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Essential Pots & Pans

Everyone has their own set of kitchen essentials and must-haves, especially as your cooking style evolves. My advice would be to skip the large set of pots and pans, in favor of a few basic higher quality options. All of the recipes on the site can be cooked with this variety of pots and pans, and a few other essential tools. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know what you can’t cook without in the comments!


Cast Iron Skillet One of the most versatile tools in my kitchen. Great for roasting vegetables, searing meat and then finishing in the oven, pan-frying, sautéing, cornbread, pizzas, and more. Cast iron can be heavy, so get the largest size you’re comfortable lifting. 12 or 14 inch give you more room.

Basic: Lodge 12 in Cast Iron Skillet

Splurge: Staub 12in Cast Iron Pan


Large Enameled Dutch Oven. Essential for oven-braising, stews, soups, sauces, etc. Be sure to get an ovenproof knob for stove top to oven cooking, and a stainless steel knob if you want to try baking or high temp applications. Also great for frying – the tall side sides keep splatter down. Look for large handles, and a round shape for even heat distribution. This is a bigger investment, but get the largest size you can afford – you won’t regret it!

Basic: Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven 6-Quart

Splurge:  Le Creuset 7 1/4 quart Round French Oven



Stainless Steel Sauté Pan. Perfect for big batches of fresh greens, searing meats, and can double as a stir-fry pan. While cast iron is good for cooking a steak or chop by itself, a wider, deeper pan like this will sear meat and leave room for beans or sauces like our Fennel & Apple Braised Porkchops. Tight fitting lid makes it good for oven-braising as well as steaming on the stovetop.

Basic:  Calphalon Stainless Steel 5 qt. Sauté Pan

Splurge:  All Clad 4 Quart Stainless Steel Sauté Pan


Wok. For lightly cooking summer vegetables over high heat, get a traditional wok. Also great for curries, fried rice, and another good deep-frying vessel. Check out our guide to stir-frying without a recipe, then choose your pan. Go for high carbon steel (be sure to follow proper care instructions), or a heavy cast iron wok will take longer to heat, but holds heat once heated.

Carbon Steel: Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok

Cast Iron: Lodge Cast Iron Wok



Large Stockpot. Every kitchen needs one really big pot. Use this for spaghetti, homemade stock, double batches of soup, tomato sauces.  Look for one with a rolled rim, and a tight-fitting lid.

Splurge:  All-Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid

Basic:  Cuisinart 12-Quart Stockpot



Saucepan. You really only need one  2 or 3 quart pan, great for boiling pasta, cooking rice, steaming, etc. If you have space or the budget get a 1 quart and a 3 quart.

Basic: Cuisinart Stainless Steel 3-Quart Saucepan

Splurge: All-Clad Stainless Steel Sauce Pan 3-Quart


Rimmed Baking Sheet. Just a few deep baking sheets should be all you need for roasting root vegetables, wedges of squash, and baking. Good for pizzas, galettes and tarts, even polenta. Line with parchment paper for easy clean up.

Nordic Ware Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet

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