The Compleat Baker: An Introduction to the Tools of the Trade

     Good evening, friends and neighbors!

     Recently, I was talking to my older sister. She bakes occasionally and enjoys cooking at home for herself and her fiancée. Unfortunately, the kitchen in their apartment is extremely small, so space is at a premium. My sister is constantly on the lookout for ways to save or creatively use space, or simply pare down the amount of stuff in her kitchen. 

     “I’d bake more,” she said, “but I really don’t have room for all the stuff you would need!”

     Thus she echoes yet another fear that keeps the hungry and curious from taking up home-baking- what equipment to get? What tools? How do I find the best ones? What’s necessary, what’s not?

    I’ve been baking since I was 10, and professionally for nearly 4 years now. This still qualifies me as a bit of a rookie in the grand scheme of things, but there is one thing I have learned: you can find yourself getting a LOT of stuff.


Baking is not *quite* this bad…

     So for the next few entries, I’ve combed through all the cookware and equipment available and tried to boil it down to the absolute essentials- and any good culinarian can tell you exactly what that is.

The Toolbox.

    This is my toolbox. It’s a typical, medium-sized, Stanley box with a removable tray and two compartments in the the lid. This box and my knife roll (on top) hold virtually every tool I need to do my job.


Yes, I HAD to shoot it in Panorama mode…

     For these Tools of the Trade entries, I’ll be focusing almost entirely on the contents of the box. (Believe me, that’s enough!) There is equipment that the home baker will need that obviously can’t be carried around- large rolling pins, sheet pans, bakeware, etc. Those will be for future entries. Here, I am talking entirely about tools- what a baker should have with them in an already appropriately stocked kitchen.
    Please also be aware that what is necessary for you and your work may not be the same as what I have here. Your needs will also likely change over time. This is my third tool box- over the course of my career, my toolbox has expanded to allow more of the tools I needed. Some of my chefs in school had rolling hardware chests, and even my coworkers have toolboxes three times the size of mine. 

“Shoot… now which drawer was the zester in?”

What you have will be defined by:
A. What you are doing now.
B. What you want to do.

So don’t go overboard.

Caveats out of the way? Good?



     To make things a little less complicated (and to keep me from having to do an entry about every single item,) the tools are lumped together in several categories:

  1. Sharps and Blades (knives, cutting/shredding things)
  2. Mixers and Movers (tools for mixing or transferring product)
  3. Dough and Batter Management (tools for manipulating, smoothing, or handling product)
  4. Measuring 
  5. Decorating (tools for decoration and/or precision work)
  6. Essentials and Oddballs (miscellaneous)

     Hopefully, at the end of this series, you’ll have an idea of the kind of tools you’ll need to do the baking you want to do. 

    Remember: mise en place. Cleanliness and order isn’t just about the kitchen, or just about food- it’s about having the right tools, for the right jobs, in the right places, in every part of your life.

    In the next entry, we’ll start with a topic near and dear to EVERY chefs (and old Boy Scouts) heart- Knives and Sharps.

Till then…

Stay Classy,