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The Best Cookware For Every Cooking Occasion

January 22, 2023

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I hate to toot my own horn, but I’m a bit of a cookware connoisseur. Okay, I tend to be a connoisseur of most cooking supplies and tools, but today it’s all about cookware. Despite sounding too cliche, I get a lot of questions about what my “actual” favorite cookware is… and the honest answer is it really depends on what’s cooking!

Ranking cookware is something I’m not interested in because it’s like comparing apples to oranges! Comparing The Always Pan to my Wok isn’t helpful at all because they’re completely different, and I use them for different things! That being said, I made a list of my 10 cookware essentials that make my day-to-day cooking an absolute delight, along with a thorough explanation of what I use them for and why I can’t live without them.

To be clear, this post is not sponsored. Genuinely, I use this pan more than any other. It washes easily, heats up quickly, and has a comfortable handle and nontoxic, nonstick coating. I use it for single dishes, like glazed carrots or garlic peas. But I also use it for cooking full individual meals in one pan. For breakfast, sausage, eggs, and potatoes; for lunch, steak, fried rice, and zucchini, the shape of the edge makes tossing food super easy without losing a bunch out of the sides. It responds quickly to everything I want to do with it, so when I want to cook something fast, this is the pan I reach for. It’s the Honda Accord of my cooking collection – maybe not the flashiest or fanciest, but dependable, functional, and pretty. 

The heat retention of cast iron is unrivaled, and the enamel coating solves all of the maintenance headaches of traditional cast iron. Of course, the downside is the cookware is no longer a source of iron in your diet (which is a real thing – using cast iron cookware to supplement iron levels), but the upsides are worth it for most, I’d say. Durability, heat retention, capacity – I use this one a lot for stews, soups, curries, pot roasts, whole roasted chickens, and braises – a lot of moist-heat cooking methods, but also great for larger cuts of beef or poultry. I trust this dutch oven to do anything I need. 

There’s very little you can’t cook in a pan like this. I often talk about what pans I would choose if space were limited. But if I had to choose only one pan to have – only one, total – it would be between this and my cast iron dutch oven. You can fry, sauté, boil, braise, and roast – what it lacks in capacity, it makes up for in versatility, and if you’re cooking for 2-4 people, this one will do anything you need. I use this pan for vegetables of every kind, and it transitions flawlessly from stove to oven for combination cooking (sear a roast, finish it in the oven, for example)

I’ve had a similar set of these pans for 15 years. Granted, mine don’t look this clean and I often get remarks about that. “Barkeepers friend will clean that pan right up!” Meh. These things work like a charm, discolored or not, and they’re still my most used roasting pan. I often roast at higher heats than a lot of recipes say (gotta get that browning), and these baking sheets handle it better than sheets that have a coating, like the Our Place Oven Pan mentioned below. That’s probably why I continue to reach for these, time after time. 

This was a Christmas gift from Jules about five years ago, and I still use it a few times a week. If I could only choose one pot to have, it would be this. The 8qt capacity is great for small groups (though, admittedly, I’m eyeing the 12qt since we entertain so often), and there’s not much you can’t cook with it. Originally marketed as a pasta pot, it’s now called a multipot because the strainer basket is versatile for more than just pasta. I use it to boil and strain potatoes for mashed potatoes, to make large batches of stock, to blanch vegetables, and, yes, strain pasta. 

Another versatile piece of cookware, the Perfect Pot has the same nontoxic, nonstick coating as all of Our Place’s goods, with more capacity. This is the only pot I use for rice, and because the surface is nonreactive it’s great for tomato sauces and acidic foods. It doesn’t have as high of capacity as some of my other pots, so I only use it for soups and curries we don’t have company coming over. But since most nights we don’t, I use it a lot. 

This is my favorite pan for eggs. Material goods are great quality, non-toxic and versatile. I cook a lot of things in this pan – vegetables, steaks, chicken, fried rice. But I usually use it for those things only if I’m first cooking some eggs in it. When I cook, it’s just cleaner to use the same pan for multiple things, so if I pull this pan out for eggs, then I’ll cook several things in it before I’m done. So even though this one is further down my list, if I were limited on space, it’s one of the pans I’d definitely make room for. 

This is a great baking sheet and cleans up really easily. I dare say it’s better than my old-school baking sheets listed above, but I’m a creature of habit and haven’t quite made the shift to reach for this one first. It has taller sides than a typical baking sheet, the nonstick coating is non-toxic and works great, and it comes with a silicone baking mat. I use this one for roasting potatoes & vegetables and baking cookies, and it even works as a griddle on the stovetop for pancakes and eggs, which we’ve done a few times. 

Jules bought me a full copper set of cookware for Christmas a couple of years ago, and for some reason, I often forget to reach for them. Maybe because they look so beautiful on the shelf, I see them more as decoration than utilitarian. But whenever I do use them, they’re amazing. Very responsive to heat changes. I use the saucepan the most out of all of the pieces because it heats up the fastest for boiling water. I use this one for boiling and poaching eggs, making smaller portions of soup for lunches or sick kids, warming and mixing sauces, and the occasional packet of ramen. (okay, more than occasional)

The purists may come at me about this one, but I love these new hybrid cooking surfaces like Black Cube and Hexclad. A carbon steel wok is the ultimate cooking vessel, to be sure. But cooking, clean up, and maintenance are a lot easier with this than with carbon steel, especially in our humid climate (anything high carbon starts to rust within a day or two). This has been one of my favorite new pans of the last year, and it’s so fun to break out. I use this for stir-fry, deep frying, fried rice, noodles, curries – a lot of Asian-style foods, which I’m trying to become better at. 

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What do you think?

  1. REK981 says:

    I like this kind of list! I don’t use my Always pan much at all, only using silicone and the included wooden utensil and it got scratches with less than 6 months of use. I got a Caraway set that is my everyday set (it was a factory return picked up at Habitat Restore for 50 percent off retail) and I live for all my Le Creuset pieces – I have a dutch oven, a large round pan, a 3-quart pot, and a couple of smaller baking dishes. All my stainless steel is in storage. We did pick up a random set of Zwilling Henckles ceramic pans from Costco and I use those for grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes – things like that. Not daily but maybe weekly. They are fine. I also think the cooking surface plays a role – I am on my third glass cooktop and have finally dialed in the temps really well. Lots of trial and error over the last 20 years of varying stovetops.

  2. DD says:

    I will forward your recs to my hubby, who is the cookware snob at our house. I love all your selections. For copper pieces that cook and clean like a dream but are tough enough to use daily, I can vouch for Falk Culinaire. Stainless steel interior and a copper exterior. That copper weathers to a fine patina that seems to say, “Yes, I get really dirty and WORK for a living!” We have the indispensable stock pot, three skillets, two fabulous oval gratins, and a saucepan. Hubs would purchase more if we had a place to store it. Worth every penny. Cheers!

  3. Christina says:

    We got a pasta/multipot as a wedding present nearly 16 years ago. While I’ve used it for things other than pasta I’ve never thought to use it to make the straining stage of stock making easier. Thank you! But also argh, to all the times it could have been easier!
    I tend to reach for our Le Creuset pot (also a wedding present) frequently, but also the AllClad D5 Stainless Steel Essential Pan which I got after reading this review of the Always Pan: https://www.wired.com/review/our-place-always-pan/ (and a few others who’d had problems with the non-stick coating not lasting). How long have you had yours? I wonder if they improved the nonstick.

    • Chris says:

      I have a couple of them – one of which I’ve had for maybe 3 years now. As with anything, it’s a matter of how you take care of it, but I’m not one to baby my cookware. I use it how I’m going to use it, and if it holds up then it stays in my kitchen.

      The nonstick on my Our Place pans isn’t the same as when it came out of the box, to be sure. A lot of that is probably due to the fact that I cook with olive oil, high temps or low, and olive oil tends to leave behind more residue than other oils, which bonds to the pan and can cause sticking. Even after 3 years mine hasn’t reached a level that it’s bothered me at all, but I do reach for my Material nonstick pan for eggs before I reach for the Always Pan. I’m also a big fan of crispy eggs, so I’ve learned to cook them in a stainless steel pan and keeping it from sticking as well.

      Long-winded answer, but in short, I can understand why people would feel that way, but the lessening of the nonstick coating was something I expected, so the pan works for me the way I feel like it should.

    • Kelly Ouyang says:

      That’s ultimately the nature of ceramic coatings. They work because oil (built in during the manufacturing stage) leaves the coating when heated.m, but eventually there’s none left and you lose the non stick properties. Well seasoned pans (carbon or stainless or otherwise) will ultimately last way longer but obviously lack the convenience of ceramic, anodized or other forms of nonstick.

    • Jocelyn Batko Richgels says:

      We loved our Always Pan for about a year. But it was used at too high heat by a guest a few time (I did give instructions not too!) and the nonstick aspect is almost nonexistent anymore it just doesn’t serve its
      purpose well anymore and doesn’t get used often. That said, I bet the pot would be better bc it isn’t used for things that can stick. I just bought the Goodful 4 qt pot, which is similar, but much less expensive. Haven’t used it yet though.

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