Essential cookware encompasses all the must-have items you should have in your kitchen, and we all know pots and pans are among the most important tools in any kitchen. But how do you choose the right type of pot or pan for your needs? After all, there are so many different types of pots and pans to choose from that it may seem overwhelming. Not to worry. We will help you figure out which essential pots and pans are needed in your kitchen (plus a few specialty pans to help you level up your game!)
Essential Cookware: The Must-Have Pots and Pans
As we mentioned in our new house checklist there are certain pots and pans that are must-haves. While not all of these are considered kitchen essentials these first 10 are essential pots and pans you need for your kitchen:
A sauté pan can be identified by its wide, shallow shape with a flat bottom. A sauté pan is a heavy pot with sloping sides and usually has a lid. This type of pan can be used to make rice pilafs, risottos, or delicate dishes that need constant stirring, like egg drop soup, because the slope on the side helps prevent food from sticking when cooking. Sauté pans allow for even distribution of heat, so you don’t have any hot spots in one location while everything else cooks at a different pace which means it’s best for making sauces too! While most pots need lids to keep water inside during boiling or simmering, saute pans do not require them because they are designed specifically for quickly searing meats or vegetables before gradually cooking them. The only downside to this pan is cleaning since these types of pots are usually not dishwasher safe and require hand washing instead, but they do last much longer than other materials such as non-stick pans. This is fairly common with stainless steel pans. Which one should you buy? This Calphalon one is nice and an Amazon-choice product. You can learn more about them in our Calphalon cookware review. Good for: Sauces, Rice Pilaf
A frying pan may have either flat or sloped sides, but they are not as deep as the saucepans that you will typically find in most kitchens. This pan is great for cooking dishes such as pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches where there needs to be space between food so that nothing sticks together. It’s a good idea to buy a non-stick frying pan as the food will not stick to it, and making things like eggs is much easier. The most common uses for a frying pan are for frying eggs and making stir-fry dishes. Which frying should you buy? Hexclad makes some amazing non-stick frying pans. You can read about them in our Hexclad review. Or you can shop Hexclad here. Good for: Omelets, Stir-Fry Dishes, Pancakes.
A skillet is just like a frying pan, but it generally does not have an extended lip on the sides, which allows you to flip food over without spilling it out of the pot. A skillet will also come with a strong metal handle that curves down from one side near where the two short edges meet. The curvature of the handles makes them comfortable to hold and easy to use. Skillets are typically used for cooking dishes such as steak, fried eggs, or chicken cutlets. If you’re looking for a dish that has crispy edges, then lightly frying it in a skillet with oil is your best bet! You can also cook vegetables, such as a stir-fry, with the help of this pan. It’s important to keep your eye on skillets because they can easily overcook food and make it dry or burnt quickly! Which one should you buy? This Cuisinart skillet is a great buy on Amazon; you can read more about them in our Cuisinart cookware review. Good for: Steaks, Fried Eggs, Stir-Fry.
A saucepan is a deep, flat bottomed pan with rounded sides, and it typically has two handles on either side. This type of pot or pan is used for making sauces as well as rice pilafs because the wide surface area makes stirring easy while also ensuring that food doesn’t stick to the bottom when cooking. Rounded sides on this type of pot also allow for easy stirring, and it’s perfect if you’re looking to make a single dish in the pan. The downside is that saucepans are not good at high heat cooking methods like stir-frying or boiling, so they have limited uses, which means you need several types of pans like our next one! Which one should you buy? This All-Clad saucepan is a great choice. You can read more about them in our All-Clad Cookware review. Good for: Sauces, Rice Pilafs
A stockpot is great for making dishes that need to be cooked in large quantities, which means it can handle tasks like boiling pasta or cooking a pot of beans. It also works well with long-term recipes such as soups, stews, and chili by being able to simmer foods at low heat without burning them off. The downside with this type of pot is the size since they might not fit into small ovens. Which one should you buy? This Farberware stockpot is a good size and a great price if you are starting out. You can read more about them in our Farberware Cookware review. Good for: Boiling, Cooking Pasta
A roasting pan is ideal for making dishes that need to be cooked in the oven, such as a roast or turkey because it has higher sides and can hold plenty of food. It also makes clean-up much easier since most of the items inside – whether they are meats, vegetables, or liquids like wine – will stay contained within its walls, so you only have one dish to wash instead of multiple pots and pans! You can roast meat and vegetables, toast nuts and granola, or bake cookies, brownies, or any other number of pastries. The downside with this type of pot is that it doesn’t retain heat very well, which means if you’re cooking something on top, then once placed into an oven, your ingredients might brown too quickly before everything else has had enough time to cook through. This problem can easily be solved by using aluminum foil to cover any liquid-filled areas while baking. Which one should you buy? This Circulon roasting pan is nonstick and a great price. You can read more about them in our Circulon Cookware review. Good for: Roasts, Turkeys
A wok is a Chinese cooking utensil that works well with high heat methods like stir-frying or deep frying and can be used on the stovetop as well. The upside to this type of pot is that it’s perfect if you have an electric stove – which most people do – because it heats up quickly and can be adjusted to different levels of heat. The downside is that you have a lot more room for food in the wok, so if you’re looking for something like ramen noodles, then they might not fit as easily! There are also few woks that work on induction stovetops. Which one should you buy? Depending on how much you plan on using it can determine how much you should spend. This wok is a nice balance between price and quality. Good for: Stir-frying, Deep Fries
Baking dishes are typically made out of glassware because they allow heat to circulate evenly around food so everything cooks at the same rate in less time, but should also be used with caution due to the risk of breaking if dropped or mishandled. Glass baking dishes such as oven-proof bowls and casserole dishes can be found in a variety of sizes, too, which makes them perfect for making anything from brownies to cakes! If you are starting out with just one, the best size to get is a medium-sized dish that can fit in an oven or microwave for a variety of cooking needs. The only downside is that these types of pots do not have lids on them – unlike a Dutch oven – which means you’ll need something else like aluminum foil or an airtight cover when cooking some items like vegetables since it doesn’t retain moisture very well during long periods without oxygen (such as baking a casserole dish). Which one should you buy? These Pyrex ones are great, and we use them all the time. You can check them out here. Good for: Baking, Brownies, Lasagnas
The best baking sheets (also called sheet pans) are made out of aluminum with a non-stick coating on them, but it’s also important to know the difference between sheets that are raised (like jelly roll pans) and ones that aren’t (such as cookie sheets). The good news is that these baking pans can be found in any size or shape you need, which makes them perfect for making anything from cakes to cookies! Make sure to get a rimmed baking sheet for anything that could spill over the sides, like brownies or casseroles. They are also referred to as half sheet pans. The downside with these types of pots is that they can be challenging to clean because the food tends to stick more than it does on a flat baking sheet. It’s also a good idea to get oven-safe wire racks that can fit inside the pan so you can better cook without food spilling over and making a mess. Which one should you buy? If you are new to cooking, this 3 pack set by Rachael Ray is a nice way to start. They have a nonstick surface which is perfect for baking cookies. Learn more about Rachael Ray’s cookware here. Good for: Cookies, Roasting Veggies, and Baking
Dutch ovens are usually made from heavy cast iron and often have three short legs – like a tripod – so that they can be set over an open flame. A Dutch oven works great for searing meat before adding all the ingredients needed for things such as pasta dishes, soups, or stews but then needs to simmer on top of the heat source until it is done. The downside of a Dutch oven is that it cannot be used on the stovetop and needs a heat source like an oven or fireplace, which means Dutch ovens are more for slow cooking. Which should you buy: The best Dutch oven to get is an enameled cast iron one from Le Creuset. Learn more about them in our Le Creuset cookware review. Good for: Stews, Soups
Essential Cookware: Specialty Pans
Once you have all of your essential cookware, you can start to look at more specialty items depending on your cooking tastes and preferences. Below is a list of some optional cooking pots and pans for your kitchen.
Cast Iron Skillet
A cast-iron skillet can be used for frying eggs, pancakes, or bacon. They are great for even heat distribution, and we often use this for searing our steaks. It is good at retaining heat and also distributes it evenly, which makes this type of skillet ideal for searing meat without overcooking the other side or burning its surface. The downside is that these pans are heavy and can be difficult to maneuver, which makes it hard for anyone with arthritis or other joint issues. Lodge makes a great cast iron skillet, so does Stargazer. You can find the cast iron pan we use and love by Lodge here.
This type of pan is designed to cook several different types of food at the same time over an open flame or electric burner. The name comes from its gridded surface, which allows fat and other liquid runoff to drip down into the channels in between each grid before it reaches the flames below. It has many groves on top that allow grease-laden foods such as bacon to drain off excess grease while still maintaining their crispiness when cooked. Griddle pans are often used for cooking bacon and pancakes as they can be turned over without the need of flipping them. It’s also a good idea to use this type of pan if you’re going to cook more than one type of food at once because it saves on time, energy, and money! The downside is that these types of pans can only be used on the stovetop and do not work well in an oven, and aren’t typically dishwasher safe. Which one should you buy? Lodge (shown above) makes a nice griddle pan for a great price; you can see it here. Good for: Bacon, Pancakes.
Cast-Iron Grill Pan
A cast-iron grill pan is great for making dishes that need to be cooked in the oven or on a stovetop. The downside with cast iron pans is that it doesn’t retain heat very well, which means if you’re cooking something on top, then once placed into an oven, your ingredients might brown too quickly before everything else has had enough time to cook through. This problem can easily be solved by using aluminum foil to cover any liquid-filled areas. They also have specific cleaning instructions and may need to be seasoned.
The main purpose of a pizza stone is to help make crispy crusts without burning them by absorbing heat from below as it diffuses through the porous surface. A pizza stone should be heated in the oven before you place your dough on it. This will make sure that your crust is crispy and not soggy, which can happen if you put cold dough onto a hot baking sheet or pan. The porous surface of the pizza stone allows moisture to escape more easily than other types, so while it may take a little bit longer to cook your pizza, the results will be worth it. Pizza stones are also easy to clean, which is always a plus! The downside of this pot is that you can only use metal utensils on them, and they cannot go in the dishwasher, so make sure not to scrub these pots with anything abrasive. Which one should you buy? We use the Emile Henry pizza stone and love it. You can buy it here.
Pressure Cooker Pot
A pressure cooker pot is designed to maintain pressure at a low level, which is what makes it so great! It’s perfect if you’re cooking tough cuts of meat or vegetables since the high heat and steam created by this type of pan will only take a few minutes to cook them. Pressure cookers are perfect for any type of large meal that takes longer than 30 minutes and is best used with high-heat cooking methods like roasting, stir-frying, or boiling. The downside to this pot is the time it takes before you can open it, which means food will continue to cook after you’ve let the pressure release. It also means that a pressure cooker is not good for making sauces or rice since they require more liquid than a pressure cooker will give them. Which one should you buy? T-fal makes a good pressure cooker pot at a reasonable price. You can learn more about them in our T-fal cookware review. Good for: Tough cuts, Large meals
A panini press has two grill plates that sandwich the food inside and make it perfect for cooking sandwiches. The plates are heated from below by gas or electric heat, which gives this type of pan its name – a panini press! A good way to use these pots is to preheat them first with an oven before you place your sandwich on top, but be careful not to let the sandwich cook for too long since the grill plates will start to burn it. They are amazing for hot sandwiches, and we make grill cheeses in record time! The downside of this pot is that these types of pots cannot be used in an oven, so they are only good at making sandwiches. If you want something else, then I recommend using a larger pan and cooking your food over low heat on top.
A broiler pot is used for cooking food using intense heat and direct contact with a hot metal surface. It can also be preheated very easily and quickly, which means it’s great for recipes that require a lot of time. However, the surface is not very sturdy, so be careful not to burn yourself when trying to take your food out as a broiler pot does not have handles! The downside to this type of pot is that you cannot use metal utensils on them and they cannot go in the dishwasher, so make sure not to scrub these pots with anything abrasive.
A cake is typically baked in one of two different types of pans – round or square! The best type to buy are those made out of aluminum because they heat up quickly and evenly, which is what you want when it comes to baking a cake. If your cooking style is more baking than cooking, then a good set of baking pans is a must!
An omelet pan is a specialty type of frying pan that has high, sloping sides with rounded corners on one or both ends. The purpose of this utensil in your kitchen depends largely on what you are planning to cook. A pan like this will provide a lot of space for making omelets, but it might not work well with other dishes that require cooking in small spaces. Carote makes a nice nonstick frying pan that doubles as an Omelet pan; you can read about them in our Carote cookware review.
A casserole dish is a deep pan with straight sides that can be used to cook many types of foods. The large size is perfect for cooking dishes such as lasagna, while the small size is good for making things like macaroni and cheese. The best thing about casserole dishes is that they can be used in the oven or on the stovetop, which makes it versatile when you are looking to cook something quickly because they come with a lid, so your food doesn’t dry out. One potential downside is that these pots can be hard to clean and may need soap and elbow grease. Good for: Lasagna, Macaroni and Cheese
Aebleskiver pans are usually made from cast iron (you can see the best Aebleskiver pans here). An Aebleskiver pan is great for cooking things such as pancakes, waffles, or crepes because the shape helps batter spread evenly across the surface while also preventing any items from sticking since there’s plenty of space between them due to its size and depth. Check out the best Aebleskiber pans here.
A sauteuse pan is a heavy pot with sloping sides and usually has a lid. It is similar to a frying pan but with a deeper and more rounded shape. It has high straight sides that are taller than those of a saucepan or skillet. Sauteuse pans are most often used for cooking meat dishes such as sausages because the tall walls help keep in all the juices from the meats, which then helps to make them moist and juicy. Sauteuse pans are not good for long periods of cooking because they don’t retain heat very well, but it is the perfect size to use if you’re going to be making a one-pot dish. The downside is that these types of pots can be difficult to clean and often need soap or some type of oil (such as oil, butter, or bacon grease) to make it easier. Here are the best Sauteuse pans.
Dosa pans are typically made from cast iron (similar to an Aebleskiver pan). This type of pan is great for cooking things such as pancakes, waffles, or crepes because the shape helps batter spread evenly across the surface while also preventing any items from sticking since there’s plenty of space between them due to its size and depth. The only downside to this type of pan is cleaning it since these types usually aren’t dishwasher safe and require hand washing instead, but they do last much longer than other materials such as a nonstick pan. Check out the best Dosa Pan here.
A tagine pot isn’t very common in most modern kitchens but might have been used when your grandparents were growing up because they are great for making dishes like stews and soups. These types of pots work by simmering food over a low flame which is perfect for long-term dishes such as chili, gumbo, or beef jerky that need to simmer all day without drying out.
What are some considerations when buying essential cookware?
The first thing to consider when buying a new pot or pan is what it will be used for. If you want to make rice, a saute pan would not be the best option. A frying pan is usually used for cooking things such as eggs, or bacon while saucepans are typically used for items like making sauces and rice pilafs. Dutch ovens are typically reserved for dishes like soups and stews while cast iron skillets are great for frying eggs. The next thing to think about is the material it’s made from. Some pans are made entirely of metal while others have a non-stick coating on them that only covers part of the pan, which means you’ll still need oil or butter if cooking something like an omelet. For baking dishes such as brownies and cakes, glassware is usually used because they allow heat to circulate evenly around food so everything cooks at the same rate in less time. Finally, when looking for pots and pans it may help to purchase ones with lids since this helps keep moisture inside during long periods of cooking (soup), plus it also makes transferring foods easier too!
Essential Cookware: What to do next
These are all the pots and pans you could ever need to start cooking in your new home. From skillet, wok, fry pan, saucepan, or stockpot, we’ve got it all covered! This is an essential cookware list that covers a large variety of kitchen needs for beginner cooks looking to build their pantry with quality tools. If you are looking for which cookware brands are the best you can read our product reviews or you can look at the best cookware brands. Happy cooking!