6 essential pots and pans (and what they’re ACTUALLY used for)
your guide to stainless steel sauce pans, cast iron skillets, and more.
Published Feb 3, 2016 5:00 AM
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We all know that some pots and pans are essential—like a big one for boiling water and something to make eggs in… But how many do you really need? We spoke with Cathy Erway of the popular blog Not Eating Out in New York to get her expert opinion.
enameled dutch oven
Everyone who owns a dutch oven is in LOVE with it—for good reason. You can seriously make anything, everything, and more in these things. They are expensive, but as everyone (including Erway) says, it’s well worth your investment. The thick enamel is safe to wash with soap and water and can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. Erway says the dutch oven can double as a stockpot, a roaster, your steamer, and even a casserole dish. You can make soup, beans, blanch veggies, sear meat, and even mull wine in this versatile pot. Erway points out that just having this dish might make you take more chances in the kitchen, saying, “It might inspire you to cook more adventurous or long cooking projects, like pulled pork or cassoulet.” It helps that owning a boldly-colored dutch oven, by Le Creuset or Emile Henry, is the latest must-have kitchen accessory. If you’re set on collecting vintage pans, look to Griswold.
stainless steel pan
“I really think everyone should have a heavy-bottomed, large sauté pan with a lid,” says Erway. Look for a pan with a super sturdy bottom that will evenly distribute high, even heat. Use to make tomato sauces, tiny amounts of stews or braises, sauteing vegetables, and browning or searing meat. Don’t let the lid collect dust in your cabinet—it’s essential. The 3 quart All-Clad Stainless Steel Saute Pan is a quality investment.
cast iron skillet
Much like the dutch oven, you can throw just about any food into a cast iron skillet. It’s super versatile and can go from the stovetop to the oven and beyond (think campfires or a grill). You can sear meat, saute and fry anything, cook pancakes, eggs, and even skillet pizza. Make sure to buy pre-seasoned and be careful when cleaning. If you’re looking for a pan that you can really rely on, this is it. Lodge makes sturdy, affordable pans.
A large pot for, well, boiling pasta, is necessary for obvious reasons—mainly our love of carbs. A standard 2 quart size should be large enough for one person. Feel free to buy the cheapest version if all you’re planning on doing is cooking pasta.
non-stick frying pan
A small 8” non-stick frying pan is good to keep around for making quick—but sticky—dishes, like omelettes or fried eggs. Avoid using metal utensils and turning the heat up too high to keep your pan in good condition.
rimmed baking sheets
Because baking is important—no matter if your cookies are made from scratch or store bought. These are also great for roasting vegetables and baking various meats and fish. Invest in one or two moderately priced pans instead of buying a few cheap, flimsy, aluminum pans. They’ll last longer and cook your food more effectively. Don’t forget the rims or they’ll be useless.