As in all of our guides, we've offered a few product recommendations in each category based on personal preferences, experience, and editor and reader reviews. Most of these tools can be bought on Amazon, but a terrific and cost-effective resource for basic kitchen tools is a restaurant supply store. Just buy the best quality you can afford!
We're not done with baking just yet! Look for guides to essential small electrics and essential gadgets in the future, many of which pertain to baking.
Must Read: Metal, Glass, Ceramic, or Silicone Pans: When To Use Each - this post is a great supplementary read when understanding what pan material is suitable for your cooking and baking needs!
1. A 9" x 13" Glass, Ceramic, or Metal Baking Pan: the standard pan size, this versatile pan typically holds about 3 quarts of volume. You can also convert almost any basic cake or cupcake recipe into a 9x13 size with no major adjustments. Glass is more presentable, particularly for things like casseroles and sheet cakes, but metal is more versatile. We recommend buying this pan with a lid. It'll make it so much easier for storage and/or to transport your dish across town.
• Pyrex Bakeware 9" x 13" Rectangular Baking Dish with Lid, $40 from Amazon
• Nordic Ware 9" x 13" Cake Pan with Storage Lid, $16.99 from Amazon
• Emile Henry Artisan Rectangular Baker, $80 from Williams-Sonoma
Related Reading: Halving Casseroles: Tips for Reducing the Size of a Recipe
2. An 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" Square Baking Pan: An 8" x 8" pan is just slightly bigger than a halved 9" x 13" pan. Great for brownies and bars.
3. Two Commercial-Quality Half Sheet Pans: We recommend commercial quality half sheet pans. They're more expensive, but worth it. Baking sheets are not a place to cut corners: look for heavy pans, and avoid nonstick and dark coated pans. (Why? Nonstick isn't that helpful and darker pans brown baked goods too fast.)
• Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13" x 18" x 1", $12.51 on Amazon. Read our review here.
• Norpro Professional 9" x 12" Heavy Gauge Cookie Sheet, $10.94 at Amazon
4. A 9" or 10" Round Cake Pan This is a standard size for traditional layer cakes, but it's helpful for other dishes, too, like biscuits, sweet rolls, even meatballs.
• Chicago Metallic Professional Nonstick 9" Round Cake Pan, $16.99 from Amazon
• Pro Line Nonstick Round Cake Pan, $14.95 from Crate and Barrel
• Chicago Metallic 9" x 2" Commercial II Round Cake Pan, $13.00 from Sur La Table
5. A Muffin Pan OR Paper Souffle Cups: If you like baking muffins and cupcakes often, then a muffin pan is essential. If it's an occasional treat for you, then you can probably get away with paper soufflé cups. Cheap and recyclable, just fill them with batter, line them up on a regular cookie sheet, and bake!
6. A 9" or 10" Pie Pan: A basic pie pan isn't just for pies: it's great for roasting a chicken or making a quiche, too! Look for extra deep pie dishes to accommodate lots of filling. Glass or ceramic is best here.
Related Reading: Baker's Tip: Choosing the Right Pie Dish
7. A 9" x 5" Loaf Pan: You can cook everything from pound cakes t banana bread, meatloaf, and yeast breads in a standard loaf pan. Heavy and plain is best.
Readers, do you have anything to add?
The Kitchn's Other 'Essentials' Guides:
• The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Prep Tools & Utensils
•The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Cooking Tools & Utensils
• The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Cookware