Essential Tools

What French Rolling Pins & Ferraris Have in Common

December 16, 2015

In a very smart article on her essential tools for baking cookies, Dorie Greenspan made a claim that French rolling pins are the Ferraris of the rolling pin world:

Because the pin and the pressure you put on it are guided by your hands—and you can feel what you're doing—driving a French pin is like steering a well-tuned sports car. (Extend the analogy, and the bruiser pin becomes a tractor-trailer, which is just what you want for the long haul that is bread.)

French-style. Oui, oui! Photo by James Ransom

Dorie's everyday pin is French-style: a solid wooden cylinder that's slender in diameter with no handles (she uses this one in particular).

Why? It's all about control. "Cookie dough—and pie and tart dough, too—should be rolled with a light touch and the French pin will give you that." When using a French pin, pressure is applied directly to the pin and from the pin to a dough, which allows for close contact with the dough and maximum command of pressure.

The other type of rolling pin is a ball-bearing (a.k.a. American-style) pin, where a cylindrical barrel actually rolls around a shaft with a handle on each end. These pins are best for rolling out springy, resilient doughs (like sweet yeast doughs for croissants) because they offer heavy-duty muscle power. Dorie uses these big heavy rolling pins for bread "and anything that fights back."

American-style, cowboy. Photo by Sarah Stone

If you're looking for an all-purpose rolling pin for tarts and cookies, you want the French-style, tapered or untapered.

You may prefer a tapered pin if you have small hands, as the narrow ends will be easier to grasp. But be careful that the pin has an adequately long uniform middle belly, or you risk uneven rolling.

The rolling pins in our Shop come tapered and untapered, so you can choose the one that's right for you. (And the French pin has a small brass-lined hole—so you can display it as art when it's not in use.)

Photo by Mark Weinberg
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Do you have a go-to rolling pin? Share it with us in the comments!


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Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


Bri L. December 2, 2018
I use a length (exactly as long as the kitchen drawer it lives in) of 1” PVC pipe (my son cut and sanded the ends to make them smooth for me—best kitchen gift!). Works like a french pin, light and nothing sticks to it. Super easy to clean too !
Stephanie December 18, 2015
I swear by my french rolling pin! Rolling out circles for tarts, round pitas, etc is so much easier. It feels less clunky and more precise.
Henry J. December 16, 2015
Did you ever return ours?
Panfusine December 16, 2015
one of each type, the barrel style for rolling flatbreads like roti and paratha or for bread loaves and a 100 year old french style pin for the smaller breads. the latter is inherited from my grandmother's kitchen. in the Indian deep south - I have NO idea how she ended up with such a different looking pin compared to the traditional carved indian style 'belans', though my relatives tell me it was around when THEY were little