Having a good set of pots and pans is a must for those who like to cook every day. I would be lost without my essential pots, and if you must know, I'm partial to All-Clad. Their superb product line comes in many shapes and sizes. From their tri-ply (they come in five-ply now) construction to their stay cool handles, these pots and pans will not disappoint; it helps to have pans that are oven safe. Not only are they durable and made to last a lifetime, they're also easy to clean. Admittedly, they are quite an investment to make initially, but are worth every bit in the long run. There are other comparable brands available to the consumer and it really is up to you and your budget what you end up buying. Use the following list of pots and pans merely as a guide. There are a few other essential vessels that you should have in your kitchen which aren't from All-Clad. Take a look at what I use in my kitchen.
- 1 qt.: this little pan is great for melting butter, making small amounts of rice, reheating single-servings, heating small amounts of stock & scalding milk.
- 2 qt.: the high sides of this pot are perfect for caramels, boiling sugar, heating stocks, steaming rice and as a double-boiler base.
- 4 qt.: this large saucepan is essential for making pasta sauces, small amounts of risotto, boiling small quantities of pasta, poaching & hardboiling eggs, heating stocks or broth.
- 3qt. or 4qt.: sauteing cutlets, searing steaks, making risotto, poaching fish fillets or making one pan meals.
- 6qt. (wide): essential when cooking for a crowd, sauteing several cutlets, large batches of leafy greens, making quick pasta sauces, frying fritters.
- 8" (nonstick & stainless): perfect for frying eggs, making omelets, crepes, small frittatas, toasting spices or making one person dishes.
- 10" with lid (nonstick & stainless): for larger frittatas, sauteing chops, cutlets, steaks, vegetables, making paninis, rice pilafs or for heating up tortillas.
- 12" with lid (nonstick & stainless): can be used to stir fry, saute vegetables, make larger one dish meals for at least 4-6 servings and very suitable for perfect rice pilafs.
- 7qt. or 8qt.: the pot to use when boiling pasta, making soups and stews. Having a pasta insert is a bonus because it strains in the same pot.
- 12qt.: designed for making large batches of stock. It's also helpful for cooking lobster, making crab & shrimp boils, making soups & cassoulets for a crowd.
Dutch Oven & Roasting Pan
- 5qt. Dutch Oven: great for making stews, chilis, chicken & dumplings, steaming vegetables or fish.
- Roasting Pan: essential for roasting chicken, turkey, roasts, pork loins & vegetables. Choose one that suits your cooking (get a larger one if you roast larger birds or a smaller one if you only roast small ones). I also like this type of pan for poaching large pieces of fish, such as an entire side of salmon.
- 2qt. Saute Pan: this one is useful for making rice pilafs, steaming small portions of rice, quinoa, barley or wheat berries. It's also great for heating stocks & reheating leftovers.
- 3qt. Saucier: a must for making an array of sauces. I use it for lemon curd, pastry cream and many other dessert sauces. It's also great for making creamed spinach and bechamel. The rounded edges allow for a whisk to make full contact with the pot.
- Double Boiler Insert: designed to fit over a saucepan to melt chocolate, heat sauces (like hollandaise), hold freshly made mashed potatoes and a must for french scrambled eggs.
- 4 qt. Braiser: the pan to use for paellas, steaming dumplings, hot smoking fish fillets and making a large batch of ratatouille or other vegetables and risottos.
- Grill Pan: for grilling chicken, steaks, fish fillets, sandwiches & vegetables
Carbon Steel Wok & Cast Iron Frying Pans
- Wok (carbon steel): the vessel of choice for stir frying. It is very responsive to heat. Get one that is at least 14" in diameter
- 10" Frying Pan: This pan is versatile. Use it to bake cornbread, deep fry chicken, roast an entire chicken, make paninis, or fry potatoes.
- 12" Frying Pan: The larger pan allows you to make chicken under a brick, fry larger batches of fritters, fish or vegetables. It's also great for making hash.
It isn't necessary to have every one of these pans in your kitchen, but it is helpful to have the right tool for the task. As I've said, choose according to your cooking style and the size of your family. Many cookware stores will sell you sets with some of the essentials, which are a great value, but it's also great to have the option to buy individually. Invest in high quality pots & pans that will last you a lifetime and you'll be enjoying them for generations. Enjoy your cooking endeavors!