Essential Kitchen Tools: Pots and Pans

by TabithaY

Building a basic but functional collection of kitchen tools does not have to be very expensive or complicated. Here are suggestions for a core set of pots and pans.

Building Your Collection of Kitchen Tools and Gadgets

A trip to any cookware department or specialty store can be overwhelming when starting to equip your kitchen. With so many choices of pots and pans out there - some breathtakingly expensive - knowing what you really need versus what are nice extras can be tough to figure out.

But unless you do a lot of specialized cooking, there's only a few core pieces you need to start with. Whether you're stocking your own kitchen or shopping for your favorite college graduate getting a first apartment, here's some help narrowing down your list.

Non-Stick Skillet or Fry Pan

A non-stick skillet, about 10"-12" in diameter, is perfect for cooking eggs, making a batch of pancakes, or whipping up a stir fry. Incredibly versatile but one of the few pans that you should expect to replace every few years. No matter the price or quality, the non-stick finish will eventually start to lose its effectiveness and to wear out, so there's no need to go for top-of-line here.

Non-stick cookware also needs a little extra care during use. Metal utensils are a no-no, and you shouldn't overheat the pan as the finish starts to breakdown over about 550F.

The T-Fal Professional Total Nonstick pan and Farberware Millennium Soft Touch are both highly-rated models sold for reasonable prices.

Alternative to Non-Stick

Cast iron is often given as a longer lasting - and potentially healthier - option to non-stick pans. Properly seasoned cast iron can, indeed, perform like non-stick finishes and last for literally generations. It's also very affordable, particularly considering the lifespan of each piece. But it's heavy and requires some extra care to build and maintain that seasoned surface.

Lodge is one of the best known brands in cast iron and offers skillets that are pre-seasoned, giving you a head start. Cast iron also has the advantage of being able to go from stove top to oven and is great for baking biscuits.

Recommended Non-Stick Skillets

T-Fal Professional Total Nonstick 12-1/2-Inch Saute Pan, Black

T-Fal's 12.5-inch Professional Saute features T-fal's patented non-stick coating, riveted soft-touch handle, and is oven safe to 350 degrees. This cookware is also equipped ...

$62.48  $37.55

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Farberware Millennium Soft Touch 12-Inch Nonstick Skillet

One of the most used pans in any well-equipped kitchen. Skillets have sloped sides so that foods slide out easily. This large size is ideal for cooking omelets, pancakes, ...

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Lodge Logic L10SK3 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Seasoned, ready to use. This 12 inch skillet is a kitchen's most essential item. The even heating of cast iron is necessary for golden, tender, perfectly pan-fried chicken. ...

Only $24.88

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Depending on your cooking style and size of your household, you might need just a small and a medium size saucepan. A small pot (about 1.5 quarts) is perfect for heating a can of soup, making a serving of oatmeal, or heating up pasta sauce for one or two. A medium size saucepan (2 to 3 quarts) can cook up pasta for the same number.

But if you routinely cook for more or make up larger batches for leftovers and freezing, go with medium- and large-size saucepans. If you can afford it, go for all three sizes, and be sure they come with lids.

The usual high-end choice is All-Clad, but the Cuisinart MultiClad line gets very high marks with similar performance at a much lower price.

Recommended Saucepans

Cuisinart MCP19-16 MultiClad Pro Stainless-Steel 1-1/2-Quart Saucepan with Cover

The sauce pan is one of the most-used pans in the kitchen. This Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Sauce Pan is the smallest one: 1 1/2 quarts. This Cuisinart sauce pan is ideal for ...

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Cuisinart MCP193-18 MultiClad Pro Stainless-Steel 3-Quart Saucepan with Cover

The sauce pan is one of the most-used pans in the kitchen and this size is perhaps the most popular in all of our cookware lines. This Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Sauce Pan is a ...

Only $62.49

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Cuisinart MPC194-20 MultiClad Pro Stainless-Steel 4-Quart Saucepan with Cover

Cuisinart%27s new Multi%2DClad Pro cookware brings you all the benefits of multi%2Dlayer construction at sensational low prices%2E Multi%2DClad Pro pans are formed from three ...

Only $59.74

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All Clad Stainless Steel 2-Quart Sauce Pan with Lid

This All Clad 18/10 stainless steel aluminum core 2-Quart Sauce Pan with lid is the perfect kitchen essential for a all of your prepping, cooking and reheating needs.

$159.95  $149.95

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Large Pot (optional)

Whether called a stock pot or Dutch oven, a large pot is very handy but optional unless you plan on making very large batches of pasta or chili. Or perhaps lobster on a regular basis! Keep the price reasonable for this piece and consider the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Stock Pot. It comes in sizes from 6 to 12 quarts and is highly rated.


While it can be tempting to go all out and get the big 12-piece set of pots and pans, it's not necessary when first stocking your kitchen. Start with only the essential items and expect to gradually build a collection over time as the need arises.

Also See

Essential Kitchen Tools: Knives
Knives are one of the most important tools you can have in your kitchen, but you don't need a huge collection of specialty pieces. Here are the basics for any kitchen.

Essential Kitchen Tools: Gadgets and Accessories
A suggested list of core, basic gadgets, utensils, and accessories when stocking your kitchen. Great for graduation gift ideas.

Updated: 02/05/2012, TabithaY
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