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7 Essential Pots And Pans (And What You Can Cook In Each)

Published by: Chef Amy Hand • Updated: January 20, 2024 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

When you find yourself lacking in the pots and pans department and you venture out to a kitchen store this section can often be overwhelming. What size and shape do pots and pans need to be and which one is for cooking what? The whole experience can be exhausting but we are here today to go through the basics and guide you in your purchasing decisions to find the best pots and pans for yourself.

7 Pots And Pans & What You Can Cook In Each

We’ll tell you the key ways these all differ and exactly what to cook in each one so you are armed with knowledge on your shopping trip. So here are 7 different pots and pans and what each is best suited for:

1. Frying Pans

Frying pans are a great basic that should be in a starter kit for any new home. These pans are wide and flat with relatively short sides in comparison to their width. They come in a large variety of sizes in both diameter and side height, which are all suited to slightly different dishes and volumes of food. Frying pans are best for, as the name suggests, frying a large variety of foods whether that’s pan frying or shallow frying. You can pan-fry chicken breasts and hamburgers, which is best in a lower-sided pan, or shallow fry fries or fritters, which is best in a higher-sided pan. The options really are only limited by your cooking prowess. Frying pans can be found made of a variety of metals but most predominantly stainless steel and cast iron.

frying pan with bacon and fritters resting on a purple cloth

2. Saucepans

Saucepans are another staple that you need in your kitchen collection, preferably in a variety of sizes. They have wide, flat bottoms and tall sides but overall they are wider than they are tall. This makes them well suited to make sauces, one-pot meals and even breakfasts and desserts like oatmeal and custard. In the same way as frying pans, saucepans are most commonly made from cast iron or stainless steel.

a hand holding a dripping wooden spoon above a saucepan

3. Griddle Pans

Griddle pans are speciality pans that have been designed to emulate the effects of a proper barbeque grill. Unlike most pans, griddle pans are often square with rounded edges but this is not the only thing that makes them unique. Most commonly made from cast iron, the surface has a series of ridges placed evenly across the surface. These act as a way to sear the meat or vegetables in these particular spots to create the distinctive bar marks you would usually see on a barbeque. Concentrating the heat onto these areas caramelises the surface and creates a smoky flavour that will trick you into thinking you’ve been outdoors grilling rather than in your kitchen. They are perfect for griddling meats and vegetables in particular to get those desired bar marks and sealing in any added flavours from your marinades and rubs.

griddle pan with 2 steaks being grilled on a gas hob

4. Pasta Pot

Yes, you can probably cook pasta in a large saucepan in a pinch but to really cook pasta in the traditional way a pasta pot is very important. The thing that makes these pots distinctive from a saucepan is that they are taller than they are wide. The sides of these pots are very tall so they can hold a large volume of water, this means that not only will you not have to break your spaghetti to fit but the water ratio will be ideal so your pasta will cook evenly and not become sticky and starchy from having insufficient water. Pasta pots are best suited for boiling large volumes of pasta, gnocchi, and potatoes and making large volumes of rice if you are catering for a large number of people.

woman grinding pepper into a red pasta pot

5. Crepe Pan

A crepe pan may, at first glance, seem very similar to a frying pan but there are a few key differences that set it apart. The pan is very flat and wide with very short sides. This means that the pan heats very evenly to brown a crepe to perfection. The short sides allow for easy flipping so you can avoid having any pancake mishaps. As the same suggests this pan is best suited to crepes, pancakes and frying flatbreads such as tortillas, naan and roti as well as cooking fritters that don’t require deep frying.

mother and child scooping crepe mix into a crepe pan

6. Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens are a particularly unique pot that is supposed to smoothly transition your dishes from the stovetop to the oven without the need to change your cooking vessel. These pots are made of cast iron with an enamel coating that prevents it from absorbing odours. They also come with a lid and are often sold in a variety of bright colours, which makes them very trendy.

Their material means you can start off your stew or casserole on the stove by browning off your veggies and meats just as you would in a saucepan. After adding your liquids you can then put on the lid and transfer it directly to your oven to finish cooking on low for a few hours.

male hands placing a Le Creuset dutch oven into an oven

7. Wok

An absolute must-have for cooking Asian dishes; the wok is a speciality pan unlike any we have seen before. This large pan has a distinctive rounded base with very high sides that curve around the rim. It also has a long handle that gives you a lot of manoeuvrability. This rounded shape and handle combination mean you can roll the pan around on the heat while you cook and carefully control the heat distribution around the pan. This is a skill that takes practice to learn so you can bend the heat to your will. This style of pan is specially designed for stir-fries and other Asian classics like fried rice and noodle dishes.

wok containing chicken and potatoes resting on a benchtop with various kitchen items alongside

7 Different Pots And Pan: Summing Up

And there you have it: a comprehensive guide to what pots to buy for every occasion. The next time you need to add something new to your kitchen arsenal give this article a little peruse so you know exactly what you’re looking for before you even step foot in the store.

Chef Amy Hand