Basic Shapes — Pans
Braiser/Casserole Known as the everyday pan. With shallow, sloped sides, wide construction and short side handles, this pan is designed to fit easily in the oven. It's ideal for dishes that are started on the stove and finished in the oven.
Fry Pan/Skillet All-purpose. This pan has moderately high, slightly flared (outward sloping) sides. This makes it great for all kinds of cooking. It's good for frying chicken and hash browns. Nonstick versions are wonderful for omelet and fish. Choose a metal that conducts heat evenly such as lined copper, stainless steel-wrapped aluminum, anodized aluminum or cast iron.
Omelet Pan A type of fry pan. It has a flat surface, sloped sides and flared edges that allow foods to slide easily out of the pan. Choose a metal that conducts heat evenly such as lined copper, stainless steel-wrapped aluminum, anodized aluminum or cast iron. Nonstick construction also works well.
Basic Shapes — Pots
Saucepan Your kitchen essential. Straight or slightly sloping, higher sides and a long handle distinguish this pan. It can be used to cook delicate sauces, reheat leftovers and cook sticky grains like rice and oatmeal. Should be made of materials that are excellent conductors of heat, like copper or aluminum, for even distribution.
Soup/Stockpots As wide as it is high with a thick base for slow simmering. The height and surface area allow for minimum evaporation for perfect flavoring and locked-in ingredients. It's perfect for stews, soups and pastas. Go ahead, you can even try a lobster. Stainless steel with an aluminum core or disc on the bottom or anodized aluminum are the best materials.
Chef's Want the most efficient pan for whisking? This is the one to look for. Gently sloped sides make it ideal not only for whisking, but also for stirring. And the flat bottom creates even heating. Perfect for all kinds of tasty sauces and delicious risotto recipes.
Pasta Pot Tall, relatively narrow pasta pots are ordinary stockpots or saucepots with pasta inserts. This insert eliminates the need for a colander to drain the pasta. It's also handy for blanching vegetables or draining other foods.
Double Boiler Love to make delicate chocolates or sauces? This pan is your best bet. Functioning as two pans in one, a smaller pan sits in a larger pan that is partially filled with water. It uses this indirect heat to ensure that food in the top pan is cooked gently, without scorching.
Egg Poacher Eat a lot of eggs? Like them poached? This little contraption will make it easy. There are removable cups that are inserted into a pan so eggs maintain their round shape. Use this pan to cook eggs to your desired taste.
Griddle Characterized by low sides, this type gives optimal access to the entire cooking surface of the pan. It comes in many shapes, including: rectangular, square and circular. Its flat surface makes it ideal for pancakes, toast, eggs and much more. Larger versions can also sit over more than one burner.
Grill Pan Be a lean, mean grilling machine with this pan. Its ribbed surface raises food, so fats drain away. It also has channels around the edges that serve to collect the cooked-off fat. Perfect for steaks and hamburgers. You can also find varieties that have dual surfaces flat and with ridges. Like a griddle, larger versions can sit over more than one burner, making it perfect for bigger families or entertaining.
Paella Pan Originally used to cook the Mediterranean dish paella, this pan can be used to prepare a variety of sautés and casseroles. It's characterized by its wide, flat bottom, rounded sides and in most instances, loop handles. The elegant and functional design is wonderful for serving at the table.
Pressure Cooker Save time! Pressure cookers cook food at higher temperatures without burning. You can save up to 75% off the normal time that it takes to cook dishes. Risotto, which would normally take 45 minutes, only takes 7 with a pressure cooker. Beef stew, normally 70 minutes, only takes 15. Plus, it's a healthy way to cook because food cooks evenly and nutrients are locked inside.
Sauté Pan Similar to a fry pan, but with higher, straighter sides, the sauté pan is also extremely versatile. Its flat bottom and deeper sides allow food greater contact with the heat source, so cooking is quicker. It can be used for anything from sautéing meats to frying chicken to grilling sandwiches. Choose a material that conducts heat quickly and evenly, such as lined copper, stainless steel-wrapped aluminum or anodized aluminum. Nonstick surfaces are not preferred.
Stir-Fry/Wok Popular and all-purpose. What more can we say? The high slopping sides have a bowl-like appearance and give you lots of control and versatility while cooking. It allows for fast and easy rotating, so you can cook perfectly, enhance flavor and retain nutrients. It can also have a flat or rounded bottom depending on which heat source you are using. Flat bottoms are best with electric burners and round are best with flame burners.
Riveted is the sturdiest type of handle. In this application, the handle is permanently applied to the pot or pan with rivets.
Welded: just as the name implies, the handles are welded onto the pot or pan, which provides a smooth interior. This is not as durable as a riveted handled.
Screwed on: yep, you guessed it plastic handles are screwed to an exterior part of the pot or pan. This type of handle is less secure than a riveted handle. However, it does provide a smooth interior cooking surface. Plus, if the handles do come loose, you can easily screw them back on with a screwdriver!