Whether you are starting out or starting over with your cookware and cutlery, you’ll want to consider investing in these eight items.
1. A straight-sided, 12-inch, sauté pan
One thing I would invest in, because I use it all the time, is a straight-sided, 12-inch sauté pan. Besides sautéing, you can use it as a fabulous roasting pan in the oven, do sauces in it, do stews in it. I do everything in it. I cook for two and I cook for eight.
You want one with a stainless steel interior and a thick aluminum exterior (the aluminum may be covered). You don’t need copper, so forget copper. The thick aluminum is what actually holds the heat. It must come all the way up the sides of the pan. Don’t buy a pan that uses aluminum only as a heat conductor in the bottom of the pan; you will get burned edges around that bottom rim.
The pan should be comfortable in your hand. Because it’s big -- mine is more like 13 inches -- you want a long handle and you want an opposing handle, a bail handle. You need that so you are not just lifting this large, unwieldy pan with one long handle because it will twist in your hand.
It’s a big investment; it may be well over $100. Mine happens to be All-Clad, but there are other brands that are excellent.
2. A 4-quart saucepan
(Photo: iStock / Thinkstock)
The other thing that’s great to have is a 4-quart saucepan. That is something that you are going to use for a lot of things, like making a batch of rice.
3. An 8- or 10-quart pot with a strainer insert
An 8- or 10-quart pot is the pot for cooking the chili, making the pasta and doing the broth.
I found one that had a strainer insert for pasta. Usually these pots are 6 quarts, so when you put that insert into it, you are really cooking in a small amount of water. You want the big one that is 8 or 10 quarts.
I use the insert when I make soup. It’s so great when you want to make broth because you throw all the bones and the meat into the colander, and it’s so easy to just lift it out once it’s done.
This can be something you find at a discount store.
4-6. Bargain knives and a knife sharpener
(Photo: Thomas Heyman / Flickr)
You want a really good paring knife, a 4-inch paring knife, and an 8-inch chef’s knife (that’s the one with a triangular blade). These don’t have to be expensive; there are knives out there that are $20-30. [Ed. note: More on knives from Lynne here.]
You also want a knife sharpener. It doesn’t have to be expensive; there is one out there that is $6. It really does a good job. It’s small, easy to handle, and you can stick it in your pocket if you are prone to sharpening knives while you are traveling.
7. Half sheet pan
(Photo: WillBlog4FoodDC / Flickr)
For roasting things or baking, I like a big half sheet pan. It should fit in your oven.
The great thing is half sheet pans are shallow. This is what I use to roast vegetables or whenever I need a lot of space for stuff to spread out.
When I flip it over, the back becomes a cookie sheet.
These run about $10.
8. A large, metal colander
You will also want a big, metal colander. Forget the little ones and go right for the big one. It should be big enough to drain 2 pounds of pasta -- or big enough to hold a baby. You can always drain small amounts in a large colander, but you can’t drain large amounts in a small colander.
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new, and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. You have the power to keep us cooking, sharing these stories, and helping you in the kitchen.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.