The simplicity of flour, water, salt, and yeast transforms into heavenly scented loaves that warm even the chilliest days. It’s a food that can be traced back centuries when stone fireplaces and clay pots produced easily digestible and ultimately portable nourishment. There are endless variations on that classic recipe, from gluten-free to fluffy focaccia to quick bread loaded with pumpkin and banana.
With the right tools and some patience, bread can become more than just a casual hobby. In fact, once those yeasty-smelling rounds of baked dough start coming out of your oven, it will be hard to resist making more. If you’ve been getting it done with just some mixing bowls, a kitchen towel for proofing, and your hands, here are a handful of items that can help level up your bread game.
KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
While it can be therapeutic to mix bread dough by hand, a stand mixer streamlines the process. You won’t need a separate mixing bowl, and your hands won’t be working overtime manually kneading. It ensures even mixing of ingredients without having to transfer the dough out of the bowl.
The versatility of a stand mixer cannot be overstated: Cookies, cake batters, meatballs, mashed potatoes, meringues, and more become light work with this workhorse appliance. No matter what the task, you can just set it up, stand back, and watch it.
When we tested stand mixers, this KitchenAid model was came out on top. It handled dense doughs with ease, the handled bowl proved to be heavy-duty, and it came with an impressive array of attachments: a beater, dough hook, wire whip, and plastic pouring shield. You can, of course, purchase even more for tasks that go beyond bread-making, including a grater, grain mill, juicer, pasta maker, spiralizer, ravioli press, ice cream maker, and more. It's a truly versatile and powerful machine.
Number of Speeds: 10 | Power: 325 watts | Bowl Volume: 5 quarts | Warranty: 1 year limited | Attachments: Beater, dough hook, wire whip, plastic pouring shield
Oxo Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set
Basic bread recipes call for a certain amount of flour and water—reliable measuring cups take the guesswork out of this step. This Oxo set has standard and metric measures, non-slip handles, and nests easily for storage. And if you want to be right on, grab a thermometer to test your water temperature.
In testing, we found that these were easy to use, thanks to the angled measurement markings on the inside of the cups, and we loved that they stack for compact storage.
Material: BPA-free plastic | Uses: Liquid ingredients | Number of Pieces: 3
U-Taste 18/8 Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons
Like in all baking, precise measurement is crucial to making bread successfully. A dependable set of measuring spoons helps you parse out the right amount of salt in a basic bread recipe, and can be leaned on when adding other ingredients like sugar for specialty breads. The U-Taste set offers an extensive variety of sizes while still being easy to store. The bowls of the spoons are deep and the etched measurements will not rub off.
This is a comprehensive set of measuring spoons with every measurement you could possibly need. They feel durable, and although they're not the most comfortable because of the slightly rough finish, they get the job done and will last.
Material: Stainless steel | Number of Spoons: Nine | Additional Features: Detachable ring
Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 1-Pound Loaf Pan
If quick breads, sandwich breads, babka, or brioche are on the horizon, a sturdy loaf pan is a must. You could opt for a nonstick, ceramic, or silicone variety, but professional bakers know aluminized steel provides the most even heating so your loaves come out uniformly golden every time. The Chicago Metallic model also has folded corners that prevent the pan from warping at high heat.
In testing, browning was consistent for both banana bread and pound cake, though we do recommend a substantial coating of baking spray or a layer of parchment paper to prevent sticking and help with removing the loaf from the pan when finished.
Material: Alloy steel | Oven Max Temperature: 700 degrees | Dishwasher-Safe: Yes | Pieces Size: 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches
Caraway Baking Sheet
Sometimes we’re going freeform with our breadmaking, and a baking sheet is the MVP of those styles. Beautiful braided challah, savory, dense focaccia, crispy baguettes, and rotund boules all require a reliable baking sheet. This sheet pan is large enough to accommodate whatever bread you’re attempting, and the even-heating aluminized steel construction is augmented with Caraway's durable ceramic coating. The wide stainless steel handles riveted to the pan make grabbing it easy, and it’s oven-safe up to 550 degrees.
Material: Aluminized steel | Available Sizes: 18 x 13 inches (large), 15 x 10 inches (medium)
Shun Classic 9-Inch Bread Knife
You could argue a bread knife is not necessary to make bread, but you do need to cut that luscious loaf when finished. It’s widely agreed that a bread knife is one of the holy trinity of kitchen knives—the serrated edges make quick work of crusty sourdough, deliver a clean piece of zucchini bread, and slice through tomato without leaving mush.
The Shun is also a stunner. The ergonomic D-shaped pakkawood handle feels comfortable to grip. Honed from proprietary VG-MAX "super steel," the Damascus-style blade is incredibly sharp, corrosion-resistant, and has wide rounded teeth that make for smooth slices, despite the lack of flexibility in the steel.
Length: 9 inches | Material: VG Max Steel, pakkawood | Weight: 10.2 ounces
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker
If you want the bread-making experience to be as hands-off as possible, a bread machine takes all the effort out—it mixes, kneads, proofs, and bakes. All you do is put the ingredients in and patiently wait two to three hours for a homemade loaf. And the types of bread you can craft in one of these machines is endless.
In testing, we tried three basic bread recipes with the Zojirushi Virtuoso, even straying from the recipes, and they all came out with great aeration, a crisp crust, and the coveted dome look. We started adding different flours, changing the amount of butter, and even mixing the ingredients in the wrong order to see what might happen. Each time, the finished loaf emerged looking (and tasting) wonderful.
Further testing revealed the same results, with a loaf of banana bread showing great color, even doneness, and a moist crumb texture. We appreciated the ease of cleanup and reliable countdown timer. It’s worth the price, as it produced consistently tasty bread—even when we got creative with recipes.
Dimensions: 18 x 10.5 x 12.875 inches | Weight: 24 pounds | Loaf Size: 2 pounds | Power: 700 watts
Beyond the essential equipment, there are many nice-to-haves that make the road to successful bread much shorter. Measurement is key when it comes to the chemistry of baking, and though spoons and cups are great, a baking scale guarantees your measurements are flawless. In fact, if your bread doesn’t rise, it’s probably attributable to a measurement error. A flour sifter will ensure your flour is properly aerated and prevent inconsistency in measurement by removing large particles that contribute to dense or irregular results. Another good tool to have is a reliable proofing basket. Sure, you can drape a kitchen towel over a mixing bowl, but if those attractive spirals you see on bakery loaves are your endgame, a proofing basket goes a long way.
On top of those items, rolling pins, wooden spoons, and bread lames will aid in your breadmaking saga. Respectively, they’re used for flattening, turning, and scoring dough. Most bakers agree that once you try out a bread lame, you will never go back, because it creates refined results that rise properly every time. If you’re baking challah, a pastry brush is a must for that shiny golden glow. For times you opt for double or triple batches, a bench scraper comes in handy. Not only does it scrape dough cleanly from a bowl and get those tough-to-remove dough bits off work surfaces, but it’s also the right tool to cut and divide batches into smaller sections.
A good loaf pan and baking sheet are necessities, but there are other vessels that allow for more specialty bread preparations. Dutch ovens, such as the Marquette Castings 6-Quart (our favorite Dutch oven for making bread), have a metal knob that withstands high heat, a wide flat bottom for a crispy crust, and the perfect cavity for our no-knead loaf recipe. And if skillet cornbread like Grandma used to make has always been on your bread bucket list, a cast iron pan is a must.
Can you use a hand mixer to make bread?
No. They just don’t have the power to properly knead dough. Even if yours comes with a dough hook attachment, it will not gain the level of elasticity necessary for optimal baking. They are great for other kitchen tasks, like light cake batters or homemade whipped cream, but they just aren’t up to bread making.
Do you need a dough hook on your stand mixer to knead dough?
Yes. You can always use your hands to knead the dough, but the hook attachment is specifically made to help develop the gluten, adding elasticity to trap those air bubbles that lead to the perfect balance of crisp and chew. You might be tempted to use the popular paddle attachment, but its function is to mix wet and dry ingredients without aeration, trapping moisture that leads to fluffy cakes and creamy buttercream frosting.
How do you store homemade bread?
Homemade bread, though delicious, doesn’t have a long shelf life. To give it maximum span, store your precious loaf in a bread box. They prevent degradation caused by swings in temperature, and keeping it at room temperature prevents it from hardening. Don’t be tempted to throw it in the refrigerator as it causes flavor loss and a stale texture.
Another option is freezing your bread. For up to three weeks, cooled loaves can last wrapped in food film, foil, or freezer paper. Past that, wrap tightly in food film, then wrap again in foil or freezer paper—it should be good for approximately six months.
Is it cheaper to make homemade bread than it is to buy it at the store?
The satisfaction you get from pulling a loaf of homemade bread out of the oven is only rivaled by the cost savings. We looked at the cost of baking bread versus buying bread and found the bill for making that loaf was roughly $1.58 without labor compared to $2.50 for the least expensive loaf at the grocery store, though they can, as you may know, be priced much higher than that.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who loves a crusty loaf of bread. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she has baked thousands of loaves of bread and knows the importance of storing it in the proper container to ensure freshness. Her work has appeared in many publications including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.