If you’ve watched any cooking shows, then you’ve probably seen your favorite celebrity chef chop, dice, whisk, and stir up some great dishes. They make it look so easy. But no matter what you do at home, you can’t quite get the same results. What gives? Before you blame the recipe (which we know you followed to a T), take a closer look at the cookware you’re using.
You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It should all turn out the same in the end anyway, right?” Well…not exactly. Different pots and pans serve different purposes — and knowing what each should be used for can not only help you improve your at-home cooking, but also inspire you to try new recipes, flavors, and techniques. Get ready to channel your inner Gordon Ramsay and use your stainless steel cookware set like a pro.
You probably have a couple fry pans in your cupboards. Designed for fast cooking over high heat, its flat bottom and rounded sides make it easy to flip and turn food.
Stainless steel cookware sets typically come with fry pans in various sizes: 8 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches. Grab the smallest when you want to toast nuts or spices, the medium when you want to quickly fry a couple salmon fillets, and the large when you want to watch an entire carton of spinach magically shrink before your eyes. We love adding a tiny bit of butter, a whole lot of garlic, and a splash of red wine to our spinach — toss some roasted walnuts on top, and you’ve got yourself a snazzy-but-simple side dish.
It sounds self explanatory, and yes, a sauce pan is great for making sauces. But there’s so much more this pan can do for you.
A small, 2-quart sauce pan is ideal for heating soups and small amounts of leftovers. Even if there’s a microwave handy, we always opt for reheating food on the stove: it gives you the chance to stir in some extra herbs and spices, so you can bring your dishes back to life. A 4-quart sauce pan, on the other hand, should be used for anything that requires large amounts of liquid for boiling or simmering (think grains like rice, quinoa, and oatmeal). Steel-cut oats is our go-to breakfast in the cooler months: try adding cinnamon, turmeric, hemp hearts, or flaxseeds the next time yours is simmering away for an extra boost of flavor and nutrition.
If you have any childhood memories of dance instructors telling you to “sauté!”, then you’ll know it means “jump”. A sauté pan is similar to a fry pan, but deeper and with straight (rather than rounded) sides. It also has a lid, which means it’s the perfect pan for letting your food jump around.
A sauté pan should be your go-to when you’re cooking something that needs to be shaken, stirred, or tossed — and it’s especially great if you want to cook your entire meal in just one pan. Brown up some onions and other vegetables, add some crushed tomatoes and your favorite spices and herbs, and bring to a simmer. Once it smells amazing, add in some cooked pasta and stir to coat for a foolproof, delicious meal with no mess.
This is the big guy. He’s heavy — weighing in at six pounds — and large enough to hold eight quarts, and he’s here for you when there’s a crowd to feed.
The stock pot is perfect for soups, stews, and chilis, because you can brown your ingredients first before adding liquids. These pots also come with lids, so once you’ve given everything a stir, you can cover it, let things cook slowly, and make the whole house smell irresistible.
We also love using stock pots to make homemade vegetable broth. Start collecting your leftover peels, cores, and other root vegetable scraps (you can freeze them until you’ve collected a few big handfuls worth). When you have enough, dump it all into a stock pot and cook until browned and fragrant; then, add a few cups of water. Let simmer for an hour or so, strain, and store in the fridge until needed. It’s a simple way to cut down on food waste and take your cooking skills to the next level.
Have we inspired you to try something new in the kitchen? Browse our collection of fry pans, sauté pans, and stock pots, and start making better use of your stainless steel cookware. With the right equipment and appliances, anyone can be a successful home cook.