Shopping for Pots and Pans

Stock your kitchen with these essential cookware items to be prepared for any recipe.

pots and pans

Pots and pans are made of a variety of materials. Aluminum pans and copper pans are the best heat conductors; however, all-copper pans are expensive and tarnish easily, while plain aluminum pans can react with certain foods. Therefore, good options for the home cook include heavy stainless-steel pans with copper bottoms, pans clad with aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel, and aluminum pans treated with a process known as hard anodization. Anodization creates a non-corrosive cookware that conducts heat well.

Heavy pans are often called for in our recipes because they heat foods evenly and gently. Copper-bottom, cast iron, enameled cast iron, anodized aluminum, and clad aluminum are all good choices for heavy-bottom pans.

Range Top Cookware Checklist

Cookware commonly used to prepare recipes includes:

Double boiler: Two pans that work together; one fits on top of the other. Water in the bottom pan simmers gently to cook the contents in the top pan. If you do not own a double boiler, substitute a metal or heat-resistant glass bowl and a saucepan. The bowl should be wide enough so it fits in the pan but doesn't touch the simmering water.

Dutch oven or kettle: These large, heavy pots with tight-fitting lids and handles on opposite sides of the rim are used for soups, stews, and braising meats. When canning, a kettle is often used.

Saucepans (1-, 2-, and 3-quart, with lids): It's best to have a few different sizes of these versatile, long-handled pans.

Skillets: Sometimes referred to as a frying pan, a skillet is a long-handled, low-sided pan. Often the sides gently slope to allow steam to escape the pan. Large (10-inch) and extra-large (12-inch) skillets are most useful. A 10-inch nonstick skillet will also come in handy. Other sizes include small (6-inch) and medium (8-inch). If you need to use the skillet in the oven, make sure the handle can withstand high heat; if in doubt, wrap handle in a couple of layers of heavy-duty foil or select a skillet with a removable handle.

Vegetable steamer (collapsible or insert): A perforated basket that holds food over boiling water in a pan in order to steam it rather than boil it.

Specialty Pans

While not essential for most of our recipes, these specialty pans offer features that make preparing a specific food easier:

Griddles: This flat, often rimless pan makes flipping pancakes a cinch. Nonstick griddles also help you cook with a minimum amount of fat.

Grill pan: The grooves of this heavy, stove-top, griddle-type pan allow fat to drain away from food and add appetizing grill marks to the cooked items.

Omelet pans: Sloped sides and a nonstick surface make it easy to fold and slide omelets from the pan.

Woks: Available with rounded or flat bottoms, these pans offer deep, sloping sides that help keep food pieces in the pan when stir-frying.

About Nonstick Pans

It's not necessary to buy the most expensive nonstick pans you can afford because their coatings eventually will become damaged. However, don't buy the cheapest. Look for fairly heavy, moderately priced nonstick pans. With proper care, they will last three to five years before needing to be replaced.

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