When it comes to saucepans, you really only need 3 basic sizes: small, medium and large. The large is essentially a stockpot that you can use to boil pasta and to make stocks and large quantities of stews and BBQ sauce. The small and medium pans are for smaller quantities of soup and everything else.
Specifically, go for 1.5 quart, 4.5 quart and 8 quart saucepans. They will handle every liquidy food you’ll ever need to cook. If you really want another saucepan, get the 2.5 quart as well. Occasionally you need to brown something in a heavy saucepan, but rarely, so you don’t need high priced All-Clad saucepans. Go for something with a heavy bottom and slightly curved sides so things don’t get caught in the corners of the pan and burn. Skip the pouring spout. It impairs the seal of the lid.
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But do go for pans with oven safe handles so you can heat sauces right on the grill when necessary. I recommend lids too. They hold in the heat so liquids boil faster. I like the tempered glass lids from Calphalon. Their Tri-Ply Stainless Steel pans also have a core of fast heating aluminum, are durable, easy to clean, and offer excellent heat conduction.
These stainless pans are not super cheap, but they are high quality, less expensive than top of the line saucepans, and will last for many years, if not decades.
Calphalon Tri-Ply 1-quart saucepan
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