From Christmas cookies and birthday cakes to bake sale brownies and Sunday morning muffins, there’s almost always an occasion (or a good excuse) to bake. Whether you’re ready for your spot on “The Great British Baking Show” or more suited to an episode of “Nailed It,” having the right equipment can only make your baking better. So we’ve rounded up the best baking tools to have in your arsenal.
Related Reading: The Best Baking Books for a Cozy Kitchen
Sure, you can get by with the bare minimum—for decades, my mom used a heavy silver fork for everything from creaming butter to beating eggs and was the official birthday cake baker in the family (and at work) because her desserts were amazing, but even she’s upgraded to a KitchenAid in the past few years.
One note: Baking pans are so numerous they deserve their own post (stay tuned for that!), but see cookie sheets below for some other types of pans you might encounter.
A stand mixer is a bit of a splurge, but it’s well worth the investment. It makes whipping cream and egg whites, mixing doughs and batters, and even kneading bread a breeze, but it does a lot more than that, too. Another bonus: You can leave them running while you attend to other tasks (just don’t forget and overwork your dough). Depending on your budget and your space, you can buy smaller models, like the KitchenAid Mini, or ones with a bowl-lift design (great when you don’t have a lot of clearance under your cabinets)—and they all come in a rainbow of gorgeous colors to match any décor. See how to choose which KitchenAid mixer is right for you, and be sure to watch out for periodic sales on them at retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Sur La Table, when you might be able to score a great discount.Buy Now
If a stand mixer isn’t in your budget, a hand mixer is the next best thing (and it couldn’t hurt to have both, so you can break out the latter for smaller jobs). In any case, a hand-held electric mixer sure beats, well, beating eggs and whipping cream with a whisk—or a fork, as my mom can attest. This 9-speed model comes with the usual egg beater attachments, as well as 2 dough hooks and a pro whisk. Like your stand mixer, you can put it to work doing odd jobs like shredding cooked meat too.Buy Now
You might think this is pointless—after all, your oven has temperature settings already. But you might be surprised by how inaccurate those controls really are; an oven thermometer will tell you exactly how hot your oven actually is, and allow you to adjust accordingly, for precisely baked cakes, cookies, breads, and more.Buy Now
Nonstick Silicone Mats
Nonstick silicone mats are perfect for rolling out dough, cooling sticky candy or chocolate-coated confections, and for lining baking pans so cookies and other baked goods don’t stick (without the need for any extra fat, or wrestling with parchment paper—plus, you can reuse them for years). You can get an extra-large silicone mat with circular guidelines for rolling out pie crusts, which is helpful if you’re not great at free-handing it, but you’ll probably want to stock up on several baking mats anyway—and these are a great price. One downside is that they do develop an oily film after a while, but with a little know-how and basic kitchen items, you can clean silicone baking mats to get that greasy coating off.Buy Now
Serious bakers need a scale. It’s the surest way to measure the precise amount of each ingredient—which matters quite a lot in baking—and it lets you cook from metric recipes without having to do any conversions. Another benefit: You can just keep adding same-step ingredients to the same bowl, so you dirty fewer dishes. These days, digital scales are incredibly affordable, and small enough that they barely impose on your storage space. Really, they deserve a place in every kitchen. Another nice model (particularly for bread bakers) is the OXO 5-pound scale with pull-out display. Buy Now
Pastry Bags and Piping Tips
If you’re going to be making frosted cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, a professional-grade decorating set will help your goodies look their absolute best. But they’re also handy for other tasks, like piping meringue, forming and filling macarons, and squeezing out pâte à choux pastry for protfiteroles and éclairs. This set comes with two reusable silicone pastry bags, 36 different icing tips, and two flower nails for building beautiful roses—even if you need to work up to that. Wannabe-Martha bonus: They also make your deviled egg filling look extra fancy.Buy Now
Heavy Wooden Rolling Pin
A good solid rolling pin is essential for homemade pies, tarts, and cut-out cookies. The classic handled kind your grandma had is still a workhorse. But the tapered French rolling pin is preferred by many professional bakers; the dowel style allows for more control and maneuverability. Whichever type you go with, a longer length rolls out more dough at once, and a heavy weight means you take fewer passes over the dough—but marble can be too heavy. Wood is ideal; just be sure not to soak it in water, lest it split and warp. You can find silicone and nylon pins as well (Dorie Greenspan prefers the latter). No matter which material you choose, adding removable bands can help you get an even thickness across your crust. These wooden rolling pins, however, come in several different sizes with built-in depth indicators so you always roll your dough out evenly.Buy Now
Bench scrapers may seem unnecessary, but they’re great (and inexpensive) little tools for cutting butter, scraping up sticky dough from your counters, and portioning out scones, balls of pie dough, and even roughly chopping mix-ins (or vegetables). If you don’t have one, remember this tip from The Faux Martha: A stiff metal spatula can serve the same purpose. If you make a lot of bread, you may find some smaller plastic scrapers helpful to have too.Buy Now
Half Sheet Pans
If you want to bake a variety of things, you’ll need a lot of pans: cupcake pans; loaf pans for banana bread and pound cake; round cake pans for lovely layers; 8- or 9-inch square pans for brownies, blondies, and bars; springform pans for cheesecakes; removable-bottom fluted tart pans; maybe a nice Bundt pan too—and nonstick versions of all are tempting, but if they’re dark, they’ll make your baked goods brown more quickly. A lighter colored aluminum is especially great for sheet pans, which are probably the most versatile ones you’ll invest in; they’re great for baking cookies, sheet cakes, and slab pies, as well as toasting nuts, coconut, and granola, and roasting veggies and meat. These heavy-duty, natural aluminum pans are rust-proof and have a rim to help roly-poly items stay put (a cookie sheet, by contrast, won’t have a raised edge all around).Buy Now
Cooling racks are another item you might think you don’t really need, but they help air circulate beneath your pan so your baked goods cool down more quickly and retain the texture you were aiming for. A three-tier cooling rack is nice because it frees up valuable counter space, so you can efficiently cool several pies, cake tiers, and batches of cookies at once. You can even use them for pan pizza.Buy Now
If you’re intent on whipping your eggs or cream under your own power, a balloon whisk is your best bet, and this one has a comfy silicone handle. It’s also good to keep on hand for quick and easy jobs when you don’t want to plug in a mixer—and you’ll use it for lots of savory applications too, from sauces to scrambled eggs. A silicone whisk might be tempting, but uncoated metal tines work better for whipping and clean up just as easily if you rinse them right away. On the subject of whisks, if you want to bake bread and aren’t investing in a stand mixer, you might want to check out this Danish dough whisk, which helps blend thicker batters and doughs without making your hands sticky.Buy Now
Liquid Measuring Cups
While we know digital scales are superior for accurately portioning out ingredients, we also know that lots of people will continue to use measuring cups (and honestly, we still do too…a lot of the time). So it’s essential to have high-quality measuring cups. These durable Pyrex glass measuring cups let you clearly see the level of your ingredients from the outside; the spout makes pouring liquids a neater prospect; they can be microwaved (handy for melting butter) or placed in the freezer (great for chilling cream); and they’re dishwasher-safe.Buy Now
Unless you have perfectly accurate guesstimating abilities, you need measuring spoons for getting the correct quantities of vanilla, spices, baking powder or soda, active dry yeast, and so on. These are the ones I currently have and (for the most part) I love them. The narrow ends easily slide into small jars and tins—having the rounded ends too means you can use each spoon for wet and dry ingredients in the same recipe without washing and drying them in between. The magnetic action means they lock together and never get messily splayed out or separated in the silverware drawer. If you prefer to keep them within easier reach, individually, they will stick to a magnetic knife rack (but not the whole set while nested together). I use them so often, the printed measurements are starting to rub off, which is the only downside. Etched metal measuring spoons will prevent that if it’s a deal-breaker.Buy Now
These spring-loaded scoops ensure uniformly sized cookies—and unlike using tablespoons to form the balls of dough, the cookie scoops keep your hands clean. Plus, you can use them for portioning out liquid cupcake batters, making truffles and mini ice cream sundaes, and even carving spheres from soft fruits and veggies too (who needs a melon baller?).Buy Now
Mesh Sieve or Sifter
A crank-handle flour sifter is one of those old-fashioned gadgets that’s actually useful—but a sieve or mesh strainer can do the same job, as well as many others, from straining fruit juice to standing in for a colander when you want to rinse berries. This one includes a scraper for pressing soft fruits through the sieve while leaving the seeds behind, but several smaller sizes of sieves with handles will prove useful too, since they’ll fit into smaller pots and bowls.Buy Now
KitchenAid Scale and Sifter Attachment, $99.99 from KitchenAid
If you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer, this handy attachment combines a scale and sifter for even easier baking.
Full disclosure: At my house, we have a lot of mismatched mixing bowls, many vintage (and mostly ceramic, including a prized Mason Cash batter bowl, with a couple stainless steel bowls for making ganache and whipping cream). But if you’re in the market for new bowls or could use some extras, this nesting set of Pyrex mixing bowls is a great option—they can go into the freezer, the microwave, and the dishwasher, and they come with lids, so you can store your finished dough or ice cream base in the fridge until you’re ready to finish the recipe.Buy Now
Incorporating small pieces of cold butter into your dough is the key to flaky pie crust, biscuits, and tart doughs. You can keep cutting that butter into your biscuit and pie dough with two forks if you really want to…or you can get yourself a pastry blender and make it much easier. This is also useful for chopping other things besides butter (I used mine the other day for mashing avocados; worked like a charm).Buy Now
Silicone spatulas are flexible, heat-resistant, easy to clean, and soft so they won’t scratch your bowls and pans, making them great for folding flour into batters, gently mixing in dough additions, stirring melting chocolate, and more. Look for a comfortable-to-grip handle, a one-piece design (so the head won’t come off and water won’t get trapped between it and the handle), a blade that bends but not too much, and a good size. Cook’s Illustrated named Di Oro their favorite spatula of 2017, and this set includes a spoontula and a mini spatula (perfect for getting every last bit of peanut butter out of the jar, among other things) in addition to your standard size spatula.Buy Now
If you’re ready to graduate from frosting cakes with a butter knife, an offset spatula is just the thing for neatly spreading icing and filling onto baked goods without making a mess. It helps level off bar cookies and brownies so they rise evenly, as well.Buy Now
Fancifully shaped cookie cutters are great, but even if you don’t plan on making gingerbread men, ninjabread men, sugar cookies in the shapes of trees and stars, or, uh, dinosaurs, a set of various sizes of round or square cutters are great for lots of things, from making simple cut-out cookies and biscuits to making perfect polka dots from fondant.Buy Now
A sharp, fine grater like the classic Microplane is fantastic not just for zesting citrus, but for grating fresh nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and even chocolate (and, of course, making fluffy mounds of hard cheese). Having two sizes is handy depending on the magnitude of the job you’re facing.Buy Now
This one is last on the list because, frankly, regular old dry beans work perfectly and you can reuse them pretty much indefinitely. If you’re tired of pouring them in and out of their storage bag, though, you might want to upgrade to this chain (which looks more like something I wore around my neck in middle school). Ceramic pie weights are charming but just as annoying to wrangle as beans; this six-foot length of stainless steel beads stays together in one piece and holds down your pie dough when you blind bake it. One caveat: Per reviews, you’ll probably want two per pie crust, so they can get expensive…dried beans are looking pretty good again, huh?Buy Now
Once you’re all geared up, all that’s left to do is decide what to bake—so check out some of our favorite baking books, and our baking recipes archive for breads, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, and tons more sweet (and savory) treats.
The original version of this story was by Sara Lime in 2007. It has been updated by Jen Wheeler with new links, images, and text.
The Right Tools Are Only Half the Battle...
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