Outfitting your kitchen with useful, task-specific and long-lasting baking equipment helps you achieve delicious results. Having the right tools also makes those otherwise difficult baking jobs much more user-friendly. These baking essentials and shopping tips will help you stock your cupboards for success.

 

sausepan

Mixing Bowls

A good set of mixing bowls is a must-have. They come in a variety of colours and materials, including acrylic, metal and glass. Mixing bowls can be used for anything from making batter and pastry dough to whipping up a fluffy buttercream icing.

How to shop:

  • Opt for different sizes and materials (stainless steel, glass, etc.) for preparing a variety of recipes.
  • Having at least one nesting set saves on cupboard space.
  • Bowls with rubber or silicone bases stay secure on countertops while you stir, mix or whisk.

 

sausepan

Wooden Spoons, Spatulas and Whisks

The wooden spoon is the most versatile kitchen utensil. Use it to mix up a batch of cookie dough, batter or icing. Soaking a wooden spoon for too long can cause it to crack, so wash and dry right after use.

The word “spatula” can refer to two similar yet different cooking utensils: The first is a firm, long-handled “flipper” used for tasks such as removing cookies from trays. The other is the rubber, silicone or plastic spatula used in baking. These come in various sizes and are usually flexible so they can scrape a bowl clean and mix, fold or spread ingredients.

Whisks are made of a group of wires fastened to a handle and are used for beating, mixing, aerating and emulsifying ingredients. They come in various sizes and shapes, usually in metal but sometimes in plastic or silicone. Balloon-shaped whisks, with their multiple loops of wires, are the most common. Longer, stiffer whisks are best for sauces, batters and custard preparations. Miniature whisks come in handy for beating ingredients in smaller containers, such as custard cups.

How to shop:

Wooden spoons

  • Pick up a few in varying sizes and lengths.
  • Have at least one with a flat edge for more effective pot and pan scraping.

Spatulas

  • Look for heat-resistant silicone or heavy-duty rubber baking spatulas for durability.

Whisks

  • The more loops, the better a whisk will do its job.
  • Wires should be somewhat flexible and different lengths, so that while there is space between them at the end, they are still firm and close enough that the tool can double as a masher or for breaking up clumps of brown sugar in a bowl.
  • You’ll appreciate a lightweight whisk with a comfortable handle when you’re whisking for extended periods of time.

 

sausepan

Measuring Spoons and Cups

Measuring spoons come in metal, plastic or ceramic and are often sold in stackable sets, usually ranging in size from a quarter teaspoon (one millilitre) to one tablespoon (15 millilitres). Some include extra measures, such as an eighth of a teaspoon (0.5 millilitres) and a half tablespoon (7.5 millilitres), but these latter sizes aren’t essential.

Measuring cups, also in metal, plastic or ceramic, are used for larger ingredient quantities. They’re sold in stackable sets in four basic sizes: a quarter cup (60 millilitres), a third of a cup (75 millilitres), a half cup (125 millilitres) and one cup (250 millilitres). These are for measuring dry ingredients such as flour and sugar.

Use a wet measure for liquid ingredients such as dairy, oils and water to get better accuracy. A regular measuring cup must be filled to the very top for the right amount, making it tricky when it comes to liquids. A standard wet measure is usually a glass or plastic jug with a spout to assist with spill-free pours. These are available in various sizes, usually measuring from one cup (250 millilitres) up to four cups (one litre). They have measurement markings up the sides to help you pour in your liquids to the desired volume. When using a wet measure, keep the jug on a level surface and pour in your liquid until its surface hovers just above the measuring line at eye level.

How to shop:

Measuring spoons

  • Stainless steel is your best choice because it’s durable and washes up nicely. It can be handy to have more than one set to avoid having to wash the spoons in the middle of baking.

Measuring cups

  • Stainless steel is your best choice for durability.

Liquid measures

  • Pick up a large glass measuring cup with a good spout. Markings printed on glass will stand the test of time longer than those on plastic versions.

 

sausepan

Baking Sheets

These large, rectangular metal trays (also referred to as cookie sheets) are a baker’s staple. They’re essential for baking cookies and scones, as well as pizzas and biscuits, and come in a variety of sizes.

How to shop:

  • The standard and most common size is 18 by 13 inches.
  • Choose baking sheets that feel heavy and have a dull, rather than shiny, surface. This type of sheet is better at baking evenly and is less likely to result in burning.

 

sausepan

Baking Pans: Muffin, Loaf, Cake and Bundt

Baking pans are used to bake runny batters or foods that need to be held together, such as squares, cakes, loaves and crumbles. These pans come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and materials, including oven-safe glass, aluminium, stoneware and silicone.

Muffin pans

  • A single pan usually contains six to 12 individual round cups.
  • Batter or filling is placed in each section to make cupcakes, muffins or individual tarts.
  • Sizes vary from miniature cups (one to two inches in diameter each) to large (four inches per cup).

Loaf pans

  • Used for baking bread or cake loaves such as pound cakes and banana bread.
  • These rectangular pans feature high walls and range in size from miniature to extra-large, though the most popular size is nine by five inches.

Cake pans

  • As the name suggests, these are used for making cakes and come in a plethora of shapes, both basic (round, square, rectangular) and themed (hearts, animals, you name it).
  • Bundt and tube pans feature a hollow centre tube that helps create an evenly baked cake and golden crust. Bundt pans have a decorative design embedded inside for pretty presentation, while tube pans are smooth inside.

How to shop:

Glass, stoneware or pottery: Some bakers prize these dual-purpose baking pans that can go from oven to table. They retain heat longer than metal pans, keeping your fresh-baked goods warm for hours.
Metal: This is the most common type of baking pan. Keep in mind that dark-coloured metal results in darker crusts, whereas shiny, reflective options yield lighter-hued crusts.
Silicone: They rarely need greasing, distribute heat quickly and evenly, and can be used in the oven and stored in the fridge. An added bonus: silicone baking pans are dishwasher safe and easy to clean, since they can be flipped inside out. The downside is, they don’t give your baked goods a golden crust, nor do they last as long as other materials.

A basic set of baking pans should include:

  • One 12-cup muffin pan,
  • One standard (nine by five inch) loaf pan,
  • One medium (nine inch) cake pan.

 

sausepan

Sieves

Not to be confused with a colander, used for draining foods such as pasta, a sieve is a domed metal strainer made of fine wire mesh attached to a long plastic or metal handle. Use this tool to sift ingredients such as cocoa and flour, strain stocks or juices, and dust icing sugar on top of desserts. A sieve’s perforated holes can be hard to clean if left unwashed for a while; be sure to wash and rinse immediately after using.

How to shop:

  • Choose a sieve with a fine mesh for the most versatility.
  • Look for hooks or holders around the rim, which allow you to rest the sieve on top of a pot or wide bowl.
  • Stainless steel is the most durable material and won’t rust.
  • Miniature sieves or strainers that fit in a mug are also useful to have on-hand for finer jobs.

 

sausepan

Parchment Paper or Silicone Mat

Grease- and moisture-resistant parchment paper is used primarily to line baking sheets and baking pans, though it doubles as a surface on which to roll out pie crusts and even makes quick, disposable pastry bags. Not to be confused with waxed paper (which will melt in the oven), parchment paper has been treated with an acid during production, giving it stability and high heat resistance (up to 450°F). Its non-stick surface eliminates the greasing step for bakers, and the same piece can be used several times before getting dark and brittle.

Reusable silicone mats, made of food-grade silicone enveloping a fibreglass mesh, are often used in lieu of parchment paper for baking cookies and meringues. These mats are non-stick and give baked goods a more even, golden hue. A quick wash in warm soapy water is all these mats require until your next baking session.

How to shop:

  • Parchment paper comes in pre-cut rounds, as single sheets or in boxed rolls.
  • For a silicone mat, choose one that is food-grade and sturdy.

 

sausepan

Rolling Pins

Used mostly for rolling out dough, the humble rolling pin also comes in handy for crushing crackers, nuts and candies, or for shaping curvy cookies such as lacy tuiles. Rolling pins can be made of metal, ceramic, marble, plastic and even glass or porcelain, though wood is most common. The easiest rolling pin to find is the handled American or baker’s version, but many bakers prefer the tapered French rolling pin, which doesn’t have handles. Its slim, oval shape allows the pin to be turned during the rolling process, which is useful for rolling out circles of dough.

How to shop:

  • Frequent bakers may prefer the tapered, French-style rolling pin, which offers better control over the dough.
  • Generally, the heavier the better for most efficient rolling.
  • When choosing the handled, American-style rolling pin, make sure the handles are securely anchored with a steel rod running through the centre.
  • For wooden models, hardwood (not softwood) is your best bet—the heavier weight delivers better results and balance, giving you a smoother, more even dough with less elbow grease required.

 

sausepan

Cookie Cutters

These tools come in plastic or metal and are used to cut decorative shapes (from simple circles and stars to seasonal snowflakes or hearts and whimsical themed shapes) from rolled-out dough. Available individually or in sets, cookie cutters can lend character to baked treats. Dipping your cutter in flour before each use will prevent soft cookie dough from sticking to the edges.

How to shop:

  • For best durability, choose metal cutters—stainless steel, aluminum or copper. These give you a sharp cut and are easy to clean.
  • Choose a variety of sizes and shapes, depending on your needs.

 

sausepan

Pie Plates

Made of metal, ceramic or glass, the pie plate is most commonly nine inches in diameter, although eight- and 10-inch sizes are also available. Standard pie plates have sloping sides and range from one to 1.5 inches deep, while deep-dish pie plates range from nine to 11 inches in diameter and are as deep as two inches.

How to shop:

  • Metal pie plates (or tins) heat and cool quickly, making them a good choice if you often blind bake pie shells (that is, cook the crust before adding the filling).
  • Glass pie plates are a good choice if you like to see how well the crust is browning on the bottom.
  • Ceramic and porcelain pie plates are attractive and can transition from freezer to oven to table.

 

sausepan

Pie Weights (and Alternatives)

These small, ball-shaped metal or ceramic weights are used to fill a pie or tart crust when blind baking, or cooking the crust before adding the filling. The weights keep the sides of the pastry level, and prevent air bubbles and shrinking. Simply pour overtop foil- or parchment paper–covered raw pastry before it’s baked in the oven. Alternatives to pie weights include uncooked (dry) rice or beans, which you can use over and over again—just keep these separate from rice and beans meant for eating!

How to shop:

  • Two cups of metal or ceramic weights will suit most blind-baking needs.
  • Or, head to the dry goods section of your grocery store and stock up on dry rice or beans, and reserve for weighing down pastry.

 

sausepan

Tart Pans and Springform Pans

These pans with removable bottoms make it easy to remove cooked tarts, quiches, dense cakes, cheesecakes and other baked goods from their pans without having to turn them upside and down.

Metal tart pans: These come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including round square and oblong, single-serving to family-size, often with fluted edges to shape your crust.

Springform pans: Also available in a range of sizes, these two-piece pans have tall, straight interlocking sides that open and close with a latch to hold a flat bottom in place. They are typically metal and often non-stick, though there are also silicone and glass versions.

How to shop:

  • Round eight- or nine-inch tart and springform pans are the standard, and what recipes usually call for.
  • Metal is the most common choice for both tart pans and springform pans.

 

sausepan

Wooden Skewers and Toothpicks

Wooden skewers and toothpicks are used in baking to gauge a cake or loaf’s doneness. Stick a skewer or toothpick into the middle of the cake or loaf, then remove; in most cases, baked goods are ready when there is no longer wet batter clinging to the wood.

How to shop: Choose plain picks, not coloured ones, as you don’t want any residual dye to leach into your baked goods.

 

sausepan

Hand and Stand Mixers

The whisk attachment on both hand and stand mixers is used for mixing and beating everything from cake batter and cookie dough to egg whites and pie filling. For most uses, either appliance will do the job; a stand mixer is easier to use as it’s hands-free, while a hand mixer takes up less space in the kitchen and is notably more affordable. However, for heavy-duty work such as kneading bread or beating stiff batters, a stand mixer equipped with a paddle or dough hook is the tool you need.

How to shop:

Hand mixers

  • Look for a model heavy enough to feel solid, yet light enough to hold comfortably for at least five minutes.
  • You’ll want various speed options plus a seam-free underside for easier clean-up.

Stand mixers

  • Make sure the bowl capacity is large enough to handle a batch of bread dough or enough batter for a layered cake.
  • Ensure attachments move well and that there are enough speed variations (at least five) to get through several tasks.
  • Some stand mixers come with optional attachments for other kitchen uses: rolling and cutting pasta, say, or grinding meat. If you think you might want such tools in the future, start with a stand mixer that offers such capabilities.

 

sausepan

Pastry Cutters

Straight-edged or fluted wheels on handles (much like pizza cutters), these tools slice through dough without tearing, which can happen with even the sharpest knives. Available in metal or plastic, pastry cutters come individually or in nesting sets of various sizes ranging from one to 4.5 inches in diameter. Metal provides the sharpest, cleanest cuts. Be sure to wash and dry immediately after use to keep them in good shape.

How to shop:

  • For occasional pie baking, any pastry cutter will do to slice up perfect lattice strips.
  • For a variety of pastries such as tarts, shortcrust and puff pastry, you’ll want a pastry cutter set made of round, tinned steel to get the sharpest cuts.

 

sausepan

Pastry Blenders

These hand-held tools with rounded tines help quickly incorporate butter, shortening or lard through pastry dough. They’re especially useful when working with large volumes so the fats don’t melt before the dough is properly mixed. Pastry blenders are made with stainless-steel blades or more flexible wires.

How to shop:

  • Because it’s important to work quickly and efficiently with pastry doughs, a comfortable handle on your pastry blender is key so you won’t have to stop and stretch your hand.
  • Most bakers prefer the sturdier blades over wires, which dough will stick to more easily.

 

sausepan

Pastry Brushes

These handy brushes come in multiple sizes, from the all-purpose one-inch-wide bristles to much larger versions. Bristles are made of nylon, silicone, sterilized natural hair (such as hog) and even goose feathers (best for delicate pastries), and are attached to a handle (which is usually wood). Use these brushes to apply egg washes to loaves or pastries, brush butter between pastry layers, apply glazes to baked goods before or after baking, and to brush down pan sides when making sugar syrup.

How to shop:

  • Look for brushes with blunt-cut bristles 2.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide for the most versatility.
  • If you cook regularly, buy two: one for basting meats and one for butter, jams and glazes.
  • The durable nylon variety is a good bet and washes up easily. Air-dry after washing.

 

sausepan

Zesters and Fine Graters

Hand-held zesters have small cutting holes along a stainless-steel edge that will cut threadlike strips of rind when dragged across the skin of citrus fruit.

Fine graters, often referred to by the proprietary name Microplane, are flat graters, commonly attached to handles and available in multiple sizes for various tasks. They’re easy to use and versatile for shaving or grating ingredients such as hard cheeses, citrus rinds, whole nutmeg, chocolate or fresh ginger.

How to shop:

  • A zester is handy if you candy citrus or want threads of citrus rind in recipes (or as a garnish for cocktails). Look for sturdy handles that feel good in the hand, and a stainless steel bar that sits firmly in the handle.
  • A multipurpose fine grater has more functionality than a zester and can tackle a wide variety of ingredients. Opt for a stainless steel handle that won’t separate from the blade over time.

 

sausepan

Cooling Racks

These metal racks on feet are for cooling baked goods. Letting treats cool in their pans can trap stream and result in soggy-bottomed cookies or cakes; a cooling rack allows for airflow and lets cookies crisp up.

How to shop:

  • A good rack should be sturdy enough to withstand a hot pan, and clean up without damage or warping.
  • To catch crumbs, look for racks that fit inside your baking pans.
  • If you plan on making layer cakes, multiple round racks come in handy for inverting and cooling layers.

 

sausepan

Digital Scale

A precise, useful tool for frequent bakers, digital scales are usually battery powered and make it easy to measure everything in one bowl—just zero the scale after adding each ingredient. Measuring ingredients by weight is more exact than measuring by volume, and produces more consistent results and fewer dishes. Scales are also useful for separating mixtures evenly, such as when making two equal halves for a layer cake.

How to shop:

  • Look for a scale that’s big enough to hold a generously sized bowl.
  • Your model should have an easy-to-read display and be able to convert between imperial and metric, as well as have a “tare” button that lets you reset the display to zero when items are on the scale.
  • Finally, look for a scale that’s easy to clean and store.

 

sausepan

Food Processor

A good food processor is invaluable for its speedy chopping, puréeing and dough-making abilities. It can turn stale bread into crumbs, chop nuts and make mayonnaise in a fraction of the time it takes to do so by hand. It’s also useful for making doughs that are best kept cool, such as pie pastry, so you don’t warm them with the heat of your hands. Food processors come in three sizes: full-sized are the largest and most versatile, mid-sized are usually suited for home cooks, while mini processors are handy for small chopping jobs.

How to shop:

  • Choose a model that weighs enough to remain stationary while in use but is light enough to lift easily when you need to put it away.
  • In general, you want a pulse feature and basic on-off functionality, and don’t want too many parts to wrangle and line up.
  • Bowls that can hold 11 to 14 cups of dry ingredients are handy for avid bakers.

 

sausepan

Pastry Bag and Tips

These cone-shaped bags with two open ends are used to pipe (or squeeze out) doughs, whipped cream, icing or fillings. The small, pointed end can be fitted with decorative tips of varying shapes and sizes to decorate cakes, pies or cookies, and for precisely piping meringues or cookie batter. Pastry bags can be made of plastic, polyester, plastic-lined canvas or nylon. Tips are sold separately or in sets of varying shapes such as star, circle and slit (which is used to create ribbon shapes).

How to shop:

  • The most popular pastry bags today are made from plastic-lined fabric or pliable nylon. Both wash up quickly and easily.
  • If you’re working with intricate icing designs, opt for a smaller bag.
  • Larger piping bags are ideal for piping out choux pastry (for cream puffs, for example) or macarons.
  • For the most versatility, invest in a set of tips to cover all your needs. If budget is an issue, start with both plain and star tips in small, medium and large.
  • In a pinch, a resealable bag with a small corner snipped off, or a rolled cone of parchment paper, will work as a single-use piping bag.