Part 1 describes the best baking tools for foolproof vegan baking.
Part 2 details the best ingredients to stock your pantry with.
Part 3 shows you specific tools that aren't necessities, but very useful in the kitchen.
Buy the good stuff onceWhen building your vegan kitchen, it's best to just go for it and buy the best quality stuff you can afford. The most expensive stuff is by no means always the best- most of the time the mid-range cookware works out being best. Buying the best stuff you can afford will ensure that you get stuff that lasts a long time and doesn't cause you buy it again once it breaks. For instance, going through 3 pairs of sub-par kitchen shears in a decade is more expensive than just buying really nice ones that may end up lasting you a lifetime. Good quality stuff also has the benefit of being a joy to use. Every time I use my Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless pots I get a dorky smile.
When buying cookware, I look for metal parts as much as possible, as opposed to plastic. I prefer stainless steel because it heats evenly, it's virtually indestructible, doesn't corrode, and is easily cleaned without worrying about scratching films off. Stainless steel cookware is becoming easier to find but as of this writing I still can't for the life of me find a stainless steel spring form pan. Here is the minimum cookware we recommend for every vegan kitchen:
Mixing BowlsGood quality large mixing bowls are absolutely paramount to vegan baking. I recommend two of equal sizes that are 4 Quart capacity. Usually, one will be for your wets and one will be for your drys. They need to be deep so they keep ingredients from flying out when you're mixing like a mad scientist. It's also a good idea to get one or two smaller bowls around 2 Quarts for additional things like egg replacer slurries or fillings that you plan to add later. Glass or ceramic works well too but it WILL get dropped and broken eventually. Stainless steel just makes a very embarrassingly loud sound when dropped and everyone will know you're a klutz.
Measuring SpoonsGet good quality stainless steel measuring spoons. The plastic ones often can hold off flavors of that cayenne you just put in your hummus. I've gone through my share of plastic measuring spoons where the measurements have just worn off.
I once did both my liquid and dry measurements with only liquid measuring cups. After finally using dry measuring cups for dry ingredients, I realized how important it was to have the two types. If your dry measuring cups are used for liquids, they will need to be cleaned before measuring dry ingredients again thus wasting valuable time. They will also make things messy because you'll have to measure up to the very top and pour without a spout. More mess = more time cleaning up = more hassle. Dry measuring cups are important for measuring dry ingredients because you'll want to measure flour by the 'scoop and level' method. This is the standard way of measuring flour so it's not compacted. Using your finger to level off the top of the flour ensures an accurate and fast measurement. Let's face it- we don't have all day to wait for your muffins! The sooner you get it done, the sooner we can eat them and convince you to make us more.
Dry Measuring Cups
These are really important because they make liquids much easier to measure and pour. I love the cups that are set up so you can measure your liquids from looking straight down. No more doing squats in the kitchen every time you measure a liquid. I've had to resort to bike riding to keep my leg muscles in check since getting these. This is the rare instance where I recommend a transparent plastic piece of cookware. I guarantee you will drop this on the floor and if it's glass, you will not be very happy if you have to cut your baking session short to clean up the shards.
Liquid Measuring Cups
Stainless is important here. By now it's probably impossible to a non-stainless steel wire whisk but when I started baking, I used one that had metal plating that was flaking into my food. There's nothing quite like metal whisk flakes in your brownies- Yum! You will use your whisk to:
Aerate flour or mix together other dry ingredients when it's in your mixing bowl.
Stir liquids in hot pots when you make things like caramel.
Mix together Eggless Binders or other thin liquids.
I use my whisk so often that I want to get a whisk holster. Come on Etsy!
This is the whisk's cousin and is used for thicker batters. You'll use it to:
Wooden Mixing Spoon
Mix things like muffin batters where you don't want to pull out the electric mixer.
Initially mix the ingredients in bread batter before you get to the knead process.
Stir hot things like fudge as they're under heat.
I like wooden spoons because they don't transfer heat as well as metal and they won't scrape the bottom of your favorite saucepans.
This is indispensable for cake making. If you want to get tech, you may want to get a snazzy stand-alone electric version and put flame decals on it but it's not required. You'll use this to:
Hand-Held Electric Mixer
Cream Vegan Butter or margarine and sugar for cakes.
Mix cookie batters.
These are important for scraping and spreading dough. I use one cut so the handle is only 3” long so I can have a little more control with it. It also comes in handy to scrape the traces of things like brown rice syrup from a liquid measuring cup or measuring spoon before measuring the next ingredient. This ensures your measurements are as accurate as possible and your hands only need to be rinsed every minute instead of every 30 seconds.
This is important for lining things like brownie pans and cookie sheets. I very rarely need to coat my cookware with a thin film of oil since I started using parchment paper. Wax paper is not to be substituted because the wax can melt, make a mess and get into your food at high temperatures. Wax paper is only really useful when placed beneath turntable slip mats. Parchment paper makes lifting brownies out of molds a cinch and cleanup barely even necessary.
You will need a good spreading knife when you're working your cake frosting magic. I like the long ones with the 6 inch blade. This will also get the job done when it comes to cutting and serving that cake. It may also come in handy as a weapon when negotiating over the last piece.
Government funded studies have proven that making a pie crust or gingerbread cookies without a rolling pin is officially a royal pain. Attempts to do without it have resulted in manic bouts of convulsions. Do yourself a favor and just get a rolling pin.
You will want to roll out your dough, knead it, cut it into cookies, etc on this mat. Cloth mats are the old school and silicone mats are the new school. I prefer the large silicone ones because they are easy to clean and the dough is relatively resistant from sticking to it. I also like the ones that have pie diameter measurements printed onto them. Don't put your dough directly on the kitchen counter instead of using a mat. Your room mate spilled orange juice there 3 months ago and never really 'got around' to cleaning it up very well.
I once thought that using a food processor or a fork to cut Vegan Butter into flour was acceptable. That is, until I bit the dime-sized Vegan Butter bullet and bought a dough blender. These can be purchased for under $10 and will make your crusts $50 better. It also kind of looks like it's related to brass knuckles or some type of medieval weapon which is extra fun.
I use Ove Gloves which makes me an official dork. A dork with unburned hands, that is. Good quality oven mitts make handling hot things easier and more convenient. There's nothing worse than freaking out because your hands are starting to burn and you're not even near the place where you're going to put the hot item down. Ove Gloves can also be worn to raves to be used in 'liquid' dancing which can also be a bonus.
Good Quality Oven Mitts
Oven Thermometer Most oven thermometers are flat our liars. I like to have at least one oven thermometer in my oven on the middle rack to make sure my temperature is correct. Be sure to get your temperature in the middle of the middle rack. There can be up to 5 degree temperature variations in oven corners or alongside walls. There's few things worse than wondering why your stuff never turns out then realizing that you've been baking at the wrong temperature for years.
These are really sharp scissors that are a little more beefy so they can do things like:
- Cut through aseptic packages containing silken tofu.
- Snip off the excess outer perimeter of dough from a pie crust.
- Cut through tin foil.
This isn't a baking tool but trust me, after all that dough handling, hand washing and dish washing, you hands will be pretty dry. Before going to bed, put some good lotion on so your hands can get their moisture back. While we're on the subject of body products, if you've been doing lots of tasting, be sure to brush your teeth so sugar doesn't get a chance to wreak havoc on your mouth. We'll need those teeth to continue our vegan baking adventures.
Good Quality Hand Lotion
With the above tools, your kitchen will be amongst the best around. Keep in mind that there are many more tools that make baking easier but these are the best ones to start out with and will give you the most bang for the buck.
Measuring Spoons by sixteenmilesofstring via Flickr
Get a price on the Dry Measuring Cups I Recommend at Amazon.