Basics of Sourdough

Essential utensils and tools for sourdough baking

Here are some essential utensils and tools for sourdough baking.  These basic necessities that will help you be successful with your sourdough bread making.  I have done extensive research on utensils and ingredients for sourdough bread making as a home baker.  Home baking sourdough bread is very different from commercial baking.  For one thing, the ingredient quantities are a lot less than commercial bakeries and as a consumer of the end product, doesn't it make sense to produce the BEST and most nutritious bread possible?

To get started with your sourdough journey, here are the essential utensils and tools.

Essential utensils and tools for sourdough baking.

Digital Scale.

Invest in a digital scale!  Measurements with cups rather than weight will be the difference between a dense or airy bread.  In my research for a food scale, although there are some scales out there that are slick and flat, it is harder to read when placing a large bowl over it.  Also, look for one that can tare weight. (Reset scale back to 0 so you can weigh multiple ingredients in the same bowl).  There are some scales that are not very sensitive.  This makes measuring water, as you are pouring it in, a little challenging. I like the scale shown below as it comes with a tray and batteries!

food scale

Understanding how to work with solids and liquids when working with dough will allow you to make practically anything with your starter.  See Basic Bread Math


 This rattan bread bowl gives your bread a decorative edge.  Get one that comes with a fabric cover.  If you require 2 proofing bowls, you can use the banneton without a cover and place the cover in another bowl as a second proofing bowl.  Most recipes have the 9" bowl and cast-iron pot in mind.  If you are new to sourdough bread making, I suggest that you purchase this set that comes with the banneton, plastic scraper and lame.

Sourdough bread making set

Sourdough bread making set

Plastic dough scraper.  

I use the plastic dough scraper to scrape the dough in the bowls.  The plastic is more flexible and scrapes the bowl better than the rigid metal dough cutter.

Bench scraper / dough cutter.

 A metal bench scraper or dough cutter is more durable. It is larger and sturdier than the plastic scraper and is easier to lift up larger pieces of dough, especially when transferring the dough from the bowl to the bench and seems to cut  the dough better.  It is also a great tool to use to scape the dough and flour that is on the work surface for easier cleanup!

bench scraper chopper

Bread lame. 

Razor blades without the handle will work just as well.  A bread lame is a fancy razor holder with a handle.  It is angled into a curve which makes scoring easier.   It is best to purchase a lame that can have the razors replaced. This is used for scoring the bread.

sourdough bread making lame

Cast Iron dutch ovens. 

Sourdough that's baked in a cast iron pot has more moisture than most breads.  It's the high moisture dough in a hot cast iron pot that creates the steam that's required to produce that wonderful crust.  Unlike commercial baking ovens, home ovens do not have a steam injector.   These cast iron pots can withstand and retain the high heat.  

skillet set useful for sourdough bread baking

If you've always wanted a fancy  and expensive cast-iron dutch oven, make sure you don't purchase one that has a plastic knob on it’s lid.  If you already have one with a plastic knob, you may want to remove the knob unless the manufacturer claims that it can withstand 500 degree fahrenheit temperatures. For a beginner baker who doesn't own any cast iron cookware, I recommend a skillet, dutch oven set.  This cast-iron set shown here is great for beginner bread making since turning your proofed dough out onto a 500 degree fahrenheit cast iron pot is quite challenging. This set allows you to turn your dough out onto the shallow skillet and invert the pot onto it.  So much easier!

Parchment paper.

For beginners, using parchment paper is easier to transport your bread dough to the extremely hot cast iron dutch oven. With experience, you may not need this, but it does avoid burning your arms which I’ve done many times!  Make sure you crumple up your parchment paper so that it will be more malleable and take on the shape of the cast iron dutch oven.

parchment paper

Storage containers with lids. 

 I like using either clear plastic (disposable soup) or glass containers (mason jars with wide mouths) with tight fitting lids so that I can see the fermentation process.  You need jars with wide mouths so that you can mix your starter with your hands.  I also weigh the containers that I use and write the weight of the containers on the bottom with a permanent marker.  This allows me to calculate the needed ingredients without having to put the contents into another container.  You can also use an elastic band to see how much your levain has grown.

containers to keep starter

Large storage container with lid.

A larger container with lid is needed for bulk fermentation.  I like a container that is see-through so that during bulk fermentation, you can see the rise of the dough.  If you only make 1 bolle / loaf, a 4 qt container will work. The container should be wide rather than be tall so that you can easily do your stretch and folds right in the container rather than having to place it on the work bench.  This just minimizes additional cleanup!

Plastic container for sourdough bulk fermentation.

Oven gloves or pot holders.  

You will need a pair of good, heavy-duty oven gloves or pot holders.  Bread making requires the cast iron dutch oven to reach a temperature of 500 degrees fahrenheit.  In order to get the pot in and out of the oven, you will need gloves with silicone or very thick pot holders.  I like these potholders as they can double as a trivet.

heavy duty potholder


Permanent marker.

A permanent marker is useful to write the weights of all the containers that will be used for sourdough baking.  This helps to determine the weight of the ingredients in the container without having to take the ingredients out of the container to re-weigh them, but simply subtracting the container weight from the total weight.

permanent marker

Dry erase board marker.

A dry erase board marker helps to keep track of the number of stretch and folds that have been done during the bulk fermentation process.

Dry erase markers

Dry erase markers

These are the essential utensils and tools for sourdough baking.  As you continue on your sourdough journey and make it a part of your lifestyle, other equipment can be invested. However, with these basic utensils, you can make wonderful, delicious sourdough bread!  If your first loaf is not that successful, don't give up, learn and tweak.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them on the "Comment" section.  As my mother says, "Rome wasn't built overnight!" 

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