Perfectly Soft Dinner Rolls

Behind every great brisket…every awesome rack of ribs…every outstanding pork butt…is a dinner roll ready to become a glorious BBQ sandwich or at the very least a tasty tool for catching the last bits of juice and sauce on the plate. I know grocery stores offer a variety of soft dinner rolls and buns that seem to fit the bill, but why spend hours seasoning and smoking a fine piece of meat and then stick a white, gummy piece of bread next to it. Nope. Your meaty BBQ superstar deserves better and I’m here to help.

If you’ve got 2 hours, which I know you do, since you’re handcuffed to that smoker until dinner time, then you have plenty of time to make these soft, yeasty, dinner rolls. To bypass all the pics and get straight to the recipe, scroll down. If you want some tips, tricks and detailed info, follow me…


In the mixing bowl of my stand mixer I add flour, salt, sugar and yeast and do a quick whisk to evenly distribute the dry ingredients. Homemade bread contains so few ingredients, yet produces something so complex and delicious it boggles the mind. Have you ever checked out the label of a loaf of white sandwich bread? It too boggles the mind, but for completely different reasons.

Let’s talk about the yeast for a sec…the recipe calls for Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast. Let me be perfectly clear, it IS NOT the same as instant yeast. The Rapid Rise will give you the quickest, loftiest results and keep you around the 2-hour mark for getting these dinner rolls on the table. The instant yeast will take about 30 mins to an hour longer to get a good rise. Not a big difference, but you will absolutely need that longer rise time to achieve a soft, fluffy roll if you opt to use the instant yeast.

In a microwave safe measuring cup I add the milk, water and butter, then heat in the microwave to 120-130º. I used to gravitate towards the fancier glass measuring cups, but now I reach for the Cambro pictured above. It has all of the measurements I need, it’s microwave safe, and it’s light. Plus it won’t shatter into a million stabby shards of glass if dropped. Trust me, this is a valid concern in our kitchen as it has happened more than once with the prettier glass versions. Years later, I’m still finding glass shrapnel.

I add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and lightly stir with a wooden spoon until the dough just starts to come together. Then I let the Kitchen Aid work its magic. Using the dough hook I set it to knead on the second setting for about 7-minutes. The dough should be soft and elastic.


I turn  the dough out onto my work surface. Knead it by hand a few times and form it into a ball, then cover and let it sit for about 10-minutes. I usually just turn the mixing bowl upside down over it. No need to waste any plastic wrap for this step.


While the dough is resting, I generously butter a 9″ cake pan, pie pan or cast iron skillet.


Next, I take a bench scraper or knife and cut the ball of dough into quarters.

IMG_1813  Then, I cut each quarter into 3 equal wedges. I’ll have 12 wedges when I’m finished. Duh, I’m a real math genius. I cover the wedges with a soft, clean kitchen towel so they don’t dry out while I shape each roll.

The key to a beautiful round dinner roll is taking the time to shape it. It’s not enough to just throw the dough in the pan and hope for the best. Instead, I’m going to form a nice tight gluten skin on top of each roll. This will ensure that they hold their shape and rise well in the oven.

I start by taking one of the wedges and gently push the dough up in the center with one hand while pulling down around the outside edge with the other hand. As I work the dough this way a tight gluten skin will start to form on the top. To seal the seam on the bottom, I place the ball of dough on the counter, cup my hand and loosely roll the ball around underneath. I’m not pressing on the dough during this process. At the end of this, I’m left with a perfectly round ball of dough. I place it seam side down in the pan.

I evenly space the rolls in the pan, cover them with the same kitchen towel I used in the last step and let them rise for about an hour if using Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise yeast. If I’m using instant yeast, I let them go a little longer. Regardless, they should almost double in size. You’ll notice an indentation in one of the rolls in the picture on the right. That’s evidence of my “poke” test. I gently press the dough with my index finger, the indentation should fill back in very slowly indicating the rolls are perfectly proofed and ready for the oven. These are ready so I baked them in a preheated 375º oven for about 20 mins and brushed them generously with melted butter when I pulled them out.

Easy, peasy and at the end of the process I have perfectly soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth dinner rolls. Tasty enough to serve alongside the big bird at Thanksgiving or the little bird during the week, plus everything in between.


Perfectly Soft Dinner Rolls
makes 12 rolls

  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 package Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons Instant Yeast
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 tablespoons Butter


  1. Combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk dry ingredients together to combine.
  2. Combine milk, water and butter in a heat safe measuring cup. Heat in microwave to 120-130º.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until just combined.
  4. Use a stand mixer to knead with a dough hook approximately 7-minutes. Dough will be soft and elastic.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand a couple of minutes. Form into a smooth ball, cover and let rest for 10-minutes.
  6. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces using a bench scraper or knife.
  7. Form into 12 balls and place into a well greased 9″ round cake pan.
  8. Cover and let rise for 1 hour if using Rapid Rise yeast, add 30 minutes to 1 hour additional rise time if using instant yeast.
  9. 30 minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 375º.
  10. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush generously with melted butter. Serve warm.

Who are we kidding? You better double the recipe and make two pans of these.



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