There are a few essential pots and pans that home cooks should have on hand for every day use. Different chefs will have varying opinions about which equipment is truly the best (for example, some might recommend avoiding nonstick pans because they don't achieve a good sear on meats). There are a variety of cookware materials to choose from, such as stainless steel, aluminum, seasoned or enameled cast iron, and copper. The choices can quickly become overwhelming. To simplify things, I've narrowed it down to just a few pots and pans that are essential for creating a well rounded kitchen.
Large Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
An enameled cast iron Dutch oven is an absolute kitchen workhorse that, if properly cared for, will last generations. Seasoned, non-enameled Dutch ovens are also a great option but the enameled versions are much easier to clean. Use this pot to make soups, stews, and to sear meats and vegetables (cast iron is an excellent conductor of heat). It can even be used for cooking grains, pasta or eggs. A 4.5 quart Dutch oven is a good all-purpose size.
Stainless Steel Nonstick Skillet
Stainless steel, like cast iron, is a great conductor of heat, making it a solid choice for a nonstick skillet. Use this for searing, sautéing and stir-frying meats and vegetables. An 8- or 10-inch skillet is the best choice for everyday use.
Small and Large Nonstick Skillets
While nonstick pans are not ideal for searing, they are perfect for eggs. Use smaller nonstick pans for omelettes and large (oven-safe) nonstick pans for frittatas.
Medium Heavy-Bottom Saucepan
A 1.5 or 2 quart heavy-bottom saucepan is the perfect size for cooking grains, making sauces and simple syrups, and browning butter. It’s also a good size base to use for a double boiler.
Stainless Steel Sautoir (Flat-Sided Skillet)
A flat-sided skillet isn't an absolute kitchen essential, but it can be very useful for a number of purposes. It's especially good for risotto, skillet jams, and anything where there might be more liquid in the pan than a regular skillet can handle (for example, rendering fat from bacon or duck).
More Kitchen Basics
Remember to stock your kitchen with the essentials every home cook needs...