The Essential Pots and Pans

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

How many pots and pans does the average home cook (notice I don't say chef) need? Most of us ending up buying our pots and pans in sets, which can be an excellent way to score a deal. But if you're like me, a bunch of those end up going unused, taking up precious storage space.

For those who don’t cook very much, or don’t cook for that many people, you can probably get away with a few essential pieces.


For soups, stews and boiling pasta, potatoes and corn on the cob.  You might want to save yourself some space and get one that you can also use as a dutch oven.



The workhorse in most kitchens, including mine.  I have two, a small one perfect for frying an egg or two and a larger one for everything else.



Not just for sauces, good for making rice, heating up milk and left-overs. Okay fine – and for heating up canned soup too.



Excellent for browning meats and making frittatas. I like a cast iron one that can go from stove top to oven to table top.



For chicken, roasts, ribs and of course, Easter ham and Thanksgiving turkey.  These come in a variety of shapes.  I like one with a high lid. I’ll be using mine this weekend for Oscar night wings.



For upping your culinary game, consider adding a sauté pan to the mix.

Le Creuset – best known for it’s gorgeous enamel cast iron cookware – has come out with a new line of stainless steel pans, including sauté pans, than come in a few sizes.

I tested their 4.3 litre sauté pan and it was plenty big for most jobs but still relatively light enough to lift with one hand, depending on what you’re cooking.  Saute pans have high sides, giving them an advantage over frying pans and skillets at minimizing splatter.


The product promises a stay cool handle, which I found delivered and the matching lid is also useful for keeping food warm and moist. This makes it good for wilting greens and braising.

Over the years I’ve collected many non-stick pans, mainly because they’re so easy to clean. But while they have their place (perfect for a good breakfast fry-up), the non-stick surface makes it impossible to brown meat properly.

I used the Creuset pan for making quite a number of things, including sautéing vegetables, chicken and prawns. They were all seared to perfection. (Any burnt bits we’ll blame on the cook.) I also used it to brown pork tenderloin and then put the whole thing in the oven to continue to cook.

While it is dishwasher friendly, I preferred to soak it and apply some serious elbow grease to get it clean, the one downside of stainless.

It sells for anywhere from $150-$200, but I always recommend keeping an eye out those regular kitchenware sales. Take care of this one and it can last you a lifetime.

Of course, there are many more pots and pans that an active cook/chef may want to add to their collection.  (The humble baking sheet, for example, not just for cookies but excellent for roasted vegetables.) Did I miss one of your favourites?



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  • Susan Bellwood

    I have a stockpot with a pasta insert. You can also put it in the oven. Multitasking!

  • MacDonald Carolyn

    I’m looking for a layered rack for frying pans, know of one ? I hang most of the pots etc that I use regularly. I use a rack from my roasting pan for all the lids, makes them all very accessible.