Why You Should Buy Baking Tools at the Hardware Store

March 20, 2017

I grew up going to lumber yards and hardware stores with my backyard boat–building, woodworking Dad, an engineer and an inventor. From him, I learned that tools, tricks, and materials designed for one craft can be adapted to others. I’ve purchased trowels (typically used for smoothing plaster) to smooth frosting on cakes, and wooden mallets to break 10-pound blocks of chocolate. I once made tubular graham crackers by baking the dough around aluminum tubing.

They add an edge to your kitchen decor, too! Photo by Julia Gartland

My latest haul helps roll pastry or cookie dough to an exact thickness. For a total of about $6, I bought five wooden dowels—at 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, and 3/8 inches in diameter, respectively, all 48-inches long—and cut them each in half, using garden clippers for thin dowels and a serrated knife or saw for thicker dowels. To roll dough evenly—say 1/4 inch thick—place a 1/4 inch dowel on either side of the dough, and roll it out with a straight (not tapered) rolling pin, until the ends of the pin are rolling against the dowels, no longer making the dough thinner.

You can buy a rolling pin with guides, or just some plastic guides, but the dowel hack is cheaper, and more sizes are available. You can store the dowels along the edge of a drawer, so they are out of the way but easily accessible. If you don’t have a straight rolling pin, you could even go back to the hardware store or lumberyard and ask for a 20-inch wooden dowel rod, which are thicker than dowels at 1.5 to 2 inches diameter, to use instead. Or just buy a rolling pin at one of the usual places!

One last secret: People who work in hardware stores and lumber yards are often creative thinkers. Explain what you are trying to do—and you’ll be surprised at the help you’ll get.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“It is a perfect size for pie dough and stores vertically in my fridge, always ready to provide a chilled surface for rolling out dough. Marble boards cost $50-$130 and weigh a TON: mine is super-lightweight and therefore super-easy to clean. Look for a tile with a relatively-smooth surface. ”
— J

Do you use any hardware store tools in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • bamidance
  • Patty
  • lakelurelady
  • FrugalCat
  • Windischgirl
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


bamidance March 26, 2017
My dad had square lengths of wood in varying heights that he used for rolling out cookie dough. Nobody rivaled his cookies. They were a uniform height and baked evenly. I guess his metal working, mechanical background got him the idea many decades ago. I kept those when my parents passed away, a treasured memory of baking Christmas cookies in Germany.
Patty March 22, 2017
My husband bought me a rubber mallet about 30 yrs ago at a hardware store and I still use it to pound meat like chicken to make it thinner and more even for cutlets and to make cracker and graham cracker crumbs. Works great.
lakelurelady March 22, 2017
We love cedar planked salmon. The boards you buy in cooking stores are expensive. You can go to one of the big box stores and buy 1"x6" untreated white cedar planks in any length. We buy several at a time. Soak them in water for several hours before using.
FrugalCat March 21, 2017
I got a 7 inch square paver for less than a dollar. I use it to weigh down my salmon while it cures in the fridge.
Windischgirl March 21, 2017
My digital kitchen scale came from Harbor Freight: $20...less if you go in with a coupon. Hubby's favorite place to shop. I can overlook a lot of shortcomings if distracted by kitchen toys...
Windischgirl March 21, 2017
More effective than flowers or candy, I should add.
BerryBaby March 21, 2017
Cast iron skillets!
AntoniaJames March 21, 2017
Not directly on point, but a tip - many hardware stores sell some items also found at cooking specialty stores, but at a much better price. Case in point: the Mason jars by the dozen at Ace Hardware (Grand Lake), which sells them year round, are always a buck or two less than the other local sources. The same holds true for the metal disk "dome lids" one needs when re-using the jars and bands. ;o)
Smaug March 21, 2017
Also the place to go for parts for my old Osterizer blender, which I've never seen a reason to replace.
fsamis March 21, 2017
I only caution that some of the tools made not be made from food grade materials which means under certain circumstances (heating most likely) they could leach undesirable compounds into your food. So just be careful!
jaypee March 21, 2017
I use leather work gloves from the hardware store as pot holders when cooking with cast iron and baking stuff.
Catherine March 26, 2017
Welding gloves also are good as pot holders, especially if you are barbecuing. A bit more expensive, but plenty of padding.
Nancy March 21, 2017
Great story and good ideas.
And, of course, there's the story of how a wood rasp from a hardware store moved into the kitchen and became a Mircoplane.
Smaug March 21, 2017
Actually, they've been microplanes in hardware stores for some time.
J March 20, 2017
My favorite pastry-dough tool is a 15-inch-square ceramic floor tile that I bought at Home Depot for $3. It is a perfect size for pie dough and stores vertically in my fridge, always ready to provide a chilled surface for rolling out dough. Marble boards cost $50-$130 and weigh a TON: mine is super-lightweight and therefore super-easy to clean. Look for a tile with a relatively-smooth surface.
Erica March 21, 2017
This is the coolest idea, I can't wait for my next trip to Home Depot! Thank you!
Smaug March 20, 2017
You probably won't want to invest in a table saw (or radial arm saw) just for this, but if you have one or know someone who does, you can easily manufacture guides of any thickness that will stay put better than dowels. I find that the sizes I usually end up using most are not common dowel sizes; also, dowels are notorious for not being accurately sized or straight.