Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. 

Today: what baking tools are essential for a First Kitchen?

Baking tools

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When the weather gets snappy and crisp, and the markets fill with apples, and the air feels scented with cinnamon and nutmeg, the daydreams start.

These are dreams of pies, of cookies. Things with mounds of streusel on them. Pools of sticky glaze, of chocolate ganache, of dark, perfect caramel.

They are dreams of holiday baking: holiday baking that fills my apartment with those deep, primal smells of butter and sugar, of toasting nuts, of the oven opening and something – something burnished, bold, and beautiful – being pulled out of it. Holiday baking that, if not easy, is a delightful, flour-dusted challenge.

Pie pan

These dreams are nothing, though, without baking tools. (Real baking tools, not the wine-bottle-as-rolling-pin sort of baking tools.)

What tools, then, do I need to make these holiday baking dreams real, to turn my kitchen into the caramel-and-cinnamon-scented, streusel-topped workshop that I find every waking moment to dream about?

The basics

While I’ve already covered baking sheets and mixing bowls, I’m still missing some of the basics: whisks and rubber spatulas. When it comes to whisks, I’m looking for something thin and light; the fat, bulbous whisks can come later, when my primary concern is not whipping large amounts of cream (and will that time come? I’m not sure.). Cook’s Illustrated recommends the OXO Good Grips 11” Balloon Whisk, and at $9.99, I can get behind that; while it’s not a $1 whisk, it’s definitely not $30 (scary!). 

As for rubber spatulas, I’m looking for quality; there is no room in holiday baking daydreams for burned, melted plastic. Luckily, this Tovolo Silicone Spatula comes both highly-recommended and with a low price tag of $8.99. It’s not in a pack of three, like the ones at the grocery store – but hey, this is serious baking I’m about to do. The spatula is center stage; it’s got to be up for the challenge.

cake pan

Pie pans, cake pans, and loaf pans

What is holiday baking without pies, loaves, and cakes? Nothing. 

But researching the respective pans – and the host of recipes I want to try this holiday season – leaves me with lots of question marks. Normal cake pan, or springform? Do I really need those mini loaf pans, or a will a big one do? Do I go for a pie pan, or do I just hack a tart pan with Amanda’s technique? 

The good news: there’s plenty of baking after holiday baking. There are always reasons to daydream – and always reasons for cookies and cake.

What would you consider your baking essentials, and what would you recommend for my First Kitchen?

Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Fozzable
  • Amymerrill
  • Greenstuff
  • Mei Chin
    Mei Chin
  • drbabs
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Fozzable December 2, 2012
I strongly recommend the Chicago Metallic Nonstick cake pans: they are darker pans, which make for nicely browned cakes, dutch babies, and even more surprisingly, deep dish pizza. I don't know what I'd do without them; and they're affordable! ($18/each!)

A simple glass loaf pan is nice too, you can use it to prop up a small prime rib roast (1-2 bones thick); and to make simple quick breads.

I also use my square glass pan a lot for brownies, small casseroles, and roasting a small bird.

Lastly, a big 9x13 for sheet cakes, double as a larger roaster, and use for Lasagne.

A muffin tin can come in handy for lots of things, but it's a space hog.

I have owned spring form pans, and unless you're serious about cheesecake, I'd save them for a later purchase.

Pie pans: you can buy disposables cheaply if you get a hankering to make something like a quiche or pie.
Amymerrill November 13, 2012
I have many rubber spatulas and my favorite are Le Creuset. I have several sizes and they are great. I have springform pan and I don't use them as much as my cake pans. I like that I don't have to worry about them leaking. Get multiples of each size pan so you can bake everything at once.
Greenstuff November 12, 2012
I agree about springform pans, which I've used forever. But they do sometimes leak. Has anyone tried a push-bottom pan? King Arthur Flour says they're great for cheesecake.
Mei C. November 12, 2012
Warning! I would certainly stay away from Tovolo spats--they chip very easily and then you have missing silicone in your food. I go for the Williams Sonoma house brand ones (or Le Creuset if you can afford it), or those ones that the pros get--the ones with a maroon handle and white heads.
drbabs November 12, 2012
I totally agree with AntoniaJames about the springform pan! And I was recently in the position of having to get rid of a lot of stuff--I went to a much smaller and less well laid out kitchen. Here's what I kept: 1 tart pan, 2 pie plates (one was handmade as a wedding gift), my 9"springform pan, 2 8" round cake pans, a 9X13 pan, 2 regular-sized loaf pans(they stack together so...), an 8X8 square pan, and a 9X9 square pan. (I use the 8x8 one more often.)
AntoniaJames November 12, 2012
One not-so-obvious essential, to my mind, is a spring form pan. There really is no good substitute for it for cheesecakes, etc.. Plus, it easily doubles as a cake pan, works beautifully for shortbread, and can be used in a pinch when making a medium sized tart. A spring form is also the best pan to use when baking dinner rolls. ;o)