5 best pots and pans for every kitchen

Get your kitchen set up with the right tools — without overcrowding the cupboards. These essentials will go the extra mile, and work double-duty for you in the kitchen.

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Kitchen, stove, tiled backsplash, red kettle, white subway tiles, black grout

When it comes to essential kitchen tools, pots and pans are up at the top of the list. With so many different sizes and styles available, knowing which are the must-haves for your kitchen can be challenging. Here are five essential pots and pans that are up to almost any task:

1. Stockpot
Every kitchen needs a large stockpot for big jobs like making stock, batch cooking or feeding a crowd. When choosing a stockpot, look for a 6-quart to 12-quart pot with a lid. Opt for a pot with a thick, heavy bottom to prevent burning (remember, the pot will be on the stovetop for hours when making stock or soup — the last thing you want are scorched ingredients).

Use it with:
Chicken broth
French country chicken soup
Tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons

 

2. Large sauté pan
A large sauté pan (about 12-14 inches) will be one of the most-used tools in your kitchen. This multi-purpose pan is perfect for frying, sautéing and braising. Look for a pan with straight sides as this gives you more surface area for ingredients and will keep liquid from sloshing out of the pan. Additionally, choose a pan with a tight-fitting lid, as this is essential for braising.

Use it with:
One-pan primavera pasta
Moroccan chicken
Coq au vin blanc


Related: 11 best tips for big-batch cooking


3. Small saucepan
Perfect for reheating leftovers, making sauces or cooking smaller amounts of grains and pasta, a small saucepan is essential to any kitchen. Look for a pot with a comfortable handle and a curved edge that allows for easy pouring.

Use it with:
Pickled strawberries
Momo sauce
Blueberry sauce

 

4. Non-stick frying pan
A non-stick frying pan will make making omelettes, frittatas and stir-frys a breeze. Keep in mind that non-stick pans have a shorter lifespan than stainless steel, as the coating will eventually wear out, however, they are essential to a well-stocked kitchen. To extend the life of your non-stick pans, avoid using metal utensils, as they will scratch the coating. Instead, opt for wood, silicone and plastic spatulas, spoons and tongs.

Use it with:
Corn, tomato and basil omelette
Blueberry cheese blintzes
Porcini-crusted black cod with garlic spinach

 

5. Enamel Dutch oven
These heavy pots, often made out of cast iron, are long-lasting gems that can go from the stovetop to the oven. Look for a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven with a tightly fitting lid, and thick sides and bottom for retaining heat.

Use it with:
Braised beef short ribs
Sake-beef stew
Hearty bison stew


Related: The only three knives you need in the kitchen


Material matters
When shopping for cookware, knowing which material will suit your needs will help you make the right choice. You can find stainless steel, aluminum and copper styles available, each with their own pros and cons.

 

Stainless steel
Pro: Stainless steel is nonreactive, which means you don’t need to worry about acidic or alkaline foods reacting with the material.

Con: Stainless steel is one of the more expensive materials on the market.

 

Aluminum
Pro: Aluminum is a budget-friendly option that is known for heating up and cooling down quickly.

Con: Aluminum is reactive, meaning you must avoid cooking highly acidic or salty foods, like tomato sauce or sauerkraut. However, this can be avoided by using anodized aluminum cookware but it is still prone to warping and scratching.

 

Copper
Pro: Copper is one of the best materials for conducting heat, meaning it heats up quickly and distributes heat evenly.

Con: Copper is expensive and like aluminum, it is reactive. Due to the copper compounds it can also discolour light foods.

More:
How to choose the right pot or pan for the job
How to pick the right sheet pan for cooking and baking
Why braising is one of the best ways to cook meat