This is Amy’s list of cookware essentials. With these basic pieces, you can cook a wide variety of dishes. Once you have these basic items, you can expand your collection depending on your cooking style. I do not recommend purchasing sets unless you find one that has pieces that meet your needs. Many times, sets have pieces that are too small or not useful. The items below will serve you well for many years:
A saute pan has a wide, flat bottom and straight sides. A saute pan is used for fast sauteing, pan frying, searing, and simmering. The name saute means “to jump” as in the fast action tossing that occurs when sauteing. The height of the sides allow the cook to use liquid in their dish to create a gravy or simmer a pasta sauce. Saute pans are usually measured by volume and are sold in 1 to 8 quart or larger sizes and come with a lid.
Skillet or Frying pan:
A fry pan has a wide, flat bottom with sloped sides. The sides flair out to give sloped sides enable the cook to flip the food items easily. A skillet is very versatile and can be used to cook a variety of foods quickly, such as eggs, pancakes, etc. Most skillets come in a nonstick variety that enables quick release of sticky foods such as eggs or cheese. Most skillets are sold by the diameter rather than the volume because their purpose is not to hold liquids. The most popular sizes are 8″, 10″, & 12″ and usually do not come with a lid.
A sauce pan is flat on the bottom with high sides. The sides of the sauce pan are at least as tall as the base is wide. A sauce pan is a very versatile piece of cookware in that it enables the cook to make sauces, rice, and small amount of soups and stews. In addition, a sauce pan can be used for boiling potatoes as well as making gravies. A good sauce pan will hold a decent amount of liquid and enables the cook to simmer, boil or steam foods. Sauce pans are sold by volume in 1 – 5 quart sizes and come with a lid.
A stockpot ranges from a high-sided narrow pot to a wide, flat bottom pot with a wide opening. A stock pot typically has two loop handles. A stock pot is one of the most popular types of cookware in kitchens around the world. With a stock pot, a cook is able to create a wide variety of foods including stocks, soups, stews, chili, pasta, and gumbo. Many stock pots include a steamer insert that allows the cook to steam corn, vegetables, or strain pasta. Stockpots are sold by volume and range from 6 quart up to 40 quart and come with a lid.
A dutch oven, also known as a french oven, is a wide pot with a lid that fits tightly. A dutch oven has two loop handles. The dutch oven is used for low, slow cooking and braising. A dutch oven is typically made out of cast iron. However, many manufacturers are making dutch ovens out of stainless steel or cast aluminum. Several manufacturers are coating their dutch ovens with enamel which makes them easy to maintain. Dutch ovens can withstand high heat and are great tools for deep frying. In addition, they are perfectly suited for long, slow cooking because cast iron retains heat. Dutch ovens are sold by volume and range from 2 quarts up to 10 quarts and come with a lid.
Roasters are open pans with low sides to allow for maximum heat circulation. This enables a cook to use dry oven heat to cook meats, fish and vegetables. A good roaster has upright handles that enables the cook to remove it from the oven easily. Some roasters have handles that are not fixed upward. This makes the roaster difficult to remove from the oven. Many roasters come with a rack that enables the cook to collect juices in the pan to use in gravies and sauces. Roasters are typically sold by dimensions and range from 12″ to 16″ and should be purchased based on the size of the cook’s oven.