Essential Baking Tools and Equipment for Every Baker’s Kitchen
Food aficionados often say that cooking is an art but baking is a science. When you’re cooking up a stir-fry, an extra slice of onion or glug of olive oil probably won’t make a noticeable difference. But when it comes to a cake, a scoop too much or too little of baking powder can leave you with a puffy blob or a deflated pancake. Because baking requires such careful attention to detail, it calls on a pantry’s worth of specialized tools to make sure everything’s mixed and measured just so.
That meticulousness can seem intimidating at first, especially to new bakers whose last accomplishment involved the word funfetti. To help take the intimidation factor out of baking like a pro, we turned to an actual pro: Melanie Faetz, a graduate of The French Pastry School. Here, we’ve compiled a list of must-have tools for any baker, and Faetz gives her recommendations for items that can take your pastry game to the next level.
Start with: Simple tools—good old-fashioned measuring cups and measuring spoons.
Upgrade to: A measuring cup with dual-measurements for dry and liquid. It’s more convenient.
Bake like a pro with: A digital scale. “It's rare to see measuring cups in a professional pastry kitchen, and that's because measuring by weight protects against human variation—not everyone fills a cup the same way, believe it or not,” Faetz says. “At home, I'm loyal to my scale not so much for accuracy but for cleanliness. Instead of pulling out and dirtying my whole set of cups and spoons, I weigh ingredients right on top of previous ingredients, all in the same one or two bowls.”
Brownie points: “If you're using a digital scale, your mixing bowls need to be light enough that they won't max out the weight limit before they are even filled. I have a really nice set of thick glass mixing bowls, but they just aren't compatible with my scale. Stainless steel is the way to go.”
Start with: A Foley fork (also known as a granny fork or mashing fork). The tines of this angled mixing fork let you apply pressure as you stir, something that comes in handy as you’re breaking butter into little chunks for pie crust or biscuit dough.
Upgrade to: A stand mixer. Most mixers come with myriad attachments that can do everything from knead bread dough to whip a meringue, and their heavy-duty motors spare your arm from strain.
Bake like a pro with: A flexible balloon or piano whisk. “Especially if you don't have any sort of electric mixer, invest in a big whisk with some flexible wires,” Faetz says. “Trying to hand-whip cream using a small, stiff whisk is slow and painful and not great for a person's self-esteem.”
Start with: A cookie sheet. You may think you already own a cookie sheet, but look again: you may be packing a baking sheet instead. The difference? A cookie sheet has raised sides, while a baking sheet is perfectly flat. Those raised sides can make the difference between a pile of cookies on a plate and a pile of cookies on the floor.
Upgrade to: Parchment paper. Line your cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper to eliminate the need to grease the sheet, and toss it away when you’re finished.
Bake like a pro with: A silicone baking mat. “No greasing the pan. No parchment paper. Just a lifetime of cookies that don't stick,” Faetz says. “But be careful not to cut anything while it's on your silicone mat because the mat will cut like butter.”
Start with: The tines of a fork. Use them to make stripes and curlicues, or angle your fork and use a single tine to spell out words, phrases, or the answer to yesterday’s cryptoquote.
Upgrade to: Stamps and embossing tools. If you don’t feel like freehanding, you can find stamps in nearly any shape, such as flowers and stars, that are specifically designed to imprint shortbread cookies, fondant-covered cakes, and other treats.
Bake like a pro with: Disposable piping bags. According to Faetz, “High-quality disposable piping bags are secretly reusable if you wash them, while also being cheap enough to toss if they get super grimy. Use them to decorate cupcakes, dispense muffin batter into tins, fill ice-cream sandwiches, whatever.”
Illustrations by Jess Snively for Groupon
Amelia is a Senior Writer who owns about 600 houses' worth of housewares. She daydreams about throwing parties and amassing more housewares.