18-6: Basic Pots and Pans

Back again with another Cooking School entry from the back of Simply Delicious18-6: Basic Pots & Pans is a featured topic discussing different types of cookware that can be used, with tips on handling, usage, & storage. Pot & pan types are controversial for some cooks, and what one person stands by may be another’s no-go. ?‍?

In this entry, I really only plan to show you what I’ve got going in my own kitchen as of the time I wrote it, and I’ll probably pepper in some links to different pieces on cookware. I can’t claim any real authority on any of this stuff besides my own personal experience and knowledge, but I can at least maybe add one more opinion out there. ?

Despite Simply Delicious’s age (30+ years at this point), their advice on pots and pans is (in my opinion) still pretty solid. I’ve never really worked much with copper or enameled cookware, but I have some experience with the rest of it. Like I said in 18-3: Good Kitchen Knives, I prefer cheap, reliable equipment that can get a bit dinged up rather than fancy stuff that looks great on a shelf, but never really gets the use and love that it deserves. ❤️

Here’s how most of my pots and pans live–stacked up and stuffed in a cabinet. There’s a few not pictured (I’ll get into those below), but these constitute what gets used the most. The saucepans (the righthand stack) were all purchased at different times from different restaurant supply stores, but make up a pretty decent set at this point. The skillets (the lefthand stack) are also comprised of restaurant-supply stuff, as well as as a (gifted) Calphalon set.

First, the saucepans. These 4 are all from various restaurant supply stores in northern and southern California, and are pretty much the same stuff you’ll see in any most any professional cooking environment worldwide (minus the insulated handles–no one springs for those except people like me buying them for home use). These are all various sizes (smallest is 1 qt, largest is approximately 8 qt), and get a lot of use, as is evidenced by the rings on the inside. All of these are either stainless steel or aluminum, with silicone handles.

I have one more not pictured here that is a 12-qt stock pot with two small side handles, but it’s currently holding the dog & cat toys in the living room–I used to make stock from scratch a lot, and haven’t in a while, so it got temporarily repurposed.

This is the bottom of one of the above saucepans that came from a restaurant supply store–these markings are pretty standard for most cookware used in commercial/professional cooking environments–measurements, etc. One interesting thing to point out is the NSF mark: it’s essentially used to signify that something has been approved for use in regards to food safety & sanitation standards. Using proper equipment (especially when selling food) is really important to keep people safe and your business open.

These are my skillets–I forgot to take a picture of my saucepan, which has higher, straighter sides than a skillet. It’s really wide, so it lives on top of the fridge instead of with its other pan friends in the cabinet. The two pans on top (10″) and bottom (12″) left are from the same Calphalon non-stick set that we got for our wedding, and as Simply Delicious mentions, non-stick skillets wear out after a while–which these ones clearly are. These really are great pans though–they can go on top of the stove and then right into a hot oven–not many pans can because of handles or other finishes on them that aren’t oven-safe.

The two on the right came from a restaurant supply store–I made sure to get the ones with silicone handles for both of them, since it can be annoying to have to keep using something to hold the handle if it gets too hot. Both of them are 10″–top one is either aluminum or stainless steel and my only non-non-stick pan (as is evidenced by the stains of something that stuck real good), while the bottom one still has a nice non-stick layer because it is (by my law) used for eggs and virtually nothing else. ?

Finally, here’s my cast-iron collection. I think all of these are Lodge pans, none more than 10 years old. I’ve got a Dutch oven (for deep-frying, stews, & casseroles), two matching 10″ skillets (for pizzas, sauces, searing, roasted meats, etc.), a square grill pan (for smoky, yet effective indoor grilling–works even better if you take it camping), and a teeny tiny pan in the front that doesn’t do much more than make a nice baked cookie. ?

Cast-iron requires a bit more care than your standard pots and pans–these do NOT go through the dishwasher, nor do they want to spend any length of time wet and/or submerged (in fact, keeping them somewhat grimy is good for them). They can rust easily, but luckily it’s pretty simple to season them back to a usable state. All of mine above are bare cast-iron which is why they require seasoning–enameled cast-iron cookware is also an option that eliminates that need, but I’ve yet to find any that were the right combination of price and usefulness for me. ?