essential pots and pans
for your kitchen

Which pots and pans for the kitchen? It's wise to ask, because otherwise you'll find yourself having to buy a bigger house to fit everything in, not least that stylish set of matching ceramic pans that you somehow thought was ideal. Let's face it, pan sets are only economical if you need, and use, them all.

So, here are a few ideas about what you should regard as essential...and then you can add to them as people ask what you'd like for Christmas. One thing to check in all cases, is that the pans are oven safe and suitable for all types of hob. They may not, however, all be dishwasher safe, but I always prefer to clean pans by hand anyway.

1. The true workhorse in the kitchen is the sauté pan, preferably 28cm/12-inch and with a lid, clear if available. One made from durable heavy gauge anodised aluminium provides for even heat distribution and has a solid finish. It also needs to be oven safe, up to 260°C and suitable for all heat sources. Many of the top quality pans of this type come with up to 25-year guarantees, so it makes sense to invest in the best you can reasonably afford.

2. A 20cm/8-inch saucier. Saucepans, as such, are fine, and have their place, but the advantage of the saucier is that it makes whisking and combining ingredients a doddle. These are great for poaching eggs and making risotto and other rice dishes.

3. A wok: Whether you stir-fry or not, a wok is one of the most versatile tools in the kitchen. It's perfect for indoor smoking, braising, and steaming. It's by far the best vessel for deep-frying; its wide shape and large volume make it easy to fit plenty of food in there with minimal contact and oil-use, with virtually no danger of splattering the stove-top with hot oil.

I actually use two types of wok: one a non-stick pan, and the other a traditional oriental carbon-steel plan.

4. An enamelled 22cm/9-inch casserole, made from cast iron, and ideal for slow braising and soups. Thick walls and a heavy lid a great for slow cooking.

The best don't come cheap, but once you've used one, you won't ever want to be without it.

5. All-purpose saucepans: you do need saucepans, for a variety of purposes, but steer away from buying sets (unless it's a set of three), and just get what you need...maybe just three in different sizes, one of which should be a milk pan with pouring lips. The other two should also have lids.

6. A steamer set, mainly for steaming vegetables in the upper two pans while cooking potatoes in the bottom one. Versatile and relatively inexpensive.

7. And finally, an 11-litre stock pot, something really big for making stock, large quantities of soup, and ideal for cooking mussels, which are so popular all around the coast of France.


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