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field guide to rolling pins

Perhaps this is an unexpected topic for the first-ever chiles & chocolate guide, but I’ve had rolling pins on my mind for the last couple of months.

Late last year, in the midst of the baking rush that is Thanksgiving/Christmas season, my rolling pin officially broke. It was already basically broken (the handle had detached from the cylinder on one side, making all attempts at rolling a very wobbly experience), but as I was rolling out some uneven, wobbly pie crust, I noticed that my rolling pin had begun leaking (yes, leaking, I know, ew) greasy black stuff onto my crust.

The pin I had was a beautiful (more beautiful than functional, alas) ceramic pin from Anthropologie, and while I mourned its death, I was more than happy to get a new rolling pin that wasn’t wobbly and wouldn’t leak. I did a lot of research and finally asked Nathan to get me a handcrafted birch wood rolling pin for Christmas, and neither he nor the pin did disappoint.

I figured I’d share some of the things I’ve learned about rolling pins, as well as give some suggestions for rolling pins I almost bought (and one I did buy). If you’re in need of a new rolling pin,  I hope this field guide is of some help to you!


traditional handled pin

photo credit: farmhouse pottery

This is the kind of pin everyone knows and loves, and is a great option if you want an easy-to-use pin with a classic look. These types of pins can be fitted with spacers (see below), so they’re great if you’re often needing to roll dough out to specific thicknesses.

The only drawbacks to this kind of pin is that you don’t have as much control over the dough as you do with a non-handled French-style pin, and also, depending on how the pin you choose is constructed, cleaning it can be difficult.

Budget option: J.K. Adams Maple Wood Small Gourmet Rolling Pin, $15

Splurge option: Farmhouse Pottery Baker’s Rolling Pin, $65


french tapered pin

photo credit: cattails woodwork

This is the kind of pin I ended up choosing for myself, and I love it. The lack of handles makes it easy to clean (all I do is wash it warm water and soap, then apply a coat of food-safe oil once it’s dry) and also allows you much more control over the dough than a handled pin does. It takes a while to get the hang of if you’re used to a handled pin (your hands are so much closer to the dough), but I think the slight learning curve is worth it. The only downside is that, unlike handled pins and French straight pins, tapered pins cannot use spacers.

Budget Option: J.K. Adams French Rolling Pin, $13

Splurge option: Cattails Woodwork French Rolling Pin, $55 (I have this one and I love it)


french straight pin

photo credit: vermont rolling pins & co.

Also known as dowel pins or column pins, I read somewhere that this is the type of pin favored by Dorie Greenspan, and it’s the type of pin I almost bought. It’s similar to a tapered pin in that you’re working a lot closer to the dough and have increased control of it, but differs in that rather than the ends tapering off, the entire cylinder is the same diameter. The lack of taper means that these pins are not as maneuverable as tapered ones, but also means that you can more easily get dough to be of a consistent thickness, especially if you use spacers.

Budget option: Ateco 19″ Maple Wood Dowel Rolling Pin, $16

Splurge option: Vermont Rolling Pins & Co. Column Rolling Pin, $45-$56


marble pin

photo credit: hawkins new york

Unless your kitchen is always warm (or you’re just really into marble), you probably don’t need a marble rolling pin, but these types of pins are so gorgeous that I am tempted to get one for myself. I like to think they’re a good consolation prize for someone like me for whom marble countertops are but a pipe dream.

Marble remains cool to the touch even in warm environments, so using a marble pin allows you to keep pie crusts and cookie doughs extra cold as you roll them out. They’re also gorgeous, but I think I mentioned that already.

Budget option: Flexzion 18-Inch Marble Rolling Pin, $19

Splurge option: Hawkins New York Mara Rolling Pin, $35-65


silicone/nonstick pin

photo credit: amazon

In my opinion, the best way to make your rolling pin non-stick is to coat it in flour, but for those want additional insurance (or who want a rolling pin that is dishwasher-safe), there are a number of pins made from silicone, carbon steel, and other non-stick surfaces on the market. They aren’t the prettiest pins in the bunch, but they roll out dough just fine.

Budget option: Fox Run Carbon Steel Non-Stick Rolling Pin, $15

Splurge option: OXO Good Grips Silicone Rolling Pin, $28


ceramic pin

photo credit: anthropologie

This is the type of pin I had before I got my new one. In my experience, ceramic pins are more about aesthetics than they actually are about serious baking, but my Anthropologie one lasted me years (and, spoiler alert: I bake a lot), so I’d say they’re decent value for the price. The ceramic provides a slight amount of built-in nonstick, but you’ll definitely still want to flour your pin before you get rolling.

Also, many vintage rolling pins are ceramic, and I haven’t used one before, but I’m betting the quality of those is excellent (or, at least, better than Anthropologie).

Budget option: Anthropologie Petalpress Rolling Pin, $18

Splurge option: Vintage Nutbrown Ceramic Rolling Pin, $75 on eBay


springerle and patterned pins

photo credit: king arthur flour

The funny thing about patterned pins is that while they look like rolling pins, you cannot use them to roll out dough. Rather, these types of pins are used to imprint patterns onto dough after you’ve rolled the dough out with an ordinary pin.

These pins are a great addition to your baking-tool collection if you love springerle or are interested in making pastry that doubles as art, but they’re certainly not necessary for the average home baker. That doesn’t mean I don’t dream of owning a King Arthur Flour springerle pin at some point in my life, though.

Patterned pin option: Handmade Paisley Engraved Rolling Pin, $29

Springerle option: King Arthur Flour Folk Art Springerle Pin, $115


rolling pin spacer rings

photo credit: king arthur flour

Spacer rings are great for rolling out dough to a specific thickness. They’re affordable and almost always come in set with a variety of thicknesses. You can only use them with non-tapered pins, however.

Buying options: Casabella Silicone Rolling Pin Spacer Bands, $10 or King Arthur Flour Rolling Pin Rings, $9