With Halloween behind us, it’s time to let the holiday cooking season begin! Which means stocking up on the cookware you need. Even if you’re not normally a cook, chances are you may be doing your fair share of cooking and baking over the next couple of months. Whether you’re whipping up a holiday meal, making homemade edible gifts (my favorite!) or throwing together a side dish for a holiday potluck, having the right tools will make your job a whole lot easier (or at least more enjoyable).
Check out these 5 pots and pans that every home cook–no matter how skilled (or not)–should own. I promise that these won’t collect dust after the holiday season. You’ll forever be happy to have this essential cookware in your kitchen.
5 1/2-Quart Dutch Oven (above)
If I was allowed only one piece of cookware in my kitchen, it would my Le Creuset 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven. A Dutch oven is a heavy metal pot, usually made of cast iron, that has thick walls and a tight-fitting lid. I highly recommend one that is enamel coated–you won’t believe how easily they clean up! Don’t worry about the exact capacity: any 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven will do a great job of stewing, browning, braising, soup making and even bread baking. (I make no-knead bread in mine–so easy and very impressive over the holidays.) This pot is seriously all-purpose.
* Le Creuset makes my favorite Dutch ovens and in amazing colors, too. At $265 they are a splurge, for sure, but will last forever. Our affiliate Amazon has a bunch of other options in all different price ranges, too.
4-Quart Lidded Pot
Another big pot to complement your Dutch oven. This one is great for making a batch of pasta sauce or stock. It’s also just right to perfectly cook 1 lb of pasta. I prefer a 4-quart pot with two handles on each side, as opposed to a single long handle on one side, but it’s the capacity that matters.
A saucepan is great for sauces, of course, but also for making rice, cooking beans and grains, steaming veggies, boiling eggs and making caramel (which deserves its own shout-out, don’t you think?). As a family cook, I also use mine to make and reheat smaller portions when the kids eat pasta or leftover rice and beans without the grownups (hello, date night!). This pot is great paired with a double boiler, not quite a kitchen essential but great to have on hand if you like making sweets from scratch.
* I really like this All Clad saucepan ($155) and double boiler insert ($55), but my wallet? Not so much. Who’s in charge? If your wallet is, you’ll find many other 3-quart saucepan options on Amazon.
6-Quart Saute Pan
Unlike frying pans, saute pans have straight sides and are a bit deeper, making them great for saucy dishes that require you to sear meat or saute veggies as a first step. Think a weeknight Jamaican curry or Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives & Artichokes (which, by the way, is wayyyy easier than it sounds). This pan is great for both and nearly any other fab one-pan meal.
8″ and/or 10″ Frying Pan
If your New Year’s resolution will be to cook more, I’d say that you should get the saute pan above, as well as two frying pans: an 8″ and 10″. Otherwise, start with the 10″ and see if you need something smaller. You got me so far? Good, because there’s more. If you’re getting just the 10″, consider a non-stick. I’m guessing you’re not super into cooking and this will serve you well. If you’re getting both sizes, I like having a non-stick 8″ (grilled cheese sandwiches, eggs, etc) and a standard 10″ that’s good for searing, cooking fish and such.
* This 10.2″ De Buyer frying pan is great and only $60. The 10″ All Clad pan is also good, but will run you $80. Since the 8″ is optional, it’s also a good place to save some money. This Cuisinart 8″ Nonstick Hard-Anodized pan is just $19.95!
If you’re making a holiday meal, you’re likely to be roasting meat, so it’s time to invest in a heavy-weight stainless steel roasting pan with a rack, please! Avoid non-stick, or else you won’t be able to deglaze all those delicious crispy bits that are, if you ask me, the best thing about roasting. It’s hard to say what size is best–you want enough room so that you can fit a Thanksgiving bird, but not so much room that a weeknight pork loin is lost in space. A moderately sized 16-incher should do the job for most folks.
With great tools comes great power. Now go cook, and may the kitchen force be with you this holiday season. -Stacie
(All of the cookware listed here is available through our Amazon affiliate.)