Want to learn to cook or bake but not sure where to start? It can seem daunting. You need focus and precision, room for error and experimentation, and plenty of time for cleaning up. But there has never been a better time to learn, thanks to the thousands of internet cooking and baking videos and online cooking classes out there.
The good news is that you don’t need a fully stocked chef’s kitchen to learn how to cook and bake, either — just a few key kitchen tools will cover tons of everyday tasks. It’s worth picking up the highest-quality ones you can — they’re a solid investment that might last you a lifetime. And don’t forget that you could redeem the points you’ve earned on your American Express Membership Rewards®–enrolled Card for kitchen tools you can use when you’re learning to cook and bake. Browse the kitchen section of the Membership Rewards catalogue for the all the items you can redeem with points.
Whether you’re learning to cook to upgrade your date nights or just trying baking as a hobby, these 10 essential kitchen tools will get you started in style.
October 22, 2020 in Life
If you’re just learning how to cook, you won’t get far without a chef’s knife. This essential kitchen tool is designed for multi-tasking – from mincing garlic to scraping the seeds out of vanilla pods.
When shopping for a chef’s knife, consider your day-to-day cooking needs. Rounder knives with wide blades and curved tips, can chop through a huge array of items, including hard-skinned squashes and chicken bones. Alternatively, knives with lighter, narrower blades can be good for slicing through vegetables with precision and speed.
In either case, look for a full-tang knife — this means that the steel runs from the tip of the blade through the end of the handle, which can give you more leverage and control.
This is the ideal entry-level spatula, especially if you’re learning to bake. It’s great for mixing and folding batters, and pliable enough to scrape every bit of dough from a bowl. And its soft edges help you avoid leaving scratches on metal or, worse, nonstick-coated pans. Choose a spatula made from a single piece of silicone so food can’t get stuck in any crevices or joints (and so it can go in the dishwasher, too).
Pro tip: Taking your baking skills to the professional level? Use this thin, flexible tool to ease delicate sponge cakes out of pans without breaking them.
A good Dutch oven is an indispensable kitchen tool that could stand up to years of daily use. You can put it to work in so many ways when you’re learning to cook, from simmering stews to browning meats.
And, surprise! Even beginning bread bakers can use one. The searing hot walls and heavy, tight-fitting lid of a preheated Dutch oven can create the perfect environment for baking up rustic loaves with crispy, glossy crusts. Plus, unlike average pot and pans, these beauties are gorgeous enough to serve from at the table.
Also called a dough scraper, this flat plastic or metal blade is used by professional bakers to divide, fold and flip over sticky dough on a work surface. However, it’s handy in other areas of baking and cooking, too. A bendable plastic bench scraper can double as a bowl scraper, while a metal one can neatly cut dough.
Pro tip: If making fancy treats is your current baking obsession, try this hack from professional bakers: hold your bench scraper flat and use it to transfer pastries from an oven-hot baking tray to a cooling rack with ease.
As you learn to cook and bake, you’ll find that being precise about temperatures can help ensure tasty results. An instant-read thermometer is an ideal kitchen tool. It’s a must for deep-frying, candy or caramel making, and cooking meats and poultry to safe internal temperatures. When learning to bake bread, you can also measure the internal temperature to see if your loaf is done. Digital thermometers with metal probes are recommended, as they can withstand higher temperatures and won’t break as easily as traditional tempered glass models.
Pro tip: An instant-read thermometer is vital when you’re upgrading your candy-making skills. It can help you gauge optimal heat when you’re tempering chocolate — just a few degrees can make the difference between a dull finish and a professional-looking glossy one.
A stand mixer is especially helpful if you want to learn to bake. It can beat cake batter to silky perfection and knead sticky bread dough in less time (and with less mess) than it takes to do it by hand. It’s also an arm saver when you’re stirring up stiff cookie doughs. Plus, some models can fit an array of interesting attachments, from grain grinders to pasta makers, which can help you upgrade your cooking skills, too.
While measuring cups and spoons are standard for most North American recipes, they measure by volume rather than weight, which isn’t always ideal for baking. Some bakers invest in kitchen scales to weigh their ingredients, which can be more precise. Look for a digital model that can switch between imperial and metric units and has a tare button (which lets you set a container on the scale and zero the counter, so it only weighs whatever you add to it).
Pro tip: A kitchen scale isn’t just for baking projects. Try this barista trick: Weigh coffee beans for a deliciously precise pour-over.
Most cooks already have a cutting board at home. And with so many options available, you might be tempted to ditch this traditional standby for something a little more flashy, bendy and dishwasher-safe. However, a good wooden cutting board isn’t just for cutting: It can be a surface for kneading bread dough, an over-the-sink extension of your counter in a cramped kitchen, or a canvas for the artisanal cheese-and-charcuterie spread of your dreams. Plastic, glass and granite surfaces can damage knives, so wood options such as maple or bamboo may be a wiser choice.
Just make sure this essential kitchen tool is large enough to accommodate your needs. Wood can also warp and crack over time, so give it a monthly rub of food-safe oil or cream to keep it from drying out.
Ever wonder how the stars of your favourite learn-to-cook videos can sail through a complicated bake without forgetting anything or leaving a floury mess on their countertops? They might be doing it by having all their ingredients carefully portioned and waiting in individual prep bowls, otherwise known as mise-en-place (French for “to put in place”).
Preparing ingredients in advance helps cooks tackle projects with greater precision and efficiency and lets them clean as they go. Prep bowls come in a variety of sizes, from small for minced herbs or garlic to large for flour mixtures. Find a stackable set to optimize the space in your kitchen.
This multi-tasking hero will fit neatly in your narrowest drawer. Easier to clean than a box grater, a paddle-shaped rasp grater lets you grate ginger directly over a wok or shower a plate of pasta with parmesan. This kitchen tool is also great for shaving chocolate or hard spices such as nutmeg.
When you’re ready to invest in any of these 10 kitchen tools, consider using your Membership Rewards–enrolled Card to purchase from an eligible retailer. That way, you’ll earn points, which you can use to pay for purchases1 — or to redeem for other handy equipment later on.