There are endless types of pots and pans; stainless steel, copper, cast iron and non-stick, to name a few. So, what exactly makes a good one? The answer might surprise you.
Kitchen pots and pans share the same problem as knives. They are typically packaged in sets of a dozen or more and, as a result, people often think that more is better when, in fact, you just need a few quality ones that you will use often. The most important thing in any pan is that it heats evenly, so be wary of cheap pans that will have “hot spots,” as they will practically guarantee that your food is cooked inconsistently.
A Dutch oven is one of the best pots a home cook can own and well worth the investment. These heavy-duty pots with tight fitting lids retain heat very well and ensure even cooking and can be transferred from the stovetop to the oven, making them very versatile. In fact, they commonly double as serving dishes. They look very similar to stock pots, but have wider bases and shorter, thicker walls, making them wonderful for browning meat and vegetables. Two of the best known brands are Le Creuset and Staub.
As for non-stick pans, they are an excellent specialty tool and essential for things like fish, pancakes and eggs. A cheap 8-inch non-stick pan is great for making omelettes. Unfortunately, you can’t do a whole lot of sauteing in them, because if you overheat them, the coating will rub off onto your food.
While copper pots are very attractive looking and the best at distributing heat, they are too expensive for most! A more attainable type of pot is made from stainless steel, and these are also easy to care for. Perfect for browning and braising, you’re likely to get the most use out of a 12-inch fry pan.
A Dutch oven is one of the best pots a home cook can own and well worth the investment.
THE CASE FOR CAST IRON
Cast iron pans are not necessary for most home cooks, but if you like to sear meat often, then they’re high on the list of must-haves. There’s nothing as mouth watering as a perfectly pan seared steak and using a cast iron skillet ensures a caramelized outside and juicy middle.
Cast iron is some of the most inexpensive cookware on the market and will last you a lifetime. Other benefits to cooking with cast iron? It’s naturally nonstick and retains heat really well. Like anything, there are always a few downsides. Cast iron doesn’t work in every situation. For instance, you don’t ever want to marinate in it, as acidic mixtures will damage the seasoning.
Cast iron is some of the most inexpensive cookware on the market and will last you a lifetime.
Speaking of which, when it comes to caring for cast iron, it can be a little tedious, since it’s not as simple as washing it with soap and water. Because the material is highly reactive, you need to rinse the pan with hot water immediately after cooking and if you need to remove burned-on food, you’ll want to scrub it with coarse salt and a nonmetal brush to preserve the nonstick surface. If you don’t purchase a pre-seasoned cast iron pan, you will need to season it in order to create the nonstick surface. This is done by coating the surface with cooking oil and baking it in an oven at a high temperature. Each time you heat oil in the skillet, you’ll reinforce the nonstick coating. We promise it’s all worth it, but If this sounds like too much maintenance for you, consider buying an enamel cast iron skillet instead.
DON'T MIX AND MATCH
It is important to know that not all cookware will pair with your cooktop, depending on whether or not you have gas or induction. Flat-bottomed pans that won’t warp are needed for a smoothtop range. If it’s an induction stove, cookware with magnetic properties is essential.