A rolling pin is a kitchen utensil that is designed to flatten and shape malleable semi solids, most commonly short-crust, flaky, rough-puff and sweet pastry. They are an essential tool in the armoury of any cook that regularly makes cakes and pies. This quite simple implement facilitates the rolling out of the pastry to the desired thickness that is ideal for the intended use. Traditionally rolling pins were made from a single piece of wood that was turned on a lathe to form a cylindrical shape. Knobs were then formed at each end to serve as handles. The more exotic designs that are seen often feature intricate inlays of mahogany or cherry wood. A big advancement in rolling pin technology occurred when ball bearings were first introduced and the basic design was modified so that the body of the pin rolled but the handles remained in one position. This made the rolling pin much easier to use as the cook’s hands could stay tightly on the two handles in one position as the pin was moved back and forth across the pastry. This was achieved by running a central rod through the pin itself that was attached to the two handles. The bearings make the pin run very smoothly across the surface. Besides being used in the kitchen, rolling pins can also be used in cake decoration, in craftwork, for shaping clay, and are sometimes hand painted as decorative items for the home.
The Origin of Rolling Pins
The first rolling pins were simple wooden cylinders, carved from wood and made at home. It is likely that the Etruscans in ancient Italy were the first civilisation to have used them, around 700 BC, and it is very likely that the Romans and subsequently the Greeks may have adopted the tools in succeeding generations. It was not until the mid-19th century that commercial production of rolling pins first began. The traditional material, pine, had by now become scarce, and manufacturers turned their attention to hardwoods instead. Maple and cherry were popular for crafting rolling pins and other wooden kitchenware. A version with a central rod was first invented and patented in the late 1800s by an African-American inventor, J. W. Reed; this design has endured to the present day.
Modern Materials for Rolling Pins
Besides wood, rolling pins are made with a variety of materials today, although the classic wooden pin, with or without a central rod, has remained among the most popular. Small, medium and large sizes are available in the range between nine and 22 inches long, approximately. Wooden rolling pins are sometimes hand painted, and/or have handles decorated in a variety of attractive designs. There are also stainless steel rolling pins, which make a handsome addition to the contemporary kitchen.
Marble Rolling Pins
Rolling pins made in marble are more heavy duty than the wooden variety, and are much vaunted as the best type of pin to use for pastry and fondant icing, due to the cool surface. Some are plain cylinders, often in black marble, and others have wooden handles and come in paler, often variegated, colours.
Glass Rolling Pins
Glass rolling pins are often sold as collectors’ items and come in a variety of vintage or retro styles and materials. Pyrex glass is transparent and the pins that date from the 1950s or 1960s often have stoppers at each end, so the tube can be filled with cold water to make pastry rolling easier. Coloured glass options include Bristol Blue Glass, which dates from Victorian times and is sometimes enamelled. Milk Glass pins are white and sometimes painted with flowers, and Victorian versions are also sold regularly; Milk Glass was originally developed in Venice in the 16th century.
Silicone Rolling Pins
Rolling pins made from silicone are available in a selection of bright contemporary colours and, while marble versions stay cool, silicone rolling pins benefit from having a non-stick surface, so pastry dough will never cling to them. Wooden rolling pins have to be dusted with flour to achieve a non-stick coating.
Plastic Rolling Pins
Lightweight rolling pins are particularly useful for cake decorating, and plastic rolling pins come in small, medium, and large lengths. A rolling pin set will often contain pins that are 5, 6, 12, and 20 inches long, so that cake decorators can choose a pin appropriate to the size of the cake. Larger plastic rolling pins may be up to 23 inches in length.
Children’s rolling pins
Plastic is also a popular material for children’s cookware and craft activities. Small pins that fit well into small hands can be used for rolling out dough and modelling clay, and attractive rolling pins with textured surfaces are ideal for helping young children to paint bright patterns with ease.
Caring for Rolling Pins
One consideration when purchasing a rolling pin is the amount of care it may need if it is to be a long lasting and trusted kitchen friend. Hygiene is paramount in any domestic or professional kitchen, so knowing how to take care of a rolling pin is essential.
Cleaning Wooden Rolling Pins
Wooden utensils should be hand washed in warm soapy water immediately after use, rinsed thoroughly and dried with a tea towel or kitchen roll. Some people like to oil a wooden rolling pin occasionally, using oils that are also safe for breadboards or salad bowls. It is best to avoid washing wooden pins in a dishwasher, as this can dry out the wood and cause it to crack.
Stain Removal from Marble Rolling Pins
Keep marble pins away from acidic substances, which can cause stains. These include items often found in the kitchen, such as vinegar, citrus fruit, wine, coffee, tea, and tomatoes. After use, wipe marble pins with a clean, damp cloth but never immerse them in water and do not put them in the dishwasher. For stain removal use a pH neutral cleanser that is non-abrasive.
Dishwasher-friendly Rolling Pins
Silicone and plastic rolling pins can generally just be wiped clean and put straight in the dishwasher, although it does always pay to read the manufacturer’s product specifications and the cleaning recommendations when choosing a rolling pin. Whether a practical kitchen tool is required, or a delightful vintage collectable, there are lots of options for finding rolling pins on eBay.
Collectable Rolling Pins
Some cooks love to have a collection of antique rolling pins on display in their kitchen. Such items are easy to source on eBay and really old and very interesting models can be found. Those from the Victorian era are quite sought after – blue glass ones particularly so. Hand carved more modern types can also be found that originate from far-flung corners of the world; there are some particularly attractive versions from India.
Finding a Rolling Pin on eBay
A search initiated by entering the keywords "rolling pins" in the search box on the eBay site, generates a list of options on the left hand side of the page. This allows a searcher to scan a variety of categories in order to choose those that are relevant to the kind of rolling pin that they have in mind to buy. Categories include, but are not limited to, Home, Furniture & DIY, Craft, and Collectables, and there are a number of sub-categories to help buyers refine their search criteria. The sub-category with the most relevant items is usually Cookware, Dining & Bar. Buyers who have already prepared a checklist of desired features will find this is a great benefit. For example, deciding in advance what material, brand, and condition – new or used – of rolling pin is preferred will help narrow the search, and eBay will recommend specific listings to match. It is always worth checking to ensure that the prices in the listings reflect the current known prices for rolling pins, as a guide to which items may be worth bidding for.
Using eBay to find exactly the type of rolling pin required is quick and easy. Once a buyer is confident that the product and the price is right, it is a simple process to bid or utilise the Buy it Now option if available.