When it comes to bread baking, things can get serious fast. The stages of progression in my personal bread journey have been: novice to curiously obsessed to all in. you’re going through, there are devices galore that fit your level of interest, experience and budget. Dedicated Bread maker appliances are one approach, and you can even , but there’s also plenty of joy to be had making bread with your own hands.
Whether you’re just starting out, starting to wade in or have gone entirely off the deep end in your bread obsession, these are the tools I recommend to keep things exciting and to help you become the rock star baker you’ve always known you could be.
Stage 1: Novice
You don’t need many expensive tools to get started baking bread at home. Here are somewhich will set up your without breaking the bank.
I like using plastic or melamine bowls with tight-fitting lids, so I don’t have to use environmentally unfriendly plastic wrap, and these containers are safer than glass when working with dough that will expand. Having something like this five-piece bowl set from Target or this three-piece set from Kohl’s allows you to have a few different projects going at any one time.
Sur La Table
I am a big fan of using a scale, and once you start measuring this way, you will never want to go back for any recipe! This Oxo scale is excellent — simple to use and to clean. It’s nice to be able to switch from standard to metric measure if you need to for various recipes.
An inexpensive, essential tool that will let you use every little bit of dough. At under $10, you can’t go wrong with this plastic scraper from Sur La Table.
Sur La Table
For sandwich-style bread, a non-stick loaf pan makes things easy. Don’t stress too much about the size (9 by 5 inches or 8.5 by 4 inches) — but I recommend that you buy two because you’ll always use them for banana bread in between yeasted bread baking sessions, and it’s great to share these loaves. Bake Deco offers a range of sizes and prices, including this non-stick 5 by 8.87 inch loaf pan, which is my personal favorite.
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Most no-knead bread recipes call for a Dutch oven of some sort. These can be prohibitively expensive, but they don’t have to be. Look for one that’s rated at the high temperature you’ll need for baking. Look for a 5- to 7-quart size with a round shape (as opposed to an oval) for a typical boule shape. Also, some colors are sometimes less expensive than others. Remember, your bread won’t care what color pot it’s cooked in, so save some dough!
This 6-quart Dutch oven from Bed Bath & Beyond is rated to 500 degrees and is also perfect for stews and soups. This Lodge 5-quart pot is pre-seasoned and versatile, and has a lifetime guarantee. You can also find affordable Dutch ovens in the Amazon Basics line.
I always line my pots with parchment for sourdough bread baking. It’s easily found in supermarkets or big box stores. Reynolds Wrap parchment roll is a classic — don’t use wax paper; it will melt in the oven and ruin your bread. As a side note: Parchment is also great for cookie baking.
If you’re making bread, you’re eating bread. And unless you’re an animal, you’re slicing it. Knives, like Dutch ovens, range from inexpensive to extravagant.
A sharp, steel blade knife like this one works well, and this Zyliss model has a sheath for safe storage.
Stage 2: Curiously obsessed
As your bread game improves, you will find yourself looking for ways to develop, and a few new gadgets can upgrade your technique.
Scoring bread is an art form, and while you can keep using that serrated knife, you can get a gorgeous ear with a lame (pronounced lahm), a fancy tool designed for just for this purpose. King Arthur has this black walnut lame, which is fun, and this simple model is a favorite of many bakers.
One of my favorites is the UFO Lames de Boulanger from Tyler at Wire Monkey. These offer fantastic control, and they are so cute and well-designed.
Another option is the no-frills Xacto knife, which allows you to create precision, detailed scoring patterns.
Sur La Table
For sourdough bakers, bannetons are a way to show some style, but they are also helpful for crust development. There are dozens of sizes and shapes to choose from, but having both round and oval-shaped baskets is useful for proofing different bread varieties. Coiled rattan baskets like this one from Breadtopia are an excellent place to start, and using a liner is also helpful in keeping high-hydration breads from sticking, which is the worst.
Stage 3: All in
Are you staying up late fantasizing about bakers’ percentages? Do you follow bakers like the rock stars they are on IG? Then you’re ready to really commit.
This cast iron pan was designed by bread enthusiast Jim Challenger. It’s a big, versatile pan designed specifically for baking better bread. An investment piece for serious baking, it’s the darling of the bread world.
What about a stand mixer?
For many bakers, a stand mixer (like this classic Kitchen Aid model) is an essential tool, but I disagree. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a versatile and useful appliance for many applications. If you have one, you can finally break out that dough hook that you’ve been meaning to try and knead an enriched dough or bagels.
But when you’re starting out as a bread maker, I think you need (pardon the pun) to get your hands into your dough to learn about texture and gluten development. Kneading bread, or even turning and folding a high-hydration sourdough, is a very Zen experience for me. And I wouldn’t want to deprive you of that joy. (See some kneading tips here.)
This story was written by Heather Reid for CNET’s sister site Chowhound.