The Ultimate Guide to 18 Essential Baking Tools

You'll be baking like a pro in no time

Essential baking tools explained: Cake pans, muffin tins, measuring spoons and more

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If you love baking and want to expand your skills and repertoire, there's no better way to learn than by jumping right in. But the array of equipment you need to outfit even a simple home bakeshop can be intimidating and confusing. What size sheet pan should you buy? What's the difference between a silicone spatula and an offset spatula? And do you really need a digital scale? Wonder no more as we break down the 18 essentials you need to know.

  • 01 of 18

    Digital Scale

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    This might be the single most important item on the list, since flour is the primary ingredient in baking, and measuring in the ingredient inaccurately is possibly the biggest baking mistake. Get a digital scale that can be set to grams and has a tare function so you place a bowl on it and then zero it out.

  • 02 of 18

    Measuring Cups and Spoons

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    For liquid ingredients, a glass measuring cup with a spout is a must and the 2-cup size (16 fluid ounces) is the most useful and convenient. A set of metal measuring cups ranging from 1 cup down to 1/4 cup will come in handy, alongside a set of metal measuring spoons. With the measuring spoons, try to find a collection that has a 1/2 tablespoon measure, which will save you all kinds of grief when trying to make a half batch of your favorite muffins.

  • 03 of 18

    Mixing Bowls

    Ingolf Hatz / Getty Images

    Rather than buying a set of mixing bowls of various sizes, get a few 4 to 5 quart stainless steel bowls, and at least one glass bowl of similar size. Stay away from aluminum, however, because acidic ingredients will react with the metal and change the flavor of your food.

  • 04 of 18

    Sheet Pan

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    If this was a look at unique baking tools, the common baking sheet, or sheet pan, would likely not make the cut. But since we're talking essentials, this everyday necessity easily tops the list. A three-quarter sheet pan (21 by 15 inches) or half-sheet pan (18 by 13) will meet most home bakers' needs. Get several as you'll use them constantly for everything from yeast breads to cookies to sheet cakes.

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  • 05 of 18

    Muffin Tin

    Howard Shooter / Getty Images

    Muffins are among the easiest things to bake, so a 12-cup muffin tin should be one of your first acquisitions. Bonus: You can make cupcakes with it, too! And because it's likely you'll have leftover batter after filling up those 12 cups, it doesn't hurt to have a 6-cup tin in your cupboard so that one or two extra muffin's worth of batter doesn't go to waste.

  • 06 of 18

    Loaf Pan

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    A loaf pan is what you'll use for baking quick bread loaves like banana bread, pumpkin bread, and so on. These are basically muffins baked into a whole loaf, so they typically require more time in the oven. Also use this for when you're ready to bake your first loaf of yeast bread.

  • 07 of 18

    Brownie Pan

    butterscotch brownies
    Photo: Diana Rattray

    This is essentially a square cake pan with straight sides, and for most basic brownie recipes, you'll want one that's 9 by 9 inches. A sturdy aluminum one is fine for starting out, but you can graduate to a glass or ceramic one later on. Also use it for bars, gingerbread, and square sheet cakes.

  • 08 of 18

    Wire Whisk

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    If you're beating an egg, you can do it with a fork. But if you're beating six eggs, only a wire whisk will do. Sometimes called a balloon whisk, this tool is designed to whip air into liquid ingredients to get them fluffy or frothy. Start with one measuring 10 to 11 inches, which is an excellent, all-purpose size.

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  • 09 of 18

    Stand Mixer

    Red stand mixer
    Elizabeth Livermore / Getty Images

    An electric stand mixer is expensive, but once you've used it a few times, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it. The standard attachments will include a whip, paddle and dough hook, which is enough to cream butter, mix batter, knead dough, whip egg whites for meringues, and anything else an aspiring baker would want to do.

  • 10 of 18

    Rolling Pin

    Marzipan rolled flat with a pin
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    A rolling pin helps flatten out and shape everything from pie and pastry crust to cookie dough and biscuits. For a beginner, the roller type is easiest to use and requires less pressure than the rod style. Get a good-quality wood pin and it'll be the only you ever need to buy.

  • 11 of 18

    Pie Dish (or Pan)

    Leah Maroney

    When you're ready to bake your first pie (no doubt using the rolling pin above to flatten the pie crust), you'll need a pan to bake it in. A 9-inch glass pie dish is likely all you'll need to start off, although a sturdy aluminum one is great for blind baking and for preparing graham cracker or cookie crusts.

  • 12 of 18

    Round Cake Pans

    Adding batter to pans for chocolate cake

    Elaine Lemm

    For cakes, you'll want to pick up a pair of round 8-inch cake pans. Most cake recipes make two layers, either 8-inch or 9-inch, which means you'll need two, otherwise you won't be able to bake both layers at the same time. Sturdy aluminum is best and stick with pans with sides that are two inches high to give your cakes room to rise.

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  • 13 of 18

    Pastry and Cookie Cutters

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    While the sky is the limit when it comes to the various seasonal, specialty, and other geometric shapes, the place to start for a beginner is with a set of plain round cutters, and maybe a set of fluted round ones. Each set contains various sizes and will help you cut out all kinds of doughs, like cookies and biscuits, not to mention empanadas and ravioli.

  • 14 of 18

    Dough Scraper

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    A dough scraper, also called a bench scraper, is simply a square of stainless steel with a handgrip along one edge. It's used for working with sticky bread doughs, dividing and lifting portions, and scraping extra bits off your work surface. Dough scrapers are also handy for pulling up delicate pastry dough and transferring it to a pie pan without breaking.

  • 15 of 18

    Pastry Brush

    Cranberry scone dough basting in baking tray, close up

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    A pastry brush is useful for coating the tops of pastries and pie crusts with an egg wash or milk, or for greasing baking pans with melted butter or shortening. Once upon a time, brushes were made of animal hair, but these days, a better option is one with silicone bristles, which don't fall out and are heat- and bacteria- resistant as well.

  • 16 of 18

    Offset Spatula

    2009 Using a Spatula Photo by Carroll Pellegrinelli, licensed to About.com

    Photo by Carroll Pellegrinelli, licensed to About.com

    Offset spatulas, sometimes called cake spatulas or decorating spatulas, feature a narrow metal blade with a wooden handle. The metal has a pair of bends in it, so that the blade sits about half an inch lower than the handle. This makes it easier to frost the center of a cake without your knuckles bumping into the edges.

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  • 17 of 18

    Silicone Spatula

    Silicone Spatula
    Tengwei Huang, Getty Images

    This versatile tool is ideal for scraping every last bit of batter from the inside of your mixing bowl. Get one with a long handle. While an ordinary rubber spatula will be sufficient for scraping, a silicone one is heat resistant so it will do double duty for cooking eggs and sautéing.

  • 18 of 18

    Wooden Spoon

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    Often the job at hand is simply to mix some ingredients. There's no need to whisk air in the mixture and breaking out the stand mixer would be overkill. That's where the humble wooden spoon comes in. Wooden spoons won't scratch your bowls or pans, won't react with acidic ingredients, and they're more comfortable to hold in your hand than metal ones.