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Our Guide To Cookware: Pots, Pans, and More

Make sure you have these staple pieces of cookware in your kitchen.

Every adult should have a well-stocked kitchen with all of the essential items. Having the proper cookware will empower you to try new dishes and make home-cooked meals a regular part of your life. 

Metal cooking utensils on table

You likely already know about the standard cookware items, such as saucepans or stock pots, but it takes more than one or two items to have enough cookware to take on all the recipes the world offers. 

When you have a complete cookware set, you will feel more prepared and have a far easier time cooking delicious meals. For instance, making flan in an improper dish will result in a messy kitchen and not much dessert. 

To help, I put together a guide to the best types of cookware. This list details which items I think are necessary for cooking at home and how best to use them.

Types of Cookware

Read on to learn more about the many types of cookware and how they can help you become a better chef. 


Stock Pot

If you’re building your cookware collection from scratch, a stock pot should be at the top of your shopping list.

A stock pot is a deep, wide pot with handles on the sides and a matching lid. Kitchen novices may refer to it as the “big pot.” 

People use stock pots to make broths, soups, and—you guessed it—stocks. A good broth is a basis for many recipes, so having a massive pot where you can brew flavorful liquids is sure to come in handy.

Once you have a stock pot, you’ll never have to use store-bought broth again. 


Fry Pan

Frying pans are convenient for more than just frying eggs.

A frying pan is less than a foot wide in diameter, has shallow sides, and has no lid. My frying pan is my go-to cookware for quick, high-heat stovetop cooking. 

The shape of a frying pan works perfectly for quickly heating a surface, which is the desired goal when frying or searing food.

A frying pan holds heat longer than other pans and will cook foods evenly on all sides.

In addition to making eggs, you can use a frying pan for searing steaks, browning sausages, and frying potatoes. 


Griddles

Once you master the frying pan, it’s time for you to graduate to using griddles.

You may associate griddles with restaurant food, but anyone can keep a small griddle in their kitchen.

A griddle is a flat surface you can heat on the stove. Although more contemporary models are rectangular, the original style is round, like a frying pan without sides. 

Whether you get a griddle built into the stovetop or a separate piece, you can use it to make your favorite sandwiches or pancakes.

Since griddles don’t have sides, you can smoothly flip food to cook it evenly. Your enhanced flipping, combined with the griddle’s ability to blend flavors, will help you recreate any diner food you can imagine. 


Dutch Oven

No, a Dutch oven is not a kitchen appliance. A Dutch oven is a shallow, wide pot with handles and a tight lid.

A Dutch oven’s primary attribute is that you can safely use it inside an oven. The heavy pot and tight lid ensure food will cook evenly without letting any heat escape.

Technically, you can use a Dutch oven whenever the recipe calls for a pot. However, there are certain dishes where a Dutch oven’s assets will genuinely make an impact.

Try slow-cooking pulled pork or baking a homemade loaf of rustic bread to put your Dutch oven into action. 


Roasting Pan

Having a roasting pan in your kitchen is great when hosting a dinner party.

A roasting pan is a moderately deep pan—deeper than a baking pan, shallower than a Dutch oven—with a removable rack inside. The roasting pan is your Thanksgiving heavy lifter. 

Roasting pans are for cooking big pieces of meat in the oven. Turkeys, geese, and other large birds often end up atop a roasting pan.

When you use a roasting pan with the rack, you put the meat on the rack and the vegetables in the lower pan section. Thus, as the meat cooks, the juices and fat drip down and flavor the vegetables. 


Saucepan

Many recipes rely on sauces to get their flavor, so having the right sauce equipment is necessary.

Saucepans are an excellent place to start. A saucepan looks a bit like a pot and pan hybrid and has a long handle attached to a straight-edged pot with moderate depth. 

Aside from heating sauces, you can use a saucepan for any cooking task that involves hot liquid.

The pan’s dimensions help liquid heat up quickly, while the long handle allows you to safely maneuver the pan without getting burned.

Examples of saucepan uses include boiling water for pasta, poaching an egg, and blanching vegetables. 


Sauté Pan

Learning how to sauté will open you up to a whole new universe of cooking recipes.

To sauté correctly, you need to have a sauté pan. A sauté pan is a large, shallow pan with a long handle and straight sides. Your sauté pan should also come with a lid.

Sautéing requires that you simultaneously cook all of your ingredients, which is why a good sauté pan should be large enough for all of the food to touch the surface of the pan.

The straight sides act as guards to prevent the food from falling out as you rapidly shake the pan. 


Wok

A wok is a Chinese cooking pot that has been around for thousands of years.

The wok is now famous across the globe. It has a round bottom and curved or flared sides. It can have two looped handles or one long one.

Sometimes a westernized wok will be slightly flat on the bottom so it can be used on a flat stove. 

If you have a wok, you own the ultimate multi-use cookware piece. You can use a wok to boil, braise, fry, roast, smoke, and more.

I think it’s especially great for cooking liquids, as the rounded bottom lets you spoon out every last drop. 


Braiser Pan

A braiser pan is a slightly more niche cookware item, but it is worthwhile to purchase one if you enjoy cooking meat.

A braiser pan looks like a shortened Dutch oven: a shallow oven-safe pot with handles and a lid. 

Braiser pans are for browning, simmering, and tenderizing. The dimensions work well for slowly cooking food since the low sides let the excess steam out.

You can use a braiser pan for classic dishes like pork chops or brisket. Remember that braiser pans aren’t that deep, so you will still need your Dutch oven for big chunks of meat, such as a pot roast. 


Grill pans

If you have ever read an enticing grill recipe and then bemoaned the fact that you don’t have a grill to make it on, this is the cookware for you.

A grill pan is a flat-bottomed pan with slightly flared sides and a long handle. It diverges from a traditional frying pan by having raised ridges along the bottom that mimic the texture of a grill grate.

A grill pan is not just for creating those satisfying char marks on your steaks and burgers.

Instead, the ridge allows the fat from the meat to drain, preventing that gross, greasy effect you can sometimes get when you make a steak or burger on the stove.

Many grill pans will have a lip on the side so you can easily pour out the excess fat when you’re done cooking. 


Cast Iron Skillet

Using a cast iron skillet is life-changing.

Cast iron cookware is a popular favorite among chefs for its durability, heat retention, nonstick qualities, and ability to add extra flavor to whatever you put inside it.

A cast iron skillet provides you with all the regular benefits of a skillet with the added features of cast iron.

You can use your cast iron skillet for any dish that requires a shallow pan. Cast iron skillets are ideal for sautéing, braising, frying, and broiling.

With proper care, a cast iron skillet can become your next family heirloom. Be careful with the temperatures—cast irons can get much hotter than traditional cookware. 


Sauce Pot

You may be asking yourself, didn’t I already talk about saucepans?

Yes, I did. However, a sauce pot is slightly different from a saucepan. A sauce pot is a deep pot with a matching lid. Unlike a saucepan, it does not have a long handle.

The sauce pot is the saucepan’s slow sibling. Whereas saucepans quickly heat a liquid, a sauce pot will slowly raise the temperature.

If you try to boil water in a sauce pot, you will be waiting a long time. For this reason, sauce pots are perfect for making reductions or letting a liquid gradually evaporate. 


Steamers

As the name suggests, a steamer is for steaming. There are many steamer styles, including standalone electric steamers and metal pot inserts.

Unless you plan on steaming large quantities of vegetables every day, a pot insert should work just fine.

A basic steamer looks like a metal bowl with holes on the bottom and a corresponding lid. The bowl is designed to sit suspended over a pot of hot water.

As the steam from the water rises through the holes, the top keeps the steam trapped, and the hot steam then cooks the bowl’s contents. 

You can use steamers to steam Chinese dumplings, steam vegetables like broccoli, and more!


Types of Cookware

  1. Stock Pot
  2. Fry Pan
  3. Griddles
  4. Dutch Oven
  5. Roasting Pan
  6. Sauce Pan
  7. Sauté Pan
  8. Wok
  9. Braiser Pan
  10. Grill pans
  11. Cast Iron Skillet
  12. Sauce Pot
  13. Steamers

Final Thoughts

If you want to make the most of your home’s kitchen, you need the proper materials. This guide to essential cookware is my outline for what a well-equipped kitchen should have.

While having multiple types of pots and pans may sound excessive, using the proper tools will help you perfect the art of cooking. 

Don’t forget to stock your kitchen with all the essential flatware to eat your food with!

For more inspiration, check out this article next to learn which knife sets to get for your kitchen. 

Did I forget about your favorite type of cookware? Let me know, and I’ll be sure to check it out!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.