So you’re ready to wade into the wide, wonderful world of bread making. But your kitchen is not quite equipped.
Fret not, Foodal is here to help you navigate the necessities so that you can focus your energy on achieving the perfect knead. We understand that baking your own bread at home can be daunting enough without having to figure out which tools are necessary, and which gear offers the best value!
There are several tools that aid in pulling the best flavor and texture out of your homemade bread. But while some of these will prove necessary from the start, others can wait until you feel prepared to up your game.
We’ve compiled a handy list of breadmaking necessities to simplify your shopping, along with a few little luxuries that will prove well worth the investment over time, as your bread habit grows.
The best part is that each of these accessories can be used for so much more than making bread! You’ll be happy to find that they all come in handy in every aspect of cooking, both sweet and savory. Because really, who has the space for tools that can’t perform a multitude of functions?
I use each of these tools just about every day. In fact, if my kitchen had nothing else (save an oven and pantry), I could just about survive with nothing more than these nine items.
1. Bowl Scraper
A bowl scraper is the underappreciated champion of the baker’s toolkit. From scraping down every last bit of cake batter to manipulating sticky bread dough, there is no tool more useful than a trusty scraper.
I prefer the white rectangular variety with one rounded edge, like this one by Ateco. The rounded side is invaluable in clearing a bowl, while the straight edge aids in cleaning batter out of tricky corners or off of tall sides.
Not just for cleaning, the bowl scraper functions as an extension of your own hand – providing better leverage than a spatula while keeping fingers clean. I love using my scraper for spreading marshmallows, kneading dough, even frosting a cake!
If I were to recommend a top tool needed in every home kitchen, this would undoubtedly be it. Plus they are easy on the wallet, making it easy to purchase quite a few! I like to keep three or four circulating in my home kitchen at all times, so that one is always at hand.
2. Bench Knife
Much like the bowl scraper, the bench knife is another kitchen tool that’s deserving of higher praise – and it is particularly useful for those aiming to bake bread.
A dull, rectangular blade with an ergonomic handle, this tool will come in handy from start to finish. Cubing butter, portioning dough, transferring ingredients from cutting board to sauté pan, scraping down your workbench, cutting brownies – everything is made simpler with a bench knife in hand.
The dull blade makes it acceptable to use without a cutting board – it won’t hurt your counters or your sheet trays, and likewise those surfaces won’t hurt the blade either.
It is easier to leverage than a typical knife, and will slice easily through bread dough, where it is particularly important to cut through rather than stretch out the gluten strands.
I prefer a knife with a sturdy wooden handle to plastic. It is easy to use and feels great in the hand.
The one pictured above by Dexter-Russell is my favorite – and it’s sure to become your go-to tool as well.
3. Silicone Mat
Have you ever baked a loaf of free-form bread or delicately formed rolls, only to have them stick to the bottom of your pan? Are you tired of wasting excessive amounts of parchment paper – let alone the frustration of cutting it to the right size?
Get ready: a silicone mat is about to become your new best friend.
Typically made to fit half-sheet and full-sheet baking trays perfectly, these mats are easy to clean, reusable, and excellent at keeping things from sticking to the tray.
I especially love them for recipes involving a sprinkling of sugar – the caramelized bits that might be tricky to scrape off a metal tray slide right off the silicone mat.
I stick with the classic Silpat brand pictured above, but there are plenty of cheaper options available as well.
4. Loaf Pans
If you’re hoping to bake your bread into a sandwich loaf, than a sturdy loaf pan is a must. These are necessary for quick breads like banana or zucchini, and offer the perfect shape for a sturdy yeasted loaf bound for sandwiches as well.
It is best to use a pan with sturdy sides that won’t get misshapen in the high heat. Additionally, you want a quality pan that will distribute heat evenly.
I recommend these aluminized steel pans by USA Pans as pictured above. Though cheaper options are available, these pans are built to last. And even with their quality build, they still won’t break the bank.
Have you ever pulled a beautiful loaf from the oven, smelled the heavenly scent wafting through the air, and patiently waited through the cooling process, only to be rewarded with a raw center?
I sure have. And let me tell you, it feels so defeating.
What to do?
Enter the need for a quality thermometer.
Not only will it ensure your loaves are baked all the way through, it can also help to gauge the temperature of water while activating yeast, or of dough in its initial rise.
I love the ease of use of a probe thermometer, like this one by Supreme Home Cook. It is also great for cooking sugar when making a meringue or marshmallow. But if you’re looking for something a bit simpler, the Wietus model will work great too.
Read our guide to the multi-functional kitchen thermometer to find out more.
The final piece of kitchen equipment that will seriously assist your bread quality from the start is a good kitchen scale.
Volume measurements are inconsistent, and it can be difficult to portion dough by sight alone. Especially when it comes to crafting artisan loaves, a scale can be your closest companion.
I like the OXO model pictured above, and find the quality and accuracy to be outstanding.
Many people avoid moving into weighed measurements, assuming they are more complicated than volumes. In fact, the opposite is true!
Without the need to dirty several measuring cups and spoons, cleanup is a breeze. Imagine the ease of portioning all of your ingredients directly into the mixing bowl! Not to mention the frustration avoided when that 1/4-cup measure goes missing…
It is well worth it to spend a little bit extra for a quality scale, as a cheaper variety might lose calibration, or lack sensitivity to light weight changes.
Really Helpful Luxuries
When it comes time to bake your loaf, higher hydration (i.e. wetter) varieties require a slice through the top.
This is used to create beautiful and unique designs atop loaves, or to differentiate varieties. But the slice is not just for looks – it serves an important role in aiding the baking as well, helping to ventilate the loaf so that steam can escape and give the bread one final rise.
A knife will do just fine when you’re starting out. But as you improve your bread making, you will likely want a tool that offers more precision – particularly if you’re looking to develop your own signature design!
A lame (pronounced la-may) is just the tool you need. This simple contraption holds a sharp razor blade that lightly and swiftly slices through the top of a loaf of proofing bread.
Make sure to buy one with a replaceable blade, so you don’t need to throw the whole thing out when it dulls.
The simple Adour by Mure & Peyrot model pictured above is just what you need. Find it now on Amazon.
8. Baker’s Baskets – Brotform and Banneton
Have you ever wondered how bakers achieve those beautiful round flour designs on their artisan loaves? Or have you wished for a simple proofing bowl that makes it easy to turn dough out onto a hot pan?
The trick is in the basket.
Brotform and Banneton are the two most well-known baker’s baskets. They are essentially the same, the former being German and the latter French.
Though the names are used to differentiate between the woven basket lined with linen from the coiled form, today the two are often used interchangeably.
Available in round or rectangular varieties, these baskets are useful for baking everything from boules (round loaves) to batards (rectangular loaves similar to a short baguette).
I consider them a luxury because a mixing bowl or colander lined with a generously floured kitchen towel will do the trick when you are getting started.
But if you hope to craft lovely loaves with any regularity, trust me when I say that you will thoroughly enjoy a good basket.
9. Dutch Oven
Chances are your home oven has trouble holding a temperature of 450°F, and I would bet that you don’t have steam injectors comparable to the deck ovens of your favorite artisan bakery either.
A Dutch oven is the ideal method of mimicking these qualities at home. It effectively holds a high temperature longer than a home oven, plus it contains the steam released by the bread, assisting in lift and the formation of a nice crust.
A round six-quart model, such as the one pictured above, is a great size and shape to start with. From there, you can get a better idea of what other sizes that you may want.
For those who are still learning, spraying the oven with a stream of water or dropping in ice cubes will help to mimic this step. But again, like the basket, a Dutch oven will seriously elevate your loaves when you’re ready to take things up a notch.
Should you want the high-heat capacity but you aren’t quite ready for the added cost of a Dutch oven, a baking stone is a great middle step. Plus, it makes a mean pizza to boot!
10. Bread Knife
You’ve gone through all that trouble to bake up a nice, tasty loaf only to realize that you’re destroying it as you cut into it! What to do?
Make sure that you have a high quality bread knife on hand. And no, not the model that came with that cheap Wally World knife set that you picked up for your first apartment.
A good model will slice the toughest (and the softest) loaves with ease and leave you with a great presentation.
Not only that, they are great for slicing up cakes and tomatoes as well!
Which to pick?
I like the 10 1/2-Inch Mac Knife Superior Bread Knife.
It’s super sharp. But better yet, being made of super hard Japanese steel, it’ll hold that sharpness for a long, long time.
I also love all the knuckle clearance that this beauty provides, and this makes it a true multitasker.
11. Pastry Board
If your counter is not up to the job of rolling out dough or you want a surface that you can move over to the sink for a quick wash off, then consider a pastry board.
These are either made of marble, wood (usually maple), or bamboo. But we prefer the wooden ones, and here’s why:
Most of these feature a lip at either end that locks it to your counter or table while the opposite end acts as a backsplash.
Since they are reversible, one side can be use as a cutting board and the other side can be reserved for rolling out dough.
You DO NOT want to use marble as a cutting board. That’s the quickest way to tear up your knives. And bamboo isn’t that great for them either. You want wood.
See our cutting board guide for more information.
Which of the available pastry boards on the market do I like best?
That’s easy. The John Boos model pictured above.
No only is it flat on one side for dough and pastry use, it also features a gravy groove on the other that’s perfect to use as an everyday cutting board.
There are other cheaper products on the market, but most of them are thinner (which can lead to warping) and/or they often have exposed screw heads.
You’ve heard it mentioned here before, but it’s worth repeating – “life is too short for cheap tools!”
Now Put Them to Use!
Now that you know all about the necessities, along with a few worthwhile luxuries, you’ll have trouble finding a valid excuse to stall those bread baking experiments any longer.
What are your favorite tools for baking your own rolls, loaves, and more at home? Let us know in the comments below!
Credited photos © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos courtesy of Ateco, Dexter-Russell, Silpat, USA Pan, Supreme Home Cook, OXO Good Grips, Mure & Peyrot, Frieling USA, and Lodge Manufacturing.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.