Kitchn Love Letters

I’m A Former Pastry Chef and These Are the 10 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

published Aug 9, 2022
The Kitchn received compensation for this post, which was written and edited independently by our editorial team.
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Credit: Milles Studio/Stocksy

Because I used to work in restaurants as a pastry chef and then had my own donut company, I have a bit more experience than your average home cook. And while lots of restaurant habits never made the transition to my home kitchen, the truth is, once you have the practices of a restaurant ingrained in your muscle memory, they’re pretty hard to undo. For instance, I still label my food storage containers with the date, and I still rearrange my fridge according to the Food Handler’s Safety recommendations. As much as I used to complain about all the little daily tasks involved in professional kitchen life, they really do streamline cooking and baking.

The same goes for gear. My kitchen is stocked with so many restaurant kitchen essentials (I’m talking knife sharpeners, unexpected cleaning tools, and specialized peelers) even though I rarely plate up fancy pastries or make multiple components for desserts these days. Truthfully, these tools make spending time in my kitchen so much more enjoyable (and much easier).

So I figured it might be time to share some tricks of the trade. I’ve rounded up ten of my non-negotiable baking essentials for anyone and everyone who spends even a shred of time in their kitchen. Trust me, these items will make any baking adventure even sweeter.

1 / 10
From our partner

Whether you’re cooking at home in clothes you’d rather not stain or in the restaurant kitchen making huge batches of chocolate mousse, a good apron is essential for culinary success. And when it comes to top-quality aprons that don’t skimp on functionality or style, my favorite place to turn is HELT. In particular, the Pot Of Golf Bib Apron. It’s sturdy and adjustable, has four perfectly placed pockets, is ethically made from cotton canvas, and is hands-down gorgeous.

2 / 10
Pattern Brands
was $35.00

You may have read my rave review of GIR’s three-piece baking set, which includes one reusable baking mat (that’s made with the highest quality silicone, is dishwasher and oven safe, and can be trimmed to any size), the editor-favorite GIR spatula, and a mini spatula for good measure. These three items are by far the most-used essentials in my kitchen, whether I’m baking, cooking, or prepping. Plus, they come in a variety of super-cute colors, and you save 20 percent by purchasing them as a set.

3 / 10

When I had my own donut business, I used to make my own sprinkles — and let me tell you, making them is nowhere near as fun as eating them. So when I found out about Supernatural Sprinkles, I literally did a little dance. The company makes tons of super cute, differently shaped sprinkles (think dinosaur themed or spring flowers) all of which are plant based, vegan, and free of any artificial flavors or colors. Oh, and they're absolutely scrumptious. If you've never had high-quality sprinkles, now's the time.

4 / 10
was $6.28

There were a few years there when I literally carried this little tool around with me even on my days off. It's perfect for smoothing icing, picking up hot cookies from the sheet tray, scraping the edges of a pan, stirring in the dries... its uses are truly endless. Whether you cook or bake one day a week or spend most of your time in the kitchen, this is the item that’ll have you wondering “How did I ever live without this?”

5 / 10
was $9.99

Did you know not all cocoa powders are created equal? Look, I’m not throwing any shade at Hershey’s (sometimes it’s the stuff from grandma’s cabinet that does the trick), I’m just saying there is a reason restaurants and pastry shops source specialty chocolate. When it comes to adding depth, intensity, and that je-ne-sais-quoi element to your chocolate desserts, just trust me: Buy this stuff. It’s Dutch-processed (aka never bitter), dark and rich, and will totally elevate the chocolate-y flavor in anything you’re baking.

6 / 10
was $499.99

It's no accident that so many professional kitchens use a KitchenAid mixer instead a more industrial machine; even with hours of rigorous, daily use, these babies just keep chugging along. Oh, and they’re drop-dead gorgeous. This Artisan Tilt-Head (the classic model) is the one I have in my home. It comes with three- and five-quart bowls, a pouring shield, and attachments including a hook, pastry beater, whisk, and beater. If you plan on doing any baking at all, this stand mixer is a must-have investment.

7 / 10

Whether you’re prepping family dinner, a week’s worth of WFH lunches, or (if you’re me) a two-tier funfetti cake, a good set of prep bowls is the totally underrated tool everyone needs in their kitchen. I love this trio of nesting bowls from Food 52 because they have spouts (easy to pour batter into the bowl), come with lids (so you can store that cubed butter in the freezer until you’re ready), can tolerate heat up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (for pouring warm ingredients), and are dishwasher safe.

8 / 10

Hear me out: It's time to stop wearing your slippers in the kitchen. Not only is it a hazard (what if hot oil drips on them and you burn your foot through the material), it can also lead to back and foot pain. After hours (sometimes 13 hours straight!) in my Danskos, I’d leave the restaurant with my back and toes intact. These days, I wear them whether I'm making Tuesday night dinner or a set of six ice cream cakes for a party. They stay comfy and cool while supporting me through all my tasks.

9 / 10
was $25.00

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If I could only have one pan in my kitchen, this NordicWare gem would be it. A good springform pan can do triple duty as a cake pan or a pizza pan, and you can roast veggies in it, steam-bake custards, and more. Plus, its removable sides make it a breeze to clean. This NordicWare version conducts heat well and lasts a lifetime (I still use my grandma’s from decades ago). And how cute is it in that cherry red color?

10 / 10
Williams Sonoma

I depend on my kitchen scale every time I bake, and often when I cook, too. Most of my recipes from my past career are measured in grams (I wholeheartedly recommend converting your most-relied-upon recipes into weight, it’s wildly helpful), but truthfully, if I’m measuring out liquid, butter, or basically anything that isn’t a dry ingredient. I do it on the scale. Weighing vs. measuring volume minimizes the number of dishes you'll have to clean and makes the cooking process a whole lot easier. With a rechargeable battery, an easy-to-clean surface, and uber-precise measurements, this electric Zwilling scale is the best of the best.