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Stocking up on Pots and Pans: Sizes and Shapes

You need more than on skillet and a saucepan; here are some of the essentials.

We have already discussed the elemental qualities of cookware - aluminum/steel clad, copper, non-stick, cast iron, glass, and enamel. You can choose among the many materials for pieces that will fit your budget, of course.

However, you may also be in a quandary as to which cookware shapes and sizes will provide the best service, especially if you're searching for extra pieces to fill in a set. If you've cooked for many years, you'll have your favorites. You may have multiples because they're so practical and, well, you need more than one at the same time - almost always.

Here are the favorites we use in our kitchen:

The skillet lineup
I prefer the deeper sauté style skillets, but tend to use the omelet style more often. The latter is more versatile in making quesadillas and scrambled eggs, for instance. Much easier to scrape down the sides or to access food edges when necessary; i.e., turning chops or grabbing chicken fingers.

Sauté skillets are better for holding liquids and oils, of course. You don't have to worry about them reaching the edge and spilling over - unless it's filled to the brim. You can simmer a good batch of spaghetti sauce in these without worries.

The medium size is used most, for soups or for cooking up a good large-scale portion of rice. This is one pan we can always use more of in our kitchen.

Smaller saucepans are perfect for boiling water and steeping a pitcher-sized tea bag, as I hate using the microwave. It is also less hassle than getting out our handy little plug-in model. There are plenty of other uses for the small stuff, but it just isn't as versatile.

Larger pots will always come in handy. Standard large pots are great for an entire box of any pasta, a pot of chili or Cuban black bean soup, and for simmering a small chicken for casseroles and stock. We usually make a double batch of chili so our two pots are always at the ready.

Our stock pots are deeper and will do a great indoor shrimp boil for two. They can't be too large or the large stovetop burner can't handle it. We also have a turkey fryer - used not for poultry, but for larger shrimp boils.

Cast iron griddle
This piece may not be at the top of your list, but it's essential for making flatbreads and tortillas. Or for firing up over hot coals. It's not the most practical piece in our arsenal, but when you need the perfect hot-off-the-press flour tortilla, it's the only answer. Plus, it'll be around for a few more generations.

At the end of our list are items that most great cooks simply can't do without. However, we tend to skimp here, but highly recommend them if you have the space to store.

Roasting pans
They're great for all sorts of larger meats and even better for deglazing afterwards. Much safer than the throwaway aluminum jobs, which we tend to use. Besides, most of our larger meats (with the exception of turkey at Thanksgiving) either go in the smoker or receive indirect heat over long-burning charcoal.

Dutch ovens
They are truly indispensable for most. They work on the stovetop and in the oven and are not as deep as our chili pots. If you invest in one, make sure it's the best you can afford and heavy enough to do what it's intended to do.

Chef's pans
If you create a lot of sauces, you can't live without this one, either. Their rounded sides mean nothing gets stuck in the corners. We simply don't create enough fancy sauces to warrant this one taking up our space at the moment. We're always willing to add it on when we increase our at-home culinary delights.


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Pittsburg, TX 75686
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