"Always start out with a larger pot than
what you think you need."
— Julia Child

Essential Cookware For Beginners

Maria Garcia
• Sunday, 26 June, 2022
• 16 min read

I’m going back to basics, so you can stop wasting your money on pots and pans that will wear out or you’ll never use. Especially if you’re like me, and cabinet space in your kitchen is valuable real estate, here are the items you actually need to step up your cooking game.

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I call this my “everyday pan.” This is the pan I recommended to my friend after she said she was tired of her eggs sticking, and now she loves it too. However, these days, most companies have to go through rigorous testing and standards, so you don’t have to worry about something dangerous being coated on your pans that will seep into your food.

This Ox Good Grips Non-Stick 12-inch Open Fry Pan is affordable, lightweight, durable, and reliable. I also recommend getting a universal lid, especially since the Ox fry pan doesn’t come with one.

A cast iron pan conducts and retains heat well and for a long time. Once you get a rimmed baking sheet, you will find yourself using it multiple times a week.

I use mine for prepping, baking, cooling, spreading, catching drips when deep-frying, and roasting. These Nordic Ware Half Sheet Rimmed Baking Pans are sturdy and stand up to high temperatures, so they won’t twist and warp in the oven.

And this Checkered Chef Wire Baking Rack fits perfectly into the half sheet pans. Use them for cooling your pastries, like when making Hearty Chocolate Chip Cookies, glazing cakes, or cooking bacon to perfection.

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This 12 stainless steel skillet is key when you want to sear meat in order to develop fond- the crusty browned bits that are used to make pan sauces. The flared, shallow sides encourage rapid evaporation of moisture, so food will sear rather than steam, and pan sauces reduce quickly.

This pan is great for shallow frying, tossing pasta, braising, and one-pot dishes. It should feel comfortable in your hand and have a weighty tight-fitting lid.

Despite their names, these wide, flat-bottomed pans with high L-shaped sides are not the best choice for searing and sautéing. For that, the stainless steel skillet style fry pan is preferred, because of its low sloping walls.

These straight sided sauté pans are ideal for braising, or recipes that require browning before adding liquid and slow simmering. The high walls prevent spills as you stir, and help you transfer the pan from stove top to oven easier.

A traditional 4-quart saucepan has tall, straight sides that prevent rapid moisture loss, which is exactly what you need when steaming, blanching, making sauces or soups. A smaller nonstick saucepan is useful for cooking foods that stick easily, and for reheating leftovers.

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This Clifton Contemporary Nonstick 2 1/2 quart shallow saucepan with cover will become your go-to “every day” pot for cooking and heating up thick foods like mashed potatoes, or Corn Chowder, where you want to make sure they won’t stick to the pot. You can also opt for the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 12-Quart Stock Pot for a more affordable option.

Roasting pans are great for cooking large pieces of meat, such as a whole turkey or chicken, pork loin, or brisket. The sides of the pan are low enough to allow the meat to brown while still being able to catch all the flavorful cooking juices.

This Clifton Contemporary Stainless Roasting Pan with Rack is sturdy and reliable with a heavy bottom. Seek out a size that will fit your oven (usually a 16-by-13-inch pan), with riveted handles that are easy to grip.

This hefty pot is the best choice for making soups and stews, but it’s also ideal for braising, slow cooking, steaming, blanching, and deep-frying! I usually use mine for dishes that require low and slow cooking in the oven.

Look for light colored interiors so you can easily check for proper browning and prevent burning. The sides and bottom must be thick in order to retain and evenly distribute heat.

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Though it can’t replicate the exact flavor of the open flame, a ridged grill pan does make tasty char-grill marks on food, plus they let fat drain. Look for grill pans made from cast iron because it conducts heat well and cooks foods evenly.

Hope you found this breakdown of essential pots and pans helpful. Like I mentioned, I don’t own all the items listed, but I’ve been slowly upgrading my personal cookware collection and will aim to get these piece-by-piece soon.

The cast-iron skillet has been a standard in American and European kitchens for hundreds of years and still outperforms contemporary cookware in some respects (for example, browning, blackening, and searing). Before using a cast-iron skillet for the first time, season it by wiping it with vegetable oil and then heating it on the range on a medium setting for about 2 minutes.

In addition, you must thoroughly wipe the skillet dry after washing it to prevent rust. Never scour with metal pads, and never put soap into a cast-iron skillet because it can penetrate the coating and affect the flavor of the food you cook in it later.

Before storing, wipe the skillet with a few drops of vegetable oil to keep the surface seasoned and to help develop that characteristic nonstick coating of well-used cast iron. A saucepan can be stainless steel with a copper or aluminum core or a combination of metals.

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It’s an all-around pan used for cooking vegetables, soups, rice, and sauces for pasta and other dishes. A 1- to 1-1/2–quart saucepan is perfect for melting small quantities of butter or chocolate or for warming milk.

And saucepans that are 4 quarts or larger are suitable for making soups, steaming vegetables, or boiling a moderate amount of pasta or rice. Whether made of aluminum, glass, or ceramic, it’s great for making casseroles; roasting winter vegetables; or baking brownies, other bar cookies, and cakes.

A 4-quart version made by Le Crest and a similar one from Coco are excellent. Look for a tall, narrow, 10- to 14-quart heavy-gauge pot with a tight-fitting lid that can hold a steamer basket.

Aluminum and copper are excellent conductors of heat, and then they're encased in stainless steel, which doesn't retain odors and is mega-durable. The Test Kitchen swears by the Mac Mighty 8" Pro Chef's Knife with Dimples, but Martinez actually suggests starting with a $20 chef's knife that you could pick up at any restaurant supply store.

Alex Lathe Test Kitchen shows no mercy to its cutting boards, and the one they continue to rely on is made by Boos, but it's pricey. What you really need is any cutting board made of hard wood (think: walnut, hickory, oak) that's around 2" thick so it won't warp if you get it wet.

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Martinez strongly discourages using plastic or glass cutting boards, no matter how dishwasher-friendly they are. Martinez's only exception might be purchasing a plastic cutting board intended for meats only, because it's so easy to wash.

Alex Every Test Kitchen editor has his or her preference for measuring spoons. What's important is that they're long enough (and narrow enough) to fit into jars but sturdy enough so that they don't bend and warp.

Martinez also recommends that you get the spoons with ends shaped like half-spheres, since they'll serve you well for straight measurements but also if you want to use them for cookie dough balls or something else circular. Martinez likes Ox brand measuring cups for this reason.

Look for a Chicago Metallic Sheet Pan (often called a half-sheet tray at restaurant-focused stores) that's rimmed. If you've ever watched a line cook peel thousands of potatoes or carrots, you'll know that it's significantly faster to use a Y-peeler than the swivel peeler alternative.

It can double as a spider to scoop out vegetables you're blanching, a colander for pasta, and a drain for stocks and sauces. The Cadillac of strainers is a chinos, but unless you're making vats of stock each day at a restaurant, you probably don't need one just yet.

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Here’s everything you need: a comprehensive list of cookware and tools to keep you well-equipped in the kitchen as you begin your cooking journey. Photo by Chelsea Kyle If you really are building a kitchen from scratch, the first thing you’ll need is a nonstick pan.

For a rookie cook, these pans are low-maintenance to clean and very forgiving, provided you take care of them properly (no metal utensils or scrubbers!) They are also the pan to use to cook eggs, which tend to stick to stainless steel and cast iron.

You will rely on a 6-quart pot to boil pasta, make soups and stews, or, if you are feeling bold, simmer homemade chicken stock. Reach for a saucepan when you're boiling frozen produce or preparing a stock from dash or bouillon cubes.

And if the dinner you planned turned into a disaster, you will need this pan to bring store-bought frozen foods like french fries and spanakopita back to an edible state. Sure, it isn’t as pretty as a glass casserole dish, but it’s much easier to clean, and it won't shatter if you drop it.

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chaste It’s always nice to have a bunch of bowls on hand when whipping up a meal, in the event you need to marinade meat, beat some eggs, or set aside some prepped vegetables. Mixing bowls can also moonlight as serving ware, in case you’re having friends or parents over for dinner and want to prove that you can put together a composed meal.

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Dull knives are prone to sliding around on slick produce, and they require greater applied force to cut effectively. A large serrated knife is ideal for slicing through the crust and crumb of a loaf of bread without crushing it or tearing it into messy pieces.

We love this Ox colander for its signature soft, non-slip handles, fast and thorough straining, and stable feet that plant firmly on your countertop or in your sink without toppling over. When it comes to making gravy, mixing pancake batter, or getting really fancy and whipping your own cream, you simply need one of these.

Unless you are someone who eats exclusively solid food (if you exist, please contact us), you will need a ladle to transport any liquid-adjacent meal from the pot to your bowl, and subsequently to your mouth. Of course, some people like to leave the skin on their vegetables, but if you want to make apple pie, or cube some thick-skinned squash, a peeler is a godsend.

The micro plane’s smaller holes are great for granulating hard cheeses, testing fruits, or grating spices like nutmeg; the larger-holed flat grater helps you shred cheddar and potatoes. It’s longer, thinner and made of more flexible metal so it can slide under delicate proteins like fish, but can handle pancakes, sausage patties, or anything else you might want to flip in a pan just as well.

There’s nothing like a silicone spatula to scrape honey, yogurt, or thick sauces out of a container, or to coax the dregs of a smoothie from the inside of your blender. If you do plan on baking in the future, a silicone spatula is essential for folding in whipped egg whites, dislodging batters from bowls, and spreading frosting.

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Both a spoon and a flat spatula will assist you in futzing with whatever thing you might be tossing around in a pan, and you can use them as servers once dinner’s on the table. Recipes are all about balance, and if you just eyeball your ingredients based on how much you think a tablespoon and a cup are, buckle up for a wildly inconsistent time in the kitchen.

If you want to make decent muffins or balanced salad dressing, you’ll need these tools to measure accurately. When pepper is reground, many of the volatile oils and flavor compounds inside the peppercorn begin to dull as they are exposed to oxygen.

But not only will it enliven your homemade cacao e Pepe or what have you, a little pepper mill is just the embellishment to make your home feel like a charming Italian tractor. Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Laura Rage Yes, this is our guide to the best kitchen tools for beginners, and yes, it has an immersion blender on it.

Eventually you may want to buy specialized appliances that really excel at each job, but until then, an immersion blender will be just fine. The heavy pan holds heat and distributes it evenly, so it browns well rather than scorching the food in some spots and leaving it pale in others.

It lasts a lifetime (or longer, as anyone lucky enough to have inherited Grandma's pan knows), and it just gets better with age. These ridges give food enticing grill marks, plus they let fat drain.

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We prefer grill pans made from cast iron because it conducts heat well and cooks foods evenly. Sturdy and practical, roasting pans are great for cooking large pieces of meat, such as a whole turkey or chicken, brisket, or pork loin.

The sides of the pan are low enough to allow the meat to brown while retaining the flavorful cooking juices. Finally, seek out a size that will fit your oven (a 16-by-13-inch pan usually works), with riveted handles that are easy to grip.

The wide, flat bottom on this 10-to-14-inch pan allows for greater surface heat and thus better browning. It's great for shallow frying, tossing pasta, and all manner of one-pot dishes.

The skillet should be ovenproof, with handles securely riveted or welded to the side; it should also feel comfortable in your hand. A traditional 3-to-4-quart saucepan has tall, straight sides that prevent rapid moisture loss, which is exactly what you need when steaming, blanching, making sauce or soup, or whipping up lemon curd or pastry cream.

Do not use a cast-iron or regular (non-anodized) aluminum pot for sauces; their reactive surfaces can discolor and alter the taste of butter and tomato. It has plenty of room for big batches of soup, and it holds enough water to boil up to 2 pounds of pasta.

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The handles should be durable in order to stand up to years of heavy lifting. This pot has a thick bottom and sides, with a snug, tight-fitting lid that traps in moisture and flavor.

With the lid off, it's perfect for browning meat or vegetables on the stove top; and it can also go into the oven for even cooking. Look for a heavy 5-to-6-quart Dutch oven made of enameled cast iron.

The sides and bottom must be thick in order to retain and evenly distribute heat, and to prevent hot spots. Use a 10-to-12-inch nonstick pan, preferably with a ceramic coating, for breaded items, seafood, and eggs; you'll need less fat and spend less time cleaning up.

If you've ever picked up the molten plastic handle of a frying pan or cleaned a range top after making a marinara in a wobbly pot, you're ready to learn about good cookware. A deeper pot should hold heat all the way up its sides; a weighty one will also be more durable and withstand frequent use and washing.

The three basic pots you need to start your collection: a two-quart saucepan, a 10-inch sauté pan, and an eight-quart stockpot. Something in mid weight anodized aluminum is a good choice, since you may also want to use your stockpot to make large quantities of soup, stock, or stews.

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Anodized aluminum is treated with a strengthening protective coating and will perform well without costing a fortune. Not only can you sear anything to a golden brown but you will also be able to make a quick sauce with pan drippings.

The three-quart sauté pan is the right size to make risotto and homemade pasta sauce, or even do some deep-frying. A thin pan may buckle, making it hard to cook food evenly.

Most good-quality stainless-steel pans have an inner core of aluminum or copper to enhance steel's relatively poor heat conductivity. A pan with a steel handle, then, gives you the advantage of being able to finish the cooking in the oven.

Lids should fit snugly (a tight-fitting cover helps keep moisture in the food), with a secure knob that is heatproof. It will look warm and inviting hanging from a rack in a country kitchen, but it has more going for it than mere beauty.

Copper is extremely responsive to temperature changes, so it heats up and cools down immediately as you turn the stove dial. This means it's especially good for making delicate sauces and candies or melting sugar.

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Copper cookware is usually lined with stainless steel or tin (exceptions being preserves pans and bowls for beating egg whites). It’s finally time to get your “adult” on and throw out the hodgepodge of random, scratched, semi-nonstick, and wobbly-handled pots and pans that you’ve acquired over the years.

If you’ve recently made the promise to yourself to actually try making a few of those Pinterest pins and magazine recipe cutouts, stocking your kitchen with the right tools will make your cooking goals absolutely accomplishable. Also, sizes for the pots and pans may vary slightly, but the range should only differ by about ½- to one quart.

If you’re not all about washing dishes by hand, making sure your cookware set is dishwasher safe is important. Also, consider whether you might ever start certain dishes on the stove and finish them in the oven (hint: you probably will); if so, your cookware should specify if it’s oven-safe.

Stainless steel is a non-reactive metal, which means you won’t have to worry about it reacting to acidic ingredients. Non-stick surfaces are easy to cook with (especially for beginners) and they release food from the pan with little to no oil.

That said, they’re not the greatest option for achieving a good sear on foods, and they aren often’t pieces you want to put in the dishwasher or oven. There are reports that this chemical, commonly found in Teflon nonstick cookware, could possibly be harmful in the long run.

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It has a mirror polish finish with a cladded aluminum core surrounded by 18/10 stainless steel (which means it made up of 18% chromium and 10% nickel). This combination of metals makes this set ideal for even cooking and heat distribution.

The only thing missing from this set is a skillet or frying pan, which is not included. This cookware set has over 11,000 ratings on Amazon and includes all the essential pieces that you’ll need to get started in the kitchen.

The set works on all major cooking surfaces such as gas, electric, induction and glass ceramic. With a nonstick finish, the set claims to also be scratch resistant and can withstand the use of heavy metal utensils.

The set is made with stainless steel that has an impact-bonded aluminum base for even cooking and quick heating. And given that the oven-safe temperature on this set is so high (for nonstick cookware), there’s a wide range of stovetop-to-oven cooking that you can accomplish with the skillet and 3-quart sauté pan.

As the most affordable set on this round-up, the Cook N Home brand gives you true bang for your buck. This set is made with an 18/10 stainless steel metal mix, along with a aluminum-disc bottom, that works well on all major heating surfaces.

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