10 essential tools you need to make the best holiday cookies
You cookies will be better than ever
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Holiday baking can go one of two ways—you either treat it as a relaxing, carefree celebration of the season with loved ones, or as an exhausting quest for perfection and adoration. This really depends on whether you’re going to be eating or gifting your creations. If you’re going to be gifting cookies, you want them to be great, no?
Baking is an exact science, which means your results will only be as good as your tools and ingredients. If you’re trying to perfect your holiday cookies this year and impress your friends and family, here are the very best baking essentials we’ve tested to help you mix, measure, roll, whip, and flip your way there.
1. This unbeatable stand mixer
If you’re a serious baker around the holidays or otherwise, you’ll need a stand mixer—and the KitchenAid Artisan is the quintessential choice. Easy to set up and with the quietest motor we tested, the Artisan was a pleasure to use and passed through all our tests with aplomb. Despite its many competitors, our tests prove that it is still the best stand mixer you can buy.
Its merits are many: attachments were easy to put on, remove, and clean; the tilt lever lock worked well; the bowl installed smoothly; and the splash guard, though not really necessary (for this class of mixer, none of them are), fit the bowl well and could be slid on when needed without taking apart the mixer.
Owners of KitchenAids consistently get great performance from their mixers for years, so though the price is high, an Artisan mixer is well worth the money. You’ll be churning out holiday bakes with this bad boy for years to come.
2. Our favorite baking sheets
You’ll want to have plenty of baking sheets on hand before you begin your holiday cookie journey. These half-sheets from Nordic Ware, which won our roundup of the best baking trays, are lightweight, large enough to fit more than a dozen cookies, and distribute heat like a dream. Even covered with goodies, the trays are light enough to hold with one hand while you scoop whatever you’re making onto a waiting plate.
If you’re making delicate cookies and are particularly concerned about burnt bottoms, we recommend the AirBake Nonstick Cookie Sheet. Because of AirBake's “micro-dome technology” (the sheet has an insulated “bubble” that separates the bottom of the sheet from the top where your cookies rest), the underside of whatever you bake will be more even and far less likely to burn. During testing, we found this worked nicely for both cookies and pizza.
- Get the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Half Sheet on Amazon for $18.81
- Get the T-fal Airbake Nonstick Cookie Sheet on Amazon for $34.08
3. This sturdy, simple rolling pin
When they say there’s beauty in simplicity, they’re talking about this wooden rolling pin. It’s really just a sturdy wooden cylinder of a medium-heavy weight, nothing more, nothing less. But during testing of the best rolling pins, it rolled out perfect dough every time.
The simple design of this wooden pin, combined with its weight, makes it easy to control the amount of pressure you use based on what you need for your dough. For tough dough you can push a bit harder, and for soft dough you can keep a light touch. The long, cylindrical body and lack of handles also means that you'll never cut an edge through your dough the way you sometimes might with smaller, handled rolling pins. This translates to an even, non-lumpy dough that's easy to shape however you want.
To top it off, flour sticks to the pin just fine, which keeps dough from sticking while in use. The pin also cleans up easily. The only downside is that, depending on the size of your kitchen, it might be tough to put this beauty away. Its 19 inches of length simply make it harder to tuck into a drawer. But we think your holiday cookies are worth it.
4. A hassle-free silpat mat
Nothing is worse than discovering that you’ve ruined your baking tray—and your cookies—by forgetting to line it with parchment paper or a silpat mat. While parchment paper makes it easy to transfer cookies from the tray to your countertop, we love that silicone mats are a non-disposable purchase that can easily be cleaned and stored for your next bake.
Silpat can also prevent the bottom of your cookies from burning, as it keeps them further away from the strikingly hot metal of your baking sheet. The one downside? You’ll need to wait for your cookies to cool completely before removing them from silpat.
5. A stackable set of mixing bowls
If you’re not using a stand mixer as you bake, you’ll need some great mixing bowls to get the job done. We prefer stainless steel bowls over glass—there’s nothing to shatter or chip, making them both durable and long lasting, and their lightweight profile makes them easy to use. While they shouldn’t go into the microwave, they can be used on the stovetop as a double boiler–and the small- and medium-sized bowls in the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids worked perfectly for melting butter and chocolate over a 2-quart saucepan.
In addition, this set had nice, tall edges and a comfortable rim to hold onto while whisking. Each bowl was heavy enough to keep movement at a minimum (especially when we placed a towel underneath it) but light enough to hold in one hand while scraping out batter with the other. As a bonus, the bowls come with air-tight plastic lids, so each bowl doubles as storage and transportation container. Put all this together and it's easy to see why these bowls earned our top spot as the best stainless-steel mixing bowls.
6. The best baking spatula we’ve tested
You’ll need a silicone baking spatula to scrape batter and mix ingredients while you bake, even if you’re using a stand mixer. The Di Oro Large Silicone Spatula won its category in our roundup of the best spatulas and is an excellent choice for folding flour into your batter and then scraping down the sides of your bowl. It’s a single, slick piece of silicone, so you don’t need to worry about the head snapping off. The handle is sturdy and solid, while the head is just flexible enough to scrape down tricky-to-reach areas of your bowl.
The one-side-curved, one-side-straight head of this spatula makes it excellent for reaching into different types of corners (for instance, when scraping dough from a round bowl or when smoothing brownie batter into a square tin). The medium/large spatula head means you can get the job done quickly and easily—it’s perfect.
7. Our favorite flat spatula for easy lifting
A flat cooking spatula is a kitchen staple—ideal for removing cookies from a baking tray, flipping pancakes and eggs, and any other cooking task that requires slipping under food to move it around. And the Cutco Turn n’ Serve flat cooking spatula takes the cake. (No seriously, we used it to move a cake and it worked great.) It’s more expensive than I would typically recommend for a spatula, but this is a “you get what you pay for” situation. It’s pricey, but comes with a lifetime guarantee and will never send you back to your utensil drawer looking for a better tool.
This spatula performed incredibly well on all of our tests. The flat head is thin enough to easily slide under delicate eggs and tofu, but sturdy enough to flip burgers and lift a cake from a cake turner onto a serving plate. It’s a good size as well. It hits the sweet spot between being narrow enough to fit into your brownie pan and lift out a piece, and wide enough to be useful for flipping pancakes and removing cookies from your baking tray.
The only downside we found with this spatula is that it’s metal. And while this allows it to be as thin as a delicate fish spatula, it cannot be used on a nonstick pan. So if you only use nonstick cookware, you will have to opt for a silicone tool.
8. An oven thermometer for an even bake
If your oven doesn’t perform like it used to and you’re worried about inaccurate temperatures, you’ll need an oven thermometer to perfect your cookies. Our favorite thermometer by Admetior is an efficient, straight-forward thermometer that meets right at the intersection of great functionality and visual appeal. The no-frills model reported temperatures with great accuracy and responded quickly to any changes in heat.
A temperature gauge that starts at 50° F ensures that you can see the needle move even at room temperature. It's effortless to hang on the oven rack, and although the face is small, it's easy to read thanks to clear, bold print and distinct tick marks.
9. This versatile cooling rack
You’ll obviously need a solid cooling rack (or four) at the ready for your holiday cookies, but did you know they can also be used to cook? Line a baking sheet with a wire rack like this one from Checkered Chef and you'll create the perfect convection cooking space. You see, the air will be able to circulate underneath your food, creating the crispiest bacon or Brussels sprouts on the block.
Long story short—you can never have too many wire racks.
10. Our favorite storage containers
Once you’ve baked all your delectable, festive cookies, you’ll need somewhere to put them. We recommend having our favorite set of storage containers at the ready for storage, transport, and gifting.
We love that these containers nest within each other for easy storage, they don't impart off-flavors into our food, and they're marked as dishwasher-, microwave-, and oven-safe. And they’re not just for cookies—they aced every test we could think of. They didn't leak water when we sloshed them around and didn't burst open or shatter when we dropped them from a countertop. When we froze them, expanding food didn't break through the seal and they resisted stains.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.