A keen home cook, Paul has been passionate about baking for over 40 years. Born and raised in England, he now lives in Florida, USA.
Home baking is such a fun and rewarding pastime, but it does require certain tools and equipment. I've been baking for over 40 years and have picked up some useful tips and skills along the way. This article lists and looks at 17 essential baking tools that every household kitchen should have. The list is not exhaustive, but I do try to include as many key items as possible. Where appropriate, I've also made a few suggestions on specific products and explain my thinking and experiences.
17 Essential Home Baking Tools
Here is my list of 17 tools and pieces of equipment that I believe every home kitchen should have.
- Hand mixer
- Wooden spoons
- Spatulas and whisks
- Digital scales
- Cooling racks
- Pastry brush
- Rolling pin
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Chef's knife
- Pastry and cookie cutters
- Sheet pan
- Muffin tin, loaf tin, and other pans
- Sifter/fine-mesh sieve
- Mixing bowls
- Kitchen shears
- Stand mixer
- Digital probe thermometer
I explain my choices in more detail below and give my experiences.
1. Hand Mixer
Hand mixer are an affordable, versatile, and easy to use baking tool. They are always useful to have in a kitchen, regardless of whether you're a beginner or an experienced baker. I actually use mine more than my stand mixer, although ideally I would recommend owning both types. Hand mixers are great for mixing things like cake batter and cookie dough, as well for whipping cream and eggs.
2. Wooden Spoons
While there are all sorts of useful tools and pieces of baking equipment out there, some of it very sophisticated, there isn't anything that can quite match the utility of the humble wooden spoon. Their biggest advantage is perhaps their sturdiness, there is virtually no stirring work that is too heavy for them. I always like a to keep a set of spoons close by and own a range of different sizes.
3. Spatulas and Whisks
Spatulas are versatile tools and I use them virtually every day. I like mine to be reasonably sturdy, the cheaper ones often tend to be flimsy. They are great for stirring, mixing, spreading, and scraping.
While I have machines that will do a version of the job, I still often employ a good old-fashioned handheld whisk for certain tasks, such as whipping eggs or heavy cream. Again, I would recommend paying a little extra for better quality, nobody likes using a poorly constructed whisk.
4. Digital Scales
Baking is part art and aesthetic, part science and chemical reactions, both depend upon getting the proportions of ingredients exactly right. Flour especially needs to be in the precise amounts that the recipe requires. For measuring you will need digital scales. I would recommend getting a set that can also be set to grams.
If you are looking for a recommendation, I would suggest the Etekcity Food Kitchen Scale. It's an accurate and affordable product that does everything that the typical home baker needs. The LCD display is worth positively highlighting as it's much easier to read than most scales I've tried, great for someone like me who needs reading glasses. It also comes in three different sizes, I find the medium to be fine for my needs, but some people may prefer the large.
5. Cooling Racks
These are essential for bakers who like to make things like cakes, cookies, and muffins. Cooling racks allow cooler air to circulate underneath your baked goods and enable them to cool evenly, as a pose to leaving them on the pan, where the heat will keep going underneath for some time after removal from the oven. Unless you are baking large quantities, a couple of cooling racks is usually enough for the average home baker to get by with.
6. Pastry Brush
This small humble tool is often missed on many lists, but it is actually an essential. It's pretty much impossible to get by without one. Pastry brushes can be used for tasks such as coating pastry or dough with melted butter or beaten egg, as well as greasing pans before baking.
7. Rolling Pin
To me, they are an obvious essential for any home, but I find it common to encounter kitchens without one, likely due to people's tendency to buy rather than bake their goods (they're missing out on so much fun!). Rolling pins are traditionally made from wood, but I've also experimented with marble versions in recent years—they have a cooler touch and are great for pastry, biscuits and cookie dough.
8. Measuring Cups and Spoons
These are essential for achieving accurate quantities and proportions of ingredients when following a recipe. If the amounts are wrong, it goes without saying that all sorts of problems can occur. I use stainless steel measuring cups and spoons and have a full range of sizes, I think it's worth paying extra for tools that are better quality and built to last.
9. Chef's Knife
As with most forms of cookery, a high quality chef's knife is simply indispensable. This tools is essential for slicing, dicing, mincing, trimming and chopping effectively. Owning a good set of knives will give you the ability to meet any baking challenge where cutting is involved.
10. Pastry and Cookie Cutters
Pastry and cookie cutters are great fun, as well as practical, this makes them particularly wonderful tools for beginners to use, especially children. The shapes come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes seasonal or specialty, sometimes just geometric shapes. You can use them for empanadas and ravioli, as well as cookies, biscuits, and doughs generally.
If you require a fun recommendation, in addition to a fairly standard set of circular cutters, I have this Stainless Steel Sandwiches Cutter set, which I use for special events. There's an entertaining range of shapes, and the cutters are easy to use, easy to clean, well-made, and the kids (and adults) love the results.
11. Sheet Pan
Sheet pans are essential for baking, given their versatility and utility. As you will use them all the time, it's worth investing in a couple of good quality ones. I myself have a three-quarter version (21 by 15 inches) plus a half-sheet pan (18 by 13).
12. Muffin Tin, Loaf Tin, and Other Pans
Muffin tins are a must-have tool for baking muffins and cupcakes. as well as a variety other goods (back when I lived in the north of England, they are also used for making mini Yorkshire puddings!). A 12-cup muffin tin will fulfill most needs, but it certainly doesn't do any harm to have more.
You should also have at least one loaf tin for baking foods like bread, pumpkin bread, and banana bread. Loaf tin foods often require more baking time than muffins, as it takes longer for the larger volume to cook through. Other pans, such as brownie pans and pie dishes, may also be needed, depending on what you like to bake.
13. Sifter or Fine-Mesh Sieve
While a regular colander works well for draining the hot water from food like cooked vegetables, bakers also need something with a finer mesh for dusting sugar onto cakes and brownies, as well as aerating and sifting the lumps from dry mixtures that contain ingredients like flour, sugar, and cocoa powder. Sifters are generally very affordable to buy—and they are crucial for baking.
14. Mixing Bowls
Mixing bowls come in all shapes and sizes, and I will admit that I have a bit of thing for them, owning a variety of styles, mainly glass and metal. Some come with a rubberized base that helps to keep the bowl still on the counter surface when you mix.
15. Kitchen Shears
Shears are a tool that can often be under-used for food preparation in the kitchen, and relied upon for everything else, in my experience. People also have a tendency to want to cut everything with a knife, when sometimes scissors can work much better. Given the central role of this tool in most households, it's worth buying a pair that's high quality and built to last.
16. Stand Mixer
This is the most expensive item in the list, but it's extremely useful for producing quick and even mixes with almost zero effort. Once you start using a stand mixer, it's difficult to go back. Mixers come with a range of attachments, typically a paddle, whip, and dough hook, and make things like whipping eggs, mixing batter, kneading dough, and creaming butter easy.
If you are looking for a recommendation, I would heartily endorse the Cuisinart SM-50BC 5.5-Quart. It's a well-constructed and very reasonably priced stand mixer, that has all the functions that a typical home baker needs. I used one these for three years and it served me well.
There are better stand mixers that are available. Nowadays, I use a KitchenAid KSM150PSBL—a powerful, heavy-duty mixer that I expect to last my lifetime—but it cost me substantially more. I consider the additional expense to be worth it, but others might not.
17. Digital Probe Thermometer
Much of baking depends upon complex chemical reactions where the amount of time and heat applied is essential for a successful outcome. A digital probe thermometer can therefore mean the difference between perfection and disaster. Many baking recipes insist on making sure that doughs and mixes reach certain temperatures, a thermometer will facilitate this.
I've tried numerous digital thermometers and nowadays use a ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD, which I would recommend. It's accurate, easy to use and still manages to be affordable. Perhaps the only flaw is the magnet on the back, which came off after six months. All in all, a good buy though.
© 2021 Paul Goodman