most experts say it's a matter of taste and preference.
  • A nonstick rolling surface. Using a lot of flour to prevent sticking can toughen the dough. Marble and metal rolling pins can be chilled in the refrigerator to prevent the dough from sticking, and silicone rolling pins don't stick as much as wood.
  • Contoured handles are easier to grip. When buying a rolling pin with handles, contoured or rubber-coated handles may be more comfortable, especially when rolling out multiple batches of dough.
  • Ease of cleaning. Many rolling pins are not dishwasher-safe. Also, excessive soaking or contact with water can cause wooden rolling pins to crack or warp. Wooden rolling pins should simply be wiped with a damp cloth and allowed to air dry. Rolling pins made of nylon may be dishwasher-safe.

There are various accessories that can make using a rolling pin easier. Rubber rolling pin rings are slipped onto either end of a traditional rolling pin with handles to make it easier to roll dough with an even thickness. A set of four rolling pin rings (*Est. $9) includes 1/16-inch, 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch thicknesses. A cotton rolling pin and pastry cloth set (*Est. $10) are used to prevent dough from sticking to the rolling pin and work surface. They are reusable and machine-washable.

Rolling Pins Runners Up:

Oxo Good Grips Rolling Pin *Est. $27

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OXO Good Grips Rolling Pin
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