Pots, Pans and Skillets

You will need the following to get started:

  • 1, 2 and 4 quart sauce pans
  • 8 inch and 12 or 14 inch skillets (for frying and sautéing)
  • 8 quart lightweight stockpot (for cooking pasta, stocks, and lobsters)
  • roasting pan
  • large heavy kettle with a tight-fitting lid, also called a Dutch oven (for stewing and braising)
  • ridged grill pan (for grilling when a broiler or outdoor grill is not accessible or convenient)

It is essential that the equipment you purchase be heavy enough to sit securely on a burner without tipping, yet not so heavy that it is a burden to lift. It is also helpful to select cookware with handles that stay cool when in use on the stove and that are ovenproof. The following are some of the materials you can choose from:


preferred by many professional chefs, is an excellent heat conductor. It should be lined with tin or stainless steel to keep it from reacting with the foods cooked in it. However, high-quality pieces are expensive and heavy. They also require frequent polishing and, eventually, retinning.


like copper, is valued for its ability to conduct heat efficiently. Because it may react with acidic food (i.e. tomatoes), plain aluminum finishes can darken and pit when exposed to alkaline or mineral-rich foods, and when soaked excessively in soapy water. Likewise, they can discolour some foods containing eggs, wine or other acidic ingredients (this discolouration, though not harmful, is unattractive). And because it scratches easily, it is usually combined with other materials, such as stainless steel, or treated (in a process called hard anodisation) to prevent it from reacting and to make it easier to maintain. When aluminum is combined with other materials, it is either sandwiched between layers of the material or placed as a disk on the bottom of the pan.

Stainless Steel

is lightweight and easy to care for but conducts heat poorly. Therefore, this metal is often combined with aluminum or copper as described above. Top-of-the-line stainless-steel pans will have heavy bottoms, yet the pans will remain light.

Cast Iron

has been used by cooks for hundreds of years. This tried-and-true cookware retains heat efficiently, making it suitable for dishes such as stews that need long, slow cooking or for chicken or bacon, which need to be browned well. Cast iron must be seasoned before it is used for the first time. This procedure involves rubbing the pan lightly with shortening and “baking” it in a moderate oven for about 1 hour. Once seasoned, the pan will have a natural non-stick finish. If the pan isn’t seasoned or if the seasoning is removed, cast iron will react with foods such as dried beans, and it may absorb the flavours of the foods cooked in it. Enamelled cast iron, available in a variety of colours and styles, doesn’t brown foods quite as well as regular cast iron.

Non-stick surfaces

(know as Teflon) are applied to pots, pans and skillets. These wares are popular as they are easy to clean and require little fat when cooking. They vary greatly in quality, and all non-stick cookware needs to be replaced eventually. When choosing non-stick pieces, select high-quality ones with hard surfaces that will resist scratches and damage from high heat. Remember never to use metal utensils in such cookware.