Welcome to my resource page of tools for serious bakers. Contrary to what kitchen stores would have you believe, you do not have to own every gadget and expensive piece of equipment under the sun to be able to turn out great baked goods.
What you really need are some basic tools and equipment and a solid understanding of both ingredient function and mixing methods. The rest is just icing.
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Tools for Serious Bakers: Sometimes Less is More
I have been baking for a very long time now. I went through a phase where I simply had to own every single baking tool out there.
I probably used 90% of these tools only once or twice before getting rid of them. Often even cleaning them seemed to be more trouble than any effort saved by actually using them.
At this point, I’m in my less-is-more phase, choosing to spend my money on well-built multi-taskers that will last for years rather than “but wait, there’s more” gadgets that aren’t very robust at all.
I am sharing my top picks must-have tools for serious bakers with you so you can know my recommendations.
I own almost everything on this list (the exception is the baking steel), and I use everything on a very regular basis.
I hope my recommendations help you when it comes time for you to either replace old tools or purchase new ones. I want you to feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth!
These aren’t listed in order from most used to least used, or from most expensive to least expensive. Rarely will you need to use all these tools for the same job.
If you do have to use all ten items to make one dish, you might want to consider never making that particular dish again unless you are a fan of doing the dishes!
Yes, the Artisan 5-quart is a bit less expensive, but the difference between at 5-quart and a 6-quart bowl is great enough that I think it's worth the extra money to buy the larger of the two.
While I actually prefer a tilt-head mixer to a lift mixer, at least for home use, the 6-quart bowl trumps a tilt-head.
Another check in the plus column for the 6-quart professional mixer is the direct drive transmission. This means fewer moving parts which translates to fewer chances for it to break or for you to strip out your gears.
I read the description of the 5-quart Artisan mixer and it did not specify what sort of transmission it has. Usually manufacturers like to promote direct drive, so that leads me to believe that the Artisan mixer doesn't have it.
Since the Professional 6-quart is has a bowl-lift, it is a bit taller than the Artisan, so you won't be able to store it on the counter under your upper cabinets as you would an Artisan.
If space is an issue, or you don't want to hurt yourself hauling your mixer out of the bottom cabinet every time you want to bake, you may also be happier with an Artisan.
This guy is essentially a bench knife, used for scraping dough off of your work surface by holding the edge down against the counter and scraping up stuck on dough. I use it all the time.
Not only for scraping dough, but just for cleaning the counter in general, especially if I've made a big fat mess. It will pull together flour, cornmeal, carrot peels--whatever you have scattered all over your work surface.
I also often use it to transfer chopped ingredients from my cutting surface to a pan or pot. The broad surface works really well and can hold a lot of Stuff, and if you are leery of using the flat of your chef's knife for this purpose, it might be right up your alley.
I've also used the flat of the "bash and chop" to crush garlic. I've never actually chopped with it, preferring to use an actual knife for that part of the production, but I can safely say that I use my bash and chop multiple times a week. It will last forever, unless I lose it: no moving parts!
Another use: use it to cut out square biscuits or shortbread. So, even though I don't actually chop with it, I do use it for cutting, and for portioning out dough for weighing to make equal sized buns or rolls.
If you think you're a serious baker and you don't have a scale, then you're not a serious baker.
Weighing your ingredients is so much more accurate than using volume measures for ingredients that can pack down (flour being the most critical). It's also so much easier to use a scale. I promise you I was as skeptical as you might be right now, but it is so much easier to weigh your ingredients right into a bowl, press the tare button to return the scale to relative zero and then add another ingredient right on top.
I still use measuring spoons for salt, baking powder, etc, but I pretty much only use my dry measuring cups for scooping ingredients into a bowl while it's on the scale.
I generally weigh my liquid ingredients as well.
Technically the only liquids that weigh exactly 8 ounces per cup are water, whole milk and whole eggs. I still weigh my cream and half and half at 8 oz per cup and have never had anything awful happen.
A cup of some liquids, such as honey and other syrups, weigh much more than 8 oz. Some, such as oil, weigh less. When in doubt I use the conversion chart over at King Arthur to make sure my volumes to weight conversions are correct.
I own this very model, although mine is a few years old. I got it in culinary school, and I ended up buying another. In the few years in between they seem to have started using cheaper plastic. I got some lemon juice on it and didn't wipe it off right away and it ate into the plastic.
If you're messy like I am, you might consider a different model. I have my eye on this OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display. It costs more, but the weighing platform appears to be metal (no more lemon juice incidents), and it has a pull-out display so you can more easily read the weight even with a large bowl or pot on the scale.
There are some less expensive scales that can weigh ingredients up to 5 pounds, but I don't think they are very practical, especially if you're starting out with a 2 pound mixing bowl or even a 3-4 pound pot for measuring.
I suppose you could measure each ingredient separately in a lightweight bowl and then transfer each one to your pot or mixing bowl, but that gets to be a lot of futzing around.
Having a scale with an 11-pound capacity (both the Escali and OXO weigh up to 11 pounds or 5 kg) gives you plenty of capacity for weighing, even when starting with a heavy pan.
I adore my tapered rolling pin.
It's lightweight, and it's easily maneuverable.
One of the most obnoxious things about straight pins is that, unless you apply completely even pressure, you'll get lines in your dough or fondant or whatever you're rolling out, because one edge or another ends up pressing into the dough. So obnoxious.
With a tapered pin, if you press a bit harder on one end, you'll get the pin to roll in a smooth curve, and you won't get dents or lines. It is so much easier to roll dough into a circle, or a rectangle for that matter, with a tapered pin.
You will be the happiest person ever if you buy one.
These guys are heat resistant to 600F, which means you can use them to make scrambled eggs if you want to. They won't discolor and they're easy to hold.
I thought the wee green one was maybe a little too wee to be of much use, but it will scrape every speck of peanut butter out of a jar. It showed me!
Either of the two larger spatulas are great for scraping rounded mixing bowls.
The white spatula (which they call a medium spatula) also has a straight side that I love for scraping custard or ice cream base out of straight-sided pots and pans.
I use all three of these spatulas at least once or twice a week, and when I get into a baking frenzy, I use them much more frequently than that.
The larger bowls are great for whipping egg whites and cream or for using as the top of a double boiler to melt chocolate.
Since glass is an insulator, your chocolate (or whatever you want to keep warm) will actually stay warm longer in a glass bowl than in a metal bowl.
The smaller bowls are great for cracking eggs into, measuring out small amounts of whatever for your mise en place or even for to hold bench flour for when you're making bread or pastry or other Items that require you to flour your work surface.
Glass is also non-reactive and non-porous so once you wash them, they're clean.
Unlike with plastic bowls that tend to hang onto fat, you can whip cream in your glass bowl, wash it well and then turn around and whip whites in it, knowing that there's no fat left that can impede a really stable foam.
I love my nesting glass bowls, and even though ten seems like overkill, you'll be surprised at how frequently you'll use them.
These metal bowls will do almost everything that the glass bowls will with the added bonus of working beautifully as an ice bath.
Use the second-to-smallest nested inside the largest with ice and water in it, and you will cool off your stocks, custards and curds in no time.
I have successfully chilled cooked bases for ice cream down to 40F within about 45 minutes or so with frequent stirring and a couple of changes of ice.
Metal conducts heat so it dissipates very quickly out into the ice and water.
The insulative glass bowls are not very good at ice bath action because they won't transfer the heat efficiently.
Note: These are not heavy duty bowls. These are great for ice baths, tossing a salad, stirring up some pasta salad, letting dough rise, etc. Save the whisk for the glass bowls.
Yes, it's an instant read thermometer. Yes, they make less expensive models. Yes, I think serious bakers need one of these anyway.
They are super responsive so you can get an accurate temp in only about 3-4 seconds. Less expensive models can take quite a bit longer to take an accurate reading.
This isn't a huge problem when taking the temperature of something you're cooking on the stove, but it's a bit more critical when you're taking the temperature of baked goods. Keeping the oven door open as little time as possible is critical to make sure the time the oven takes for the temperature to rebound is minimal.
I use my instant read (yes, this very model) for everything: cooking sugar to the right temperature, for one thing.
Here again, its responsiveness is really important as the temperature of sugar can rise really quickly. You don't want to overcook your sugar while you're trying to measure how hot it is.
I also use mine for keeping track of the temperature of oil for deep frying, taking the internal temperature of breads and cakes to make sure they're done (I shoot for right around the magical temperature of 200F) and taking the temperature of ice cream bases to make sure they're cold enough to churn efficiently. (I shoot for 40F or below to ensure quick and even freezing, thereby keeping the ice crystals very tiny and the mouthfeel very creamy. Churning base from a higher temperature, even say 45-50F, can affect the texture of your finished ice cream.)
If you do a lot of baking and don't like to run through parchment paper like it's going out of style, you will love these silicone baking mats.
There are other brands out there that do cost less, but I haven't ever used anything but Silpat so I don't know how the other brands stack up.
Silpat is made of a web of fiberglass enclosed/enveloped by silicone. And pretty much nothing sticks to them.
Silpat can easily be accidentally cut. so be very careful.
We had one of our pastry cooks cut pates de fruit into small squares with a sharp knife while it was still on Silpat, and we ended up with a ton of 1" squares of Silpat.
Do not cut on them. Otherwise, they are very durable and won't tear or warp.
They stay pliable when hot or cold, but they will get just as hot as your oven, so don't think you can pick one up straight out of the oven.
Silpat does have a lifespan, but you can use one "thousands of times." In real life, that pretty much means one is good for life, as long as you don't end up inadvertently cutting it into tiny pieces.
NOTE: I do prefer parchment paper for some tasks, so don't get rid of your parchment!
I have some schmancy gold colored rimmed baking pans that aren't supposed to warp in the oven.
Guess what? They warp in the oven. Every single time.
Just ignore the cookie sheets and jelly roll pans marketed to "regular folks" and skip straight to commercial quality.
I doubt these half sheets will warp in a blast furnace.
I prefer rimmed to rimless cookie sheets because they're more versatile in case you want to make a sponge cake or jelly roll.
If you really need a flat, rimless sheet, just turn your half sheet pan upside down and use the bottom of it.
They're not expensive, especially considering they will last for years.
As to cake pans, I love Fat Daddio products.
Lightweight and super sturdy, the cake pans come in 2" and 3" depths (3 inch cakes are pretty easy to torte into 3 layers, streamlining the whole baking process) with completely straight sides.
Those cake pans you can buy at the grocery store that have slightly flared sides? Seriously, what is that all about? Silliness.
You want straight-sided cake pans for straight-sided cakes.
I own a very old Pampered Chef baking stone, but upon doing a lot of research, I am recommending this baking steel.
It's great for pizzas and hearth breads, but more importantly, you can leave it in your oven all the time where it will absorb and radiate heat.
This means that, even if you have to open your oven during baking, the temperature will recover more quickly and the oven will remain more evenly hot.
You need a good whisk, or several good whisks.
Not only are they great for whipping cream and egg whites, but I use mine for blending dry ingredients together evenly, making custards and curds and also for whipping up fast salad dressings and other sauces.
I have 2 whisks out within easy reach all the time and have another 5-6 in drawers and on shelves, just in case I need them.
The whisk pictured is a piano whisk. The wires are relatively thin, allowing them to whip up light ingredients quickly.
French whisks are slightly less rounded and have very thick, rigid wires. They're great for whisking denser things like gravies.
Balloon whisks are similar to piano whisks, although they tend to have a couple more wires and have a slightly more rounded shape. The more wires a whisk has, the faster it can aerate.
If you only have room in your kitchen for one whisk, go for a piano whisk or balloon whisk. I think they're the most versatile.
And that does it. My list of truly must-have tools for serious bakers.
I hope you find this list helpful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Email me.