There are many, many different kinds of pots and pans out there, some of which are elemental to building the right kind of cooking environment. Don’t get it twisted though: All kitchen tools are important in some way, (even some unitaskers) but there are some cooking vessels that are the fundamentals of a basic, and successful armory of kitchen supplies. When it comes to pots and pans, here are the ones that you should have always at the ready.
If you want to get the most out of your cookware purchase, opt for a bundle like the Potluck Cookware Set that has two saucepans, a stock pot, and a skillet, or The Set from Brigade that includes a saucepan, sauté pan, a skillet, and a Santoku knife.
Even if you aren’t spending Sunday making gravy (or red sauce for those of you not fluent in New Jersey Italian-American slang), a stock pot may seem superfluous, but it’s made for so much more than long, slow simmers. I use a stock pot to sous vide in or as a steaming accessory since I don’t own a microwave. It’ll come in handy more than you think.
T-Fal 12qt Stock Pot, $39.99 at Target
Excelsteel 12 Quart 18/10 Stainless Steel 4 Piece Muti-Cookware Set, $35.40 on Amazon
Yes, a sheet pan counts as a pan. Don’t get caught wanting to roast a chicken (or bake cookies) without at least one of these in your cabinet. A rule of thumb for material/color: The darker the sheet pan, the more heat it will conduct and the faster it’ll brown food. If you’re crisping up chicken skin or roasting potatoes, go for a dark one. If you’re baking cookies or a sheet cake, go light.
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet (2 Pack), $19.99 on Amazon
Rachael Ray 3-Piece Cookie Pan Steel Baking Sheet Set, $29.99 on Amazon
Cast Iron Skillet
This should be a no-brainer. For around $30, you can get the most multi-purpose of pans in the kitchen. A cast iron skillet can be used for so many different applications, from deep-frying to oven roasting. I even used it as a meat mallet the other night when I had to pound out pork chops for Milanese. The only thing to keep in mind is to take care of it properly: Don’t ever put soap on it, don’t use steel wool on it, oil it regularly, and don’t you even think about soaking it overnight.
Lodge 12” Cast Iron Skillet, $24.99 on Amazon
Ultimate Skillet 10", $65 from Milo
You may think that if you have a skillet, you have a sauté pan, but you’d be slightly mistaken. Sauté pans have a greater bottom surface area than skillets and usually have higher, straighter sides. Use your skillet to quickly brown things or to stir fry, but use your sauté pan to build a nice crust on meat and layer flavors without worrying about any spillage. And always utilize the lid.
T-fal Specialty Nonstick Sauté Pan with Glass Lid, $20.41 on Amazon
GreenPan Craft Sauté Pan, $129.95 at Sue La Table
Despite its one-dimensional (and slightly incorrect) name, the saucepan is actually one of the most useful cooking vessels in the kitchen. It has tall sides like a pot but a long handle like a skillet, and it can be used to, obviously, put together a sauce but it’s also adept at quickly boiling water for pasta or grains, reheating soups, or steaming veggies.
Calphalon Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Pour and Strain Saucepan, $64.99 at Macy’s
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Saucepan with Cover, $17.95 on Amazon
These are the most basic of kitchen pans, but they shouldn’t be treated as less than great. A good nonstick skillet will help you through eggs or fish without sending you into a panic, worrying about never getting the remnants off of the bottom. I highly recommend getting two different sizes to help with different kinds of meals.
Food52 x GreenPan Nonstick Skillet (Set of 2), $89-$99 at Food52
Blue Carbon Steel 10" Frying Pan, $69 from Made In
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