I have come to realize that us foodies needn’t have every pot and pan under the sun to cook amazing meals. If you are just starting out, all you need are the essential 5 as I’d like to call them. These 5 essential cookware pieces are the foundation from which you will build your culinary fortress, create marvelous pieces de resistance and most importantly, cook with reckless abandon! I must stress the importance of purchasing good quality cookware – and although I’m not talking about spending a lot of money – I am saying purchase what you can afford and suits your cooking needs. When I say ‘your cooking needs’ I mean that you should purchase pots and pans that you’ll use. You may not need to buy a 120 qt stock pot or an 18″ sauce pan. So buy according to your lifestyle and needs.
Look for one that is at least 10″ in size. This particular cast iron skillet is amazing and excellent quality for a reasonable price from the brand Lodge. Once seasoned with oil, and regular maintenance, this pan will last a lifetime. This pan is great for sautéing, searing, frying, stir-frying and baking. It’s so versatile! I love the fact that I can braise chicken drumsticks or a pot roast on the stove, then finish the cooking process in the oven for a glorious finished product. You know those skillet cookies you get at restaurants? Yep – you can make one of those babies in this pan. Evidently, the more you use the pan, the better it gets, meaning you can cut back on the oil prior to cooking! Although this is a heavy pan, there is a good reason – it heats evenly and maintains excellent heat retention. Uses: frying, baking, braising and cooking from stove top to oven
The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel 3 Quart Saucepan with lid is a great choice as it is affordable and it has a heavy bottom. A heavy bottomed saucepan distributes and maintains heat evenly when cooking. Saucepans with a thinner bottom may not disperse or maintain heat evenly and you may notice hotspots and unevenly cooked food. The material of the saucepan also matters – go for stainless steel over aluminum. Stainless steel will not react to acids and no strange taste will taint your food! Uses: boiling or steaming vegetables, making sauces, or cooking grains and pasta
3. Sauté Pan, Sauteuse
There are a variety of pans out there but a good sauté pan will make your life easier when cooking. A good sauté pan will allow you to do all the sautéing, searing and braising of meats and vegetables as well as reducing stock and sauces. The sauté pan is not to be confused with a skillet or fry pan – a saute pan has straight sides and has a larger surface area. The larger surface area enables you to sear meats while the straight sides reduce unnecessary spillage. I also prefer to make risotto using a sauté pan rather than a pot – larger surface area, more evenly cooked rice! The product shown here is the Norpro Stainless Steel 9.5 Inch Sauté Pan. The Norpro Sauté Pan has received rave reviews and it is on sale right now! Uses: sauté or braise a variety of foods, cook risotto, stocks, sauces
4. Heavy Bottomed Stock Pot
As with the aforementioned pans, heavy bottomed is the reoccurring theme here. When making stocks, soups or gravy to feed a small village, a large heavy bottomed stock pot is essential. Above, I have a stock pot from the Rachel Ray line. Heavier bottomed stock pots not only heat evenly and maintain heat, you also have less of a chance of burning your soup, curry or sauce. Some stock pots come with inserts and they will come in handy when you want to steam full ears of corn, blanch veggies and boil potatoes Uses: blanching and steaming veggies, cooking stock, chili, soups, curry, pasta
Whether you are making a sauce hollandaise or melting chocolate for a decadent ganache, this handy pot set inside another pot is a must have. You can use the bottom pot separately and use it to make soups, sauces, chili etc. Double boilers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the top pot may have holes on the bottom which is ideal for steaming vegetables. It is important to check out the size and characteristics of the double boiler before making a purchase. This last must have can wait for later – as you can easily place a metal bowl over a pot to use as a double boiler or bain marie (as long as the metal bowl does not touch the bottom of the pot let alone the water). However, if you are in the market for one, then great – I love my double boiler! Pictured here is Cook N Home Double Boiler and Steamer Set. It comes with a steamer pot insert so you can steam veggies to perfection and use the solid insert for making sauces. Uses: sauces, melting chocolate, custards
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