The test kitchen’s favorite rolling pin is a handle-free model that weighs 1 pound, 9 ounces and measures 19 inches long. We like it because it gives us a direct sense of a dough’s thickness and how hard we are pressing down, but it is designed for adults and could be cumbersome for some kids to use effectively. We wanted to find a rolling pin that would allow kids to adeptly and efficiently roll dough while helping them build confidence when baking. To narrow down our search, we looked at all the models available. Rolling pins come in two main styles: those with handles on each end to assist rolling and those without. There are also two styles of pins without handles: straight dowels or dowels with tapered ends. We purchased six rolling pins—four with handles, one straight dowel, and one tapered dowel—made of various materials, including wood, bamboo, and nonstick-coated steel, priced from $8.99 to $19.99. Two of the pins were designed specifically for children; the rest were designed for adults, but were lighter and smaller than our favorite full-size rolling pin.
Before asking a group of kid testers to test the pins in our lineup, we had adult testers use the models to perform some basic tasks: roll disks of pie dough into 12-inch circles, roll disks of Easy Holiday Sugar Cookie dough between sheets of parchment paper, and roll out soft, stretchy pizza doughs. In each test, we evaluated how easy the pins were to use and how well they performed.
During the pie dough test, it quickly became evident that the length of a pin’s rolling surface and the circumference of its barrel was key. The lengths of flat rolling surface of the pins in our lineup ranged from 5 inches to 13.3 inches. During the pie dough test, we found that the pins with less flat rolling surface were less effective than pins with more; we had to roll them over the dough more times to get the same results as when using a pin with more. Shorter pins tended to leave grooves in the dough because they were shorter than the dough was wide. Given that the bottom of a standard pie plate measures 7 inches across, the pins needed to have at least 6 inches of flat rolling surface to roll out a smooth, uncreased dough round. The circumferences of the pins we chose also varied, ranging from 4 inches to 7.5 inches around. The pins with wider barrels were generally more effective than those with skinnier barrels because they covered more dough with each roll. Our favorites measured at least 7 inches in circumference.
The rolling surface and circumference weren’t the only important factors we looked at. We also wanted a rolling pin that was comfortable and easy to use. Some pins had such dinky handles or were so lightweight we wondered if kids could use them effectively. (More on that later.) We noticed that if pins weighed less than 6 ounces, we had to use more force to flatten a dough. The texture of the rolling surface mattered, too. The surface of one model, made from bamboo, was slippery and hard to control, especially when we used it to roll cookie dough between sheets of parchment.
Although we had our preferences among the pins in our lineup, it was time to see which models kids liked. We enlisted eight testers, ranging in age from 8 to 11, to use the pins to roll disks of pie dough into 12-inch circles. As they rolled, we watched how the pins performed and took notes on their experiences.
We found that the two dowels gave the kids a good sense of the dough’s thickness while they were rolling and how hard they needed to press down, but we also noticed that they found them difficult to use, wanting to wrap their hands and fingers around the pins instead of using the palms of their hands to roll them. The tapered bamboo model was especially hard for them to control due to its smooth surface. Our young testers found models with handles much easier to use. They liked having a place to rest their hands and reported that it gave them more control while rolling.
Of the four models with handles, kids especially liked the pins that rolled smoothly and that covered a large amount of dough with each push. Like us, they disliked having to go back over the dough several times.
Our kid testers gravitated toward two models that had handles, rolled smoothly over dough, and either had a long flat rolling surface or a wide circumference so they could roll more dough with fewer passes. Of the two, the Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Beechwood Rolling Pin ($19.99) ultimately came out on top. With a flat rolling surface that measured 10 inches long and weighing 1 pound and 6.2 ounces, this pin enabled the kids to roll out dough quickly and easily. And even though it was only three ounces lighter than the test kitchen’s preferred model for adults, the winner’s handles and shorter rolling surface make is an excellent choice for children.