There are a lot of kitchen items, utensils and tools sold for baking, but not all of them are essentials. Someone just starting out doesn’t need gadgets with limited purpose or professional-quality items. Spending a lot isn’t necessary. Someone equipping their kitchen for baking should focus on purchasing tools that are useful for many cooking purposes. Whenever possible, I buy tools that can be thrown in the dishwasher for my convenience.
I bake often, but I have had many baking items for more than 20 years. Here are the eight essentials I believe every kitchen should have for cooking and baking:
- Measuring cups – You need a varying size stacking cups and a graduated glass one. The stacking cups are great for dry materials, like flour or sugar, where you can dip them in the package. Glass-measuring cups are better for liquids so you can clearly gauge the amount. Realistically, either type of cup can be used for dry or liquid. Several companies make glass measuring cups but mine have always been Pyrex.
- Measuring spoons – Measuring spoons typically come in an attached set. They can be plastic or metal. Either is fine. If you want to splurge, I recommend having more than one. This eliminates having to wash commonly used spoons in between ingredients.
- Mixing bowls – These usually come in sets of varying sizes, but some are sold by themselves. Be aware that you need at least two since many recipes require mixing dry ingredients separately from liquid ones.
- Silicon spatula or spoontula – Spatulas are one item where cheap does not make sense. Cheap spatulas break easily and can’t deal with heat. Get a silicon one that is heat resistant (for the dishwasher) and multi-purpose I like a spoontula, a spatula that is more spoon shaped on one side. They are great for use as a mixing spoon, too.
- 10×13 inch baking/roasting pan – There are other sizes, but this basic one can be used for brownies, a one-layer sheet cake, lasagna, casseroles, a roasting pan and more. If you only buy one, this is the size. They come in glass, metal, ceramic, and other materials. I have one of each type, but use the glass one the most.
- Mixer – I bought a cheap hand-held three-speed mixer for my first apartment. I still have and use it. I’ve fantasized about a shiny Kitchenmaid pro-type heavy-duty mixer with all the bells and whistles, but the simple cheap one (along with a mixing spoon and elbow grease) has enabled me to bake anything I’ve tried.
- Baking sheet –The obvious use is for cookies. But, I also use a baking sheet for cooking fries, roasting vegetables like green beans and asparagus, and more. Get one with edges, however, so things don’t slide off as you put them in the oven.
- Loaf pan(s) – My loaf pans were rarely used for years. Once I discovered how it easy it is to use leftover zucchini or overripe bananas for loafs, the pans began to be used regularly. (You can also use loaf pans for meat loaves and other purposes.) It is a good idea to have two since many recipes make two loaves. One of my old glass ones recently broke and I replaced it with a metal one, which I actually like better. But, I was happy with glass before.
Cupcake tins, round or square cake pans and a pie plate are useful if you will bake that type of treat regularly. I get regular use of my cooling rack, but didn’t have one for years. Things like cake pop makers, heart-shaped cake pans, Springform pans, cookie presses, frosting tips and other baking items are great if they really get used. I have too many baking tools that were used a few times and now take up space in my kitchen cupboards; stick with essentials unless you will really make use of an item.