8 Essential Baker Skills (And How to Improve Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Bakers have an important role in kitchens, bakeries, restaurants and other establishments. They have a mix of hard and soft skills which enable them to do their job well. If you're a baker or want to become one, understanding these skills can be very useful. In this article, we list eight essential baker skills and explain how you can develop them.

8 essential baker skills

Here are eight essential baker skills, including both hard and soft skills:

1. Baking skills

These are the hard skills that are fundamental to the work of a baker. There are a lot of these, but some of the more common and important of these are as follows:

  • baking cakes

  • icing cakes

  • sifting cocoa

  • sifting flour

  • ensuring freshness

  • creaming eggs and butter

  • softening butter

  • cleaning cake tins

  • caramelising sugar

  • making pastry

  • making dough

  • scoring bread

  • making fondant

  • tempering chocolate

Related: What Skills Do Cooks Need? (And How to Improve Them)

2. Organisation

One of the most important skills for a baker is the ability to remain organised. This also involves keeping their workspace or area of the kitchen organised. Another term for this among culinary professionals is 'mise en place'. This is French for 'put in place', and it means that all of your ingredients and utensils are ready and in the appropriate places. The benefit of this is that you always know where everything is, which means you're unlikely to waste time looking for something.

Organisation also helps you to perform your tasks efficiently. For instance, if something is going to be in the oven for 20 minutes, you can use this time to prepare something for a later stage of the process or to simply clean and reorganise everything. Having an organised process can therefore make you much more efficient.

3. Communication

Many bakers work within a team of individuals. These colleagues might be other bakers, cooks or kitchen porters. Even if you're working on something different from these people, you're going to be sharing the same workspace, so communication is essential to ensuring that everyone finds what they require and there's minimal interruption of each other's work. If you're working together with other bakers to produce large amounts of baked goods at a bakery or similar establishment, then communication is essential to collaborative work, avoiding mistakes and meeting targets.

4. Precision

Baking in an oven is quite different to cooking on a stove, as you're unable to taste it periodically to check for flavour. Bakers, therefore, have to be very precise and have excellent attention to detail. This means taking precise measurements, maintaining the right temperatures and knowing how to deliver consistent quality. Attention to detail can also be very useful if you're preparing attractive baked goods like cakes that might have decorations. Bakers are constantly aware of what they're doing and the state of their goods, as even small mistakes can spoil a batch and necessitate a redo.

Related: How to Improve Your Attention to Detail in 4 Steps

5. Hand-eye coordination

This is a skill that bakers tend to develop naturally with a lot of time and practice. Like a lot of cooking-related roles, a baker works primarily with their hands. They mix ingredients, roll out dough and arrange baked goods. In some cases, they can make many batches a day which include dozens or even hundreds of items. A baker's hand-eye coordination allows them to repeat certain processes many times without the necessity of consciously thinking about it, thereby producing greater uniformity and predictable quality. It also allows them to use potentially dangerous implements, like knives, without injuring themselves.

6. Numeracy

This is a skill that complements a baker's precision. A lot of recipes require precise quantities of ingredients, and bakers can scale these up or down to make different amounts of goods. Good numeracy skills allow bakers to do this without constantly resorting to a calculator. It helps them understand proportions and ingredient ratios in terms of quantity, volume and weight. It can also be useful to have a good understanding of different measurement systems to access more recipes.

7. Stamina

Bakers sometimes start very early in the day to prepare bread and other baked goods. This allows these goods to be fresh and ready for people who want to buy or consume them early in the morning, such as from a local bakery, at a restaurant or a hotel. Their work can continue throughout the day as they prepare different items, often in batches. There can be a lot of pressure, especially if demand increases suddenly or a mistake occurs, and bakers benefit from lots of physical stamina to keep going throughout the day.

They also benefit from mental stamina and resilience. Orders may change over the course of the day, customers might make difficult requests and pressure can be high in a professional kitchen. Mental stamina allows bakers to remain focused and keep going without becoming too stressed.

8. Creativity

New ingredient combinations or entirely new recipes can help a baker to improve their outputs. In many establishments, bakers and others play a role in deciding which items to produce for customers. Some of these items are part of a larger menu or selection of goods, and creativity can allow bakers to make the best choices in this regard. They can think of new product ideas, flavours to implement or simply physical designs to make their goods more attractive. This can also be useful for marketing and advertising products at a bakery.

Related: Creative Thinking: How to Start Thinking Creatively

How to improve your skills as a baker

If you're a baker and want to improve your skills, consider following the steps below:

1. Evaluate your abilities

The first step is to think about your abilities and what you believe you're capable of. Consider both your hard skills and your soft skills. Think about your experience as a baker and the sorts of goods you know you can produce to a very high standard. You can also think about occasions when you struggled to produce something, particular aspects of the job that you find difficult and any negative feedback you remember getting from customers.

Consider whether there are any kinds of goods that you wish you could produce to a higher standard. Also, think about if there are any that you currently don't know how to make at all. Questions like these can help you to identify areas for improvement. You can also consider your skills in comparison to those of your colleagues.

Related: How to Write a Self-Evaluation (Step Guide and Examples)

2. Ask others to evaluate you

In addition to assessing your own performance, you can also ask others to do so. These could be fellow bakers, other kitchen professionals or customers. You could even bake some items for friends and family and ask them what they think. If you work at an establishment that offers customers the chance to leave feedback on a card or online, read these carefully to see how customers rate your items.

If you interact with customers directly, such as if you work at a local bakery, then ask them for their feedback and what they'd like to see improve. You can combine the insights from this with that from your self-assessment. This allows you to produce a list of skills that you want to either acquire or improve.

3. Consider further training

There are options to learn directly from experienced bakers and pastry chefs who have training programmes. Consider looking for some that are accessible to you and finding a course that addresses the areas that you want to improve, based on your self-assessment and that of others. These could be specialised courses in producing certain items that you're unfamiliar with or broader courses. There might even be useful courses online from reputable chefs and bakers.

If you attend an in-person course, this can also be an opportunity to improve your soft skills. You can improve your ability to communicate, work under pressure and be creative. There are also courses that you might consider to develop these soft skills if you're already satisfied with your hard skills.

4. Keep practising

Every time you acquire a new competency, it's important to practise it regularly. You can do this both at work and in your own time. If you're learning new recipes, bake them for friends and family. Consider altering the recipe until you find one that works perfectly for you. Learn to critically evaluate your own baking and find ways of improving. If you're a contributor to menu ideas, suggest something that you've recently learned and want to perfect. This gives you a serious opportunity to practise and demonstrate your new skills.

You can also practise a lot of your soft skills in social settings outside of work. If you're working on your communication, be mindful of your interactions with friends and ask them if you're being clear and consistent. Consider learning to listen actively to better understand others, as this can also show you the difference between effective and ineffective communication.

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