Kitchen Essentials: Pots and pans

As a companion series to our recipes, I decided it would be a good idea to take a look at some essential kitchen equipment that I’ve gathered up over the years, to try and explain why the pieces are so useful.

First up is saucepans and frying pans. We were lucky enough to receive gifts of Jamie Oliver by Tefal pans for our wedding which have proved to be of excellent quality. The type of pots and pan you buy will be dictated by the type of cooker hob you have as noted below:

  • Gas and radiant spiral hobs: Any pan types.
  • Ceramic hob or solid hotplates: Choose pans that have flat bottoms.
  • Be careful to lift pans and not drag them on ceramic or halogen hobs, as this can scratch the hob!
  • Induction hobs: Pans suitable for this type of hob must be made from magnetisable metal such as cast iron or steel. Pure aluminium or copper pans will not work with this type of hob unless the base is bonded with a magnetic metal.
  • Solid fuel / Aga: Choose pans with thick bases which can withstand the high temperatures produced.

It’s also a good idea to look at the symbols on the pans and manufacturer descriptions before you buy. If your pans can go from hob to oven and are dishwasher safe, then you will get a lot more use out of them over the years.

In our house, we have 4 frying pans of various sizes, up to a 26 inch – which admittedly is rarely used. The two smallest sizes are the ones we reach for most often. They are all non-stick (Teflon) which makes our food healthier as you don’t need as much oil or butter when frying and it also makes them easier to clean.

However, with non-stick pans, there are a few rules to remember! Never use anything more than a plastic scrubbie & washing up liquid to clean them, as other cleaning products could scratch the non-stick surface. If you do leave the pan to soak for more than 10 mins, just fill it with hot water, don’t add washing up liquid, as again, this could damage the surface.

As for saucepans, it’s a good idea to have at least 3 of them (perhaps more if you have a large family) for basic cooking tasks. They should be sturdy with reasonably thick bases to ensure even transfer of heat to the contents. Don’t pour cold water into hot pans, as this could warp the bottom of them and make the pans unstable on your hob.

In addition to our basic pots and pans, we also have a few “specialist” pots. One of them is a large stew pot that holds about 5 litres. This gets used for big batches of tomato sauce, soups, stews and risottos. Again, it has a non-stick interior, and can go directly from the cooker top to the oven, which is perfect for slow-cooking of stews to soften and break up the meat.

Finally, we also have a Jamie Oliver Tefal pasta pot which has a removable Stainless Steel Strainer and Glass/Stainless Steel Lid. This one was a little treat for ourselves, as the same job can be done with a large pot and a colander, but it’s the kind of thing that makes a perfect present for someone who loves their pasta!

George says…

A pasta pot is a lot easier and less messy than the alternative, plus it’s really handy for boiling the spuds 😉

The main thing to remember when buying yourself pots and pans is to choose known brands of good quality. You’ll get many years of use out of a good pan set, but a cheap one will rarely last more than five years if you’re lucky. Consider the types of food that you cook most often, and try to match these with suitable types of pans.