Baking Tools & Equipment : How to Build the Perfect Pie Pantry
Our no-fuss baking pantry list for home bakers of all stripes.
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Updated: December 22, 2020 (JST)
Stocking your pantry for baking, particularly pie baking, doesn’t have to be a complex endeavor. And, it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Years ago, when I was simply an aspiring baker, instead of in the trenches getting my hands dirty and living in what was akin to a cloud of flour as a stage in the pantry kitchen along side the wonderful chefs at Solera in Minneapolis, I was awash in all sorts of bulky and expensive baking equipment. From the ubiquitous Kitchen Aid stand mixer to massive bags of flour purchased at the local kitchen supply store, I had everything I needed. And, the kitchen safe racks to store everything on. In the little apartment I rented, my tiny galley kitchen ended up morphing into a wing of my living room. I owned far too many kitchen implements. If you’re always thinking you need more gear in your pantry, this list of essentials might help. And, a friendly P.S. Nearly everything you bake at home can be done with what grandma used: her hands, a fork, a spoon, and a baking pan that will last forever. Seriously. Everything else just makes things faster, easier, or prettier. And, that’s cool too.
A steady diet of cookbooks, and food TV contributes to this malady as does our own desirous “swell” and propensity to posses things— especially baking tools and hardware that help us make sweet and savory goodies we love—and may even love to gift.
Alas, there is a better way. A less expensive way. An old fashioned, yet technical way. A way many professional kitchens employ. And, it’s called just enough.
After nearly two decades baking and working in and out of kitchens and dining rooms for years before that, asking professional chefs and bakers this is the stuff you really need to bake great pies. At the end of the list, I’ve thrown in a list of things that are cool to have, but by no means necessary. Things, I do without.
Oh, and of course, this site, like all the others I manage since I retired to Japan and started writing full time, derive their income from helping to introduce you to products and services you may use and benefit from. As you might expect, though, based on what you’ve read to this point, I’m not here to suggest things you don’t need and can’t use with some certain regularity.
For the best in pie baking you essentially need to equip yourself and your perfect pie pantry with two things: baking tools and baking ingredients. Lets do it. So, here’s the list!
Table of Contents
- 1 Rolling Pins
- 2 Pie Pans (ceramic, clay, glass, metal)
- 3 Pastry Blenders (pastry forks, food processors, electric mixers)
- 4 Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons
- 5 Pastry Brushes
- 6 Rulers
- 7 Pastry Wheels or Pastry Cutters
- 8 Flour Shakers and Flour Dusters
- 9 Parchment Paper
- 10 Oven Liners
- 11 Cooling Racks
- 12 Kitchen Scales
- 13 Storage Containers
- 14 Flours (whole wheat, all-purpose)
- 15 Fats (butter, vegetable shortening, lard)
- 16 Salt, Sugar and Cornstarch
- 17 Fillings
- 18 Egg and Dairy Products
- 19 Sugars and Spice (brown sugar, maple syrup, spices)
- 20 Thickeners (cornstarch, flour, tapioca)
This glorious springerle rolling pin photo is the work of: Joanna Rae Lopez
Every pie baker needs a rolling pin. Sometimes two. I’m partial to my Vic Firth 20-inch tapered French pin because it allows me to navigate my countertop with ease regardless of the amount of pie dough I’m working with, and because, well… it’ just looks beautiful. Maybe being a drummer plays a part! For me, it’s the best rolling pin for rolling out a consistently thin (or, thick!) pie crust in my home kitchen.
Vic Firth Maple pins are now made by Fletcher’s Mill (Yep! The same folks that make those gorgeous pepper and salt mills). Fletcher’s purchased Vic Firth’s lathes and other machinery to replicate the perfection of their work. Check them out if you’re in the market for a French pin.
Other than that, you may wish to consider a wooden rolling pin with handles, or a straight pin. Pins with handles have obvious advantages if you’re making embossed cookies, like the gorgeous Springerle cookies you’ll find in the homes of friends of German heritage. These Springerle pins are uniquely beautiful. Pin-wise, you really don’t need much more. Ceramic pins are okay if you’re into taking the time to chill them, but if you’re making pie dough the old fashioned way, they’re rather unnecessary. I’m also not a big fan given their bulk. Metal rolling pins also doesn’t float my boat so much for the same reasons.
A good ol’ wooden pin will always rise to the occasion, and help you craft any type of pie crust.
Remember, we’re here to help you stock, not overstock your baking pantry. Right!? And, that leads us to the pie creator’s favorite item to hoard—pie pans! Watch out!
This beautiful deep dish pizza in a fluted pie pan is the work of: Micheile Henderson
Who doesn’t love a good pie pan? Who doesn’t love a new pie pan? It’s one of those things that when browsing the kitchen supply store can easily catch our eye and temp us to pull out our wallets. They’re not too expensive, there is a decent variety to choose from, and some of them, like any ceramic pie plate from Emile Henri, etc., they’re downright beautiful. Especially, if we’re serving guests at a holiday dinner, or bringing a pie into work or some place similar for others to enjoy. The truth is though, you really don’t need a collection of pie pans. One of each major type will do just fine. Musician friends (particularly guitar players), this applies to you especially. As a drummer, I know how many of you love to collect guitars. I’ve had my share of sticks and nick-nacks. If you’re a baker… well (!) I don’t want you to suffer the same fate!
When it comes to pie pans, you’ve basically got four choices, and it’s not a bad idea to have at least one of each.
Should you bake with a metal pie pan? Simply, yes.
You’ll read everywhere that if you’re just starting out baking, a glass pan is a great pie dish to start off with. Why? A few reasons, I think. First, Pyrex is everywhere. In every Wal-Mart. In every department store that has a cooking section. Like Kitchen Aid, “Pyrex and pies” rings true in the kitchen. Second, they’re very inexpensive. Third, people who aren’t bakers gift them regularly. Fourth, people are afraid of aluminum. None of these reasons should hold you back from getting a metal pan. And, if you’re eating pie from a bakery, or restaurant, most likely they’re using aluminum. Same goes for most of the food you eat while dining out. If you’re concerned about aluminum (and I get that), opt for stainless steel. Or, bake less frequently using your aluminum pan.
So, if you already have a glass pan, great. Keep it. Use it! But, grab a metal pie pan as well. You’ll be rewarded by a crisper crust, end up with less sticking, and easy clean up. They also won’t break if you drop them. Yes, that happens.
To start you could easily get by with the sort of simple 8″ aluminum, round pan offered by Winco. Sure, most “standard” pie pans are 9.5 inches, and if you can find one pan instead of the 10 pack offered by many bakeware manufacturers, than grab it. Because, unless you’re running a pie bake shop, you really don’t need 10 pans. Likely, ever. An eight inch pan is fine, and if you’re baking in a small oven (maybe even a kitchen top oven like the kind we use here in Japan), an eight inch pan will actually allow you to get down to baking instead of just dreaming about it.
Another safe bet is the 9″ pan from Lindy’s. It’s stainless steel, and it’s stainless steel mirror finish helps prevent your bottom crust from sticking. People seem to love it. In general, Lindy’s is known for stainless steel cookware (kettles and kitchen spoons, particularly), so if you’re in the market for that sort of stuff, you can’t go wrong by visiting what they’ve got on offer.
USA Pan Bakeware offers a 9″ aluminized pie plate that’ll kick you off nicely as well. They’ve been making this sort of pan for 50 years, and support both home and professional bakers alike. This is a darn good pan. It’s made from 65% recycled steel, and coated with Americoat – a silicone that is PTFE, PFOA and BPA free material. USA Pan also offers a pretty solid limited lifetime warrany. Not a bad deal, right? This pie pan also comes very highly rated on Amazon, and typically sells for under $20 USD.
So, there you have it, a few recommendations that should set you on your way. Oh, and if you’re in the market for best clay or ceramic pie dish, Clay in Motion Pottery Studio makes some wonderful handmade clay pie dishes, and of course… Emile Henry, Kingsbull, Sweese, KOOV, and yes, even Farberware make some of the best pie dishes out there, and certainly among the most gorgeous.
Let’s wander on over to pastry blenders now, why don’t we. Do you really only need a fork to blend butter or other essential baking fats into your flour? Yep. Actually, you don’t even need a fork! But, if you’re looking to keep your hands clean, or just speed the process up a bit, there are other alternatives. Namely…
Pastry Blenders (pastry forks, food processors, electric mixers)
Yummylicious pie crust getting ready in a stand mixer… this shot is by the talented Mrs. J.R. Lopez.
Pastry Blenders. Do you need one? Not really. I actually use a miso muddler for just about everything I have to blend or mix in my kitchen. These days, at least, I don’t even own a food processor, a blender, or a mixer. That’s not to say I don’t like using them, or won’t ever use one again. It’s just that having ditched everything I owned back in 2017 in favor of transitioning to Japan with just one bag, and keeping life simple, I well—didn’t need any of those things. So, my Kitchen Aid mixer is sitting comfortably with my sister-in-law, my Hamilton Beach 14-cup Big Mouth Blender went to a co-worker, and my gorgeous Hurom slow juicer (yes they’re as amazing as you’ve read) went to a lovely gal looking for her own, courtesy of an ad I placed on Craigslist. Each of these puppies, I’ll likely buy back some time in 2021 as I flesh out my kitchen again. They’re without a doubt, not essential tools, but they do allow you to be quicker in the kitchen, and when it comes to pie baking, making a dough in a blender is a nice treat to say the least. For now, though, I’m comfortable using my miso muddler and allowing my butter to get a little warm as I work my way through the pastry. It’s not the end of the world, and we’re wanting to bake, not create masterpieces, right?
Okay. So… pastry blenders. If you’re in the market for a quicker way to bring your pie crusts and other goodies together, and have used the heck out of your fork, or even your hands in mixing fats into your dough (totally possible!), here are the typical products you’ll want to consider. In general, as with most things in the kitchen, I get that style is important. Aim for function, but, if you’re going to be placing these things within view of anyone, yourself included, having stylin’ kitchen appliances can be important. I’m the same way. And, it’s why many people are okay dropping hundreds of dollars for a beautiful Kitchen Aid, and I’m happy with something used to mix soup. My tool goes in the drawer. So, the cheaper the kitchen gadget, the less the beauty of the thing matters to me. Is it functional with at least a little bit of style and comfort? Yes? Cool. Then, I’ll likely grab it. Here are a few of my picks from the multitude of means you have to blend pastry, or anything dough-related for that matter. I hope they serve as good jumping off points for your own needs.
Traditional Four to Six Blade Pastry Blenders
There’s a reason a pastry blender looks like a fork. Because, that’s really all you need. But, since kitchen tools can be useful in the long run, and because a pastry blender does provide a certain sense of clearance from the dough, and a degree of leverage you just can’t get with a fork, it’s a good investment in kitchen efficiency. And as far as kitchen tools go, you can hardly beat the price tag. Most fall under the $10.00 USD mark, with only a few going upwards of $20.00. Believe it or not, I’ve actually never owned one. But, I’ve used one in the kitchen’s of family members, and I do appreciate having one at hand when I’m baking. If I were to pick one, I’d go for something like the Last Confection Dough Blender, mainly because it looks sturdy as hell, has a ton of solid reviews, and it’s stainless steel construction without the rubber handle will make it easy to clean. It also looks pretty damn cool, I think, as well. It’s generally less than ten bucks online. They have a soft grip handled dough cutter as well, if that better suits your fancy. Winco, Tiction, Sumo, and Spring Chef also make great professional pastry chef quality pastry dough blenders, with Spring Chef producing Amazon’s #1 seller as of December 2020.
Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons
Credit for this gorgeous shot of a spoon and fork wall in Gardenia, Tbilisi, Georgia goes to Gio Mikava.
Ah, measuring cups and measuring spoons. If you had to guess as to whether or not my no-fuss cooking methodology relies on these two American baking staples, you’d be correct in guessing I don’t rely on them whatsoever. I have one measuring cup for my liquid ingredients, and I use the scale for all my weight measurements. I use the liquid measuring cup because it’s handy, and I also use it to measure out my yeast when rehydrating for bread, and I never use measuring spoons.These days I pretty much eyeball everything. Yes, even baking soda, salt and every other little powdery thing that goes into my pies. Why? Well, for one, because I cook a lot and do a lot of dishes. And, while I find doing dishes remarkably therapeutic, I don’t want to be in kitchen therapy for an two hours a day. Plus, I want to cook, and bake, not measure things all day long.
I believe there’s far too much emphasis on overly detailed measuring when reading recipes online and in books. It’s really not necessary in my experience. Learn what you like by tasting things. And, yes, baking is a science and all… sure, but as I’ll say until I’m blue in the face, we’re not baking in a restaurant kitchen, and we’re not required to duplicate, or scale recipes up and down and over and over again. We’re baking pie at home. For one, or for our family. Things do not need to be perfect. Finesse your basic pie crust with measurements, then once you’ve perfected it, you’ll be able to eyeball it forever. Trust me on this. To get really good at your recipes, try to bake the same basic thing every day for a month. Start with a mini pie or tart. Leave out the butter… add olive oil, mix it up a bit so you don’t kill yourself, or your waistline in the process. But after a month of baking the same thing every day, I promise you, you won’t need a measuring cup, or spoon again. A scale, you’ll always need.
If you’re dead set on buying measuring cups, or measuring spoons, I’d recommend something super-sturdy that will last you a lifetime like Norpro’s affordable stainless steel measuring cup set (look for a grubby handle when it comes to this kitchen utensil, a think handle looks cool, but it can tilt in your hand when you’ve got flour in it. Not fun). For measuring spoons, grab a single, double-sided measuring spoon that’ll get you a tablespoon and a teaspoon, or a half-teaspoon / quarter-teaspoon, like this neat little doohickey from AllSpice, or a set of spoons with a long narrow scoop that’ll help you get into spice jars. For the money and durability, RSVP’s stainless steel eight-piece set is still, for my money, the one to get. It is, in fact the one I used to own, and the one I sold gobs of back when I first launched thebaker.com in 2010. Buy a single set, and keep it forever. They’re at least good for that. Or, one is, at least. I used to only use one of the four or five I had the final time I purchased a set about 10 years ago. Now, onto something you’ll probably benefit from having… maybe… (catching on… don’t buy a lot!) …pastry brushes.
This darn good-looking pecan pie photo is the work of Damien Creatz. Thanks, Damien for making us so hungry today!
Ateco. This is the name that comes to mind when I think of pastry brushes. Because for over 100 years they’ve been making all sorts of baking tools and supplies (particularly cake decorating supplies), and because when I met members of their team some years ago at the International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago, they completely sold me on their brushes. They’re pastry brushes are the ones many a professional baker uses, and are made with natural boar bristles, a stainless steel ferrule, and built to last. You’re gonna lose some of the bristles along the way, but if you’re as gentle in taking care of it as you with other brushes, like those for your hair, or if you’re someone who paints, these puppies will take care of you. You can buy a set of two, of course, but sticking with the kitchen economy thing, just go with one, and save yourself the extra cleanup. You’ll only use one, anyway, unless you’re a mad baker with a need to be basting and glazing all sorts of things at once. Slow down, you! Anyway, if you’re looking to beautify any sot of baking you’re doing whether it’s bread, or a delicated puff pasty, you’ll be glad you’ve got a pastry brush in your kitchen draw to impress the neighbors. Or, your husband, your wife, your kids, or heck… just you.
Abigail Miller’s wonderful shot of a pie eating contest serves as a good reminder that most times, pie is meant to be consumed, and not measured… 😉
Being in possession of a pastry ruler can be a wondrous thing. First off, they’ll come in handy when you’re trying to measure out some of the more creative deliberations of your pie-maiking adventures… things like crust decorations, fall leaves, lattice, borders for double pie crusts, all sorts of things. There are a few wonderful books to explore, actually , if you’re interested in upping your pie baking game a bit. A few of my favorites are, Lauren Ko’s, Pieometry, Pie Style from Helen Nugent, and of course, Karin Pfeiff-Boscheck’s glorious, Elegant Pie, of the eponymously named, Elegant Pie website, etc!
Secondly, if you spend a decent amount of money on one or two of them, you’ll also have rulers for other household projects. Things in the kitchen that might need the assistance, like measuring for the best in under counter lighting, or the depth of a cake, if you’re not just wrapped in pie dough all day long. Of course, a good baking ruler is always good to have on hand if you’re a professional baker, or if you’re in culinary school training to be one. They’re also damn handy for mechanical drawing, if you’re similiarly creative with that sort of thing, or if you’re into fashion, and sew, Cricut, or crochet in your free time. I like to knit actually… something about doing the same repeated exercise that’s calming and thereapeautic. Remember my post about how to wash dishes? Yes, there is a way!
Anyway… I’m talking far too much about rulers. I’d recommend a few. One with a straight edge, and at least one with a curved edge, like a vary form curved ruler. Again, steal from the mechanics and grab an engineer’s scale. If you’re looking for the best kitchen ruler you can get, I’d snag this 12-inch, 3-sided graduated aluminum engineer’s scale. If you’re looking for more bendy ruler, steal from the fashion designers, and get a french curve ruler, like this larger one from Fairgate, or bump your dough carving opportunities up a bit with an even longer one and like Chris Wang’s super-flexible draftsman ruler. Cleaning it might, be an issue, but I like the idea. One for small bends, and the other for longer more creative bends. If you’re looking to stretch pastry dough beyond the limits of your pie dish like you’ll see in some of the more creative pie making pictures out there, these kitchen rulers can be a wonderful addition to your kitchen drawer.
What about rolling pin guides?
Ah, yes… yep. Sometimes, you’ll see people refer to hard plastic or silicon rolling pin guides as pastry rulers. Well, they’re not exactly rulers. Still, though, they can be helpful in your kitchen. I don’t use them myself, because I’m not rolling out 200 cookies for a wedding like, Bon Appétit’s, Editor of Basically, Sarah Jample, or even making more than one pie at a time that needs to be uniform in size. I don’t use my rulers for that purpose either. But, if you’re making a host of pies, and you want them all to look the same, or you’re a budding cookie master, hell bent on making everything uniform, and following every scientific baking rule there is out there, than knock yourself out. The recommended ones appear to be of the hard plastic variety, as the silicon ones seem to be far to squishy for the dedicated dough master. Surely, I’d need a new set before long myself. Check ’em out, if you’re so inclined.
Okay, so let’s check out one of them most underrated pastry tools there is, in my opinion. It’s also one of the most versatile if you’re into making homemade pasta, and just might be the most inexpensive kitchen supply in your drawer!
Pastry Wheels or Pastry Cutters
Sure, you can use a pie cutter to cut your pizza, but you can also just fold it in half and eat the whole thing New York style, right? Shot by Daniel Salgado.
You’ll think you won’t need a pastry wheel until you do. And, it’ll usually because you want to make pasta, lasagna, ravioli, or crackers, instead of for your first latticed pie crust. That’s why they’re wonderful to have on hand. They’re also great for the best kinda’ pie known to humans–PIZZA PIE!
Be careful though, if you go cheap on this little baking tool, you’ve got to really read up on your reviews. If it’s got a fluted wheel and a straight edge for scoring, marking, or simply cutting you’ll want to be sure you’re considering it’s construction. Is the wooden handle attached firmly (most are made of wood), will the ferrule rust? Do the spinner wheels easily end up wobbly after regular use? Be on the lookout for this sort of feedback when researching a wheel.
Typically, I tend to invest in separate components, instead of going with combo units. Decades of experience (particularly with audio equipment) have taught me that single unit appliances are not typically the best. So, in my kitchen, I own Ateco’s plastic handled fluted pastry wheel, and their straight wheel. Both are hefty in my hand, dishwasher safe, made with stainless steel, and sturdy beyond anything wooden I’ve every held in my hands. They’re pricier, to buy individually, but to me, have been worth it. If you’re dead set on a double pastry and ravioli wheel, Paderno World Cuisine makes nothing but great products, and their distributor team in the U.S. is superb. Good people. You’ll pay close to the price of two separate pastry wheels from Ateco, but, you’ll save some space if you’ve got a smaller kitchen and less room in your pantry. Theirs is also stainless with a plastic handle. A quick word on wooden handles… I love the way they look, but I’m not a fan of how hard they are to care for. They always need to be washed by hand (cool for me, I live in Japan without a dishwasher. But rust is hard to avoid. And rust, is a pain in the butt, right? If you’ve ever tried to season and “keep forever” a cast iron skillet you’ll know previously what I’m talking about. Stick with plastic. Okay! Next, we’re on to… things that keep our flour all nice and aerated… stay tuned!
Flour Shakers and Flour Dusters
Flours (whole wheat, all-purpose)
Fats (butter, vegetable shortening, lard)
Salt, Sugar and Cornstarch
Egg and Dairy Products
Sugars and Spice (brown sugar, maple syrup, spices)
Thickeners (cornstarch, flour, tapioca)
Metal Pie Pans
Glass Pie Dishes
Ceramic Pie Dishes
Square Baking Pans
Tart & Tartlet Pans
Gloves & Mitts
Storage & Packaging