Image: Stephani Buchman | Story: A Dated Kitchen Gets a Practical, Classic Upgrade
Not a professional chef? Before investing in that 14-piece cookware set, you might want to read this first.
There's one thing you're sure to notice when shopping for pots and pans—there are a lot of different options. So, it can be difficult to find the ones that are best for you and your needs. Which one is good for braising meat? Or frying an egg? Or just cooking general weeknight meals? We asked Claire Tansey, recipe developer and author of the cookbook Uncomplicated, for the 411 on cookware. You'll be happy to learn what she had to say—that you need only three for all your cooking needs.
Here's what you need:
1. A non-stick pan
There's a lot of confusion surrounding non-stick V. uncoated pots and pans—which is better? The truth, Tansey says, is that you need both. “I think everyone needs a non-stick frying pan if you’re ever going to cook an egg,” she says. But don’t use it beyond that. Non-stick pans don’t get as hot as your regular stainless steel or cast iron pan, meaning you won’t get that brown, crispy exterior if you use one to cook meat. Since it’ll only be used for eggs, Tansey says you don’t have to splurge on an expensive one.
T-fal Excite Nonstick Fry Pan, $20, amazon.ca.
2. An uncoated cast iron pan
Contrary to popular belief, Tansey says that cast iron pans aren't as high maintenance as people think—it’s totally fine to clean it with dish soap and a scrubber. She suggests investing in one that’s at least ten inches wide and two inches deep so you can add things like sauce and make a dish in one pan. The best part is that you can throw it in the oven or on the BBQ. “Cast iron pans become more and more non-stick the more you use them,” says Tansey. “It’s probably the most used pan in my kitchen.”
Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet, $76, amazon.ca.
But what about enamelled cast iron — like those fancy Le Creuset dutch ovens? Tansey says there actually isn't a huge difference in performance between an enamelled and uncoated cast iron pan. There is, however, a huge leap in price. If you’re going to invest in a Le Creuset, you’ve got a beautiful serving dish to display on your dinner table (what we call an oven-to-table dish).
Le Creuset oval french oven, on sale for $398 (was $530), thebay.com.
3. A big pot
When it comes to size, a good starting point is to assess your family’s needs. Invest in a pot that will hold enough pasta to serve everyone. Then, turn your attention to the material. “You want a pot that has some weight to it, with a thicker bottom because it will hold the heat,” says Tansey. Cheaper pots (like those made of aluminum) tend to be thinner, which leads to food being scorched on the bottom because of poor heat distribution. What about those beautiful copper pots? Tansey calls them the “caviar” of pots and pans. They’re usually beautiful and great quality — but also really expensive and high maintenance (copper exteriors are difficult to keep clean.) The moral? A stainless steel pot is a lot more practical and affordable.
All-Clad Stainless Steel 6-Quart Pasta Pot With Insert, $120, bedbathandbeyond.ca.
Once you’ve got the three essentials, you can start to grow the rest of your collection. “Adopt the pots and pans for the cooking that you do,” says Tansey. If you really need that risotto pan, buy it. But until then, stick with the basics.