The Basic Tools That Every Home Baker Needs
These are the essentials our food editors swear by and using them will improve your cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pies.
Martha often says you need "the right tool for the job," and as anyone who has tried to roll out pastry dough using a water glass or used a liquid cup measure to measure dry ingredients can attest, using the correct tool makes all the difference when you are baking. We're not ones for fussy single-use gadgets, though. Instead, the tools our test kitchen team outline here are the absolute essentials. And you'll be pleased to hear that they all are reasonably priced; most are under $20 and all will last you through years of baking cakes, cookies, and pies. They are hard-working utensils, and you might even have a few in your baking arsenal already.
A cooling rack, which is called for in most of our baking recipes, is on our list of must-have tools. You know the drill: The cake or cookies are removed from the oven and transferred to a cooling rack. After some time on the rack in the baking pan, the cake or cookies are removed from it and finish cooling on the rack. An oven thermometer is no less essential. Why? Your oven may run hot or not reach the desired temperature, but how would you know unless you have a means of checking? Less well known but also super useful is the offset spatula, a tool our food editors use every time they frost a cake. Use an inexpensive offset serrated knife for chopping chocolate for ganache or nuts for a cookie recipe. A pastry brush tackles quite a few tasks, from brushing egg washes on scones or glazes on cookies to getting butter into the hard-to-reach corners of a Bundt pan.
Ready to see our full list? Take a look in the slides ahead, then consider adding these inexpensive and incredibly useful basic baking tools to your kitchen. Trust us—you'll be glad you did.
You want to have both dry and liquid measuring cups for all of your baking needs. Dry cups are made so you can spoon in flour or sugar and scrape them level. Liquid cups let you transport wet ingredients without spilling
Shop Now: Martha Stewart Collection Stainless Steel Measuring Cups, $34, macys.com.
Offset Serrated Knife
The serrations quickly chop chocolate or nuts, and the raised handle keeps your knuckles from hitting the board. Inexpensive ones with plastic handles are fine.
Shop Now: Victorinox Offset Serrated Knife, 9", $17, webstaurantstore.com.
Excellent for moving around ingredients like chocolate, which melts in your hand, the bench scrapper is also deft at cleaning flour off the counter. You'll never have to worry about your dish towels getting gummy again.
Shop Now: Ateco Bench Scraper with Wooden Handle, $10, amazon.com.
A brush like this is the best way to evenly apply egg washes and glazes, brush excess flour off dough, and butter pans fully—even in the corners.
Shop Now: Ateco Boar-Bristle Pastry/Basting Brush, 1", $5, webstaurantstore.com.
Sarah Carey's tried-and-true is a slightly tapered wooden French pin; she's keen on its length and smooth maneuverability.
Shop Now: JK Adams French Tapered Rolling Pin, from $12, jkadams.com.
It's crucial to achieve the proper temperature when baking, but oven brands and models vary wildly. Instead of trusting yours when it says it's reached 350 degrees, confirm it by using an oven thermometer.
Shop Now: Taylor Oven Thermometer #3506, $7.50, taylorusa.com.
Baked goods that stay in hot pans can overcook. Sarah prefers grid styles (so things don't fall through), which fit nicely inside a rimmed baking sheet to catch crumbs.
Shop Now: Sur la Table Stainless Steel Cooling Grid, 12" by 17", $24, surlatable.com.
They're like an extension of your hand, but with a thin metal edge. Use a small one (4.5-inch blade) to spread batter in a pan, and a medium one (7-inch) for frosting.
Shop Now: N.Y. Cake Angled Spatulas, from $4 each, nycake.com.