Three Pieces of Cookware You Really Need - and 5 You Maybe Don’t
I’m often asked which piece of cookware is my favorite. Which is, frankly, just cruel. How could you ask me to choose? But at the end of the day, there are just three pieces of cookware in my kitchen that receive the heaviest rotation. I understand having to make trade offs. So if you’re buying your first high quality cookware or have a small kitchen and want to know where your money is best spent, there are more than a few pieces of cookware I wouldn’t recommend you buy but THREE that I believe you truly MUST have.
Porcelain enameled cast iron dutch oven—no piece of cookware comes in more shapes, sizes, and COLORS than these enameled dutch ovens. We love them so much we carry three different brands—Le Creuset, Lodge, and Cuisinart. My Le Creuset 6 ¾ Quart Oval Dutch Oven in Nectar is the single piece of cookware I reach for most often. One-pot-pastas; long, slow braises; sourdough bread; grain casseroles; and giant piles of braised greens all turn out beautifully in a dutch oven. They are an investment, but one you won’t regret.
Nonstick frying pan - Look, I went years without ever having one. And a really well seasoned cast iron frying pan will do everything a nonstick frying pan can do, sometimes better. But if you’re sometimes just a little lazy with your cast iron (like me) or if you have housemates that don’t understand the “never leave the pan wet!” rule, it’s easy for your cast iron to lose its nonstick coating. Our two favorite nonstick brands are GreenPan, and Swiss Diamond. Each has their own pros and cons, but at the end of the day you will not be dissatisfied with the ease of frying eggs, searing delicate fish, turning out perfect crepes and omelettes from one of these pans and you will use them again and again.
Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Perforated Insert and Steamer Basket - Boiling pasta, cooking large batches of sauces, boiling jams for preserving, making bone broth—this is the workhorse of the kitchen and requires little justification. I typically cook in such large quantities that I can justify owning a 12 quart, but 6 and 8-quart varieties are also very popular and appropriate for small households.
With these three pieces of cookware combined, you can make almost any recipe that requires mostly stovetop cooking. But very few people I know own only 3 pieces of cookware. So while you’re shopping for a few more pieces to round out your collection, here are 5 pieces of cookware you maybe don’t need:
- Butter Warmer - why anyone would need a dedicated pan for warming butter I’ll probably never understand. And I do love butter, but I just don’t eat enough fresh crab or steamed artichoke to justify only using a butter warmer as a butter warmer. That being said, I have a butter warmer, and I use it almost every day to make my stovetop oatmeal. It’s the perfect size for boiling just a few eggs or warming up a small amount of sauce or syrup for a garnish. If you can see more than one way you’d actually use a butter warmer, go for it! But if you’re buying a butter warmer just to warm butter, you better eat a lot of butter to justify that purchase.
- Universal Double Boiler - this is actually a pretty nifty piece of cookware, but if you’ve got a heat-proof bowl that fits neatly into one of your saucepans it becomes a little redundant. Unless you’re an avid baker/pastry maker, in which case the ceramic insert provides the perfect amount of insulation to keep your creme patissiere from scrambling and your chocolate from scalding as it melts.
- Tagine - few pieces of cookware look as striking on the table as a well-made clay tagine. But you can achieve very similar results in an enameled cast iron dutch oven with a well-fitted lid. When presentation matters or if you’re going for authentic North African flavors (the unglazed clay does impart a subtle hint of earthiness to dishes) go for the tagine.
- Anything made of Teflon - Teflon is the brand name for the chemical coating developed by Dupont. The chemical compound is actually called polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE. And frankly, very little cookware these days is made with Teflon. There are countless articles from reputable sources about the dangers of this coating, so I’m not going to go into it. But with so many healthy, effective options on the market these days there’s no reason to ever buy a piece of cookware made with Teflon ever again.
- Crepe Pan - Okay, truth time. I don’t own a crepe pan, but I want one. Would I ever use it? Sure, like once a year. Some families have replaced the all-American tradition of weekend pancakes with crepes and for them, crepe pans are a great investment that can be passed down through the generations. But we make “Rapelje Pancakes” in my household (sorry, I can’t share that recipe, it’s Joe’s family secret) so this one wouldn’t see much use in our home.
Tell us about your must-haves or the piece of cookware you wish you didn’t.
- Marguerite Jodry