Skip the Big Cookware Sets and Pick Up a Few Good Pieces
Cookware manufacturers try to sell you sets of pots of pans in all different sizes. But you really only need a few basics, a frying pan or two, a saucepan or soup pot, and a bigger stock pot or pasta pot. Here’s a guide to the pots and pans you will actually use.
1) Look for thick heavy-gauge pans that will hold heat even if you throw in a couple of cold steaks.
2) Look for pans that heat evenly with minimal hotspots.
2) You want something that will last without warping, denting, or pitting when you cook with acids or salts.
3) You don’t want a handle that can melt if you stick the pan on the grill or in the oven.
4) Easy to clean.
5) Rust resistant.
Stainless steel is a good all-around choice because it’s durable, easy to maintain, and not too expensive. For better heat conduction, look for clad pans, which have a stainless steel exterior sandwiched around inner layers of either copper or aluminum, both of which conduct heat faster than steel.
The new breed of nonstick ceramic pots and pans are by far the best of any nonsticks, and GreenPan is at the top of the pack. As slippery as a pickpocket, this pan allows eggs to slide out like a downhill skier. Check out our review of GreenPan nonstick pans, which have several advantages over Teflon.
Forget the fancy high end pricey Le Creuset French Oven when selecting a cast iron Dutch Oven. This is the one you want for cowboy cooking and camping. It's perfect for whole chickens or slow braising in the oven or in the grill. Add coals to the lid and it's great for baking. It also comes in handy around the house..
Cast iron provides intense even heat and can be used on a stovetop, in the oven, on the grill and is great for camping. Use a cast iron pan to press sandwiches, smash potatoes, and crush spices or nuts, too. The 12 inch skillet from Lodge is a great skillet for everyday use.
A wok is best for stir fries because of the high sides. Go for a flat bottom wok so it works well on American stovetop burners. This carbon steel wok set has everything you need to turn out tasty Chinese food.
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.
An assortment of pans for frying and sauteing is essential for a functional kitchen. Stainless steel with a core of aluminum is best for most sauteing and frying. Buy the best you can. It's also helpful to have a couple nonstick pans on hand. For those, buy them cheap and replace them when they wear out.
The Nordic Ware 12-Inch Universal Pan Lid is a vented pot lid you should keep handy when cooking. It fits most frying pans and saucepans and is much less expensive than the lids from high end manufacturers like All Clad.