pots & pans: the A-list

pots & pans: the A list

There are 75,000 different kinds of pans out there (unofficial estimate), and every single one of them looks sexy and exciting and 100% necessary for your kitchen when you see them hanging there in the store. But most of us who are filled with the desire to be awesome cooks are also plagued by the fear of filling our kitchen with ridiculous expensive crap that we never use. So here’s some thoughts on pots and pans that I use a lot and think you would too.

Frying pans: It’s good, even crucial, to have some all-star frying pans in your kitchen. They’ll end up being the workhorses in your kitchen, so it’s a good idea to get a couple champion pans that can take the abuse you’re going to give them. For anything other than a quick sautee, we use cast iron pans– we have a 10-inch and a 12-inch, and they both get used a lot. They hold heat well, brown food beautifully, and never complain. You can even take them camping. For lighter things we have a 10 inch stainless steel pan that does the trick.

Little pans: These are the same thing, but smaller. Probably our nicest pan is an 8-inch stainless steel guy that is great for eggs or caramel or a small amount of veggies. We also have a little cast iron pan the same size. Really pretty useful when you don’t have a lot to cook, although you could survive without them I suppose.

Sauce pans: A few of different sizes. Ours are actually cheap non-stick pots that I’ve had forever, but usually we’re not using them for anything that cares about quality of construction. Brewing tea, heating stock, making syrup… it’s actually nice to have some pans that are easy to clean up when all you need is their shape.

Dutch oven: This is a great friend for you in the kitchen. Having a medium sized pot is crucial for everything from pasta to chili to blanching vegetables. Our cast iron dutch oven is one of our favorite things in the kitchen right now, because it’s reliable for deep frying and even okay to go in the oven. Get what you can, but a solid cast iron dutch oven with a lid can be on your wish list no matter what.

Griddle: I really like having a little one-burner cast iron skillet for things like fried eggs or burgers where I don’t care about having sides to the pan. You can get a bigger one (or a free standing electric griddle) if you’re making pancakes and stuff.

Grill pan: Definitely not a necessary pan to have, but they can be kind of fun. I have an intense cast iron one that’s probably almost an inch deep, and it’s great because it drains off and sears hot similarly to a real grill. If you’re going to get one, I’d say get an intense one like that, not those bumpy non-stick ones that don’t seem to do very much.

Wok: I’ll do a separate post about stir-frying, but I’ll say definitively that a real, round-bottom, carbon steel wok makes a huge difference in stir fry that you won’t really believe till you taste it. Again, not a crucial addition to your arsenal, but definitely a recommended one.

Stock pots: Get these if you need them. They can be clunky if you’re not making 3 gallons of something, which honestly you’re not doing very much. But those few times that you’re making 2 pounds of pasta or cooking a bunch of lobsters, they’re nice to have around. We scored one with a steamer inset that reaches almost to the bottom of the pot, which is super useful for all kinds of things.

Those are my recommendations! Any others I missed?

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