Rogue Baking Tips with Alice Medrich

The 10 Utensils You Shouldn't Live Without

By • April 21, 2014 • 37 Comments

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Alice tells us the 10 most important items in her kitchen, and why they matter.

I like to think I am flexible and easygoing about most things. And I try not to be dogmatic... But honestly, I think there absolutely are things that belong in a well-equipped baker’s kitchen. Here’s my list. How about you?

1. Stainless steel bowls: I love bowls and keep several sizes ranging from 3 to 4 cups to much bigger -- about 14 inches in diameter. I use them for everything and anything (except in the microwave), including melting chocolate in a water bath. The biggest are great for folding large quantities of meringue into a batter or tossing a huge salad without bruising the lettuce. No need to get spendy; inexpensive, lightweight bowls from hardware and kitchen supply stores are perfectly fine.

2. Strainers: I have a drawer full of inexpensive strainers in several sizes, but the most important are those made with a fine mesh (to strain custards and ice cream bases, etc.), and those with a medium-fine mesh (for lots of other things, and to use instead of a sifter!).

3. Microplane zester: I use this for grating citrus, cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, hard cheeses, and the like. I prefer the original classic rasp type, which doesn't have a handle.

4. Silicon spatulas: I have both regular and large sizes for stovetop cooking, stirring, and folding. It can also be useful to keep a tiny one around, for things like scraping out the mayo jar.

5. Rimmed aluminum half-sheet pans: These are medium-weight, light-colored metal, without any nonstick coating. Mine are 12- by 16- by 1-inch. I use them for everything -- as cookie sheets and jelly roll pans, and any time a baking sheet is called for.

6. Wire whisks: I keep a 10-inch whisk and a 15-inch whisk (measures include the handles) for whipping cream and mixing all kinds of batters, but also for mixing, fluffing, and aerating dry ingredients like flour before incorporating it into batters.

7. Digital instant-read probe thermometer: Mine has a range from about 50° F to over 450° F, and it comes in handy for making chocolate, all kinds of candies, custards and ice cream bases, and bread, as well as for frying and testing the doneness of meat and poultry. (It's also fun to satisfy any random curiosity about the temperature of anything!)

8. Offset spatulas: I keep large ones around for spreading thin sheets of batter evenly in sheet pans, and small (4-inch) ones for spreading batter evenly in small pans.

9. Ruler: These are good for measuring anything from cake pans to the diameter of rolled-out pastry to the thickness of slice-and-bake cookies.

10. Scale: A kitchen scale should register both grams and ounces, with a range from 5 grams (less would be even better) to 2 kilos or more.

Alice's new book, Seriously Bitter Sweet, is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet. 

 

Photos by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (37)

Tags: utensils, kitchen utensils, essentials, baking

Comments (37)

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Stringio

about 1 month ago Chaz Brenchley

No one's mentioned a good knife yet, nor a way to sharpen it. (I have, um. More knives than fingers. Heavy German ones, light Japanese. I love my knives.) Tongs, tick. Scales, tick (I imported mine from the UK in checked baggage, and the TSA thought it was a bomb: oops...). Thermapen, tick. Ricer, tick. Mostly I'm all "give me a knife and a place to chop, and that's all the gadgetry I need" - but actually I think I have and use everything on this list and everything in comments. And two silicon pastry brushes: invaluable for glazing. And a baking stone. And a baker's peel. And banettons. And, and, and...

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3 months ago Gaia Goodness Natural Foods

I have everything on this except a thermometer. I definitely need to invest in some. Would you recommend one thermometer that could be use for multiple purposes? Or would I need to get a few for different uses?

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3 months ago gasgirl

The thermapen...you can get it on their site..or at King Arthur..the absolte best!

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3 months ago Gaia Goodness Natural Foods

Excellent! Thank you!

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3 months ago gasgirl

http://www.thermoworks...
take a look....good luck....

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3 months ago gasgirl

http://www.thermoworks...
This is the model and it works for everything...wonderful...and great colors..and can be repaired ..i have had mine for 5 years..and also gifted my kids! and they are not cooks..and love it....

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3 months ago gasgirl

So agree with FWK the thermapen is the best! And btw..i had a problem with mine after years of use..sent it to them and they fixed it for small fee!! The best customer service. And yes..parchment paper is indispensable! great comment FWK

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3 months ago FWK

For the instant read thermometer don't bother with anything less than a Thermapen from Thermoworks. They are not cheap but they are the best and they take the guesswork out of the cooking process. They are really instant read as well.
I agree with the tongs and there is one other tool I use for many things...parchment paper. I buy it 1000 sheets at a time. I use it to line sheet pans for baking and roasting, as a lid when I am braising, as ingredient holders for baking, anywhere i don't want to clean up a messy spill.

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3 months ago Alice Medrich

I love this growing list of utensils we can't live without!

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3 months ago robin lewis

p.s. i do love my microplane. i use it for my manchego cheese for this salad that i LOVE: http://food52.com/blog...

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3 months ago Aimee

agreed, microplane is a must have!

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3 months ago robin lewis

just an fyi i thought of while reading this excellent post: a while back, i discovered that a potato ricer is the best device for squeezing out the liquid from frozen spinach. and, lately i've been reusing glass jars and it just occurred to me tonight that a vegetable peeler makes short work of peeling sometimes sticky labels off the jars (after they've been soaked in water).

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3 months ago Alice Medrich

Aha! I too love my potato ricer, especially for squeezing excess liquid from grated potatoes when making latkes or squeezing extra juice from shredded carrots for a fabulous torte. Here's my story on that: http://alicemedrich.com...

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3 months ago gasgirl

Jazzcat...yes that is the one...and i totally agree with tamater ...lets refrain from the image!! It does make us older people crazy!! LOL

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3 months ago tamater sammich

JAZZCAT, I have to tell you, that those moving images are most annoying. And just think what a mess the comments section would be if many people used them.
Please refrain. Thanks in advance.

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3 months ago KATHI STEPHENS

CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT MY CHOPPING BOARD! THAT IS A MUST!

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3 months ago gasgirl

Oh..when purchasing this scale..part of the revenue is returned back to the CIA for student scholarships.

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3 months ago gasgirl

I really like the Culinary Institute of America scale...excellent...and their customer service was great...had one issue and they sent me a new scale!

Eetin_

3 months ago Jazzcat

This one? ? http://www.ciacook.com...

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3 months ago catalinalacruz

The scale in the photo is exactly the one I have, and I love it. We have used it hard for 3 years. The brand is My Weigh KD-8000 (meaning it weighs up to 8 kilos/17 lbs.). It easily switches from metric to pounds/ounces with the press of a button, and also tares (subtracts the weight of the empty container before food is added). I could not cook without it.
p.s. I have no connections with the company; I just know a good kitchen item when I use it.

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3 months ago davesmall

A food mill is indispensable in my kitchen. I use it way more than a blender, mixer, food processor, etc.

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3 months ago Eileen Shipman

Looked for the digital instant read thermometer on Amazon. Can you recommend one?

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3 months ago Jazzcat

Eileen, try THERMOWORK's Lollipop for 25 bucks, it's FAST-tasitc!!
http://www.thermoworks...

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3 months ago gasgirl

Scissors!! a must have!

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3 months ago jpriddy

Wooden or bamboo spoon. Measuring cups, spoons, and a liquid 2- or 4-cup measure. And the box grater Laura suggested. And a timer. (And I use stoneware bowls, but ss is lighter.)

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3 months ago Laura

I'd add a box grater to the list :)

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3 months ago Moses Tay

My wife loves all things chocolate but she has to watch her sugar (carbo) intake for health reasons. Can you recommend a chocolate cake for diabetic?

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3 months ago Pat in SoCal

Tongs! I have ...and use...everything else except I really prefer glass and ceramic bowls....but must have tongs!

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3 months ago Alice Medrich

Tongs are so important! When I can't find mine, I look upstairs in my office where I use them for the high book shelves and to pull out paper jammed in printer!