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All the Best Pots and Pans We’ve Ever Written About

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of the retailers.

Owning a ton of pots and pans isn’t necessary (even if you cook a lot). But owning a mix of the right ones is. No one is more familiar with the intricacies of day-to-day cookware use than chefs, and while some depend on fancy, professional-grade brands like Mauviel in their homes just as much as their work (and recommend them if you can afford it), most say a mix of dependable stainless steel, decent nonstick, and workhorse cast-iron (everyone loves Lodge skillets) cookware does the trick for anything and everything you’d need to whip up in the kitchen.

We’ve asked chefs, recipe developers, and food writers to share their thoughts on the very best pots and pans for daily cooking, and we’ve tried some ourselves. Here’s the Strategist-approved list.

The best overall saucepan

When we spoke to experts to find the best-in-class saucepans, the top recommendation was All-Clad’s 1.5-quart-size pan. Strategist kitchen and dining writer Emma Wartzman says the pan’s aluminum core allows it to heat up quickly and evenly, and the stainless-steel finish means it’s easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and durable. Lili Dagan, a culinary director at Blue Apron, describes the pan as a gateway piece into nicer cookware, saying “it’s reliable and sturdy, and it will show your parents that you have decent taste.” Patch Troffer, a former chef at Marlow & Sons and now a recipe developer at Row 7 Seed Co., is a fan of the pan’s pour lip, which allows liquid to flow “without any annoying drip,” he says. “I know it’s not a particularly riveting choice,” Troffer says. “But it will get the job done, always and forever.”

The best (less-expensive) saucepan

This pan from Cuisinart also has a stainless-steel finish and aluminum core, but it’s a third of the price of the All-Clad above. Strategist senior editor Winnie Yang has owned hers since 2017 and says “the quality is exceptional for the very reasonable price.” She uses it at least five times a week for cooking grains or heating soup and just sticks it in the dishwasher afterward for easy cleaning.

The best cast-iron skillet

Yes, we just said that everyone loves Lodge skillets. And that’s true. But if there is one cast-iron skillet that might have a leg up on Lodge, it’s Joan from Butter Pat Industries. It’s polished, which the Lodge isn’t, meaning your food is less likely to stick to its surface, and it’s lighter, too. “The Joan from Butter Pat Industries sits on my stove perpetually, waiting for the next use,” says North Carolina chef Katie Button of Katie Button Restaurants. “I use it for just about everything that I could possibly use it for, and sometimes for more than I should. Steak, scallops, fish, vegetables — they all brown up perfectly.”

The best (less expensive) cast-iron skillet

As a material, cast iron can get really hot and retain that heat, go from stove to oven, and hold a nonstick surface if seasoned properly, Wartzman says. Lodge’s pre-seasoned cast-iron skillet does all that, and it’s just $20. Wartzman says that “if you only had to cook with this single one for the rest of your life, you’d be pretty okay,” while Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo says the skillet is “the very best thing she bought in the entirety of the last decade.” Professional chefs are just as fond of the durable pan. “It always comes in handy and never disappoints,” says Alon Shaya, a New Orleans–based chef and restaurateur. Daniel Cutler, co-owner and chef of Ronan in Los Angeles, agrees that “this pan will last you forever.”

The best nonstick frying pan

Wartzman has been frying, crisping, griddling, and toasting with the Zwilling Madura for about three years, and she says it hits the sweet spot of what experts say is the key to a good nonstick pan: affordable and well made. Speaking to its quality, recipe developer and writer Rebecca Firkser says that despite the pan’s nonstick finish, “when I’ve scraped the pan accidentally, I’ve never seen a scratch on the surface.” It’ll even survive the dishwasher, says recipe developer and cookbook author Molly Baz, who has cleaned hers this way for five years and says it has shown “no signs of degraded coating.” Baz says she also loves how ergonomic the handle feels, saying she “can hold it in one hand without it hurting my wrist or flopping over to the side.”

The best (less expensive) nonstick frying pan

For half the price of the Zwilling Madura, you can get this eight-inch Cuisinart nonstick pan. Wartzman also owns this skillet and has used it regularly for two years. The nonstick interior is reinforced with titanium, so “leftover bits hardly require any scrubbing to get off (if they exist at all),” Wartzman says. “This skillet has held up beautifully so far.”

The best nonstick skillet with high sides

Although Our Place’s Always Pan is divisive, with some users saying the nonstick coating doesn’t hold up, Wartzman has found it to be durable and highly versatile in the years she has owned it. While she says she’s not convinced it will fulfill the company’s claim of replacing eight different pieces of cookware, she says she does “find it to be exceedingly useful because of the high sides, which offer protection from splatter when I’m searing fish and from spillage when I’m making a big batch of something like fried rice.” Strategist editor Maxine Builder is “obsessed with it” but takes care to use low-to-medium heat and only hand-washing after it has cooled down completely. For a non-Strategist recommendation, Lani Halliday, owner and founder of Brutus Bakeshop, gives her stamp of approval, saying that the “weight, heft, and finish are all excellent.”

The best sauté pan

If you’re cooking larger quantities of food, like a risotto or seafood pasta, consider the saucier pan, which is slightly taller than your standard frying pan. “A large sauté pan with two-thirds-inch sides is the most important pot you should own,” says chef Tony Cacace of Jackson’s Eatery. “It’s perfect for almost anything that has a longer cooking time but needs a gentle hand. It will handle everything from oatmeal and black-rice porridge for breakfast to risotto for dinner and ice-cream bases for dessert.”

The best stainless steel frying pan

If you’re stocking a home kitchen, Wartzman says you can’t go wrong with a stainless-steel pan for fast, even heat distribution, and All-Clad is the best. Robert Guimond, the chef and owner of restaurant Public Display of Affection in Brooklyn, swears by his. “It’s durable and it’s beautiful,” he says. “I often find myself daydreaming about sautéing some gnocchi or scallops with it right after I’m done washing it.”

The best carbon steel pan

Sometimes cast-iron pans can be a little too hard-core, especially when cooking delicate foods like crêpes and seafood. Carbon-steel pans, with their smoother surfaces and lighter weight, are ideal for having all the qualities of cast iron minus the rough surface. “They basically act like a nonstick if they’re well-seasoned,” Cutler says. Luckily, chef-favorite Lodge also makes carbon-steel pans. “I use mine for everything from paella to pressing Cubanos because they are quite heavy,” says chef Jordan Wallace, the culinary director of Denver’s Pizzeria Locale. “And over a coal or wood fire camping, these are clutch.”

The best overall Dutch oven

Wartzman has owned this Staub Dutch oven for seven years, and it’s the one that was recommended by the most experts in our “Best in Class.” Although the Le Creuset model is a classic and popular choice, Staub offers a couple standout features. It has a black interior instead of Le Creuset’s white, so it “looks great with age and doesn’t discolor as easily,” says Colin Wyatt, executive chef at Twelve in Portland, Maine. Grace Elkus, a recipe developer and food writer, and recipe developer Tara O’Brady are both also fans of Staub’s darker color for baking since it helps bread get “that chestnut-brown shade, which lighter interiors aren’t able to achieve,” O’Brady says. The Staub also features a lid with concentric dimples on the bottom. Meherwan Irani, owner of Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina, and founder of Spicewalla, likes that these indents promote even condensation inside the pot, saying that “when it’s in the oven for a long time, the Staub seems to keep meat particularly tender and prevents it from drying out in any spot.”

The best (less expensive) Dutch oven

And for a fraction of the price of the Staub or the Le Creuset, Lodge’s enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is an affordable and well-made favorite of both Irani and Todd Pulsinelli, executive chef of the Chloe in New Orleans. Both chefs say they’ve had theirs for about eight years and still use them all the time with Irani saying that the Dutch oven is “pretty damn near indestructible.” Although he acknowledges that the Staub looks a bit more refined, Irani says he appreciates that the Lodge comes in multiple colors.

The best high-end Dutch oven

But if you’re looking for a ubiquitous model and don’t mind the slightly higher cost, “Le Creuset pans are workhorses, and they’re made to really, really last,” says Sohui Kim, chef at Insa. “They’re very durable, conduct heat tremendously well, and look super nice.” She uses hers for brazing, soups, stock, anything she wants to stick into the oven, and even a “lazy bowl of quick instant ramen.” Alexandra Wight, owner of Crown Jewel in Great Diamond Island, Maine, has owned hers for almost two decades and hasn’t noticed discoloration. “I love that you can throw it in the dishwasher,” she says. “I don’t always do that, but I like to know that the option is there, especially as a mother of three children who make a lot of dishes.” If you’re interested in a Dutch oven but don’t want to invest quite so much (though, we really do believe it’s worth it), check out our reviews of the best Le Creuset dupes.

The best griddle

No less than six chefs we spoke with declared their unending love for Lodge, and if you already own its skillet, consider stocking up on its equally beloved griddle. “The griddle lives on top of our stove nonstop, and we basically use it like a restaurant flat top,” says Gracie Nguyen, the chef and owner of East Side Banh Mi in Nashville. “Bacon, eggs, hash browns, handmade tortillas, pressed sandwiches, searing meat and fish. It gets so hot and cooks super-even.”

The best woklike frying pan

While traditional V-shaped woks are large with extremely tall walls for stir-frying and a second handle for easy maneuverability around a high flame, Lucas Sin, chef at Junzi Kitchen and Nice Day, recommends this woklike pan if you want the signature shape in a more compact size. The pan has a wider bottom than other woks, which Sin says he prefers “for as much surface contact as possible.” It also has slightly lower sides than other woks, but the walls are still tall enough that it “can be used for braising, steaming, and boiling,” Sin says. If you’re looking for a more traditional wok, check out more reviews here.

The best pot for hot pot

While you could use a shallow stockpot or Dutch oven for simmering broth at a hot-pot party, Strategist contributor Natasha Pickowicz says this double-chambered hot pot “is useful for vegan or vegetarian guests” because the divider keeps their broth separate from the meat eaters’. It’ll also serve three to four guests, Pickowicz says. 

The best donabe

This Toiro donabe is a favorite of Jing Gao, the founder of Strategist-favorite brand Fly by Jing, who says the manual method makes rice taste better. That’s because, Toiro’s owner and donabe expert, Naoko Takei Moore, says, this model’s thicker shell provides even and steady heat distribution, while the double lid increases pressure and prevents overboiling. The rounded shape also allows for “the most ideal circulation of water and moisture and steam during cooking,” Takei Moore says. Whereas traditionally shaped donabes require paying more attention to heat levels, this version was designed to be as convenient as an electric model — simply set your flame high for 15 minutes, turn it off, and let it all sit for another 20 to steam.

The best (less expensive) donabe

Chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s and Mamahuhu loves the Kamacco, which has been produced in Japan by Tsukamoto Pottery since 1864 and is half the price of the Toiro. “It has a double lid that helps concentrate steam to cook rice better,” Jew says. “The pot can go over a low flame on the stove, but recently I took it camping with me and was able to cook rice over an indirect campfire. It can be used for heating things up, like stews, and retains heat really well, so serving food in this vessel will keep food at the table hot longer as well.”

The best nonstick frying pan set

“This is the best nonstick deal you’ll find,” says Cutler. “I like that they’re anodized [a heat treatment done to the aluminum to turn the surface nonstick] as opposed to coated with Teflon, which is toxic if it gets scraped up.” Nonstick isn’t meant to last your whole life the way cast iron is, even if you take good care of it. But after a couple of years of everyday use, Cutler’s pans are only just now starting to show some wear.

The best cast-iron set

$96

Lodge’s quality yet affordable cast-iron pans make the brand hard to beat. For only $100, this set gets you two skillets of different sizes, a griddle, and a Dutch oven. You can sear, sauté, braise, fry, and bake with this versatile arrangement of pieces, Wartzman says, and because it’s naturally nonstick (and will only get better with age), she calls it a worthwhile investment.

The best professional cookware set

If you’re going to invest, industry favorite Mauviel will last you a lifetime. “We got our copper Mauviel pots and pans as a gift,” Cutler admits, “but if I had unlimited money, I would only use these.” They’re a dream to cook with, he says, because “copper conducts heat, retains heat, and then cools down in an incredibly exacting way.”

If you want to keep your copper cookware looking like it has a place in Gusteau’s in Ratatouille (i.e., sparkling clean), people swear by Bar Keepers Friend. Cutler, however, has let his grow a patina over time. “I wash it with hot soapy water and an abrasive sponge as soon as I’m done cooking, because otherwise it’s hard to get food off — but that’s it,” he says. “I don’t mind the aged look.”

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All the Best Pots and Pans We’ve Ever Written About