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Essentials Beyond The Basics Specialized Pieces

Our Essentials list is comprised of the eight pieces of cookware that will allow you to cook
just about anything you want—your kitchen workhorses, if you will. Some exceptional recipes
might require you to repurpose certain pieces, if all you have are these eight (e.g. you may have
to use your Dutch oven as a tagine), but, in general, these guys will get the job done.

Fry Pan

A flat-bottomed pan with a long stick handle and low sides that flare out at an angle to encourage air circulation and allow for easy flipping or turning of food.

Best For:
Fast cooking: frying, searing, browning.

Consider This:
8-, 10- and 12-inch-diameter pans are the most useful. It's a good idea to have at least one fry pan with a nonstick surface for making eggs and one with a regular surface for higher-temperature cooking.


A heavy pan with a flat base, tall vertical sides that are roughly the same measurement as the pan’s diameter, and a long stick handle. Larger sizes should have a “helper handle” on the far side of the pan.

Best For:
Cooking with a fair amount of liquid: simmering, boiling, cooking grains, poaching eggs and making sauces.

Consider This:
1–1.5 qt., 2–2.5 qt., 3 qt. and 4 qt. are the most useful sizes, but if you have to choose just one, select a 3 or 4 qt.

Sauté Pan

A pan with a wide, flat bottom; vertical, moderate sides; and a long stick handle. Larger sizes should have a "helper handle" opposite the stick handle.

Best For:
Fast cooking while shaking, tossing or stirring food: sautéing (“sauter” is a French word that means “to jump”).

Consider This:
A 4-qt. pan is the most versatile. It's a good idea to select a sauté pan with a cooking surface other than nonstick so that you can achieve the best browning and caramelization.


A tall pot similar to a soup or stockpot with a large perforated insert for cooking food in water and a smaller perforated insert for steaming food above water.

Best For:
Use the large insert for boiling and easy straining of large quantities of foods like pasta or corn. Use the smaller insert for steaming vegetables and other foods.

Consider This:
Multipots are available in 6-qt., 8-qt. and 12-qt. They can be used to make small batches of stock, soup or stew.

Dutch Oven

A large pot with vertical sides slightly shorter than the pot’s diameter, two sturdy loop handles and a heavy, tight-fitting lid. (aka French Oven or Cocotte)

Best For:
Long, slow cooking, often with some liquid that’s allowed to circulate inside the vessel: stews, braises, roasts, casseroles.

Consider This:
5-qt. and 7-qt. ovens are the most popular and most useful sizes. For a quick calculation, count one quart of capacity for each serving.


A large rectangular pan with low sides to allow the oven's heat to reach as much of the food as possible. Often used in concert with a roasting rack, which elevates food above the cooking surface.

Best For:
Cooking in the dry heat of the oven at relatively high temperatures.

Consider This:
While roasters with a nonstick finish make for easy cleanup, a roaster with a regular cooking surface will yield better gravy.


A broad, flat pan often with a nonstick or stick-resistant finish that sits flat on a stovetop over one or two burners.

Best For:
Fast-cooking foods that benefit from a large, smooth cooking surface: pancakes, thin steaks, grilled cheese, bacon, eggs.

Consider This:
If you plan on cooking meat on your griddle, look for a pan with a depression around the rim to catch grease.

Grill Pan

A pan with a ridged cooking surface designed to resemble the grates of an outdoor grill, and low sides for increased air circulation.

Best For:
Higher-temperature cooking: grilling, searing.

Consider This:
To attain the best grill marks on your food, select a cast-iron or enameled cast-iron grill pan.

Fry Pan Saucepan Sauté Pan Multipot Dutch Oven Roaster Griddle Grill Pan

Many of the pieces on our Beyond the Basics list are relatives of the eight pans
on our Essentials list. They have slight variations that make them a better fit for certain
tasks or types of food, but you can still cook a wide range of things in them. They can
often be used in place of their counterpart on the Essentials list and vice versa.


A pan resembling a Dutch oven with lower sides and a heavy, domed lid that provides extra headroom for larger roasts.

Best For:
Gently cooking small pieces of meat, poultry or other ingredients in a relatively small amount of liquid: braising, slow cooking, making small stews.

Consider This:
Trying to decide between a Dutch oven and a braiser? If you make more stews, choose the Dutch oven. If you make more braises or like to pan roast, choose the braiser.

Chef’s Pan / Saucier

A variation on a saucepan that has short, outwardly sloping sides that promote rapid evaporation and facilitate the incorporation of air or butter with a whisk.

Best For:
Cooking liquids and sauces and making reductions.

Consider This:
If you use your saucier to make a roux, select one with rounded sides, which prevent a roux from being trapped in the pan’s corners.


A large pot with a flat base and vertical sides taller than the pot’s diameter to reduce evaporation, and two sturdy loop handles.

Best For:
Cooking with a large amount of liquid: simmering, boiling and making soups, lobster, corn, pasta.

Consider This:
Stockpots with a capacity of 8 qt. or larger are the most useful.

Soup Pot

A variation on a stockpot with lower sides and a capacity more similar to a Dutch oven.

Best For:
Cooking with liquids, boiling, making soup.

Consider This:
Since a soup pot, a stockpot and a Dutch oven can often fill in for oTne another, select a soup pot with a capacity different from that of your stockpot and Dutch oven.


A versatile pan that traditionally has a rounded bottom and high, gradually sloping sides. It may have a long stick handle or two loop handles. (aka stir-fry Pan)

Best For:
Rapidly tossing and stirring small pieces of food: stir-frying. Can also be used with a lid for steaming.

Consider This:
If you have an electric cooktop, select a wok with a flat bottom for better heat distribution. If you’re cooking on a gas burner, a round-bottom wok is fine, but you may want to purchase a metal ring so that the wok can rest on your burner.

Pressure Cooker

A large pot with an interlocking lid that seals tightly with a gasket to allow pressure to build in the vessel.

Best For:
Accelerating long and slow cooking processes like braising, stewing and simmering by cooking food in a sealed container with liquid, which creates high pressure and raises the boiling point of the liquids from 212°F to 240°F or 250°F.

Consider This:
Pressue cookers can only be filled to 2/3 of their capacity, so it’s a good idea to go a size larger than you think you’ll need.

Essential Pan

This pan combines the best qualities of a French skillet and a deep sauté to create a versatile piece you'll use every day.

Best For:
Everything from stir-frying and sautéing to simmering and braising.

Consider This:
Because this pan is so versatile, you might want to have more than one. Ideal for preparing pasta sauces and then tossing in the pasta before serving, it's also perfect for cooking family-sized stir-fries and risottos as well as one-pan meals like stews, chilies and oven-baked casseroles.

French Skillet

A relative of a fry pan with slightly higher sides that curve gently to the base of the pan to allow for easy tossing and flipping and to help contain splatters.

Best For:
Frying, sautéing, pan roasting.

Consider This:
French skillets are a second fry pan, so get a size that is different from the rest of your fry pan lineup.

Braiser Chef’s Pan / Saucier Stockpot Soup Pot Wok Pressure Cooker Essential Pan French Skillet

Our list of Specialized Pieces includes cooking vessels that are designed to do or make just one thing.
They absolutely excel at that one thing, but it's a good idea to make sure that your kitchen is properly stocked
with versatile items from the Essentials list before delving too far into specialized cookware.

Double Boiler

A set of two pans, one nested atop the other, with a lid that fits both pans. The bottom pan is about the size and shape of a small saucepan. The top pan is slightly shorter.

Best For:
Water is simmered in the lower pan, while delicate sauces, custards, chocolate desserts and other foods that require indirect heat are cooked in the upper pan.

Consider This:
A double boiler should be made of materials that quickly react to changes in temperature. Copper is ideal.


A cooking vessel that consists of a shallow circular pan and a conical lid designed to trap moisture and allow it to drip back onto the food inside. A small hole on top allows some steam to escape.

Best For:
Slow cooking, stewing or braising either on the stovetop or in the oven.

Consider This:
Tagines are traditionally made of earthenware or ceramic and should be used with a diffuser when cooking on a stovetop.

Asparagus Pot

An interior basket holds asparagus upright, so the thick stalks simmer while the tender tips steam.

Best For:
Boiling, steaming and easy straining of asparagus.

Consider This:
This tall pot can be used to boil or steam any foods that fit, from broccoli to artichokes.

Egg Poacher

This set includes a sauté-like pan and removable cups with handles, so poached eggs maintain their round shape and can be cooked to each person's liking.

Best For:
Poaching, or boiling eggs in water. Poaching is a healthful way to prepare eggs because it doesn't require any fat or oil in the preparation.

Consider This:
While the pan itself doesn’t need to be nonstick, it's helpful to have a nonstick finish on the cups for easy removal and cleanup.

Crepe Pan

A shallow pan with low, gently flared sides and a long, flat handle that allows for easy rotation to spread butter and batter.

Best For:
Quick cooking of thin batters, often with a flip technique employed midway in the cooking process.

Consider This:
A 9- to 10-inch diameter pan is the most practical size for traditional crepes.

Frittata Pan

A set of two fry pans that interlock using their helper handles for easy flipping of food.

Best For:
Both pans in the set are heated and eggs and other ingredients are cooked in one pan. Then the second pan is interlocked on top and rotated to flip the frittata over to cook on the other side.

Consider This:
Select a nonstick set for easy transfer from one pan to the other.

Paella Pan

A round, shallow pan with a large diameter that usually has two loop handles.

Best For:
Used to cook the eponymous rice dish from Spain's Valencia region. Oil is heated, meat is sautéed, vegetables are sautéed, seasoning is added and then a broth is made in which rice is cooked.

Consider This:
Be aware of the size pan that you're purchasing because paella pans can run quite large. A 13- to 14-inch-diameter pan will fit just fine on your stovetop.

Fondue Pot

A fondue pot warms classic cheese as well as meat fondues; a porcelain insert melts chocolate.

Best For:
Keeping melted cheese or chocolate warm for dipping food, or oil or broth hot for cooking meat.

Consider This:
If you're just going to be warming chocolate, a small pot will work fine for you. If you're going to be cooking meat in your fondue pot, it will need to be a little bigger and made out of materials that can withstand higher heat.

Double Boiler Tagine Asparagus Pot Egg Poacher Crepe Pan Frittata Pan Paella Pan Fondue Pot