Measuring Pie Dough Thickness

As part of the research for a post on mak­ing pie dough (https://mynebraskakitchen.com/wordpress/the-pie-dough-chart/), I’ve been doing some test­ing on pie dough thickness. 

Var­i­ous sources give dif­fer­ent answers as to how thick the dough for pie crust should be. The most com­mon answer appears to be 18 inch, or 3.175 mm. The sec­ond most com­mon answer appears to be 332 of an inch, or 2.38 mm.

If that does­n’t seem like a big dif­fer­ence, it isn’t and yet it is. 132 of an inch is pret­ty tough to see, but the dif­fer­ence between 332 and 18 is 25%. So you could wind up with too much pie dough or not enough. (Com­put­ing the amount of pie dough to make is the focus of this arti­cle: https://mynebraskakitchen.com/wordpress/the-pie-dough-chart/.)

18 inch is slight­ly thick­er than the thick­ness of two pen­nies (3.04 mm) and slight­ly thin­ner than the thick­ness of two quar­ters (3.5 mm), but that’s not much help when rolling out pie dough. A dime stacked on a quar­ter would be even clos­er, 3.10 mm.

A num­ber of sources sell pie dough wands that can be used to make sure your pie dough is rolled out to the desired thick­ness. They com­mon­ly come in 116, 332 and 18 inch incre­ments, or 2mm, 3mm and 4mm. They’re made from a vari­ety of mate­ri­als, hard plas­tics, soft­er plas­tics like sil­i­cone and even wood, though the wood ones are hard­er to find. They also make rings in var­i­ous thick­ness­es that go around your rolling pin, but I’ve always thought those got in my way. 

I’ve got a set of the sil­i­cone pie wands, and they work fair­ly well, the pie dough comes out a pret­ty con­sis­tent thick­ness, but with one caveat. When I roll out pie dough, I press down hard enough that the soft sil­i­cone com­press­es a bit, so though I’m using the 18 inch thick wands, my pie dough is clos­er to 332 of an inch thick.

How do I know this? A lit­tle household/kitchen science.

I looked around for an easy way to mea­sure pie dough thick­ness dif­fer­ences, since most peo­ple, myself includ­ed, don’t have a clean set of auto mechan­ic’s feel­er gauges lying around. I’ve got a dig­i­tal caliper (sold in bead shops) that mea­sures in .01 inch incre­ments, which is good for mea­sur­ing 18 inch or larg­er thick­ness­es or lengths, but it does­n’t do a very pre­cise job mea­sur­ing very small incre­ments, such as ones under 132 of an inch (0.03125).

Add to that the prob­lem that pie dough is even soft­er than sil­i­cone, so mea­sur­ing it with­out squeez­ing it is anoth­er chal­lenge. Even pick­ing it up to mea­sure it could stretch it slight­ly. I need­ed a way to check the thick­ness of my pie dough against the pie wands with­out dis­turb­ing it.

It turns out many of us have an item in our house that is con­sis­tent­ly very thin–paper for a print­er or home copi­er. I mea­sured a full pack­age of copy paper (800 sheets of 24 pound paper) and got 3.49 inch­es, or 0.0043625 inch­es per sheet. That means that 18 inch should be between 28 and 29 sheets of paper, and 132 of an inch should be slight­ly more than 7 sheets of paper. 

I checked this by stack­ing 28 sheets of paper next to the 18″ sil­i­cone pie wand. I could feel a slight dif­fer­ence in thick­ness with my fin­gers. When I added a 29th sheet, I could still feel a slight dif­fer­ence, but now in the oth­er direction. 

With this mea­sur­ing tool in hand, I rolled out a pie crust using the 18″ wands and stacked paper on top of it until I could just bare­ly feel a dif­fer­ence between the com­bined height of the pie dough and the sheets of paper and the 18″ thick pie wand. When I added the 7th sheet of paper (1/32 of an inch) it changed which way my fin­gers felt the change in height. So I know my pie dough is slight­ly thick­er than 332 inch. 

And the pie came out great!

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  • #22342
    Mike Nolan
    Keymaster

    How do you mea­sure the thick­ness of pie dough?

    [See the full post at: Measuring Pie Dough Thickness]

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    #22357
    BakerAunt
    Participant

    Interesting post, Mike. I roll most of my pie crusts (now oil not butter, sigh) to 1/8th inch thick, which seems to work well with fruit pies and my pumpkin pie. I use a set of wooden wands, which also come in handy for rolling out cracker dough. The rings on the end of rolling pins only work if it is a long pin or if rolling a rectangle.

    #22361
    Mike Nolan
    Keymaster

    The rolling pin I use the most is 20 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, with no handles. I have another than is 19 inches long and 1.75 inches in diameter. I've got an even smaller diameter one, basically just a dowel, that I use for things like making a fendu.

    Some years back I took an evening class in making dim sum (dumplings), we used a small rolling pin that was only about 6 inches long and less than an inch in diameter.

    I've looked for the wooden pastry wands, but nobody seems to have them any more.

    #22366
    BakerAunt
    Participant

    My rolling pin collection is stored in a wooden wine holder ($2 at local thrift shop), but I mostly use a long one that came with the dobard (spelling?) that I bought from KAF, which didn't work all that well. It is a wooden square with ends that screw around the frame. It allows for opening it up and moving the interior the correct thickness; the rim are where one rolls. However, it was not really large enough for deep dish pie crust, and not so useful for cookie dough because of the small area. It sits unused, but the pin, 20 1/4 inches long and 1-inch wide is a prized, because very useful, possession.

    I have a small pin that came with a ravioli pan. I've never used the pan, but that little pin is great for rolling out flatbreads.

    #22368
    Mike Nolan
    Keymaster

    I also use a wine rack for storing rolling pins, one I bought at Ikea. When I was in Pittsburgh a year ago I found a 22x22 plastic mat for rolling out pizzas, it has circles up to 20 inches in diameter. I just leave it on the counter in the baking area these days. I wipe it clean before and after each use.

    #22376
    BakerAunt
    Participant

    Mike--I got the wine rack as rolling pin storage idea from you!

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