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Pots & Pans

There’s no need to collect every style of pot or pan that’s ever been made. A few carefully selected, high-quality pans will last you a lifetime.

Look for triple-ply pans with tight-fitting lids and riveted handles, made preferably of metal, not wood or plastic, so they can go into the oven. Triple-ply means there are three layers of metal—one that conducts heat well, like aluminum or copper, sandwiched between two layers of another metal chosen mainly for its looks, durability, or usefulness. Whether or not the interior is nonstick is up to you, but it’s nice to have at least one or two sauté pans with a nonstick surface, especially for cooking eggs. Here are a few pans that you’ll be happy you have:

The Basics
  • Frying pans: One 8- and one 10-inch slope-sided pan. Classically speaking, frying pans don’t come with lids, but lately, manufacturers have been including them, which is great. Those lids come in handy. The 8-inch pan is perfect for omelets.
  • Sauté pan: A straight-sided shallow pan with a lid. A large sauté pan is best—14 inches is good. Sauté pans are perfect for longer simmered dishes, sauces and braises.
  • Saucier: A slope-sided saucepan. Since sauciers have no corners, stirring is a snap, making this a perfect pan for preparing risotto. Depending on the size of your family, a 3- or 4-quart should be fine.
  • Saucepan: Straight-sided deep pan good for boiling vegetables, grains and sauces.
  • Dutch oven: Similar to a stockpot, a Dutch oven should be heavy and have a tight-fitting lid for long, slow braises in the oven. Dutch ovens can also be used for cooking pasta.
Extra Splurges
  • Double boiler: A double boiler is a two-part double-decker pot. The bottom pot is filled with water, and the second pot rests snugly on top. Double boilers reduce the risk of burning delicate sauces and chocolate, because they rely on indirect heat. The heat comes from steam that comes from the boiling water in the bottom pan.
  • Stockpot: A 12-quart stockpot is handy for soups, stews, chilies, pasta, corn on the cob—and other big batches of food. Choose a heavy-bottomed pot to minimize scorching.