The 5 Essential Tools Every Baker Needs

“What baking essential couldn’t you live without?” is a question that has come up from time to time over the years that I’ve been baking, both at home and in commercial settings. Usually I’m asked by someone who has been bitten by the baking bug. But sometimes I’m asked by a spouse or significant other looking for gift ideas.
Either way, I thought I’d offer my list of the top 5 tools I think are essential for any baker, along with my reasons WHY I consider them so important.
BONUS: if you are looking for a special something for the baker in your life, I provide a little more guidance on the purchase that will put the spring in their spring-form pan.
  1. electric mixer
    This should be an obvious item, but it also can’t be understated. CAN you bake without a mixer? Of course. You can also build a house without electric tools, but you wouldn’t want to. Using an electric mixer is all about speed and convenience. I should also point out that you have a choice between an electric hand mixer and a stand mixer. If you have neither, and are just starting your baking journey, my advice is to get a hand mixer to start and see if you really enjoy baking. If you already know baking is your jam, then I strongly recommend a stand mixer as a worthwhile investment. The stand mixer does everything a hand mixer can do, and more, and faster, and with less effort.MESSAGE TO SIGNIFICANT OTHERS: Buy the stand mixer. It’s equivalent to a sheitle in “wow” factor. Or a set of shaas, if HE’S the one baking.
  2. measuring cups and spoons
    This is number two on the list because, as you’ve probably heard a million times before, “baking is a science”. You can’t put in a pinch of this to counteract too much of that (well, you can, but you have to know what you’re doing. That’s a whole other post.) Measuring cups and spoons are your first line of defense against baking disasters.MESSAGE TO S.O.: Skip the plastic and go straight for solid durable metal sets. Yes, (slightly) they’re more expensive and you need to tovel them. But they will last you (and your S.O.) a lifetime. And they can be kashered if you make a mistake with ingredients.
  3. liquid measuring cup
    Measuring cups and spoons are for solid items (and small amounts of liquid). But you need to remember that fluid measurements need to be just as precise. That means if a recipe calls for 1 cup it needs a complete, full, 100% cup, so you’ll be filling that hand-held measuring cup to the very brim. Liquid measuring cups provide extra room, not to mention a spout, so your messes are reduced. MESSAGE TO S.O.: Glass, not plastic. Again, can be kashered, they last longer, and they show you care.
  4. baking sheet
    You literally cannot bake without something to put your mixture on in the oven, making this is a universal piece of equipment you should have in your kitchen, not just for baking. Now, the hard question for me to answer is “what kind”. I can tell you that baking sheets with/without a lip are a personal preference and won’t affect your baked items at all (unless they’re REALLY goopy and would drip all over the oven without the lip!) . Size is also a question I can’t answer since that’s really a math problem between you and you’re oven. What I *can* tell you is that darker sheets will cook slightly faster than lighter color ones, by about 1-2 minutes. I also want to emphasize that any “feature” besides the pan itself is a gimmick. You don’t need air pockets, space age materials, or even non-stick. MESSAGE TO S.O.: I know that silicon was all the rage a couple of years back. Trust me when I tell you to skip it. They perform no better than the more mundane (and cheaper) metal pans, plus the silicon ones become sticky and gross after the first couple of uses.
  5. mixing bowl
    Baking involves putting a bunch of ingredients together, usually in a goopy mess that doesn’t look edible until after it comes out of the oven. So having a bowl to put it in is pretty much a no-brainer. And you’d think it would be hard to have an opinion about what KIND of bowl, but that’s where you’d be wrong. The things I look for in a mixing a mixing bowl include: having a non-slip bottom so when you are mixing a heavy recipe it doesn’t slide around on you; being large enough to make 5lbs of flour; being durable enough to stand almost constant usage; being light enough that when I have to pour the mixture, the bowl isn’t adding a whole lot of un-necessary weight; and having a spout to make pouring easier.MESSAGE TO SO: As you may have gathered, it’s easy to have strong opinions about this item, which means it’s easy for YOU to get it wrong and by the wrong thing. Take some time to watch/ask what the baker in your life prefers. Then, when they open their gift, it shows you care, and that you listen.

So there you have it. The 5 essential tools any baker should have on-hand to get the job done. Let me know in the comments whether you agree or not, if you have specific experiences with any of the items I’ve listed, and what you’d put on YOUR list.