If you’re spending more time at home, you may have decided to learn how to bake. This can be an incredibly fun hobby, and it’s one I’ve enjoyed for years. However, you might be going through some of these recipes and realize that you don’t have the right tools at your disposal. Have no fear- I’m here to show you all of the essential baking products, and explain why each one is necessary, (or not). For each entry, I’ll provide helpful links to make it easy for you to buy these items online. And if you’re prepared to leave your home, I’ll also give you cheaper alternatives of where to purchase these items on a tight budget. Once you have the tools at your disposal, you could be baking delicious things from home for the rest of your life.
The first item on this list is one you may already have in your kitchen- cookie sheets. As the name suggests, you obviously need these to bake cookies. But they’re also useful for baking Grandma Pie Pizza, scones, and so much more. Cookie sheets come in handy, even when you’re not baking. I use them almost every day for lazy meals like frozen chicken nuggets and pizza. On a tight budget? These can be purchased almost anywhere- even for just $1 at Dollar Tree. Just keep in mind that “you get what you pay for”, and the price you pay for any of these tools usually goes hand-in-hand with the quality. Low-quality cookie sheets tend to warp, rust, and get ruined in the dishwasher. The cheaper a cookie sheet is, the faster it becomes useless after just a few months. Replacing them will become a waste of time and money. Try to buy a set of cookie sheets that will last you a few years before it’s time to buy new ones.
If you’re planning to make a cake, you need a pan to bake it in. The shape of the cake doesn’t matter so much. It could be round, rectangular, or even dinosaur-shaped. Just keep in mind that if you want the classic double-layered birthday cake with frosting in-between, you will need two identical pans for stacking. And if you’re trying to make a multi-tiered wedding style cake, you need a set of circular pans that gradually get smaller. On a super-tight budget? If you already own a ceramic or glass casserole dish that’s oven-safe, you can make a cake in that, instead. Those are perfect if you want a quick box cake mix from the grocery store. Just remember to use butter or oil to grease the pan, first.
Something that is absolutely essential to baking is to follow the recipe and measure the correct portion of ingredients. If you own a Pyrex liquid measuring cup, this will measure out to be the same as a dry cup measuring spoon. You should always measure liquids in one style of cup, and dry ingredients in the other. It’s incredibly important to separate wet and dry ingredients while baking. On a tight budget? Ask your friends and family members if they have any extra measuring cups and spoons lying around the house that they’re willing to leave on your front porch. They may have received extra sets as gifts during a wedding shower or housewarming party that are still new in the box. Personally, I ended up with a few extra measuring cups when I purchased large sets of kitchen tools. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and it will save you some money.
In nearly every TV show and magazine, you’ll see someone with an expensive Kitchenaid standing mixer. However, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to bake. An electric hand mixer works just fine for most recipes, and it’s the fraction of the cost. I’ve gone through a few different brands over the years in my mom’s kitchen, as well as my own. Kitchenaid hand mixers seem to work the best, in my opinion. They usually come with a factory warranty that guarantees to replace it if anything should go wrong. And best of all, it comes in almost every color, so you’ll be able to match it with your existing decor. On a tight budget? There are also cheaper brands of hand mixers sold at Walmart for only $10. If you’re a beginner without much money to spend, it may be wise to start with something cheap, and upgrade to the Kitchenaid later.
A set of mixing bowls are useful for all kinds of cooking, but it’s always necessary when baking. You’ll need at least two mixing bowls- One for your wet ingredients, and another for dry. I highly recommend Pyrex glass mixing bowls, because they’re only $13 for a set of 3 on Amazon. Glass is usually better than ceramic, metal, or plastic, because it can be used above a double-broiler, or be put directly in the oven. On a tight budget? If you go to stores like Dollar Tree, you’ll find plastic mixing bowls for only $1. However, these plastic mixing bowls are really only good for simple box cake recipes. They would melt if you tried to apply heat. If you plan to bake for the foreseeable future, this is an item that should be considered essential.
Whenever a recipe asks you to “whisk” something, they very literally mean that you need to use a whisk to briskly mix it up. This tool is used all the time in baking from whisking eggs to beating heavy cream until it becomes whipped cream. Sometimes, you can get away with using an electric mixer to get the job done. However, this whisk could be one step in a much longer process of a recipe. Once you own a whisk, you’ll find that you reach for it constantly when you’re cooking or baking. It’s possible to buy a $1 whisk somewhere like Dollar Tree or Walmart. The only issue with those cheap products is that they’re uncomfortable to hold, and they will eventually rusk or fall apart in the dishwasher. I recommend buying a whisk with a comfortable handle. Kitchenaid whisks are very comfortable, and they come in a variety of colors to match your existing tools.
Owning a pie plate is essential for baking pies (duh!) but it can also come in handy for savory dishes like quiche. Once you get into the world of baking tarts, you’ll see that the possibilities for using a pie plate are endless. I also use myglass pie plates for cheese cakes, and so much more. If you have been given a decorative pie dish as a gift, make sure it’s actually dishwasher and microwave-safe. Clear glass pie plates are great, because you can keep your food in the dish and heat up leftovers without worry. If you go to Walmart for groceries, you can find a glass pie plate for roughly $3 apiece. They even sell pre-made pie crusts that you can roll out onto your pie plate. So it doesn’t have to be expensive for you to bake easy, delicious pies.
When you make a pie, you need to bake the crust first. Otherwise, the crust will become soggy, and it ruins the pie eating experience. Once you begin making pies, you’ll quickly realize that the dough tends to bubble and shrivel up as it’s baking. This can be prevented by poking holes in the dough, but it doesn’t always work perfectly. Professional bakers know to use pie weights to cook the crust until it’s at the perfect consistency, before removing it and adding the filling. You can buy pie weights online, or find them in the baking section of specialty stores. They can be made of stainless steel, ceramic, or glass. When you’re on a tight budget, you can try to use dry beans instead. Or, you can poke holes in the bottom of the crust before you bake. This isn’t totally perfect, but it’s a good way to get the job done without buying any extra tools.
When most people put icing on a cake, they reach for a butter knife in their kitchen drawer. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with that, and you could go the rest of your life decorating cakes this way. However, it’s not the most efficient tool you could use. An offset spatula is specially designed to take homemade icing out of your mixing bowl and spread it across the cake with ease. They’re also used to make designs on the top of a cake once it’s done. On its own, an offset spatula is very cheap, but they’re always included in a larger kit of cake decorating tool kits.
For some of you out there, suggesting to buy oven mitts is blatantly obvious. However, I’ve been to plenty of houses where people don’t own any, because they use a kitchen towel to pick up things they bake in the toaster oven. When you’re baking, you really want both of your hands to be fully protected by oven mitts. Most of these pans require you to use two hands. Mitts help your grip, and they’re thick enough to prevent burning yourself. Luckily, these are available pretty much everywhere, including Dollar Tree and Walmart.
Most people already know that they should use butter or oil on a pan to prevent food from sticking. But real bakers know that parchment paper is their best friend. Before you dismiss this product completely, keep in mind that there are certain recipes where it’s absolutely necessary. If you see this in a recipe, there is probably a good chance that your finished product will end up sticking to the pan without it. Parchment paper is available at Dollar Tree. But if you’re staying home, it’s available to buy online in larger quantities for just $3.
If you’re planning to make sugar cookies, scones, or any other dough that requires you to cut shapes, you’ll need a rolling pin. The type you buy doesn’t really matter, but professional bakers tend to love the French style rolling pins. Other people prefer to have a rolling pin with handles. Buying a rolling pin will put you at the top of the $20-per-item budget. If you’re in truly dire straits, you can use a tall glass covered in flour as a substitute for a rolling pin. However, this takes a lot longer, and it usually leads to uneven dough. Plus, you never know when you’ll need to defend yourself in this post-apocalyptic world. Along with baseball bats and katanas, your rolling pin can come in handy.
Silicone spatulas are so common, you may already have one in your kitchen. After your mix has been blended, you’ll need to scrape all of the remaining liquid out of your bowl. The best way to do that is with a silicone spatula. These come in all shapes and sizes. If you plan to do a lot of baking (or cooking in general) consider buying a set of various sizes. These are available from stores like Dollar Tree and Walmart. The only problem is that after a while, they might break when the silicone top separates from the handle. So no matter where you buy your spatula, look for ones that are all one solid piece.
Never heard of a ramekin? These are small oven-safe containers that are used for individual portions of dessert. They’re especially popular when making creme brûlée, but they can also be used for small cakes, puddings, and even soups. These come in all shapes and sizes, but the important thing is that you buy a set that will last a long time. It’s rare for your average American family to own a set of ramekins, and it sounds kind of pretentious. But they’re actually pretty useful, especially when you need extra containers for snacks during your next party.
If you’re ready to get fancy with your baking, you might want to invest in a kitchen torch. Typically, this is used to caramelize a sugar coating on the top of creme brûlée. It’s also used for Baked Alaska, tarts, and the top of Lemon Meringue Pie. They’re surprisingly affordable, and a lot of fun if you like to set things on fire. However, if you have kids, you might want to keep this one in a safe place. We don’t want to get blamed if something gets set on fire.
There are a lot of recipes like carrot cake that will ask for chopped nuts, carrots, and other ingredients. Sure, you can chop these by hand, but it will take a long time. And there are certain recipes, like homemade date bars, that are made much easier by using a food processor. Most brands are expensive, but there are some available online for $20 or less. If you don’t plan to use the food processor very often, it’s not necessary to buy a professional-grade machine.
Flippers are usually an item that most people already have in their kitchens. After all, how else are you going to make pancakes? However, most people have the cheap silicone or plastic flippers that you can find at Dollar Tree or Walmart. In certain cases, your pan is going to be so hot, it’s not a good idea to use a material that would melt. I recommend buying a metal flipper.
As odd as it may sound, pastry brushes really do come in handy during the baking process. There are a lot of breads that require you to cover it in an egg or butter wash. This gives the bread a golden color, and amazing flavor. I’ve tried to use a lot of alternatives, like a knife, but it never seems to work as well as a real pastry brush. So, while this item might be low on a list of priorities, it’s surely something you’ll need at some point if you’re on the road to being a baking pro. These brushes also come in handy when you’re trying to glaze meat before it’s thrown on the barbecue.
Once you’re done making your cookies or scones, they’re going to need to cool off. As tempting as it may seem, you can’t decorate anything while they’re hot. If you have the time, you can let your cookies sit on the hot cooking sheet. However, the hot metal will continue to cook the dessert. So by transferring your goodies to a cooling rack, you can keep the same consistency, and move on to the second batch. This helps to move the process along faster, so that you can continue to make more cookies.
Whether you’re trying to make cupcakes or healthy muffins for breakfast, you’ll need a muffin tin. I also use these for individual-sized brownies and other desserts. Just don’t forget to buy cupcake paper liners! Out of everything on this list, I highly recommend getting this if you don’t already have them, especially for upcoming birthday celebrations in your household. Even if you don’t feel like making something from scratch, it’s easy and fun to get a box mix and make some good old fashioned cupcakes.
Certain recipes like angel food cake require you to separate the egg whites from their yolks. This is also a good trick for almost any recipe if you’re trying to cut back on cholesterol. If you plan to bake on a regular basis, you should buy an egg separator, which makes it easy to crack open an egg and let the whites drop down from the yolk. Some recipes require you to use multiple egg whites, so the tool makes it far less time-consuming. Anyone who’s on such a tight budget where they can’t afford to buy the tool can separate egg whites on their own by cracking an egg in half, and carefully passing the yolk between the two halves. The egg white drops into the bowl eventually. Just be careful not to let any shell get into your mixture.
A lot of recipes will ask for lemon or orange zest. For those of you who have never heard of such a thing, you might try to peel the orange or squeeze in the juice. Nope! Zesting is the process of getting a grater, and turning the fruit peel into a fine grain. If you already own a large 4-sided cheese grater, that would be fine to use for citrus, as well. But if you don’t own any at all, I recommend buying a microplane grater, because they’re easier to hold and store away in your kitchen drawer. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cheaper alternative to fine grating. Knives and vegetable peelers won’t get the texture you’re looking for.
When you’re reading a recipe, you might notice that they ask for an ingredient in ounces, rather than cups or spoons. The one and only way to measure this is by weighing out the ingredients on a digital kitchen scale. Before you think you can substitute the scale on your bathroom floor, think again. You need these specialized kitchen scales to subtract the weight of your bowl, and then add your ingredients. These scales get very detailed, down to fractions of an ounce. Luckily, they’re not very expensive, and you’ll find that they come in handy more often than you might imagine.
Have you ever made bread dough, and then tried to divide it in half with your hands? It’s sticky, and likely to not be exactly even. I’ve gone through this several times, and it’s unbelievably annoying. The object that will save your sanity is a pastry scraper. It has a sharp edge, so you can dust it with powder, and easily divide up pieces of dough to the correct portions. This also makes it a lot easier for you to scrape up excess flour and dough bits off of your counters. Some chefs even use pastry scrapers as a substitute for a knife when they’re chopping. So this could come in handy if you need chopped nuts or other ingredients on your baked goods.
Sifting flour seems like one of those steps in the baking process that you’re likely to skip. After all, it seems over-the-top to ever bother doing this, because flour already seems to be finely milled. However, once you start sifting and seeing the rock-hard bits that come out of flour, you’ll never want to go back. An amazing life hack is sifting pancake mix, because it somehow makes them more light and fluffy. Buy a flour sifter, or substitute it with a fine mesh sieve. This is the sort of item that you buy once, and it lasts for years. You can also use this device to sprinkle powdered sugar on top of beignets or funnel cake.
Think you’re going to pose for Instagram wearing a cute outfit while baking? Think again. For those of you who don’t know, oil stands clothes, and you can never get it out again. I’ve ruined a few great shirts before I finally learned my lesson. Even if you’re not working with oil, you still run the risk of accidentally splashing ingredients all over yourself. You can buy a two pack of plain black aprons for just $10, or search for something else online that’s more your style.
If you make cookies, you’ve probably already experienced the frustrating process of trying to make perfectly shaped cookies. When you use your hands, you have to deal with the sticky dough. And if you use spoons, there’s always the chance that one cookie is larger than another. Ever wonder how the professional bakers make everything look so uniform? Cookie scoops help make each and every cookie look perfect. It works just like an ice cream scoop, except that it’s much smaller.
If you plan on decorating a cake or filling donuts, you’ll need piping bags. It’s also a good idea to use metal or plastic piping tips if you’re trying to make different patterns. Sometimes, when you’re in a tight pinch, you can get away with using plastic sandwich bags instead. And if you want to have fun decorating cakes and cupcakes with roses and other patterns, consider purchasing a full cake decorating kit.
If you plan to bake pizza or bread, you’re going to need olive oil. Sure, it’s possible to simply pour the oil out of the bottle, but it’s easy to accidentally pour too much. Oil dispenser bottles have a thin nozzle, so it controls the amount of oil that comes out. This is also great for drizzling some on top of the loaf of bread after it’s out of the oven. An added perk is that it makes your oil look more fancy, instead of having a branded bottle sitting on your counter. These bottles can be found at Dollar Tree or Walmart, or you can buy one online.
If you’re feeling fancy, you might want to consider buying a cupcake corer. This is a little device that removes the center of a cupcake so that you can fill it with whipped cream, jelly, Nutella, or pudding. This simulates the delicious flavor you would expect from a professionally made cake, only in a bite-sized form. Buying the device doesn’t cost a lot of money, but it goes a long way in terms of impressing your friends. Plus, you get to eat the cores of the cupcake along the way!