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Rolling Pins

Published August 2012

How we tested

Choosing a rolling pin used to be simple: Almost all were made from wood, and the only question was whether to go with handles or without. Nowadays, the choices for materials and designs could take hours to consider. To see if innovation could trump the tried and true, we rounded up nine pins—including our former favorite—in wood, metal, and silicone, tapered and straight, with handles and without, priced from $9.99 to $45. We wanted an all-purpose pin, so we set to work rolling out pie crust, yeasted rolls, cookies, and pizza. 

Since rolling out pie crust is job No. 1, we started there. A good rolling pin should spread this finicky, delicate dough easily and smoothly, without sticking or tearing. A handled pin of nonstick-coated steel looked promising, but it was so heavy it smashed dough, generating cracks and sticking. This metal pin lifted whole swaths of dough onto its surface. And because of their smooth finishes, pins in metal and silicone couldn’t hold a dusting of flour (an old trick to keep pie dough from sticking). Was wood the only way to go? Maybe, but some of the wood pins were also too smooth, resisting a flour dusting. The dusting clung best to slightly rough-textured wood, which gripped dough just enough to roll it out.

In the test kitchen, we’ve long preferred handle-free French rolling pins for flattening pie dough, since they give us a direct sense of the dough’s thickness and of how hard we are pressing down. Most of our tapered French models weighed less than the handled pins but had just enough heft for this task. One of our handled pins also worked well—at just under 2 pounds, it was slightly less maneuverable but didn’t leave us with cracked, crushed dough.

Should a pin be straight or tapered? One tapered model left pie dough thick at the edges; others rolled evenly. We got out our measuring tape and discovered that the problematic pin started tapering from closer to its middle. So fat-bellied that it resembled a lozenge, it provided only 4 inches of straight, flat rolling surface. Considering that the bottom of a standard pie plate measures 7 inches across, pins that stay straight for at least 6 inches function best.

The dramatically tapered pin was truly cumbersome when we rolled out stiff gingerbread cookie dough, leaving hills and valleys in its path. For this task, the heaviest rolling pins with the longest untapered expanse worked best. Featherweight pins did almost none of the work for us, and we found ourselves going back over the same areas to get a 1/8-inch thickness for cutting out cookies. Plus, using these lighter pins took so long that the dough had ample time to warm up, making it harder to cut out neat shapes.

As for handled pins, some simply spun in place instead of rolling over the parchment-covered cookie dough. Our go-to pin for this job turned out to be a 19-inch, handle-free straight dowel in slightly textured maple. At 1½ pounds, it was just weighty enough to lend us a hand but light enough to let us maneuver it easily. Another straight, handle-free dowel rolling pin initially looked perfect for the task, since it comes with attachable rings for rolling out cookie dough to a desired thickness. But with rings for only 1/16-, 1/4-, and 3/8-inch thicknesses, that function was limited—and at 13½ inches in length, it made our arms feel cramped when using it.

Most of the pins proved equal to the tasks of rolling out springy yeasted doughs for pizza and crescent rolls. But since the pizza dough required rolling into a 14-inch round, the longest, straightest model, that 19-inch straight dowel, served us best.

When all our testing was done, we found to our surprise that our three favorite rolling pins are all made by the same maker—also the maker of our former favorite pin. These pins, each in a different style, had the same slightly rough texture to their maple surfaces. Each offered enough flat surface area for efficient rolling and fell within the weight range that worked best for us. Our new winner offered moderate weight, a 19-inch straight barrel, and a slightly textured surface to move dough without slipping or sticking. It’s old-fashioned, relying on no new technology, but it works.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*