Home baking can be challenging for a number of reasons: precision, patience, a janky oven, forgetting to add a crucial ingredient, or even a complete lack of ingredients available at the store. (Remember those days?) And the cherry on top is that fancy bakeware and appliances often require an investment upwards of hundreds of dollars. When all you’re looking to make is a batch of blueberry muffins, it can be hard to justify buying such things.
So what if we told you that you could bake like a pro even with super basic tools that all cost under 20 bucks each?
Don’t believe us? That’s why we asked some of our favorite pastry chefs and master bakers in New York City about the tools they use to make their delicious treats. Whether you’re into one-bowl cakes or thinking about trying your hand at viennoiserie, getting these low-price and shockingly simple utensils is your first step to premium baked goods.
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Pastry Chef, Hunky Dory
“Using deli containers in my home kitchen has been a game-changer for me. It’s so satisfying to open my cupboards and see all of my baking ingredients laid out and organized, and it makes me feel more efficient when setting up my mise for any pastry project.”
Pastry Chef, Joy Cho Pastry
“I rarely frost layer cakes anymore, but a small offset spatula is a godsend when smoothing cake batter in the pan before it goes in the oven or loosening cakes from the pan after baking. Especially when coaxing out Gem Cakes from their molds, a small offset is key! Plus, it’s so compact, I can throw it in my silverware drawer.”
“My number one tool for both home and work is a plastic bowl scraper. It’s super affordable and has so many practical uses. It gets every last drop of batter out of a bowl, helps mix and fold a wide range of doughs from cookies to breads and biscuits! I have several at home and always have one on hand at work. They’re just so effective and efficient for so many things.”
Co-Owner and Pastry Lead, Interlude Coffee & Tea
“The humble cake tester doesn’t look like much but it’s what gives me the most peace of mind when checking for doneness in loaves and muffins. If you have a martini pick lying around in your drawers, that’s also fair game! The thickness of it does a great job holding on to crumbs.”
Founder, Apt. 2 Bread
“This tiny gadget is instrumental in my daily kitchen life. The first thing I do every morning is glance at my thermometer/hygrometer. Based on the reading, I choose the appropriate water temperature for that day’s dough mix. For instance, the other day it was 90 degrees so I kept the AC on. I used 76-degree water in my mix and had a final dough temp of 79 degrees, which I’m happy with. The humidity was high too, which told me my dough would proof at a quicker rate. Every day is different, and the challenge of proper fermentation is one of the joys of bread making.”
Courtney Kassel and Gaby Scelzo
Creators and Co-Authors of Sifted, a recipe newsletter
“I love my stand mixer more than most things in my life, but even I can admit there are occasions when a regular bowl and wooden spoon will get the job done. When that’s the case, I reach for this OXO mixing bowl. I’m not the most delicate baker, and the fact that this bowl is deeper than most means I never have to worry about cream spilling over the sides when I’m whipping it into sweet, stiff peaks. It also has a stable silicone base that helps the bowl stay put when I’m stirring together sticky brownie batters and dense lemony pound cakes.”
- Gaby Scelzo
“The bench scraper, dough cutter, scrapey thing— whatever you call it, is one of the most versatile tools and the one I reach for most often. I started experimenting with yeasted doughs during the pandemic, and this tool makes cutting, shaping, and moving dough a genuinely fun experience. My other secret: dental floss. Never inadvertently slice the filling out of a cinnamon roll again!”
- Courtney Kassel
Pastry Chef, Yellow Rose
“A rubber spatula is essential for ensuring thorough mixes in a stand mixer, preventing scorches in stovetop custards, gentle folding and stirring, soft scrambling eggs, and getting every last bit out of containers. It’s so useful and versatile and by far my favorite kitchen tool.”
Head Baker, Mel the Bakery
“A lot of the materials hair nets are made of actually are completely stick-resistant to bread dough. Instead of making a mess flouring a proofing basket or whatever vessel I’m using to store my proofed loaf at home, I just slip one of these around the basket and NO flour is needed to prevent sticking. The benefit goes beyond an easy clean up. I always get perfectly clean loaves to score and bake, resulting in a beautiful crust free of flour patches. You can reuse the nets by washing them in a simple warm water or vinegar solution.”