A hard week at the office, family issues, that pile of laundry, bills to pay: When the going gets tough, the tough get baking. Yes, stress baking is real, and whether you’re a pastry chef in the making and in need of a few new key tools, trying to involve the kids in dessert-making lessons or a home baker looking to ease your worries through whipping up something delicious, it’s wise to have the right kitchen tools on hand.
When shopping for baking stuff, lauded Louisiana chef and cookbook author Kevin Belton says it’s most important to consider what will make cooking easier. “Cooking is a delicate dance between skill and creativity and love,” he says. “The tools you use should enhance your cooking, not impede it in any way.”
We checked in with Belton and other baking experts for their favorite baking tools and tips, and rounded up a few more of our own. Here are 30 to get you started. We’re feeling more relaxed already.
Essential baking tools
‘Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book’ by Kristin Hoffman (available Nov. 16, starting at $8.69; amazon.com)
Chef Kristin Hoffman, known as Baker Bettie on her popular YouTube channel, wrote the forthcoming “Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book” to help explain the science behind baking, along with techniques and tips. She recommends prioritizing quality over anything that is highly stylized when purchasing kitchen items.
“A restaurant supply store is one of the best places to purchase high-quality kitchen tools without breaking the bank,” she says. “Some of these stores are only open to those with a business license — however, there are online sources, such as Webstaurant Store, that anyone can purchase from.”
KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5-Quart Stand Mixer ($299.99; walmart.com)
“If I had to choose one kitchen tool that I simply cannot live without, it would be my KitchenAid stand mixer,” says Heather Mubarak, whose blog “Browned Butter Blondie” offers baking recipes, tutorials, how-tos and more. “KitchenAid is pretty much the gold standard of kitchen appliances, and with plenty of power and capacity to whip up all of your favorite cakes, cookies and frostings, this versatile mixer will be a mainstay in your kitchen for years to come.”
Oster HeatSoft Hand Mixer ($53.78, originally $69.99; amazon.com)
Mubarak recommends this hand mixer for those who are short on counter space or only bake occasionally. “The revolutionary Oster technology brings cold butter and other ingredients to room temperature while mixing so that you can enjoy freshly made baked goods whenever the craving strikes,” she says. “Plus, it has seven speeds and full-size beaters that are released with the touch of a button for easy cleanup.”
‘Cookin’ Louisiana: Flavors from the Parishes of the Pelican State’ by Kevin Belton (starting at $15.19; amazon.com)
The fourth cookbook from Belton — written with his wife, Monica — includes unique recipes from the region, including treats like Eggnog Bread Pudding and Spicy Pecan Balls. “As a chef, my tools are so important to me,” he says. “They aren’t so much tools as much as an arsenal of essentials I always have with me ‘on the job.’”
Royal Craft Wood Extra-Large Organic Bamboo Cutting Board ($20.97; amazon.com)
“A good cutting board can make life so much easier when it comes to prepping,” Belton says. “I really like a large, sturdy wooden cutting board. I also do have a few plastic cutting boards that are sturdy with rubber grippers that prevent sliding. A cutting board should lay perfectly flat, and if it slides some, you can put a towel underneath to prevent it from sliding. While they can be very heavy, the advantage to having a large cutting board is that you can prep things and move them aside on the cutting board out of the way. I was recently gifted a cutting board from NOLA Boards that is not just beautiful but beautifully made.” This bamboo cutting board has received more than 20,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. And if you want more options, check out our guide to the best cutting boards of 2021.
‘Mary Berry’s Baking Bible’ by Mary Berry (starting at $17.99; amazon.com)
If “The Great British Baking Show” has inspired you to attempt your own signature bakes, you’ll want to check out Mary Berry’s own baking cookbook, which contains 250 recipes.
‘Dessert Person’ by Claire Saffitz (starting at $14.99; amazon.com)
Former Bon Appétit editor and current YouTube star Claire Saffitz’s cookbook contains over 100 delicious bakes ranging from simple cookies to extravagant showstoppers. Plus, Saffitz’s YouTube channel provides an engaging walk-through of many of her favorite recipes included in the book.
Bread baking tools
Maid Millie Homemade Sourdough Bread Kit ($29; uncommongoods.com)
Is there anything more comforting than the smell of fresh bread wafting from your kitchen? Put on your artisan baker toque and get to work on this easy recipe and kit that includes everything but the flour and bakeware. Best thing about it (besides that wonderful aroma)? Once your dough has risen, it bakes in just 15 quick minutes.
Traditional Bread Warming Set (starting at $30; uncommongoods.com)
This terra-cotta stone, handmade in Bangladesh, keeps your bread loaf warm for up to 45 minutes. Simply preheat it in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, place it in the included kaisa grass handwoven basket and add your bread, rolls or other baked goods.
Sur La Table Stainless Steel Fluted Biscuit Cutters, Set of 5 ($16.95; surlatable.com)
“Sometimes the smallest tools deliver the biggest bang for your buck — like this fluted biscuit cutter set,” Mubarak says. “They’re a must-have for making your favorite Sunday morning biscuits, and their dainty scalloped edges make the cutest sandwich cookies. The rims are extra sharp for even cutting, and I love that they nest together for easy storage.”
Lodge Enameled 6-Quart Cast-Iron Dutch Oven ($66.49, originally $115; amazon.com)
Our pick for the best Dutch oven of 2021, this beauty from Lodge is just what you need to catch up on that sourdough trend.
Professional baking tools
When it comes to baking materials and features, Mubarak says glass, stainless steel and anodized aluminum are smart choices that will provide reliable results and stand the test of time. “Many items are available in plastic too, but if you bake a lot they won’t hold up well,” she adds. “Stock your kitchen with products that are high quality, can withstand high temperatures and are easy to clean.”
Oxo Good Grips 11-Pound Food Scale With Pull-Out Display ($51.59; amazon.com)
“Baking is a science and accurate measurements can make or break a recipe,” Mubarak says. “Take all of the guesswork out of baking by using this digital kitchen scale from Oxo. A kitchen scale is an absolute necessity for both new and seasoned bakers. My baked goods always turn out perfectly when I take the time to weigh my ingredients. This stainless steel scale from Oxo is both user-friendly and its slim, sleek design makes it easy to store.” If the Oxo doesn’t strike your fancy, check out our favorite kitchen scales of 2021 here.
High Cooking Utensils Pro Dough Pastry Scraper ($5.99, originally $9.99; amazon.com)
“One of my favorite kitchen tools that I think all bakers should own is a bench scraper,” Hoffman says, recommending this one from Amazon. “It is incredibly helpful for many kitchen tasks, such as cutting and shaping bread and pastry doughs, transferring chopped nuts or chocolate into a bowl, scraping up bits of dough off a counter, cubing a stick of butter, cutting out biscuits and scones, and clearing flour off a work surface to clean up.”
Ateco Offset Wood-Handle Icing Spatula (starting at $7; surlatable.com)
“Small but mighty, this offset spatula is every baker’s secret weapon,” Mubarak says. “It’s my go-to tool for frosting cakes and icing cupcakes. But this tiny little tool is also perfect for spreading brownie batter and smearing butter and jam. Try it once and you’ll wonder how you ever baked without it.”
Nangoala Food Thermometer ($5.99; amazon.com)
Nangoala’s digital food thermometer comes with an LCD display and 5-inch handle and gets rave reviews on Amazon. “Thermometers are so essential that there are reasons why chef’s coats have pockets specifically to be used for a thermometer,” Belton says.
Unique baking tools
Fox Run Mesh Spring Tea Infuser ($6.50; amazon.com)
“Another tool that I love, especially for sourdough baking, is a spring-handled tea strainer that I use as a flour duster,” Hoffman says, noting this inexpensive model. “The fine mesh is perfect for dusting flour on the counter, in your banneton basket and over the top of your dough. It also works really well for dusting powdered sugar over pastries.”
Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan ($34.95, originally $50; amazon.com)
“People ask me all the time what my favorite cake is to bake,” Mubarak says. “It’s a bundt cake, no question. They’re easy to make, delicious to eat and they look so pretty right out of the pan with no fancy decorating skills required. Just dust the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a simple glaze and — tada! — dessert is served.” However, through lots of trial and error, Mubarak says she’s learned not all bundt pans are created equal. “Look for one that is crafted from anodized aluminum with a light-colored nonstick finish. I have an ever-growing collection of bundt pans from Nordic Ware. Their pans are second to none and come in all shapes and sizes so you can bake up beautiful bundt cakes for all occasions.”
Williams Sonoma French-Tapered Marble Rolling Pin ($39.95; williams-sonoma.com)
“Every good baker needs a great rolling pin,” Mubarak says. “I use mine constantly — you simply cannot make pie crust or cinnamon rolls without one. Rolling pins come in various styles and materials, but I have had the most success with this French marble rolling pin with tapered ends. Splurge on a good-quality rolling pin that you can hand down for generations.”
KitchenAid All-Purpose Shears ($9.55; amazon.com)
A chef’s knife, paring knife and kitchen scissors are top tools for Belton, and he says it’s important to pay attention to comfort. “I am 6-foot-9 and wear a size 18 or 20 shoe, so it should be no surprise that I have large hands,” he says. “A 10- or 12-inch knife is ideal, but it must fit comfortably in your hand. Scissors that are designated [as] your kitchen scissors are great in the kitchen. These three tools will make prepping so much easier and can either make or break you.”
Sky Solutions Cushioned Kitchen Mat ($37.99, originally $47.97; amazon.com)
“Cooking should be fun and not drain you, and a good kitchen mat will help with this,” Belton says. “A supportive mat to stand on to do your prep work and cooking will have you dancing to the table and keep away that tired and sluggish feeling. An added perk of the kitchen mat is that they are relatively inexpensive and therefore when they get worn and are no longer as supportive, they can easily and inexpensively be replaced.” This version, available in a wide range of colors, gets rave reviews for support from its soft foam core, ergonomic design, nonstick bottom and ease of cleaning.
Cooling baking tools
Nordic Ware Stackable Cooling Rack ($34; food52.com)
When you’re baking multiple batches, you’ll want this double-decker cooling rack nearby. And when you’re all done? The nonstick stackable racks can be broken down for easy storage.
Fancy Panz Travel Casserole Carrier (starting at $30; food52.com)
Heading to a get-together or delivering sweets to a friend? Bake them a casserole, dessert or other goodie and deliver it in one of these handy carriers. The window lid lets the lucky recipient see what’s inside. And it pops off so they can dish it up right out of the pretty pan.
The French Pantry 3-Piece Sheet Pan, Silicone Baking Mat and Cooling Pan Set ($19.99; amazon.com)
Whether you’re starting from scratch or could use an upgrade, this highly rated three-piece set will get you baking in no time. With an aluminum half sheet pan, food-grade silicone baking mat and stainless steel cooling rack, you’ll use these tools over and over again.
Cookie baking tools
Lekue USA Milk & Cookies Shot Glass Making Kit ($20; uncommongoods.com)
From Dominique Ansel — aka the genius who brought the world the cronut — comes this DIY set of eight shot glass molds that you make out of cookie dough. Fill your cookie shot with berries, mousse, whipped cream or, our favorite, classic ice-cold milk for a dessert that will make even the most stressed out among your crew smile.
Nordic Ware Dog Treat Pan ($23; food52.com)
You’ve made cookies, cake, muffins and a pie. Doesn’t Fido deserve a reward from your stress baking too? This cute aluminum pan makes 16 bone-shaped dog “cookies” that will have tails wagging in your home.
Baking tool sets
Le Petit Chef Knife Set and Kids Apron (starting at $25; food52.com)
Budding master chefs ready to graduate from stirring to chopping will be all too willing to learn a few new skills with this chef-worthy set that includes a 4-inch kitchen knife, finger guard and peeler, all designed to prevent injuries and teach proper hand positions. Add in the adorable apron and your favorite cookbook, sit back and let Junior make the cookies this time.
Great Jones Fully Baked Set ($265, originally $285; greatjonesgoods.com)