Basic Equipment for Bakers
Whether you’re baking from scratch or using a mix, you’ll need some basic equipment in the kitchen. Browse this article for tips on selecting the right tools for the job.
For baking cookies use a heavy gauge, single-layer metal sheet without a lip for best results (or with a lip on one or two sides only). These sheets are durable enough not to warp under heat and produce the most even results and optimal browning. Of course, there are a variety of other options you can choose with different benefits. Also, you can add a silicone baking mat to any option to prevent sticking without using grease or wasting parchment paper. Here are some considerations:
- With or without a lip : Baking sheets with a lip that is too tall may deflect heat, making it hard to brown cookies. It’s also harder to remove cookies without breaking them because the lip gets in the way. On the other hand, they are more versatile and can be used for jellyrolls, homemade pizza, and more.
- Nonstick finish: The big advantage of this feature is easier cleanup. Keep in mind, however, that they may not eliminate the need for greasing completely and they will have to be replaced at some point due to wear. They also shorten baking times because of the dark surface, which can lead to over browning.
- Insulated sheets: These sheets have a double layer of aluminum that traps air in between. They allow for more gentle heating, which may be optimal in some circumstances but can also lengthen baking times and prevent cookies from browning.
- Dark aluminum: This type of surface shortens baking time, but may lead to over browning.
There are a surprisingly large number of options available in the market for baking pans. Of course you’ll first want to choose the type of pan that fits your needs. For example, spring form pans are great for cakes and tortes that can’t be removed easily from a regular baking pan, such as an ice cream cake. Many people’s baking needs require muffin tins, loaf pans, round pans, 9x13 cake pans, and a bundt pan. When choosing any of these various pans, here are some factors to consider:
- Straight or tapered sides: Professional bakers often use cake pans with straight sides, which make nice, perfectly straight-sided cakes. Most common, inexpensive cake pans have slightly tapered sides, which allow the pans to nest easily for maximizing storage. If you’re going for that perfect bakery-style cake with beautiful shape, you may want to sacrifice storage space in favor of these professional-style pans.
- Nonstick finish: Just like baking sheets, the advantage here is the ease of removal from the pan. They don’t last as long as aluminum pans, and if you grease the pan well or flour it well, a nonstick finish is usually unnecessary.
- Silicone: Silicone baking molds are appealing because of their flexibility, which makes storage easy, and the ability to “peel” them away from the baked good, which allows for many different types of molds. The flexibility can be a disadvantage, as well, however as it makes them a bit trickier to remove from the oven without cracking the cake or baked good.
It’s helpful to have a set of three mixing bowls in small, medium and large sizes, which can range from a few cups to 6 or 7 quarts. Even in baking, some recipes may call for using the microwave for melting things like chocolate or butter. Microwave-safe materials such as glass and certain plastics may be good choices for mixing bowls for that reason. Both glass and metal bowls can serve as a double boiler when nested inside the appropriate size saucepan. Also look for mixing bowls that have a spout for easily pouring batter into pans.
Measuring Cups & Spoons
When selecting dry measuring cups, look for sets that include a 2/3- and ¾-cup measuring cup. Although these sizes aren’t essential, they are certainly handy! For liquid measuring cups, at minimum choose a basic 2-cup size, but a 1-cup size and even 4-cup size can be handy as well. You can find some liquid measuring cups that allow you to read the measurement looking down into the cup while you’re filling it instead of having to bend over and look from the side. Finally, miniature liquid measuring cups can be helpful for measuring small amounts of liquids ranging from 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons.
For measuring spoons, look for sets that include “odd” or uncommon sizes as well, such as 1/8 teaspoon and ½ tablespoon. You’ll use these sizes more often than you realize! Measuring spoons often come in circle or oval shapes. Oval-shaped spoons will fit more easily into containers than round.
“Spatula” is a loose term that refers to several different pieces of equipment that do different things. Here are three must-haves for every baker.
- Rubber or silicone spatula: These spatulas are perfect for scraping the sides of bowls and using with an electric mixer. Look for ones that are heat-resistant to use for melting chocolate and other ingredients.
- Metal spatula: Flat, metal spatulas or “pancake spatulas” work best for removing cookies from baking sheets.
- Straight edge spatula: These spatulas are perfect for spreading foods such as batter, frosting, cream cheese, and so forth. Cake decorators in particular will want to have one of these spatulas.
Other Gadgets and Gear
Finally, here is a list of a few other items that are useful to have in the kitchen for baking.
- Pastry cutter
- Wooden spoons
- Cooling racks
- Kitchen scale
- Oven mitts