How much cookware you need depends largely upon how often you cook, how many people you cook for and how elaborate your meals tend to be. It's very frustrating when you find yourself in the middle of preparing a big dinner and in need of one more saucepan, but you just don't have it. On the other hand, it can be very easy to accumulate far more cookware than you actually need.
Most people will who do even a small amount of cooking will find a lot of uses for a couple of different size saucepans and a couple of different size skillets. Tight-fitting lids for the saucepans are also important when preparing dishes such as rice.
Beyond the Basics
You can prepare a lot of wonderful meals with just a few pans, but chances are you're going to need some other pieces at some point. Many cookware sets will include at least some of these items:
- Dutch Oven
This is a large pot with two handles and a tight-fitting lid. It can be used on the stovetop or in the oven. A dutch oven is excellent for preparing large meals such as pot roast or beef stew.
A griddle lets you turn one or two of your stove burners into a smooth, flat cooking surface that's ideal for foods such as pancakes, french toast and more.
- Large Saute Pan
A large saute pan, especially one with a tight-fitting lid, is a very useful addition to your kitchen because it can allow you to prepare an entire meal in one pan.
- Pasta Insert
This is similar to a steamer insert, except a pasta insert is designed to let the food, such as raw pasta, be submerged in boiling water instead of just sitting on top of it. The advantage to a pasta insert is that it is very easy to remove the food from the boiling water once it's cooked?all you have to do is lift out the insert!
- Steamer Insert
This is a perforated pan that fits inside another saucepan. You can place food, such as raw vegetables, in the steamer insert and then place that in a regular saucepan that is partially filled with boiling water. The holes in the steamer insert will then let steam from the boiling water cook the food. Steaming is a very healthy way to prepare food because it doesn't involve adding any fat.
- Stock Pot
A stock pot is a very large, tall cooking pot usually with two handles and a tight-fitting lid. Stock pots are primarily used for preparing soups, sauces or stocks in large quantities.
Originally a heavy, unglazed clay pot, the tajine was used by nomads across Morocco and North Africa. Today it can be found crafted from a variety of materials including earthenware, cast iron and clay. It features a round shallow-sided base with a conical lid. This uniquely shaped lid is what makes it perfect for slow, low-heat cooking - the circulating steam condenses on the inside of the lid and then that moisture "bastes" the cooking food to keep it moist and tender.