I recently purchased myself a cast iron skillet and it has legitimately revolutionised my way of cooking. I took the plunge after seeing a heat mark emerging on my beloved non-stick pan. It made me realise what I have always known, non-stick or Teflon coated pans simply can’t handle high heat. Surprisingly a cast iron skillet also wasn’t as big an investment as I had anticipated. So with my recent purchase in mind, I thought I’d share my five essential pots and pans that everyone needs in their kitchen drawer. If you have any to add, please drop a comment below! I’m sure that this list could grow.
I’ve long believed that cheap and cheerful is absolutely the way to go with non-stick pans as they simply ruin so easily. For years I’ve used these pans from Clicks and when taken good care of (i.e. avoiding using sharp tools), it lasts around 2 years each.
I definitely would have continued using them, if our family hadn’t made all our 90’s kid dreams come true when they gifted us Bauer Pro pans for our wedding. I haven’t tried blowing off burned milk, nor would I any time soon (bonus point if you catch the Verimark reference). These pans feature a thicker bottom, which is great for heat distribution and prevents sauces from burning. They have lasted fairly well, as we’ll be married four years this October. The glass lid that we received with it hasn’t seen as much use, but is definitely worth purchasing even if you’re only using it every so often as it can easily be used on other pans of a similar size later on.
When I do eventually replace them I’m keen to try a ceramic pan like these from Greenpan. They are supposedly amazing, although I can’t vouch for them myself. Obviously this one with the gold handle is the dream.
Use for: Pancakes, eggs, sauces. Things that require low-heat and are prone to sticking.
I own this one: Bauer Pro 26 cm pan with glass lid
Cast-iron pan/ skillet
There are so many options and different price points to consider when purchasing a cast-iron pan, so I did my research. I already owned a coated cast iron casserole that I’ve chipped despite working with it very carefully. So I knew from the get-go that a coated option simply wasn’t going to work for me. Plus the coated versions can’t handle very high heat, although I think here we’re talking naked flame heat in this case. A cast-iron skillet does of course also make the perfect camping partner.
The only down-side to a non-coated version seemed to be that it doesn’t love water or acidity. But even if you ruin the coating with either, it can easily be cleaned and re-seasoned. Depending on how much trouble you’re willing to go to, the seasoning can also be a little time-consuming. Although it only needs to be done at the beginning and as necessary later on.
What I really appreciated about these pans is that it seems to be a purchase for life. Even if you do damage it with a little rust, it is generally nothing that a little scrubbing and seasoning can’t fix. Plus they are easy to find for around R300-R400. Don’t be put off by the rough surface, they do become smoother as you season them and cook with it.
Use for: Searing and cooking meat, stir-frying veg and cook top to oven dishes.
I own this one: Outdoor Warehouse Fireside Cast-iron Skillet
Coated Cast-iron Casserole
The iconic Le Creuset casserole, a French kitchen staple, should have a home in every stew loving kitchen. Think something like Jamie’s beef stew or Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon. It definitely gets more use in the winter months, but I also use it as my second pot when entertaining.
I chose to go with a coated cast-iron for this as the dishes I’d typically cook are very acidic, often featuring chopped tomatoes and wine. As mentioned before, acidity can ruin the seasoning of a non-coated cast iron which could then lead to rust. Do be warned though, they chip easily and could start to rust if you’re not careful with any exposed cast iron.
Oh and let me let you into a secret, you don’t need to spend upwards of R3k on a real Le Creuset! Any ceramic coated cast iron casserole will do the job, although I’ve only had mine for about 4 years it does show its age.
Use for: Casseroles, stews, soups and as a pot.
I own this one: 26 cm Inferno Cast Iron Casserole from @Home
Thick Bottom Stainless Steel Pot
Often sold in sets of 20 – 24 pieces, a stainless steel pot is a truly versatile piece of kitchen equipment. Few households requires more than one or two of these and it is a case of quality versus quantity.
A good quality pot doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge.
Avoid a non-stick coating as it could be damaged by the heat required in some cooking methods and it serves no purpose in making soups and cooking rice. Similarly you want the handles to also be made from stainless steel as opposed to plastic, this way you know that the entire pot consists only of virtually indestructible stainless steel.
The last requirement is one of the hardest to come by, but a thicker bottom is absolutely essential when it comes to heat consistency for delicate things like making a roux or preparing choux pasta.
We cashed in our wedding vouchers on a 3-ply Le Creuset stainless steel boiler, which was one of the few thick bottom pots available at the time. AMC also make great ones, but their handles are plastic and I’d also check out newer ranges at @Home like Smeg and Baccarat although I’m not sure that they feature thicker bottoms.
Use for: Boiling pasta, rice, soups, sauces, makeshift double-boiler
I own this one: 24cm Le Creuset 3Ply Steel Casserole
You could stop at the four above, but it is likely that you’ll feel the need for at least one other pot or pan to suit your cooking style or favourite food.
A griddle cast-iron steak pan, a non-stick wok, a second stainless steel pot or a smaller non-stick pan for eggs and omelettes could be considered an essential depending on how often you cook what and the size of your family. It is all about tailoring your selection to your needs.
Let me know if you found this post helpful or whether you’d add anything to the list? I’m always keen to find new kitchen accessories and cookware to make the everyday task of cooking simpler and more enjoyable.
P.S. You can see how well-loved my pieces are in the pictures above. They’re pretty well seasoned, with at least twelve years between them.