Many of the following tools are basic baker’s tools, along with specialized baking tools, and as your love of baking grows, you may find yourself shopping for those less-used but fun-to-have or can’t-live-without items to add to your collection.
Baking tools are fun to have, but beware, as your love of baking grows, shopping for baking tools and equipment can be addicting. You don’t need to buy a whole kitchen full of professional baking equipment to bake well, but do choose each piece carefully.
If you purchase quality baking pans and tools, they will increase the quality of your bread, cakes, cookies, and pastries, save you money in the long term, provide years of use, and make your time spent baking a true pleasure.
The Essential Baking Tools and Equipment:
Cookie, Cake, and Bread Pans
The most fundamental components of a baker’s kitchen are good-quality baking sheets and baking pans. Invest in good-quality commercial-type pans, which are heavier and retain heat better than lighter pans, and won’t warp or buckle.
Most cookie, bread, and cake pans are made from light-colored aluminum, providing quick, steady heat to allow the ingredients to rise evenly and produce tender, delicate crusts.
1. Cookie and Baking Sheets
Cookie sheets are rimless, flat metal sheets perfectly designed for placing rows of cookies. They usually have a small rim on the short sides for easy gripping. The long flat edges allow you to slide cookies off the sheet after baking.
Baking sheets have raised edges all around and are usually the choice for professional bakers. They are a good, all-purpose pan and can be used for everything from baking cookies to toasting nuts.You usually want to have a set of 2 cookie sheets, two baking sheets, or both. When baking cookies, the second sheet can wait to go into the oven while the first one is baking.
Invest in good quality, heavy-duty cookies, and baking sheets if you buy new ones. Heavy-duty baking sheets retain heat better, won’t warp or buckle when heated, and should last a lifetime.
Choose cookie and baking sheets made of shiny, light-colored metals, such as heavy-duty aluminum. The light color encourages even baking and is less likely to burn. Dark metal sheets and nonstick tend to brown baked goods faster; you may need to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and reduce the baking time slightly.
Insulated pans have a layer of air trapped between the layers of metal, which help prevent cookies from burning. However, since these pans are poor heat conductors, cookies may not tend to bake and brown as well, and you may overbake the cookies waiting for them to brown.
2. Jelly Roll Pans
Jelly Roll pans are the same as a baking sheets. They have a raised edge all around, usually ½ to 1 inch high. The most all-purpose size to have is a 12½ x 17½ by 1-inch Jelly Roll Pan. Jelly roll pans are most often used to make bar cookies, shortbread, sponge cakes, sheet cakes, focaccia bread, and more.
A jelly roll pan is also good to place under a fruit pie as it is baking to catch overflowing juices and to hold springform and tart pans with removable bottoms while baking.
3. Layer Cake Pans
Many basic cake recipes use traditional round-layer cake pans that are either 8 or 9 inches in diameter. The pans should be at least two or 2½ inches deep so the batter doesn’t overflow. You’ll want to have a set of at least two round-layer cake pans; however, a set of three pans is best, as many cake recipes are made with three layers. Choose pans with no seams on the inside and a good, heavy feel to them.
4. Loaf Pans
Loaf pans are used for most quick bread recipes, such as banana bread and zucchini bread. Metal, stone, glass, and ceramic loaf pans all work well for quick breads. Loaf pans can also be used for yeast breads.
The most useful sizes are 9¼ x 5¼ x 2½ inch loaf pans for larger loaves and 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans for smaller loaves. Darker loaf pans are suitable for crusty yeast breads; light aluminum is best for sweet and quick breads, so they don’t over-darken.
5. Cupcake/Muffin Pans and Baking Cups
Cupcake and Muffin pans are rectangular metal baking pans with six or twelve cups used to bake both muffins and cupcakes. Muffin pan sizes are typically mini, standard, and jumbo-sized. Each cup is usually lined with paper baking cups and then filled with muffin or cake batter.
Muffin pans can also be used to bake dinner rolls or individual brownies.A standard muffin pan has 12 cups, each measuring about 2¾ inches at the top and 1-3/8 inches deep. Mini muffin pans typically have either 12 or 24 cups and measure about 1¾ inch across the top and ¾ inch deep.
Jumbo muffin pans usually have 6 cups and measure 3-3/8 inches across the top and 1¾ inches deep.
Muffin pans are traditionally made of metal; the most common are aluminum pans; however, flexible silicone pans are now available.
Baking cups are paper or foil cups used to line muffin or cupcake pans. The baking cups hold the batter, making releasing the baked cakes from the pan easy. Baking cups are also available in reusable silicone. Paper cups come in a variety of fun and seasonal designs and colors.
6. Sheet Cake Pans
A single-layer sheet cake is most often baked in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch Rectangular Pan, replacing a typical two-layer cake. The pan should be at least 2 inches deep, and for ease in cleaning, look for pans with slightly rounded inside corners. Square corners can trap crumbs in the crevices.
7. Springform Pans
Springform pans are used for cheesecakes, streusel-topped cakes, delicate tortes, and other cakes that would be damaged by turning them upside down to remove them from the pan.
Springform pans are usually round, with expandable sides secured with a clamp and a removable bottom. When the clamp is opened, the sides of the pan expand and release the bottom.
When purchasing a springform pan, examine how tightly the side locks onto the pan bottom when clamped into position. Less expensive springform pans may be prone to leaking and will bend or warp easily.
8. Square Baking Pans
Many bar cookie and brownie recipes, and some small cakes, use a square baking pan of either 8 or 9 inches. The pans should be at least two or 2½ inches deep so the batter doesn’t overflow.
Choose pans with no seams on the inside and a good, heavy feel to them. Aluminum pans are the best for cookies and brownies, and a glass pan is best for fruit desserts, baked custards, and bread puddings.
9. Tube Pans
The tube is used to conduct heat through the center of a cake, ensuring that the cake bakes evenly. Tube pans come in various shapes and sizes, with Angel Food Cake Pans and Bundt Pans being the most common. Except for Angel Food Cake, fluted pans should be generously coated with butter or shortening, then dusted with flour for easy removal from the pan.
12. Angel Food Cake Pans
Angel Food Cake is baked in an ungreased tube-shaped pan, allowing the cake to rise high by clinging to the sides of the pan and then turning it upside down after baking so the cake does not collapse while cooling.
An Angel food cake pan should not be non-stick, allowing the cake to rise by clinging to the sides of the pan and almost doubling in size during baking, and it should include either “feet” that the pan sits on when turned upside down or a tube that is wide enough to fit over the top of a glass bottle or wine bottle.
A pan with a removable bottom makes removing the cooled cake from the pan and clean-up easier.
13. Bundt Pans
Bundt is pronounced “bunt” with the “d” being silent. A Bundt cake is baked in a special pan called a Bundt pan, a ring-shaped pan with fluted sides, created initially to prepare German Kugelhopf cake. National Bundt Pan Day is November 15th.
The modern Bundt pan was developed by the Nordic Ware company in 1950, and its fame rose after a Pillsbury-sponsored baking contest in 1966. The 9 x 4½ inch Nordic Ware Bundt Pan is my favorite and can be used for many cake recipes.
14. Fluted Tube Pans
These pans are fun to use, producing a fancier cake than a basic layer cake.Pans such as Bavaria shape, castle shape, chrysanthemum shape, star shape, and heart shape are just a few of the fun shapes to choose from.
15. Kugelhopf Pans
Kugelhopf pans are for baking Kugelhopf, A European cake baked in a special Kugelhopf pan, a deep, round tube pan with ornate fluting and a narrow center tube. The cake is a sweet yeast cake studded with raisins, nuts, and candied fruits and has a round pyramid shape when the cake is un-molded.
Pie and Tart Pans
Pie pans are available in various sizes and depths. The amount of pie filling will normally determine the type of pie pan to use.
Most pie recipes are written for a 9-inch pie, and the pie pastry and ingredients will typically fit in a 9 x 1½ inch Pie Pan, such as a Pyrex pan with ovenproof glass.
1. Glass Pie Pans
Ovenproof glass pie pans are about the best for baking pies as they are an excellent heat conductor; they allow the bottom crust to brown well, the transparency of the glass allows you to see how the crust is browning, and the surface is not marred when cutting with a knife, and they are easy to clean.
2. Ceramic Pie Pans
Ceramic and stoneware pie pans are beautiful to use and serve from, and the many colors available make them fun to use for holidays and attractive when serving guests.
3. Metal Pie Pans
If using a metal pan, aluminum with a dull satin finish is the best for conducting heat. These pans are not as pretty; however, they will not break if dropped. Dark metals can cause the crusts to over-brown, and their coated surface can be marred with a knife.
Disposable aluminum pans are inexpensive and handy for freezing and gift-giving, but the thin construction makes these pans poor heat conductors.
4. Deep Dish Pie Pans
Many ceramic and stoneware pans are available in a deep dish and are used when you have a larger quantity of pie filling. The fluted tops enable you to create a beautiful edge with minimal effort.
5. Flan Rings
A flan ring is a metal ring with no fluting around the sides and no bottom. The ring is set on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat and then filled. The baking sheet serves as the bottom of the pan. Flan rings are used to shape open-faced tarts, pastry shells, and some candies.
6. Tart Pans
Tart pans usually have a fluted edge and may come in round, square, or rectangular shapes. They often have a removable bottom, making it easy to remove the tart without damaging the delicate crust. Since tart pans are generally shallow, about 1 inch deep, the tart crust stars equally along with the filling.
7. Tartlette Pans
Small tartlette pans are designed as a one-serving size, perfect for buffets or teas. Six four or 4½ Tartlette pans will normally replace one large 9-inch tart recipe. Tartlette pans can also be used to make individual cakes and muffins.
8. Tarte Tatin Pan
A classic Tarte Tatin pan is 9½ inch diameter copper, lined with tin or stainless steel, with handles on the sides to make un-molding easy. Tarte Tatin is a caramelized upside-down apple tart, a classic French dessert. The pastry is placed over the caramelized apples before baking, and then after baking, the tart is turned out of the pan so the pastry is on the bottom.
Specialty Pans, Molds, and Dishes
1. Baba Molds
Baba molds are tall, straight-sided, cylindrical-shaped molds about 1½ to 3 inches in diameter and 1½ to 4 inches in height. They are specifically designed for the classic yeast-raised sweet cakes called Babas. These same molds can be used for individual parfaits, mousses, and ice cream desserts.
2. Brioche Molds
A brioche mold is a deep, beautifully fluted round mold made of tinned steel. They are specifically made for baking the traditional French knot-shaped brioche loaf. A small brioche mold can also be used for baking small cakes, muffins, and individual sweet breads. A large brioche mold can be used for larger cakes and sweet breads.
3. Ceramic Baking Dishes:
Ceramic dishes come in round, oval, and rectangular shapes and a variety of colors. They are perfect for baking crust-less fruit desserts such as fruit crisps, cobblers, crumbles, and bread puddings, allowing your dessert to go from the oven to your table.
4. Charlotte Molds
A classic French Charlotte mold is a round, tinned steel mold shaped like a straight-sided bucket and a handle on each side. A Charlotte is lined with ladyfingers, Madeleines, cake, or occasionally bread, and then filled with mousse, custard, cream, or fruit.
5. Custard Cups
These are 6-ounce cups for baking custards. Their small size is also suitable for holding cooked puddings or other desserts and is also helpful for holding pre-measured ingredients when prepping ingredients for cookies or cakes.
6. Double Boiler
A double boiler is a set of two pans nested together, with enough room in the bottom pan for 1 or 2 inches of water. Double boilers are used to cook or heat foods that need gentle heat, such as melting chocolate. The water in the bottom pan is brought to a simmer, and the second pan is set on top.
7. Popover Pans
Popover pans have deep, narrow cups,which force the popover batter to rise up and out, producing the typical tall popover shape. Popover pans made of dark metal produce the best crust with a golden brown color. A muffin pan may be substituted; however, the finished popovers will not be as tall.
8. Savarin Mold
A savarin mold is a ring mold with an extra-large hole in its center. A savarin mold is explicitly made for the classic French Savarin dessert, a light, yeast-risen sweet cake soaked with liqueur syrup. However, a Savarin mold can also be used for other cake and quick bread batters, ice creams, and mousses.
9. Steamed Pudding Molds
A pudding steamer is used for steaming some puddings and breads. These pans are typically molded of aluminum or tinned steel with a tube in the middle and a clip-on watertight lid to moisten the bread or pudding while baking.
Breads, such as Boston Brown Bread, and puddings, such as a traditional Christmas pudding, are best when baked in a pudding steamer. After placing the batter in the steamer, the lid is clamped on, and the pan is set on a rack in a kettle of 1 or 2 inches of simmering water.
The bread or pudding is steamed on the stovetop or in the oven for 1 to 3 hours until cooked through, resulting in a dessert that is dense, moist, chewy, and beautifully shaped when it is turned out.
10. Madeleine Pans
Madeleine’s is a small and tender French cake that is baked in a special pan called a Madeleine pan with shell-shaped imprints. The Madeleine pan, also known as a Madeleine plaque, must be generously greased and floured to prevent the delicate cakes from sticking to the pan.
Madeleine’s are sometimes thought of as a cookie but are actually little buttery spongy cakes, sometimes delicately flavored with lemon, orange, or almond. Madeleine pans usually have 8 or 12 shallow shell-shaped imprints and come in tinned steel, metal with a nonstick finish, and pliable silicone.
A Madeleine pan can also be used to make other formed cookies, such as shortbread, tiny muffins, and petits fours.
12. Panettone Molds
Panettone is usually baked in a paper panettone mold. It is the perfect way to bake, serve, and give as a gift all in one. Panettone is sweet, yeast-risen bread filled with raisins and candied peels, a Milan, Italy, Christmas specialty. It has a tall cylindrical shape with a domed top and is eaten as breakfast bread, afternoon tea, or dessert.
13. Soufflé Dishes
Soufflé dishes are round, with deep, straight sides and decorative ridges on the outside. They range in size from ¼ cup up to 8 cups. Smaller soufflé dishes, also called ramekins, can also be used to bake individual soufflés, custards, bread puddings, or crisps, or cobblers.
The smaller sizes are also helpful for holding pre-measured ingredients when prepping ingredients for cookies or cakes.
A good set of mixing bowls will be your constant companion while baking, used for mixing, whipping creams or egg whites, preparing ingredients, raising breads, or just storing food in the refrigerator.
1. Glass Bowls
A set of transparent glass nesting bowls is a popular choice,providing several sizes to choose from depending on the task. With several bowls, you don’t have to wash and reuse the same bowl as often.
Glass bowls are also microwave safe and can be used on top of a double boiler. Have at least one small, medium, and large mixing bowl; having two of each is even better. Having one extra-small and one extra-large bowl is also helpful to have.
2. Stainless Steel Bowls
Stainless steel bowls are another good all-around choice; they are lightweight, durable, and can be heated but tend to dent easily and are not microwave safe.
3. Crockery Bowls
Crockery bowls are beautiful and normally oven-safe. However, they are heavier and can chip if you’re not careful with them.
4. Copper Bowls
Copper bowls are beautiful and expensive. However, no bowl is better for beating egg whites into meringue. A chemical reaction occurs between the egg protein and the copper, giving the egg whites greater volume and stability than when they are beaten in stainless steel or other bowls. Copper is often used when making candy and sugars since it is an excellent conductor of heat.
5. Acrylic Bowls
Acrylic bowls come in fun colors and are lightweight but may not be microwave safe.
6. Plastic Bowls and Aluminum Bowls
These are the least desirable. Plastic will absorb odors and fat, which can transfer to your ingredients. Aluminum bowls will react to acidic foods to impart a metallic taste.
Quality measuring spoons and cups or a scale are a must for baking. Baking is a precise science; all measuring should be precise to ensure successful baking.
1. Measuring Spoons
Basic measuring spoon sets include measures for 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, one teaspoon, and one tablespoon. Larger measuring spoon sets may also include 1/8 teaspoon, 3/4 teaspoon, and 1/2 tablespoon.
My favorite measuring spoons are stainless steel; they have sharp, precise edges and are the most accurate measuring.
Measuring spoons are used for measuring tiny amounts of ingredients such as spices, leaveners, and extracts, and minimal amounts of liquids. Pour liquids, such as vanilla extract, into the rim of the spoon; level dry ingredients, such as salt or baking soda, with a straightedge.
It’s helpful to have two sets of measuring spoons so you don’t have to wash and dry them to measure multiple ingredients.
2. Dry Measuring Cups
Basic dry measuring cups are purchased in a set that includes 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup. Larger measuring cup sets may also include 1/8 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup, and 1½ cup measurements.
A dry measuring cup does not have a pouring spout; instead, it should have a straight edge to allow for easy leveling. Dry measuring cups are used to measure all dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, and oats, and also for semisolid ingredients such as jam, shortening, sour cream, and peanut butter.
When measuring, add the ingredient into the measuring cup so that it is mounded and overfull, and then level it off by sweeping a straight edge, such as a metal ruler or knife, across the top of the measuring cup, leveling off the ingredient.
My favorite measuring cups are stainless steel as they are the most durable and have the best edges; however, you may also find acrylic cups you prefer. It’s helpful to have two sets of measuring cups so you don’t have to wash and dry them to measure multiple ingredients.
3. Liquid Measuring Cups
All liquid ingredients, such as water, milk, or juice, are measured in a liquid measuring cup. Liquid measuring cups should be made of clear glass or plastic, have a pouring spout, and have clear measurement markings on the side. It is handy to have a 1-cup and 2-cup, and 4-cup measure for most baking projects.
Liquid measuring cups are also handy for warming milk or melting butter in the microwave. To accurately measure, place the measuring cup on a flat surface and pour the liquid into the marking for the amount you need. Let the liquid stop swishing around to determine the level it is at.
An everyday 18-inch clear plastic, metal, or wood ruler is a helpful tool for measuring pans, measuring rolled pastry dough, cutting bar cookies into uniform sizes, as a guide when splitting cakes into equal layers, or measuring 1-inch cuts for cinnamon rolls. The ruler also provides a neat, straight cutting edge and is easy to wash.
Professional bakers use scales to weigh ingredients instead of measuring cups to measure by volume because weight measurements are more precise and accurate.
Scales are used to measure dry ingredients, along with nuts, dried and fresh fruits, and chocolate, and to measure out portions of dough. The scale is also helpful in determining if multiple cake pans have the same amount of batter.
There are two types of scales, digital and mechanical, with digital scales being the most accurate. A thin, battery-powered digital scale with a flat platform for weighing is affordable and is the easiest to use for most home bakers.
Look for a scale that measures up to about 10 pounds, has an automatic shut-off that will remain on for at least 5 minutes, has a “tare” button to reset the scale to zero in order to measure the next ingredient, and the ability to change from pounds and ounces to metric. In addition, all the buttons and controls should be on the front of the scale, not the bottom or back.
Stirring and Whisking Tools
1. Rubber or Silicone Spatulas
Rubber or Silicone spatulas are one of the most versatile and important tools in a baking kitchen. Rubber spatulas have mostly been replaced with silicone spatulas which are easier to clean and have a higher heat resistance.
Spatulas have many uses, including scraping batters down from the sides and bottom of a mixing bowl, spreading fillings, stirring stove-top custards and chocolate while heating, folding lighter ingredients into heavy batters, scrambling eggs, and more.
Spatulas come in various sizes and may be made of a solid piece of silicone or have a silicone blade attached to a wooden, plastic, or stainless steel handle. A small 1-inch spatula is handy for scraping out the inside of measuring cups and containers.
A 2-inch spatula is good for stirring, blending, and scraping the sides and bottom of a mixing bowl. A larger 3-inch spatula is best for folding ingredients together.
2. Wire Whisks
A wire whisk is another versatile baking tool used to whisk or stir wet or dry ingredients together, beating egg whites or cream, stirring ingredients as they heat in a saucepan, and folding ingredients together.
Whisks come in various sizes and strengths of wire. The stronger the wire, the heavier the task the whisk can perform. A sauce whisk is long and narrow, designed to blend mixtures, reach into the corners of a saucepan, and whisk out any lumps without incorporating a lot of air into the mixture.
A round, fat balloon whisk is designed to add air to mixtures and is the best choice for whipping egg whites and heavy cream. A small mini whisk is also helpful for small jobs such as beating eggs or egg yolks.
3. Wooden Spoons
Nothing beats a good set of wooden spoons in the kitchen. Wooden spoons are strong and durable, withstand heat, won’t scratch nonstick pans, and are perfect for stirring almost anything, including hot liquids on the stovetop. Purchase spoons that are well-made, strong, and made from hard wood.
Pie and Pastry Tools
1. Bench Scraper
Also called a board scraper or dough scraper; this is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. Bench scrapers measure about six by 3 inches, have a straight edge, usually are marked with measurement markings, and have a plastic or wooden handle or curved edge for gripping.
Bench scrapers can be used for everything from cutting dough to scraping flour or crumbs off a pastry board or counter, loosening dough from a work surface as you knead, scoring certain cookies such as shortbread, leveling a cup when measuring dry ingredients, transferring pastry or bread dough from one place to another, and transferring chopped nuts or chocolate from a cutting board into a bowl.
My favorite tool to cut bar cookies is a stainless steel bench scraper; simply push the bench scraper straight down into the cookie for straight cuts.
2. Dough Scraper
Also known as a pastry scraper, a dough scraper is a small, flexible plastic scraper that is rounded on one edge and flat on the other. The rounded edge is used to get every last bit of batter, dough, or frosting out of a mixing bowl or flour and dough bits off your rolling pin.
The flat edge can be used to clean your work surface or spread and level batters in pans. A dough scraper is also suitable for cleaning stuck-on food from pans.
3. Flour Duster
Also known as a flour wand or shaker, this old-fashioned tool is used to dust a work surface with flour, allowing you to have a light dusting instead of scattered handfuls of flour.
The Flour duster has a ball of coiled metal that is filled with flour; when the handle is squeezed, it lets out just a tiny amount of flour. The flour duster can also be used to lightly sprinkle confectioner’s sugar or cocoa on top of cakes.
4. Flour Sifter
Flour sifters are used when a recipe calls for sifted flour. The most common sifter is a canister type with either a single mesh screen, or triple mesh screen and a rotating blade that is controlled by a rotary or squeeze handle.
Choose a sifter with at least a three-cup capacity. A sifter can sift any dry ingredient, including flour, cocoa powder, and confectioner’s sugar.
5. Metal Spatulas
Nothing better way to remove baked cookies from a cookie sheet than a thin metal spatula. Choose one that is wide enough to slip under the cookies; a 2½ or 3-inch width is a good size for most baking needs.
6. Non-Stick Baking Mat
Non-stick baking mats, generally made of silicon, are truly remarkable. The most widely known name brand is Silpat. You no longer need to grease a cookie sheet; instead, line the pan with a non-stick baking mat, and your cookies will just slide off the mat and not stick. These mats are easy to clean in warm soapy water and last years.
7. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper, also known as baking paper, is a baker’s secret weapon. Parchment paper is used to line baking sheets before baking cookies, ensuring cookies that won’t stick to the pan, lining cake pans to allow cakes to slide right out of the pan, and for folding them into cones for piping icing or chocolate.
Use a sheet of parchment paper to cover your work surface to make cleanup easier. After using a piece of parchment paper, simply throw it away.
Parchment paper is coated with silicone, making it greaseproof, moisture-resistant, and nonstick. It is reusable for some baking projects, especially when lining a baking pan and baking batches of cookies. Parchment paper is sold in sheets sized for half sheets 13 x 18 inches and full sheets 18 x 26 inches, pre-cut triangles to make pastry cones or rolls so you can determine the size you want to tear off and use.
8. Pastry Bag and Decorating Tips
Pastry bags and pastry tips are used for piping decorative borders of icing or chocolate onto cakes and cookies or for pressing out small cookies or chocolate shapes.
Pastry bags are available in reusable plastic-lined canvas or disposable bags made of parchment or plastic. Icing is spooned into the bag and then squeezed out through a decorative metal tip attached to the end of the bag.Reusable pastry bags should be washed in warm, soapy water and dried thoroughly before storing. For minimal amounts of frosting or chocolate, you can also use a small resealable plastic bag with a small piece of the corner snipped off.
Pastry tips, or decorating tips, are available in various designs and sizes. They are made of stainless steel or chrome-plated and placed in the small end of the pastry bag.
When the icing is pushed through, it forms the design of the tip. Use a coupler (a plastic ring) when you want to change to different tips using the same icing without first having to empty and clean the pastry bag. Pastry tips should be washed in warm, soapy water and dried thoroughly before storing.
9. Pastry Blender
A pastry blender, or dough blender, is used to cut butter or other fat into dry ingredients, such as pie crust, scones, or biscuits. A pastry blender has stainless steel wires shaped into a half-moon, with a stainless or wooden handle for gripping. Two kitchen knives cut the ingredients together in place of a pastry blender.
10. Pastry Brushes
Pastry brushes are used to brush liquid-type ingredients onto pastries or breads. For example, use a pastry brush to brush butter onto a hot loaf of bread, or an egg wash onto bagels, or milk onto a pie crust, or to wash down the sides of a saucepan when melting and caramelizing sugar.
A pastry brush is even helpful for brushing excess flour from dough during rolling, and brushing spilled flour on the kitchen counter. Choose a high-quality brush with either natural bristles or silicone bristles that are securely attached to the handle. High-quality pastry brushes are easy to clean with soap and water and should last for years.
11. Pastry Boards and Mats
Use a wooden pastry board to roll out perfectly shaped pie crusts, pizza crusts, sugar cookies, or bread doughs. Some boards are marked with measurement guides so you can roll out the exact dimension you need.
The marble is the best surface for rolling dough and pastry, as the marble keeps the dough cool. On hot days, you can quickly cool the marble down by placing a bag of ice on the surface for 15 minutes before working with your dough.
Marble boards or slabs usually have tiny feet on the underside to protect your countertop from scratches. Marble is heavy and generally more expensive, but worth the investment for serious bakers.
Pastry mats are a non-stick surface that easily releases the dough. Pastry mats are thin, lightweight, and easy to clean and store.
12. Pastry Crimper
A pastry crimper is a small, stainless steel tweezer with serrated tips. It is used to seal the top and bottom crust of a pie together or to decoratively finish the edge of a single-crust pie or tart pastry shell.
13. Pastry Cutters
Similar to cookie cutters, pastry cutters usually are very small, less than 2 inches in size, and are used to cut shapes such as leaves or fruits from pie crust to decorate the top of a pie. The cut-out shapes can be laid directly on the filling, or placed on the top crust, or around the edge of the pie.
14. Pastry Docker
A pastry docker is a cylinder, about 5 inches long, with sharp spikes at ½ inch intervals around the surface. It is used to poke holes in pastry dough, such as pie dough or puff pastry. In place of a pastry docker, a fork can also be used.
15. Pastry Wheel
A pastry wheel is used to cut pastry strips, such as for making a lattice top pie crust or pieces of dough for turnovers or ravioli. Pastry wheels may have a smooth blade or have a jagged or fluted-edged blade.
16. Pie Birds
Pie birds are an old-fashioned way of venting a pie to allow the steam and bubbling juices to escape from the pie while baking. Pie birds are ceramic figurines placed in a cutout portion of the top pie pastry. Not really very practical; it is easier to just slash or cut vents in the pie pastry before baking to accomplish the same task.
17. Pie Weights
When making a blind baked pie crust, pie weights, which are small reusable ceramic balls about the size of marbles, are poured into the pastry-lined pie pan before baking to prevent the pastry from puffing up and shrinking.
In place of ceramic pie weights, you can also line the pastry with parchment paper and then fill it with dried beans or uncooked rice.
A pie chain is a beaded chain that you coil onto the unbaked pastry. After baking, use tongs or a fork to list the hot chain out. A pie chain should be 6 or 10 feet long to cover the pastry completely.
18. Pie Crust Shield
The edges of a pie are the most susceptible to burning as a pie bakes. A pie crust shield is a lightweight aluminum ring placed around the pie’s edge to prevent the edges from overbaking. In place of a pie crust shield, strips of aluminum foil work just as well.
19. Rolling Pin
A good rolling pin is essential for rolling pie pastry, sugar cookie dough, and bread dough. There are two basic styles of rolling pins, dowel, and ball bearing.
When deciding which to buy, try it out on a flat surface and choose the one that is most comfortable for you to use. A rolling pin should last a lifetime if properly taken care of. Never submerge it in water or place it in the dishwasher. To clean, wipe it down with a warm damp cloth and let it air dry.
A dowel rolling pin is a single piece of rounded wood, some have tapered ends, and some are long and straight. To roll, place your hands in the center of the pin and roll from the fingertips to the palm of your hand and back again. My favorite is a French tapered pin, perfect for rolling a circular pastry.
Ball bearing pins have an extended barrel in the center, made of wood, marble, metal, or plastic, that moves separately from the handles. The handles are what bear your weight as you are rolling dough.
20. Rolling Pin Rings
Also called rolling pin spacers are rubber rings that slip onto opposite ends of your rolling pan and are ideal for getting your dough to an even, uniform thickness. The rings raise the pin from the counter precisely according to the thickness of the rings being used. The space between the pin and the counter determines the thickness of the dough.
21. Rolling Pin Covers and Pastry Board Cloths
These cotton gauze cloths are designed to keep pastry dough from sticking to the rolling pin and pastry board.
The rolling pin sleeve is a cylinder of gauze that fits over the pin; the cloth is a large square, usually canvas, that covers the pastry board or work area on which you are rolling. By rubbing flour into the weave of the cloth and rolling pin cover, you create a nonstick coating, enabling you to roll the dough more efficiently and allowing less flour to be absorbed into the dough.
The pastry cloth also lets you rotate the pastry as you roll quickly.
25. Wire Cooling Racks
Wire cooling racks are necessary for setting just-out-of-the-oven hot baking pans to cool. Hot pans placed on a flat surface can cause the baked item to become soggy due to condensation that forms under the pan. Cooling racks are also helpful to use when drizzling icing or chocolate on top of cookies, cakes, or pastries, as the icing drips thru the rack instead of forming a puddle.
Cooling racks are sold in various sizes, including round, square, and rectangular shapes. They should have feet of at least ½ inch that raise them above the counter for good air circulation. Have at least one large rack to hold several batches of cookies.
1. Cake Comb
A cake comb is a fun tool to use to make thin, parallel lines around the outside edge of a layer cake for a professional finish. After the cake is frosted, the comb is placed against the side of the cake, and then the cake is turned, or spun around on a cake turntable to make the lines all around. A kitchen fork or serrated knife can do the same job.
2. Cake Leveler
A cake leveler is used to slice cakes into even, horizontal layers. It is a wide, low, U-shaped metal frame that sits on plastic feet, and a thin, sharp serrated cutting blade sits horizontally between the sides of the frame. The height of the blade is adjustable so that cakes of different heights can be cut. The cake is pushed against the cutting blade to cut the layers.
3. Cake Spreader
Also called an angel food cake cutter, this tool looks like a long-handled hair comb made with thin, long, evenly spaced teeth made of metal. When it is lowered into an angel food cake like a knife, it severs each piece from the whole cake without crushing the delicate crumb.
4. Cake Strips
Cake strips are heat-resistant metallic fabric strips that are moistened, then wrapped around the outsides of a round cake pan before the cake is baked. They insulate the pan, keeping the edges of the cake pan from heating more rapidly than the center, to produce a more evenly baked, level cake. The strips come in several lengths and are reusable.
5. Cake Tester
A cake tester is a fun little tool to have if you bake lots of cakes. Made of thin metal and a decorative top, and used to pierce a baked cake to test for doneness. Of course, the age-old substitute for testing the doneness of cakes is a long toothpick or long wooden skewer. In a pinch, you can still use the method of the olden days and pull a straw out of the kitchen broom to test your cake (but don’t use this unless you’ve cleaned it first.)
6. Cake Turntable
A cake turntable, also known as a cake stand, makes frosting a cake or more elaborate cake decorating easier. A cake turntable is like a lazy Susan; it should sit on a small pedestal and turn quickly without wobbling.
7. Cardboard Cake Rounds
These are inexpensive corrugated paper rounds for frosting and decorating cakes or transporting cakes from one location to another. After frosting a cake, and to avoid damaging the sides, slip the tip of a paring knife under the cardboard, lift the cake slightly at an angle, and slip your hand underneath to finish lifting it.
The finished cake can then be placed on a serving plate. Cardboard cake rounds are also helpful in bringing cakes and other pastries to parties since you don’t have to worry about retrieving your serving platter.
7. Decorating Stencils
Stencils are flat, round pieces of plastic about 9 inches in diameter. Designs, such as hearts and flowers, are cut out of the center of the stencil. The stencil is placed over the top of a cake, the confectioner’s sugar or cocoa is dusted over the top, and then the stencil is removed, leaving a beautiful design on the cake.
8. Offset Spatula
An offset spatula has a long narrow, flexible stainless steel blade that allows easy cake frosting. You can quickly spread frosting or whipped cream around the sides of the cake with this spatula, and it is flexible enough to use to create fanciful frosting swirls on top. A small offset spatula is good for frosting cupcakes or cookies.
1. Biscuit Cutters
A Biscuit cutter, either plain or fluted, will help produce high-rising biscuits as the biscuit cutter has a sharp edge to produce a clean cut; cutters that have a dull edge will compact the dough, and the biscuits will not rise as well when baking.
Round biscuit cutters are normally made of tin or stainless steel, ranging in size from 1½ to 3 inches in diameter. The cutter should be at least 1 inch deep to cut through the thickest biscuit dough. A biscuit cutter can also double as a cookie and scone cutter or to cut small cake rounds to frost for individual servings or petite fours.
2. Cookie Cutters
Cutting sugar cookies with a beautifully shaped cookie cutter is a tradition in many families, especially during holidays. Hundreds of cookie-cutter shapes are available, ranging from Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day shapes, along with alphabets, numbers, animals, stars, and flowers.
Whatever shape cookie you want to create is most likely a cookie cutter shape available. Most cookie cutters are made of tin, plastic, copper, or aluminum. Most work well. However, the more flimsy ones will quickly be bent out of shape. Purchase sturdy ones with a sharp cutting edge and are at least ½ inch deep.
The most beautiful, and typically the most expensive, cutters are made from copper, and along with being quality cutters, they are beautiful to display in your kitchen.
3. Cookie Molds
Many traditional European cookies, such as Scottish shortbread and German Springerle cookies, are made with a cookie mold. Most cookie molds are made of wood or stoneware with a raised design. The cookie dough is pressed into the mold to acquire the design and then baked. Depending on the mold, the cookie may be baked directly in the mold or turned out of the mold before baking.
4. Cookie Press
A cookie press is used to extrude cookies into various shapes. The cookie dough is loaded into the hollow tube of the press, and then the plunger is used to press the dough out through a decorative plate fitted into the end. Spritz cookies are traditional cookie that uses a cookie press. An alternative to a cookie press is to use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
5. Cookie Scoop (ice cream scoop)
A cookie scoop is ideal for making uniform-sized cookies. It allows you to quickly scoop up the dough and deposit it on the cookie sheet. Purchase scoops that are easy to squeeze to keep your hand and wrist from tiring. You can spray with a nonstick baking spray if the dough sticks to the scoop.
6. Cookie Stamps
Cookie stamps are often made of terra-cotta and are used to stamp designs into the top of shortbread-type cookies. The dough is usually rolled into a ball and then flattened with the stamp, creating an impression in the cookie which remains after the cookie is baked.
7. Springerle Rolling Pin
A Springerle rolling pin is usually intricately carved and used for making traditional holiday German Springerle cookies.The anise-flavored dough is rolled with the Springerle rolling pin, pressing the carved shapes into the dough. The dough is then customarily left to dry overnight before baking. Springerle cookies can also be made in a cookie mold.
1. Baking Stone
This is a large, flat stone placed on the bottom of the oven or the bottom shelf if your oven has an electric element on the bottom. Baking stones are used to bake free-form bread loaves, flatbreads, and pizza and mimic the heat of a brick or stone oven.
The baking stone creates a dry and crispy crust by drawing moisture away from the crust as it bakes. The stone should be the thickest you can find, at least ½ inch thick, to hold heat better, and needs to be preheated for up to 1 hour before baking.
2. Bannetons and Brotforms
European-style rustic breads are traditionally given their second rise in shaping baskets before being tuned out onto a baking stone to bake. The baskets are floured before the dough is added.
A French banneton is a woven willow basket lined with linen or canvas cloth. The cloth is dusted with flour to draw moisture from the dough as it rises, making the baked crust chewy. A German Brotform, made of wood, leaves circular marks on the dough, making an attractive loaf.
3. Baguette Pan
Is there any better treat than a piece of crusty French bread or baguette hot out of the oven, possibly slathered with sweet butter? Now you can replicate a bakery loaf from your home oven with a baguette pan. The long troughs hold the dough in shape while the perforations allow for even browning from top to bottom, creating that essential golden, crispy crust.
Artisan bread bakers use a canvas cloth, called a couche, to create crusty baguettes. Place shaped baguettes in the folds of the floured cloth; when risen, roll them onto a peel, then off the peel onto your hot baking stone.
5. Doughnut and Bagel Cutter
This is similar to a round biscuit cutter but with a smaller round cutter in the center to make the doughnut or bagel hole.
A Bread Lame is a French tool with a curved razor blade set into a handle. A lame is used to slash the top of bread, such as baguettes, just before it goes into the oven. The slash allows the bread to expand fully to its proper shape as it bakes. A small, very sharp kitchen knife can also be used to slash the bread dough.
A bread peel is a wide, flat, usually long-handled wooden board that slides yeast breads, flatbreads, and pizza onto a baking stone in a hot oven.
8. Pizza Cutter
A pizza cutter, also known as a pizza wheel, is not only used to cut baked pizza, but it is also an excellent tool for cutting bar cookies, cutting the unbaked dough into smaller pieces, or thin strips of pastry for a lattice pie crust. A pizza cutter consists of a sharp metal disk attached to a handle, with a hand guard in-between to protect your fingers.
9. Rising Buckets
A lidded rising bucket is a 2 to 6-quart acrylic or plastic bucket with measurements on the side, making it easy to judge when the dough has doubled or tripled in size. An alternative is placing your dough in a large mixing bowl and covering it with a small kitchen towel.
1. Cherry Pitter
A cherry pitter efficiently extracts the pits from fresh cherries, which is indispensable when fresh cherries are in season. Cherry pitters usually are available in stainless steel, aluminum, or plastic, with a spring-loaded pitting mechanism. Simply place a cherry in the little metal cup and depress the plunger, pushing the pit out and leaving the fruit whole. A cherry pitter can also be used to pit olives.
2. Citrus Juicer and Reamers
Many different types of juicers are available, but my favorite is an old-fashioned glass reamer. It’s easy to use and easy to clean and does quick work of juicing a lemon or orange. If you like making large amounts of juice, an electric juicer is a good investment.
3. Citrus Zester
Citrus zesters are stainless steel strips with tiny razor-sharp-edged holes. Scraping a whole orange or lemon across the zester removes the colored and flavorful part of the fruit (the zest) without including the bitter white pith underneath. This tool can also be used to finely grate chocolate, hard cheeses, whole nutmeg, and fresh ginger.
4. Melon Baller
Melon ballers come in various sizes, used for creating melon balls for fruit salads. However, this little tool doesn’t stop there. It is also great for coring apples and pears, forming small chocolate candies such as truffles, and shaping small cookie dough balls.
5. Strawberry Huller
This tool is a small, V-shaped piece of metal or plastic with serrated ends to remove the green hull from the top of the strawberry. An alternative is to use a small sharp paring knife.
Cheesecloth is light cotton gauze commonly used to separate ingredients from the rest of the mixture. For example, use cheesecloth to bundle small whole spices together while poaching fruit or making spiced apple cider, or bundle small amounts of confectioner’s sugar into cheesecloth to sprinkle over baked goods. Cheesecloth is also perfect for wrapping and soaking fruitcakes with liqueur to put aside for aging.
2. Kitchen Timer
A kitchen timer is essential for baking, and you don’t want to remember or guess how long a batch of cookies has been baking or how much longer a cake has to bake.
Digital timers are the easiest and most accurate to use, and you want a timer that is easy to hear if you are in another room. I like to use a digital timer that hangs around your neck so wherever you are in the house, you won’t forget that batch of cookies baking in the oven.
A multi-job timer is good when you need to time more than one item at a time, such as something baking in the oven, cooling on a rack, and chilling in the refrigerator all at once. An alternative to a kitchen timer is simply using the timer built into your microwave or oven.
3. Kitchen Torch
A small kitchen torch with propane creates a caramelized topping on crème brulee. It is also handy for browning meringues and glazing tarts.
4. Kitchen Towels
Kitchen towels should be clean, 100 percent cotton, and durable weave.
5. Mesh Strainer or Colander
Also known as a sieve, these mesh bowls are used to strain liquids and sift flour, confectioners’ sugar, and other dry ingredients.
Finely woven mesh strainers are suitable for flours and fruit purees, and more giant coarse strainers are used for more prominent particle ingredients. It’s helpful to have both types of sizes.
A fine mesh sieve can be used to remove lumps from cooked fillings, sift ingredients (such as flour) into a recipe, or sprinkle ingredients such as confectioners’ sugar or cocoa over baked goods.
6. Mortar and Pestle
A mortar is a small, round, heavy bowl; a pestle is a round-headed crusher that fits inside the bowl, used for grinding spices and seeds. Most mortar and pestles are made of marble with an unglazed finish, providing a heavy stone surface for grinding.
7. Pot Holders and Oven Mitts
A pot holder or oven mitt is a must when removing hot pans from the oven. A kitchen towel does not provide enough protection and will likely result in a bad burn. Potholders and mitts are normally made from quilted cotton, thick terrycloth, or silicone.
8. Slotted Spoon
A slotted spoon removes dumplings from boiling water, or poached fruit from syrup, and fritters and doughnuts from hot oil.
Tongs are a versatile tool, suitable for lifting hot custard cups out of their water bath, transferring caramelized apple pieces into a cake pan, or grabbing pieces of fruit.
1. Chef’s Knife
A large 8, 10- or 12-inch chef’s knife is essential for cutting, chopping, and slicing fruits, chocolate, and nuts.
2. Paring Knife
A 3 or 3½ inch paring knife can be used for many tasks, such as peeling and paring fruits, cutting small pieces of fruit, cutting decorations from pastry, and loosening cakes and other baked goods from their pans.
3. Serrated Bread Knife
A bread knife should have at least a 10-inch blade and is ideal for splitting cake layers in half, slicing breads, and slicing some cakes and tarts.
1. Instant Read Thermometer
An instant-read thermometer registers the internal temperature of a baked item within 15 seconds or so. This allows you to quickly check water temperatures or the doneness of baked goods such as a cake, pastries, custards, or yeast bread quickly, allowing the oven door to be open for a minimal amount of time.
2. Candy Thermometer
A candy thermometer is handy for cooking sugar syrups and caramels. A candy thermometer has a mercury bulb with a long glass column. It is usually clipped to the inside of the pan, directly in the syrup, but not touching the bottom of the pan, allowing you to watch as the syrup heats to the correct temperature.
3. Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer
This is the BEST instant-read thermometer I’ve used for cooking and baking; the ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is incredibly fast, accurate, and well worth the investment.
Initially designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by celebrity chefs, cooking magazines, foodies, bloggers, and competition BBQ teams and has become the top cooking thermometer for home use.
Gone are the various instant read, candy, and meat thermometers I’ve previously used; instead, I use my Thermapen Thermometer for everything including checking room temperature baking ingredients, melting and tempering chocolate, baking bread, making pastry creams, sugar syrup, caramel, and candy, cooking and barbequing meats and fish, and checking oil temperatures for deep frying. Thermapen thermometers come in so many colors it’s hard to choose a favorite!
4. Oven Thermometer
An oven thermometer helps check the accuracy of your oven. You can also move the thermometer to different positions in your oven to check for hot spots. An oven thermometer should be a mercury thermometer that either hangs or sits on the rack.
Check the temperature after you have preheated the oven, then adjust the heat up or down as needed if the actual temperature varies from the original setting.
A blender is an excellent tool for pureeing fruits and vegetables, mixing bar drinks and smoothies, chopping ice, making dips, and chopping small amounts of nuts. Blenders will chop, mix, whip, and blend almost anything.
2. Bread Machine
If the old-fashioned method of mixing, kneading, and rising yeast breads doesn’t suit you, then a bread machine is good to have. Add the ingredients, close the lid, turn it on, and in 3 or 4 hours, have a perfectly baked loaf of hot homemade bread.
I actually prefer making my own yeast dough, including the kneading and the rising process. However, I sometimes use my bread machine to make bread dough up to the baking process. After the dough has risen in the bread machine I take the dough out, shape it, and bake it in my regular oven.
3. Food Processor
A food processor is an expensive investment; however, it is a versatile machine for chopping, dicing, mixing pastry dough, mixing some cookie dough, and pureeing fruit.
Food processors come in various sizes. An excellent all-around size is a 1½ to 2-quart capacity. I like to use a mini food processor for small jobs such as chopping nuts quickly.
4. Hand Mixer
Not every mixing job in the kitchen requires a large stand mixer, which is where the hand mixer comes into play.
A hand mixer can perform nearly any beating and whipping task that a stand mixer can, except for hefty cookie and bread dough. I usually use a hand mixer for quick or small jobs, such as beating cream cheese, whipping cream or egg whites, beating egg yolks, and making cake frostings. I also use a hand mixer to make fluffy mashed potatoes.
5. Stand Mixer
A stand mixer is the heart and soul of a baker’s kitchen and is worth the price if you love to bake. I love my Kitchen-Aid mixer, which is used for most baking projects except for pies and tarts.
Stand mixers range in size from 4 quarts to 7 quarts. The smaller models will serve most home baking needs. But if you like to bake double batches of cookies or bread doughs, you’ll want larger mixers.
Most mixers come with a whip, dough hook, and paddle attachments, which are used to knead doughs, beat meringues, and fold batters smoothly together.