Tips from The Kitchn

The 10 Kitchen Tools I Bought After Working as a Professional Baker for 15 Years

published Oct 25, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

I’ve worked in all sorts of professional kitchens. This includes plating expensive desserts in high-end San Francisco restaurants, as well as making tin after industrial-sized tin of cupcakes for a summer camp dining hall. I’ve worked as a chocolatier, as well as a wedding cake maker (fun fact: I made the wedding cake for Kitchn’s Tools Editor when she got married!). I’ve been a recipe writer and a pastry teacher, too.

All of this means that I have stocked my home kitchen with gadgets and gear that make it possible for me to bake my best — even when I’m not in a fitted-out space meant for pros. While I love my KitchenAid mini stand mixer and my battalion of cake pans in every size imaginable, I find smaller, basic tools actually make the biggest day-to-day impact with my baking.

These are the 10 essential items I can’t bake without.

1. A kitchen scale

When you get into serious baking, most recipes are written by weight, not volume. Using a scale to measure out your ingredients is much more precise than using measuring cups, and, honestly, it’s a lot easier and cuts down on dishes. Beyond measuring out ingredients, a scale is also indispensable for dividing and portioning out dough and batter into cake pans to get truly even layers.

2. An instant-read thermometer

A thermometer is a total necessity for candy-making, but it can also be super helpful when making jam, frying doughnuts, or checking the internal temperature of breads and pastries to see if they’re done. There are some high-end models out there that I love and used religiously while working in a professional test kitchen, like the Thermapen, but I keep this less-expensive and more-compact thermometer (which comes in some delightful color options!) at home.

3. Silicone rubber spatulas

I don’t even know how I’d bake without my squad of silicone spatulas. Scraping the last of the peanut butter from the bottom of a jar, transferring every drop of batter from the bowl to the cake pan, smoothing out the surfaces of brownies for an even top, stirring molten sticky caramel sauces … the list of spatula uses goes on and on. I have many in my kitchen, but I think everyone should have at least two for themselves: one big (for stirring hot things) and one small (for reaching into tiny nooks and crannies). Make sure they are high-heat-safe and easy to clean. 

4. A mini offset spatula

My absolute must-have tool for cake decorating is the mini offset spatula. Unlike the flexible silicone spatula, this tool is rigid. I use it to frost cakes and prefer it to a larger offset because I can do more detailed spackling and touch-up work around the edges and seams of cakes. It can also be used like a palette knife to etch designs into icing or swirl texture into frosting or whipped cream. It comes in handy for transferring small cookies from baking sheet to cooling rack or spreading thin batters precisely (like for tuile or crepes). 

5. A bench scraper

If you find yourself working with dough, you need a bench scraper. It works as a better, more skilled hand for getting under dough on the counter and lifting it up or moving it around. Beyond dough, you can really use it to ferry just about any pile of ingredients efficiently from one place to another. With an easy scrape across your kitchen counter, this tool makes cleaning up (even sticky dough!) painless. 

6. A ruler

I actually like to keep two types of rulers in my kitchen: one rigid for tracing straight lines, and another flexible, like a soft tailor tape, for measuring around the perimeter of cakes to mark where I want to add decorations or piping designs. A ruler is also essential when rolling out pie or laminated dough — it’s best to just measure rather than guess if you’re hitting the recipe’s recommended specs. 

7. Disposable pastry bags

I really fell in love with having a lush supply of pastry bags at my disposal when I worked in professional kitchens. They can be so helpful for shaping macarons into perfect circles, filling jelly donuts, or piping out pâte à choux for profiteroles. When I’m making a colorful cake, I like to have all my dyed frostings neatly packed into individual pastry bags so I can grab them as needed while decorating. If you prefer a more sustainable bag, try reusable silicone pastry bags — just make sure to wash and dry them thoroughly after each use.

8. Lots of measuring spoons

Measuring is a key part of successful baking. It boggles my mind that people often have a ton of expensive baking equipment at home and just one set of measuring spoons, with spoons that always seem to be missing or dirty. Measuring spoons can be relatively cheap and easy to store; I have at least three sets. I separate all of my spoons from their rings and keep them in a cup on my counter. I can reach for the specific spoon I need without grabbing and dirtying the whole set. And I have multiple available without breaking my stride to wash and dry between measurements. I prefer simple metal spoons with etched measurement markers (a spoon is pretty useless if the measurement marker rubs off). 

9. Mini sheet pans

Most people have a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet. This standard size, called a half sheet tray, has a million uses and more than earns its keep in even a minimalist’s kitchen. I learned to cherish smaller baking sheets, called quarter-sheets (9×13-inch), and eighth-sheets (6×9-inch) while working in the industry. I use eighth-sheets like mise-en-place bowls to prep delicate ingredients that need to remain in a single layer. I make mini sheet cakes and jelly rolls in the quarter-sheet trays; they are also great for baking off small batches of cookies and toasting nuts.   

10. A pastry wheel

When you need to cut a long strip of dough, the pastry wheel is a much better tool than a chef’s knife. I use a wheel for cutting pie dough lattices, slicing triangles of laminated dough for croissants, and for straightening out the edges of large pieces of dough. I also use the ruffled/fluted edge side, just to change things up once in a while!

Do you have any of these tools? Tell us in the comments!