The 6 Best Pots and Pans Everyone Should Own, No Matter What

I know you're probably thinking, "Why in the world would it matter what pot I'm cooking in? Outside of an Instant Pot isn't a pot, a pot?" While it's easy to believe that this is the case, it's not. Every home cook knows that good cookware is essential to the cooking process. Having the right pot or pan for the right dish makes the cooking process seamless. You won't have to worry about proportions, things sticking to the bottom, heat distribution, or switching cookware after simple tasks, like browning and searing meat when you have the most useful and best pots and pans at hand.

Plus, pots and pans wear out. No one likes to admit it, but maybe it's time to upgrade from your grandmother's cookware set that you inherited in college. It's probably 80 years old and has seen better days. Just make sure that you carefully consider your choices before you buy. You'll want to be confident that you're purchasing something that will correspond well to the dishes that you cook most.

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Many home cooks find the value in a quality nonstick cookware set, but there's also something to be said for building a quality kitchen arsenal one piece at a time. While that 10-piece cookware set might offer the 10-inch skillet you want most, you might have to go elsewhere for the coveted ceramic Dutch oven, the 3-quart sauté pan and the 8-quart stockpot.

In that case, it would make sense to purchase your best cookware set piece by piece. This also gives you the opportunity to focus on different materials for different needs, instead of having one entire stainless steel cookware set and still miss a copper cookware quart saucepan or a Lodge cast iron skillet.

What Are the Differences Between Pots and Pans?

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Before we begin, it's important to note the difference between a pot and pan. Pots are defined by the two small handles on each side, and are mainly used for cooking items with a liquid base, like a chili, stock, or pasta. A pot will have deep sides that rise from its circular base. Liquid cooks evenly in pots due to the flat circular cooking surface.

A pan is defined by its long single handle and is typically more shallow than a pot. It is designed for frying or searing foods, cooking eggs, or making pancakes. A pan's short sides and shallow surface cooks food more quickly and evenly.

Basically, a pot can be a pan, but a pan cannot be a pot. Even more confusing? A saucepan is actually a pot with the pan's long single handle. Now that we have that covered, here are our picks for the 6 best pots and pans every home cook needs, regardless of skill level.

The 3 Most Versatile Pots

1. Chef's Classic Stainless Saucepan with Cover

This 2-quart saucepan from Cuisinart will become your general go-to saucepan. Great for slow simmers and rolling boils, this chef's classic is a great catch-all pot. Because aluminum cookware provides equal heat distribution, it eliminates hot spots in the pan, especially when you're working with high heat.

Additionally, a stainless steel cooking surface does not discolor, react with food or alter flavors, making it a quality cookware material choice for at least one of your pots and pans. Though this saucepan does not come induction cooktop ready, it is perfect for the home cook who uses a regular stovetop with gas or electric. 

Make: Spinach Dahl

A good stainless steel pot that heats evenly all the way around is invaluable if you make a lot of sauces and curries. So, with fall well on its way, it would behoove you to make sure that you have some good quality stainless pots on hand for those cool nights.

Get the recipe here.

2. Specialty Non-Stick Handy Pot + Saucepan

This pot's nonstick coating makes for easy cooking and even easier clean-up. The ventilated glass lids with each model are also wonderful if you make a lot of rice.

Make: Persian One-Pot Tomato Rice

If you've ever cooked rice on the stove, you know how crucial a quality nonstick surface is to the process. So invest! You'll be so glad you did when you don't have any burnt grains at the bottom of the pot after the long time simmering away and flavoring your meal with an unnatural smokiness.

Get the recipe here.

3. Lodge Dutch Oven

This 6-quart Dutch oven is an essential acquisition. With looped grip handles for easy transporting from the stovetop to the oven, this purchase will be one of your best this season. While you could splurge on a Le Creuset Dutch oven, we've always found the quality of the Lodge Dutch oven to be more than comparable at a comfortable price point.

Sear your roasts, briskets, and short ribs in the Dutch oven, then pour in the liquid for a quick braising situation.

Make: Quick and Easy One-Pot Chicken Dinner

Dutch ovens are perfect for large dishes, or ones that need to hold a variety of different ingredients that all need to be kept moist. In particular, Dutch ovens are a perfect alternative to the oven for making chicken and potatoes.

Get the recipe here.

The 3 Most Versatile Pans

1. The Simply Calphalon Nonstick All-Purpose Pan

With a tempered glass cover and two heat-resistant handles, this nonstick pan may become your go-to favorite. Take it from the stovetop to the oven so you can ensure a crispy, broiled top on your favorite casserole dishes.

Make: Cassoulet

You'll need to a deep dish to hold all the warm, comforting goodness that makes up a cassoulet. Imagine digging into layers of beans, duck, and sauce. So satisfying.

Get the recipe here.

2. Calphalon Stainless Steel Covered Sautee

Made from five layers of metal including a tri-ply stainless steel fused aluminum core, this 5-quart pan is not only a workhorse, but it's also dishwasher safe. While you might not need a whole 10-piece set of all-clad stainless steel, this sautee is a must-have for a variety of dishes.

Make: Basil Chicken Baked Ziti

For a pasta bake, stainless steel is your best bet. How else are you planning on getting those crispy edges all the way around? Plus, the even heat that stainless steel provides will ensure that your cheese melts all the way to the middle.

Get the recipe here.

3. Lodge Deep Cast Iron Skillet

You probably don't need a whole line of cast iron cookware, but this 10.25-inch deep skillet is perfect for just about any use when it comes to cast iron cooking. Take a stovetop pasta to the oven for a quick broil, fry some chicken on the stovetop, and build a flavorful base for fajitas, there isn't much that this workhorse can't do in the kitchen.

Make: Pickle Brined Fried Chicken


Our Pickle Brined Fried Chicken was made for stovetop frying. Simply pour in the peanut oil, or another high-temperature cooking oil, and let the skillet do the work for you as you watch those chicken legs turn golden brown.

Find the recipe here.

Watch: The 10 Best Chicken Fried Steaks in Texas