This Week is Gear Week

Hello Joe readers! I’m back and unscathed from my trip to Mob Central, which is good news for me, so-so for most of you guys. For a while now I’ve been getting requests for a series of posts on baking gear. I’ve procrastinated because I haven’t known where to start and I’m lazy. However now regular reader and commenter Ann is getting married and needs to know what to tell her relatives to buy. So there’s an imperative here. I’m planning to start a series that goes from the basic must-haves up to the ridiculously specialized and unnecessary. If you have input, by all means send it. I’ll put this series up in the Baking Basics category for all posterity. So don’t hold back!

36 thoughts on “This Week is Gear Week”

  1. Digital metric-compatible scale, even though Joe is often hit-or-miss about giving weights in his recipes.

  2. Someone told me I need a hygrometer if I want to make a good Macaron. They inform me that you have to take account of the humidity more so than with most baked goods but, of course, neglected to tell me why or how.

    Is this device really necessary ? And can I make a top notch Macaron if my oven isn’t top notch.

    Will you do a Macaron post ?

    I didn’t even know until recently that this place opened a short walk from me. Now I know. So now I’m into Macaron.

  3. What materials are best for bakeware such as cake pans, pie plates and sheet pans? I’ve had all types, glass, ceramic, aluminum, tin, non-stick aluminum, dark finish, light finish, untreated aluminum. …And how about the height and slant of a cake or baking pan? I have straight sided pans and ones that are slightly slanted which are only slightly wider at the top; I have ones where the base corners are very sharply squared off and ones that are more softly squared off. What materials are best for which use? What pans (and sizes) are newbs most likely to get the most use out of for a starter collection.

    1. Wow, Susan…those are a whole lot of very good questions. I shall do my best when I get to forms!


      – Joe

  4. My essentials:

    3 silicone spatulas (flat, spoon-shaped, and narrow)
    stacking cooling racks for cookies
    8″ square silicone cake pan
    2 x 9″ silicone cake pans (also wish I had 3 x 6″)
    9 x 13″ cake pan
    muffin pan with removable silicone cups

    What I wish I had was a food processor, or a combo stand-mixer and food processor. I make do with a $7 hand mixer and a mini hand blender with 1.25 cup herb chopper attachment, but if it is for a wedding, definitely put an appliance or two on the list!

  5. A Cuisinart Stand mixer of course and for the more thrifty wedding guest, metal pie crust shields! lol

    1. Nice! Almost forgot about the pie shield. I have one of those and love it.

      – Joe

  6. To things that I find indispensable in the kitchen: a microplane grater and a rubber spatula. Simple items, but I would really be at a loss without them.

    1. I know how you feel. I love my microplane too. Converting a wood rasp for the kitchen was genius moment!

      Thanks Chana!

      – Joe

  7. I’d like to know about the differences in cookie sheets. I have two different cookie sheets (a shiny metal one and a heavier dark coloured metal one) that bake the same batch of cookies completely differently. What’s that about?

    1. Ah yes, it’s all in the color. Black absorbs more heat, so it’s like baking your cookies at a higher temperature. Shiny metal reflects it, even in the oven where there’s no visible light. Cool, no?

      – J

  8. To me sometimes the simplest things are the most useful and important. Thats how I feel about my collection of bench scrapers. Many people do not have even one but I have about eight of them and I use them every day. My stainless steel versions help scrape up everything from flour, dough, chocoloate, vegetables and meat to the gunk that sticks to my cutting board after making doughs. The soft plastic one get all that good stuff out of the bottom of a mixing bowl in smoother larger quantities than any spatula. I have a few very soft ones that conform to the shape of smaller bowls. The larger ones help smooth the sides of cakes and are a real help when frosting a cake. I use the big one for clean up as well as it really scoops up a lot of stuff making clean up easier and faster. They may not be the tool you think of as a gift but they are the best gift to a cook in the end.

    1. NEAT reply Andy B.!

      Now I’m going to look for those groovy scrapers of yours. Thanks very much for that!

      – Joe

  9. I definately have some musts!

    First a Food Processor/Stand Mixer – go for heavy duty even if it costs more upfront it will last longer and be cheaper in the long run. Once can never have enough Rubber/Wooden Spatulas – I use at least one every meal. And last but not least, the baking essentials…. a good scale and a instant read thermometer.

  10. This may sound silly but I wanted to kick myself for not bringing my “dishers” with me when I moved to sweden (I assumed I could find some) I use a regular ice cream scoop sized one for portioning muffins/cupcakes and a smaller one for cookies. Its very martha stuarty yes but I get faster, more even results. I finally sourced some but man did I miss them. Oh and if you happen to have the size you like meatballs made of, easy there too. Scoop scoop scoop scoop.. oh look done! (I make such a mess with spoons, I dunno why)

    1. I’ve always meant to get into scoops, Kitty, but I never remember to buy them. You’re renewed my commitment because you are so right, they are handy in the extreme.


      – Joe

      1. I remember buying my cookie scoop at walmart… which is why I swear I thought I could buy one here. And then the previously mentioned ice cream sized scoop. They never really work to well for me in ice cream, but everything else? awesome. (ice cream tends to be too hard for these sorts of scoops. my fav is these cuz they tend to be cheap enough to run under warm water and if the temperature changes were to affect them I wouldn’t mind. They tend to also hold the warmth better for cutting through frozen stuff.

  11. Not the usual sizes, but I recently found tiny, 6″ cake pans from Wilton and 6″ spring form pans and I absolutely love them! As a two person household – which Ann and new hubby will be at first – a large cake is just too much sometimes. I scale recipes down to make mini versions and it is just enough without always taking the leftovers to my co-workers. I also have small pie pans and muffin tins that make one-half dozen.

    1. Ingenious, Linda! I have some of those but have never put them to work in that way. Very good thinking.

      – Joe

  12. I know this site focuses on baking most of the time, but we have to think about the whole kitchen. Having one really nice set of pots is amazing. I like to have a small saucepan, large saucepan, stock pot, frying pan for eggs (don’t let it touch your meat!) and of course a heavy dutch oven that can go from stove to the oven. I personally use my lodge for everything from meat to bread.

    1. Good advice, Kat. So why no meat in the egg pan? Is that because of potential scratches?

      – Joe

  13. Cash only – she can use it to buy stuff she finds she needs as she travels on her kitchen odyssey.

    1. Now there’s a true man of the world talkin’. Amen, brother. Amen.

      – Joe

  14. Silpats and digital scales are my two must-haves. And some sturdy half-sheet pans always come in handy.

    What’s your take on dough whisks? I’ve seen rave reviews of them but have always been slightly skeptical of such a flimsy-looking device’s prowess with dough.

    If she’s into bread-baking, rectangular shaped proofing boxes (like the really sturdy tupperware ones) are a great item to have–most bowls get wider at the top which really isn’t ideal for bread proofing.

    1. Hey Melanie!

      You know I’ve never used a dough whisk. I should try it sometime, ’cause Im skeptical just like you.

      – Joe

    1. Yeah, yeah, you and your Thermomix! We’ve heard enough about it already! You and I both know you don’t need it, so send it to me and I’ll dispose of it appropriately. Mailing address to follow.

      – Joe

  15. I got a KitchenAid stand mixer whenI got married and it is very good in its niche but I find myself using my little hand mixer most of the time. For whipping just two egg whites or a cup or less of cream, it’s all I need. I only use my stand mixer when I nedd to whip lots of egg whites or for large recipes. I had it repaired once and the technician told me it was leaking oil because it wasn’t used often enough.

    I also love my microplane, pastry cutter, and heat-proof spatulas.

    1. Yep, exactly. I generally do a lot of volume, so a stand mixer is important for me. However I’d really like a hand mixer, just to see…

      Thanks Andrea!

      – Joe

  16. For high end gadgets I really like an immersion blender, a spice grinder, and a mandolin. I think you definitely get what you pay for with these, so getting someone else to pay for it is all the better!

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