As food lovers and avid bakers, we have searched high and low for the best rolling pins and been up close and personal with a variety of styles. There was the sleek marble rolling pin that stayed wonderfully cool but was heavy enough to double as a kettlebell; a vintage beauty with a perfect patina that turned out to be more pretty than it was practical; and a pricey, professional French rolling pin we hoped would magically transform us into master pâtissiers. (Alas, it did not.) For such an elemental kitchen tool, there really is a dizzying array of styles from which to choose. Where’s a baker to begin?
To answer that question, we gathered a lineup of well-reviewed, best-selling rolling pins and put them through a week of frenzied cookie-making and pie-baking to find one that could please both novice home bakers and pastry obsessives alike.
As our tests proved, the best rolling pin performs beautifully, is made from solid hardwood, will last a lifetime, and is a model of economy and restraint. Plus, if you’re a sucker for aesthetics or just want to treat yourself, there’s a terrific upgrade pick that costs only a few bucks more. Read on for the best rolling pins of 2020; for the specifics of how we tested them and what to look for in a rolling pin, keep scrolling.
Best All-Purpose Rolling Pin: JK Adams French Tapered Rolling Pin
$16.00, Sur La Table
Forget about Italian marble, ball bearing handles, and nonstick Teflon coatings—the best rolling pin costs $15 and is essentially just a big dowel (i.e., stick). Made by hand by a family-owned company in Dorset, Vermont, the JK Adams French Rolling Pin is a study in Yankee economy: a plain, solid piece of unfinished hardwood whose versatility is matched only by its simplicity. The pin’s gently tapered ends make it easy to maneuver and pivot gracefully when rolling dough into rounds, producing stick-free results that are of a reliably even thickness. It also just feels comfortable resting under your hands.
JK Adams makes its French rolling pin in two sizes. We preferred the slightly thicker model because it offered a bit more heft and leverage (which is especially important when working a stiff dough)—though not so much weight that it felt burdensome. Its super-sturdiness makes it versatile too: When you’re not baking, this is a pin that can definitely do double duty pulverizing spices, tenderizing cutlets, and crushing ice.
While some inexpensive unfinished wooden pins beg for a good sanding, we found the JK Adams useful enough right out of the box. The texture of the unfinished wood did have a fine nap to it, but it didn’t cause any disastrous sticking (in fact, it actually seemed to help grip and stretch the dough during rolling). As far as maintenance goes, raw wood requires a little upkeep—it’s probably best not to leave the thing soaking in a sink of water—but nothing too taxing. Basically, you’ll want to treat it as you would a wood cutting board: Dry it thoroughly after use and rub it down occasionally with food-grade mineral oil. For that minimal effort, you’ll be rewarded over time with a natural nonstick finish and a beautiful patina worthy of an heirloom.
An Affordable Upgrade: Whetstone Woodenware French Rolling Pin
$28.00, Whetstone Woodenware
On the whole, “fancy” rolling pins don’t earn their keep in the kitchen. Hand-finished with intricate whorls in the wood and a satiny sheen, they look like a million bucks (and probably cost upward of $60), but struggle controlling pastry dough even with a serious dusting of flour.
Which is why we were pleasantly surprised by the Whetstone Woodenware French rolling pin. With its sleek Indiana Rock Maple body and artisanal good looks, it certainly appears a notch more luxe than our all-around pick from JK Adams—but, happily, that extra style doesn’t come at a loss of substance. Its 23-inch length is the most generous of all the rolling pins we tested, making it ideal for large projects (though, perhaps, a bit tricky to stash away in compact quarters; the company also makes a slightly more storable 19-inch model). It’s also a bit thicker and weightier than the competition—not so much as to make a huge difference in user experience, but just enough to instill confidence when staring down a slab of chilly dough straight from the fridge. Working on sugar cookies, it skimmed the surface of the cookie dough in smooth, firm strokes, rolling it easily into a uniform thickness. If you’re a committed baker or just feel like treating yourself or someone you love to a baking tool that’s practical, pretty, and will bring pleasure for years to come, this is an excellent product and a serious value. But don’t just take our word for it: A satisfied customer on the Whetstone website sums it up succinctly: “Beautifully made, smooth as silk, works like a charm.”
How We Tested the Rolling Pins
You’ll notice two things about the rolling pins we wound up testing: all are made from wood and none have handles. (Rolling pins with handles are called American-style; handleless pins are French.) We narrowed the field this way from the start, not to stir up controversy but because without exception, all the professional bakers we spoke to on the subject preferred a French rolling pin to an American one. Why? Handleless pins are generally more comfortable to grip, easier to maneuver, and—with fewer impediments between you and your work surface—give you a more nuanced feel for the dough. Also, since they’re just a single piece of wood without cracks and crevices for dough to get stuck in, they’re easier to keep clean. Wooden models also happen to be the most affordable. Marble, silicone, metal, and nylon may have certain strengths, but when it comes to versatility, durability, and long-term performance, wood rolling pins remain the gold standard for a reason. So, since our goal was to find the best all-purpose rolling pin, we chose to focus on them.
To get a sense of how the rolling pins performed in action, we made multiples of our favorite pie dough and rolled them into thin rounds to make rustic sweet and savory galettes. Later, we made a few batches of sugar cookies, using each pin to roll the cookie dough out on a lightly floured countertop before cutting it into shapes.
Additionally, we evaluated the following factors.
How does the rolling pin feel in our hands?
Ask a serious baker for advice and they’ll invariably say that a good rolling pin should feel like an extension of the baker’s hands. We kept that maxim in mind as we worked our way through the lineup, making note of how comfortably our palms rested on the edges of the pins, how responsive each felt to our touch, and if over time our fingers began feeling crowded or crampy.
Is it well-designed? Is the material high-quality?
Does the rolling pin look thoughtfully made? If it has tapered sides, are they symmetrical and even? Is it long enough to tackle large projects, but not so big as to feel clumsy? Ideally, a baker should be able to buy a rolling pin once and keep it forever. Quality matters—which is why we gave high marks to handmade wood rolling pins made in America and backed up by generous lifetime warranties.
Does it roll smoothly and evenly?
Does the pin feel agile when it is in motion, pivoting and rolling smoothly—without requiring too much elbow grease? When it comes to surfaces, the best rolling pins should strike a Goldilocks sort of balance: not so slick that it can’t stretch the dough underneath it, but not so coarse that the dough becomes a sticky mess (and prompts you to overcompensate with too much flour).
Is the rolling pin easy to clean?
Most pros eschew handled pins for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the nooks and crevices where the pieces come together can be tricky to clean when they’re gunked up with dough. But even simple pins can require maintenance, and we took that into account.
Other Rolling Pins We Tested
The smaller version of the JK Adams French Rolling Pin is the slightly narrower sibling to our top all-around pick (it has a diameter of 1½ inches compared to our winner’s 1¾-inch diameter). While we preferred the heft of the large model, this is a fine option and would make a decent smooth-rolling alternative, especially for young or petite bakers.
Also by JK Adams, the Maple Plain Rolling Dowel is about as basic a rolling pin can get. Because it has straight rather than tapered ends, it can be used with adjustable spacers to help roll out dough and pastry to an even thickness. And with a bit more weight than the other models we tested, it really feels indestructible. Use it to crush ice, spices, chocolate (or just leave it by the side of the bed in case of intruders). Though we ultimately preferred the comfort and maneuverability of the pins with tapered sides, this one might be a nice middle ground for bakers who are accustomed to the heft of a American rolling pins but are interested in experimenting with the French-style.
The Original French Rolling Pin is a pretty close cousin to our top pick, has hundreds of glowing Amazon reviews, and with a price tag of $11, is about as bargain-priced as you’re going to get. If budget is your primary concern, it’s not a bad option. Still, at 18-inches-long, it’s 2½ inches shorter than the JK Adams and 5 inches shorter than the Whetstone, so its coverage area is a bit less generous and we didn’t find it as pleasant to use.
The Fletcher’s Mill French Rolling Pin is also beloved by Amazon reviewers and shares many of the qualities we liked about the product review–winning model. At $29, however, it had to forfeit the crown to the more affordable (and much sturdier-feeling) JK Adams pin.
The Joseph Joseph Adjustable Dowel Rolling Pin piqued our interest with stylish looks and clever extras, which include handy measurement markings on the shaft and a colorful set of screw-on spacers designed to help roll dough to a precise thickness. In practice we found the spacers (which screw on and off the ends like oversized nuts and bolts) to be more fiddly than they were worth, and cleanup was a little cumbersome. Also, in comparison to the 20½-inch length of the JK Adams French Rolling Pin and the 23-inch length of the Whetstone, the 16½-inch shaft of the Joseph Joseph felt narrow in our hands and less comfortable to maneuver when rolling out large rounds.
Hand-dipped French rolling pin from Farmhouse Pottery is a real looker thanks to its painted end, neat branding, and suede hanging strap. But at $50, it wasn’t multiple times better than our upgrade pick. It rolled out pastry dough efficiently and definitely makes for a good photo prop, but we felt the Whetstone was more of a workhorse.
The Williams-Sonoma Open Kitchen French Rolling Pin ($16) felt a bit more dense, more raw, and also tapered less dramatically than the other rolling pins we tested; the end is about ¼-inch wider than that of the Whetstone pin, which seems small but felt bulkier to use.
So, Which Rolling Pin Do I Buy?
For an all-around excellent workhorse of a rolling pin at an entry-level price, choose the 20-inch x 1¾-inch JK Adams French Tapered Rolling Pin. With only minimal maintenance, it will last you a lifetime. If you’re a passionate baker who’s willing to spend a little bit more—or you just want to treat yourself (or someone you love) to a modest upgrade—give the Whetstone Woodenware 23-inch French Rolling Pin a shot. With its handmade good looks, it appears much more expensive than its $25 tag and it performs better than many pins that go for three times the price.
4 More Ways to Use a Rolling Pin
Now that you know which rolling pin to buy, let’s take a look at some of the unexpected ways to put it to work in the kitchen. You can use your rolling pin for so much more than rolling dough. Behold: five (more) uses for rolling pins in the kitchen that may save you some time and/or space.
1. Grind spices
If you don’t already buy your spices whole, you should start to, and you don’t even need a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to start grinding. Epicurious editor Joe Sevier says he uses his rolling pin to grind spices in lieu of a mortar and pestle. Sure, an electric spice grinder may be a quicker process with minimal elbow grease involved, but working out a few workday frustrations with a rolling pin has its merits.
2. Tenderize meat
What’s the point of having two large wooden objects in your kitchen when you only need one? A rolling pin is an easy and effective replacement for a meat mallet.
3. Crumb chips
If you haven’t tried breading chicken cutlets in Cool Ranch Doritos, you’re missing out. Use a rolling pin to crumb chips—corn or potato, we don’t discriminate—and use those crumbs to apply instant crispy coating to fish or chicken. The technique is also useful for a graham cracker pie crust or turning nuts to nearly dust and is far more satisfying than hitting “pulse” on your food processor fitted with a chopping blade.
4. Smash herbs
For the cocktail savvy, a rolling pin can be used in place of a muddler or to crush ice. The flat ends of the pin have just the right amount of surface area for smashing herbs to release maximum flavor. In fact, you can use your rolling pin for basically anything that needs to be smashed (garlic, roasted tomatoes).
Want intel on products our editors are obsessed with? Sign up for the Well-Equipped newsletter.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious