The 5 Pots and Pans You Really Need, Plus 1 Ingenious Tool
Make sure to...choose a frying pan made of a metal that conducts heat efficiently, such as anodized aluminum, cast iron, lined copper or stainless steel–wrapped aluminum.
But don't...cook with it using the highest heat. Keep the flame between low and medium-high; otherwise, you risk burning food and making cleanup a real chore (if you do find the pan has black spots you can't remove with dish soap, try Bar Keepers Friend).
Try this recipe: Sautéed Spring Vegetables
Make sure to...only fill the pot two-thirds of the way (or less) with food. Leaving some room at the top for the air to circulate within the confines of the saucepan walls will help whatever you're cooking stay moist.
But don't...forget a tight-fitting lid, which will ensure rice, couscous and other grains get the steam they need to cook properly.
Try this recipe: Hot Fudge Sauce
Size: 6-quart (13-inch diameter)
Make sure to...buy a pan with a smaller, "grab" handle opposite the long, main handle. Because these pieces can weigh nearly 7 pounds (empty!), you'll probably need to hold on with two hands when putting it in the oven or bringing it to the table. The little handle should be big enough that you can grip it while wearing an oven mitt.
But don't...get a pan that's too big for the burner element it will be used on. While a large pan is undoubtedly useful, if you buy one that's out of proportion with your stove, you'll constantly be moving food so it cooks evenly, and will have trouble fitting two more pots (e.g., for a vegetable and a starch) on the cooktop alongside it. Measure the diameter of one of your stove's grates (or heating elements if you have electric) before you shop, and don't buy a pan that's more than an inch bigger across.
Try this recipe: Chicken Piccata-ed or Plain
Make sure to...purchase a pot with a thick, heavy bottom. This will prevent burning, which isn't an issue for pasta but is a concern for soup, since it cooks for a long time.
But don't...go for anodized aluminum (which is dark gray or black) if you're a new or unsure cook. When you're sautéing onions, celery and carrots for soup, for instance, it'll be difficult to see what color the vegetables are (e.g., to determine if they're translucent, as you want them, or pale, which means they've cooked too long), against the pot's dark bottom.
Try this recipe: Lentil, Tomato and Rice Soup
Size: 7- to 10-inch
Make sure to...consider your breakfast-making habits before you buy. If you often make two-egg omelets, a 7-inch pan is the perfect size; a 9-inch pan is better for four- or five-egg omelets.
But don't...spray your pan with cooking spray. Eventually it will build up and turn sticky (usually this happens around the edges, where the heat doesn't melt it away). If your pan is truly nonstick, it won't need anything; if you must, use oil.
Try this recipe: Scrambled Eggs, Many Ways
Size: They only come in one size, in sets of two.
Make sure to...coat the cups with nonstick spray or rub some oil inside so the eggs release easily.
But don't...try to grip the edges with a potholder to remove them from the pot; the pods are too small. The best way we've found is to slide a chopstick through two of the three holes (which are meant to keep the pod in place when you put it in the top rack of your dishwasher) and lift.
Try this recipe: Poached Eggs with Matcha Sea Salt
6 mistakes that a busy cook makes