What is an artist without his tools? Even if you’re an expert baker, you won’t get very far if you don’t have the right equipment. Most of us aren’t at that level yet, and are either just starting out, or trying to expand our horizons and up our baking game. No matter what skill level you’re at, here is some essential baking equipment recommended by bakers around the world.
The stand mixer is a staple in every baker’s kitchen. This convenient appliance allows you to quickly mix ingredients while taking care of other tasks, like preparing your pans or tidying up. If a stand mixer isn’t in your budget, a hand mixer is a great alternative. You won’t be able to multitask, but it will still be ten times better than mixing by hand.
Rimmed Baking Sheets
You won’t get very far without baking sheets. They’re used for a variety of foods, from cookies to pizza to frozen chicken nuggets. If you’re only going to purchase one pan for your beginner’s baking kitchen, a rimmed baking sheet is your best bet.
The rimmed edges are critical because they’ll keep oil and other drippings from getting all over the inside of your oven. Look for a silver-colored version, as the darker metals tend to absorb heat more and burn the bottoms of your food.
You can find cake pans in every shape, size, and material. The type you choose to buy will depend partially on the type of cake you plan to make. If you’re looking for something simple that you can use for a variety of projects, a good 13-by-9-inch pan will get you pretty far. Again, stick with lighter-colored pans, and metal performs much better than silicon or glass.
However, different recipes will call for different materials and shapes, so you’ll need to keep an eye on that. Some recipes can be adjusted to use alternative pans, and others cannot. For a well-stocked baker’s kitchen, we’d recommend adding a square pan for cakes and brownies, a muffin pan, and around pie or cake pan.
Wire Cooling Rack
Many beginner bakers choose to skip the cooling rack in their initial supply run. However, it is essential if you want your cookies and cakes to set correctly and look Instagram-ready. Taking cakes and cookies out of the pan shortly after removing them from the oven prevents them from getting stuck to the pan, and allows them to expand and set as they cool.
Nonstick Baking Mat
If you’re baking something delicate or extra sticky, you’ll need to line your pan with a nonstick material, or you’ll end up with a giant mess. A silicone baking mat is the most efficient, environmentally-friendly way to accomplish this. NOTHING sticks to these things. You could cover it in peanut butter, and that stuff would still slide right off!
The downside is that you’ll need a baking mat that will fit the pan you’re using, so if you’re planning to make a lot of different shapes and sizes of baked goods, you’ll need multiple baking mats. An alternative would be to use parchment paper, which you can find in any grocery or baking supply store.
You can cut it to fit whatever pan you’re using, and then throw it away when you finish. It’s not quite as stick-proof, but it makes cleanup a breeze.
It is one of those bakery tools that isn’t well-known to amateur bakers, but the experts swear by it. Have you ever seen this phrase in a recipe? “Fold butter into dry ingredients, but don’t over mix.” If you’re like most of us, you just stir some butter in and hope for the best.
With a pastry blender though, you can beautifully blend in your wet and dry ingredients without creating a goopy mess. This tool is perfect for pie crusts and streusel toppings but works well for less delicate operations as well.
Here’s another baking tool you’ve probably never heard of, but it’s essential if you’ll be making a lot of dough for bread or pies. A bench scraper does precisely what you’d expect—it scrapes stuff off your worktable. You can use it to scrape up the last little bits of bread dough stuck to your counter and cleanly slice biscuits or use the ruler on the blade to measure pie crusts or cookie dough.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but no list of essential baking equipment would be complete without it. You need a good set of mixing bowls if you’re going to be a successful amateur baker. Many baking recipes require several for mixing dry and wet ingredients separately, so at least two are mandatory.
Having a variety of sizes to use is also really helpful, so you don’t have to use a giant bowl to mix two ounces of ingredients. Look for bowls with curved edges for mess-free batter pouring. Some even come with a spout to make pouring easier. Metal bowls are great for mixing but can’t go in the microwave. Keep that in mind while you’re shopping.
Measuring Cups and Spoons
There’s an old saying—cooking is art, but baking is science. While the former allows for a lot of creativity and adjustments, the latter requires exact measurements to get it right. That means you’ll need a good set of measuring cups and spoons in many different sizes.
Also, different types of ingredients should be measured with the proper tools. The long-handled measuring cups that are sometimes sold as a set with measuring spoons should only be used with dry ingredients. For wet ingredients, you should use a clear jug-style measuring cup.
A ramekin is one of those small things that you don’t realize you need until you need it. They serve a variety of purposes in a kitchen, from setting out pre-measured ingredients for easier cooking and baking, to serving sauces and other condiments.
No kitchen is complete without a wire whisk. There are a few different styles to choose from, but for baking, we recommend a French-style whisk with a heavy handle, which works great for both dry and wet ingredients. A good set of whisks is really essential baking equipment.
Ice Cream/Cookie Scoop
These little guys are great for efficiently portioning out batter and dough without it getting stuck to the sides of the spoon. A bigger ice cream scoop is not just good for getting perfect scoops of ice cream; it also works well for large cookies, pancake and waffle batter, and cupcakes and muffins. Smaller cookie scoops are for, duh, cookie dough and any little baking project.
You can find a wide variety of spatula sizes and materials, and each of them is designed for different tasks. Aside from the standard spatula used for frying and sautéing, you can also get silicon spatulas for spreading icing or scraping the last little bits of batter out of the bowl, metal spatulas for lifting cookies and cakes out of the pan, and larger triangle-shaped spatulas for serving cake and pie.
While many home bakers consider this a luxury, it makes cooking and baking so easy that we couldn’t justify leaving it off the list. Easily mix ingredients for dough, batter, and sauces, or quickly whip up some homemade salsa, hummus or salad dressing for dinner. A lot of high-end blenders include food processor attachments, making this a handy, multipurpose kitchen appliance.
The pastry brush is another underappreciated baking utensil. Most commonly used to brush melted butter on pie crusts and biscuits, a pastry brush can also be used to glaze pastries with egg wash or milk, or to dust finished cakes with confectioner’s sugar.
If you’re always finding yourself dealing with lumps in your cake batter, it could be that you’re missing a crucial step in the baking process. Pouring your flour or other dry ingredients through a sifter before adding them to your mixing bowl gives you a much finer powder, making them much easier to blend.
Wooden spoons have been a staple in kitchens for hundreds of years, and we have yet to find a reliable replacement for them. They’re way more versatile than any other material, which means you can use wooden spoons instead of metal or plastic for almost any task. Wood doesn’t absorb heat like metal or plastic, it doesn’t melt, and it won’t scratch the surface of non-stick pans.
We end on the classic symbol of a baker—the rolling pin. There really is no substitute for a nice rolling pin, whether it’s a wide, heavy-duty pin for flattening bread dough or pie crust, or a smaller pin for more intricate work. A good solid wooden rolling pin is standard-issue in any baker’s kitchen, but you can also find plastic models for easier cleanup.
Now that you’ve armed yourself with all the baking tools you need, there should be nothing stopping you from creating beautiful works of art (or science!) in your kitchen. A good rule of thumb is to buy high-quality tools now, so you won’t have to replace them down the line, but there are also affordable models available that will get you going if you’re on a budget. Time to get baking!