Whether you’re a beginner home cook or a Kitchen Nightmares-watching foodie, investing in high-quality pots and pans will elevate your cooking experience. From simmering sauces to achieving the perfect sear, you’ll find that good-quality cookware distributes heat evenly and lasts longer than your roommate’s Ikea skillet.
Choosing the right pieces for your kitchen also opens up the possibilities to explore new cuisines and discover your unique culinary style. Here are five essentials that every kitchen should have:
1. Stainless Steel Cookware
When you hear the term “stainless steel cookware,” you might think of professional kitchens stocked with gleaming pans that seem magically non-stick. However, stainless steel is also among professional chefs’ preferred cooking materials, allowing for easy maintenance and a golden brown sear every time.
A quality set of stainless steel pots and pans can last a lifetime, so consider it a sound investment. Look for durable options with soft handles that mold to your hand and stay cool on the stove, as well as a magnetic bottom that makes them oven safe.
Unlike coated cookware, stainless steel doesn’t react with acidic ingredients like tomatoes and garlic—a common cause of unpleasant flavors in food. In addition, many reputable brands of stainless steel pots and pans are both dishwasher and oven safe.
2. Cast Iron Cookware
Whether you’re outfitting a new kitchen or adding to your existing collection, you should invest in high-quality pots and pans that will last. Having the right cookware is essential to creating and preparing delicious meals for your family and friends.
One piece that you should consider essential is a cast iron skillet. These heavy duty pieces retain heat evenly, making them ideal for frying, grilling, sauteing and baking.
You can find cast iron cookware in a wide range of sizes from small 1 quart cast iron skillets to large 14 x 11 inch enamel cast iron skillets. There are also cast iron woks, pizza pans, tagines and other specialty pans that are available to add a rustic charm to any kitchen.
3. Dutch Oven
A Dutch oven is a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that helps retain heat and moisture for tender dishes like soups and stews. A traditional Dutch oven is made of enameled cast iron, though you can also find them in other materials, including stainless steel.
A good quality Dutch oven will be thick on the bottom and sides to hold heat evenly, and it should have sturdy handles and knobs. It will be ovenproof as well, so you can brown ingredients on the stovetop and then gently cook them in a contained environment.
If you’re not ready to invest in an expensive Le Creuset model, our testers have found that Lodge’s Essential Enamel Cast Iron Dutch Oven delivers about 50% of the performance of a similar pot for half the price. It also holds a generous amount of food for its size.
4. Sheet Pan
Sheet pans are one of the most versatile items a cook can have in their kitchen. They are perfect for baking, roasting vegetables, and making easy meal prep dishes like pizzas and sheet-pan dinners.
A good quality pan is made of aluminum, which conducts heat evenly and quickly. It is also a heavy-duty material that resists warping and bending over time. Some pans are also available in stainless steel, which conducts heat less well and can be more prone to warping and bending.
Whether you are just starting out in your culinary journey or are an experienced chef that watches Chef’s Table, you will benefit from having a quality pan in your arsenal. So, make sure you add a quality aluminum sheet pan to your collection of essential cookware!
5. Measuring Cups & Spoons
Whether you’re baking cookies or cooking casseroles, precise measurements are important for getting the right consistency. Invest in high-quality measuring cups and spoons that clearly indicate their capacity for volume. For example, look for sets that separate nested measuring cups for dry ingredients such as sugar and flour from those with pouring spouts designed for liquid ingredients like water, milk or bouillon broth.
These handy kitchen utensils come in many styles and materials to match your existing cookware set and overall home decor. Choose from classic stainless steel measuring cups to modern ceramic and glass options. Some brands even offer a range of colors for a fun accent to your kitchen setup. Whatever style you choose, make sure your set includes all standard and metric measurement increments — including those rare odd-size ones!