My Most-Used Pots and Pans

Hello and welcome! Recently I had a request from a reader for a post featuring my go-to pots and pans, and how I take care of them. I thought this would be a great idea because I am particular about such things and my belief is that if you have quality cookware and you care for it well, it will last you forever. So, today it’s My Most-Used Pots and Pans; how I use them, care for them and store them. Let’s go!

Cast Iron

cast iron pans

My number one go-to pans are my two cast iron skillets. The bottom one (pictured above) was handed down to me by my Mom. The other (top pan, pictured above) was a wedding gift from a dear friend. It’s made by a company called Field. I have only been using that one for about a year now, and you can see it already has a nice seasoning on it. And that’s really because I use it pretty much every day. Which, along with cleaning it properly, is the best way to develop a nice seasoning on your cast iron.

Once you get the hang of their heat conduction (which is amazing), they become reliable, easy to use and care for pans. And when they’re seasoned, they are truly nonstick. They hold heat so well that for delicate things, like greens, I often get the pan hot, add the item and shut off the heat, just letting the residual heat of the pan cook the greens.

Cleaning Cast Iron

If I cook something “dry”, like toasting bread or making croutons, I simply wipe the cast iron out with a dry paper towel. But for wet, or meat-based cooking I wash the pan in the sink with only hot water and a stiff bristle brush.

While the pan is still warm, but not so hot that you can’t comfortably hold the handle, add hot water to the pan. Use the stiff bristle brush to scrub out any leftover food. This brush has a flat, pointed top to scrape off anything that might be stubborn. If your pan is well-seasoned, nothing really sticks to it. Even if something seems stuck, as soon as the hot water hits the pan, everything comes up easily. Just lightly scrub it until the surface of the pan is smooth.

Dry the entire pan with a couple paper towels. I like to use paper towels because they can be more absorbent than dish towels. And it’s really important to thoroughly dry the pan because rust will develop very quickly if any wet spots are left to sit.

Maintain Your Seasoning

Drizzle a little grapeseed oil onto the cooking surface of the pan and rub it into the pan and up the sides. Then, rub the exterior surfaces of the pan with the oiled paper towel. You want to leave a nice matte finish, so if you need to swap out your paper towel for a fresh one to wipe excess oil, do that.

While caring for your pan this way is essential for maintaining a good seasoning, using your pan regularly and cooking dishes that help season your pan are the number one ways to create a good, nonstick seasoning. Field has a great guide for recipes that help season your pan; find that handy list, here. Remember that seasoning doesn’t develop overnight, and even if stuff gets stuck at first and it seems frustrating, just keep pressing on and cooking in your cast iron. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you will see both of these pans in constant use. Everything from Pizza and Cornbread to all kinds of One-Skillet Recipes.

My Most-Used Pots and Pans: Dutch Oven

My enameled Dutch Oven is the other piece of cookware I constantly reach for. I have two actually, one Lodge cast iron, which I mostly use for deep frying and for cooking things on the outdoor grill. The other is a 4 quart Dansk Dutch Oven, or casserole. The lid doubles as a trivet, which is super handy. I like this one a lot because the enameled interior is a cinch to clean and it’s nonstick. Simply hand wash it with hot soapy water and a soft sponge. I love to use this pot for recipes where I sear and sauté to make soups. Check out my recent Avgolemono recipe to see it in action.

dutch oven

My Most-Used Pots and Pans: Egg Pan

We eat eggs every week and I find that having a dedicated omelet pan is essential for omelets, gently scrambled eggs, and fried eggs. I do eggs in the cast iron too, but when I want to do low and slow eggs, this egg pan is the right tool for the job.

egg pan

This is an 9″ Omelet pan made by All Clad. It has a nonstick surface that, besides eggs, only sees a silicone spatula and a soft sponge. I am so particular about caring for this pan that I won’t even use a wooden spoon with it! And that care shows; it doesn’t have any scratches, nothing marring the surface. I have had this pan for about 4 years. Check out my How To Make: Eggs post to see it in use.

Pan washing tip: never try to wash a super hot pan. This might seem obvious, but the urge to wash a pan while it’s still hot is real. Who wants to let stuck-on stuff get more stuck by cooling off? But, if the pan is super hot and it comes in contact with water that is cooler than the temperature of the pan, your pan can warp. Less likely to happen with a steel pan, but it’s just good practice to get in the habit of. So let the pan cool off enough so that your hot tap water is hotter than the pan. Let the stuck-on stuff soak in hot water if need be.

My Most-Used Pots and Pans: Sheet Pans

Rimmed sheet trays are essential kitchen tools. Let me repeat: Rimmed sheet trays are essential kitchen tools. I have a mix of Nordic Ware and Focus Foodservice (which is a commercial food service brand). Nordic Ware are my favorite non-commercial sheet pans. They are sturdy and virtually nonstick. I have never had a hard time cleaning them.

sheet pans

I have two each of the sizes pictured above. From bottom to top; we have a Nordic Ware half sheet pan; a Focus Foodservice quarter sheet pan and a tiny one that had an unfortunate, accidental trip through the dishwasher. Lesson learned, these are hand-wash only, folks.

Same with the skillets, don’t take a hot pan and wash it in cooler water. That aluminum will warp. Sometimes I will let the pan soak with some hot soapy water and sometimes I need to use a steel wool, but there’s not really much elbow grease going into cleaning these pans. Plus, you can always use a sheet of parchment under whatever you’re cooking. I never do, unless I am baking cookies or biscuits – these pans can take it. One of my favorite things is use my quarter sheet pan for roasting a Spatchcock Chicken. I do a lot of pizzas in the tiny one, check out The Cheeseboard Pizza to see how I do it.

Copper Pot and Pan Set

Alex bought me a set of Lagostina Hammered Copper pans when we first moved in together. While I love this set, I hardly use them anymore, favoring my cast iron or Dutch oven instead. That said, certain pans in this set have their use. The stock pot and the deep sauté pan are my most-used pots and pans from this set. These pans are stainless steel on the inside with an aluminum core and a hammered copper exterior.

patina copper pan

Shining Up Copper

I have let my copper pots patina, meaning I have never, not once, brought them back to their original shine and color. I like the patina, actually. But I wanted to shine them up to show you how easy it is to clean copper pots, even if you have 4+ years of heat and cooking patina on them.

I am using a kitchen sponge with a very abrasive, coconut fiber scrubber on one side and a soft sponge on the other side; alternating between the two sides, with plenty of Bar Keepers Friend powder and water.

The difference is pretty profound! I still don’t mind the patina, but I had forgotten how bright and shiny the original copper looked!

shiny copper pan
The cleaned deep sauté pan, side-by-side with the saucepan.

All of my pans, including the Omelet pan, are oven safe; meaning I can go from stove top to oven without a worry. I recommend having at least one pan, if not all your pans, be of oven safe material. It not only makes one pan cooking a cinch, but oven safe materials mean durability – which translates to having your pots and pans for a lifetime. Eventually, the nonstick surface of my Omelet pan will deteriorate. But if I only have to replace that one, $100 pan someday in the future, I am totally good with that.

How I Store my Pots and Pans

Finally, I want to show you how I keep and organize my pots and pans. I designed our kitchen remodel based on organization and storage strategies that made the most sense for me. I am short, so all of the areas in which I keep my cooking tools are designed with my height limitations in mind. This meant all my lower cabinets are drawers. I have only one upper cabinet for items I rarely use. I divided my pots and pans between two drawers. One is for cast iron, the other is for my Lagostina Copper set.

cast iron drawer
My cast iron drawer contains a large wok, a paella pan (which is not cast iron), my two skillets, my Lodge Dutch oven, a bacon press, a tortilla press and a tiny sauce pan which is mostly used on the grill for mopping warm barbecue sauce.
lagostina drawer
The other pots and pans drawer has my Lagostina set with their lids, an All Clad pasta pot with a strainer, and my All Clad Omelet pan (which I used to hide, so no one but me could use it, since I worried about absent-minded
non-silicone spatula use. Told you I was particular!).
Sheet pan organization
I had custom dividers built into this skinny cabinet next to my oven. You can buy a divider insert to store sheet pans this way, which I recommend, if you have some space for it. It really makes pulling out the right size pan for the job a breeze.

I do hope you find My Most-Used Pots and Pans helpful, both as a guide to care for your pots and pans, but also as a glimpse into what I consider essential kitchenware. I don’t think anyone needs a 20-piece set of pots and pans. As I mentioned above, I rarely use my Lagostina set anymore; it’s great to have, but not a necessity. With only a few quality key pieces, you can cook anything! What are your favorite, can’t-live-without cookware items? Let me know in the comments, reach out on Instagram and facebook! Take care and be well everyone, xo Kelly

You Might Also Like

  • Jody
    February 24, 2021 at 8:23 am

    Kelly, I love the practical details you provide in your posts! Thank you very much for this essential information for new cooks and “cooks of a certain age” like myself!

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 8:25 am

      Hi Jody, Thanks so much! I appreciate you stopping by today. I love it: Cooks of a Certain Age! 🙂 Have a great Wednesday! xo Kelly

  • Beth Crawford
    February 24, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Thank you Kelly for sharing your pots and pans with us ! I absolutely love my cast iron and also use it everyday. The only thing I do differently is I heat my pans to dry them and while they are still warm I add my oil and use paper towel to get them coated. I’m just afraid I might miss a spot of dampness and this just works for me. I put my omelette pan in a pillowcase in my cupboard to avoid scratch’s. I guess that’s my anxiety showing up. You have wonderful cookware !

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 9:49 am

      Hi Beth! Yes, using the stove to heat dry the pans is a good way to dry them, I think the heat also helps with the absorption of the oil. My pans are usually still pretty hot from the hot water, so just drying them really well seems to do the trick for the oil absorption. Pillowcase storage is a great idea for the omelet pan! Thanks so much for stopping by today, it’s really great to hear from you! xo Kelly

  • Holly
    February 24, 2021 at 10:06 am

    Nice post, Kelly! I wish I had drawers for my pans. Gives me something to put on my wish list now 🙂

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 10:12 am

      Hello Holly! Oh my goodness, yes! Not having to search the back corners of cabinets is a low back and knee-saver for me. Thank you for dropping by today, it’s good to hear from you! I hope you have a great Wednesday, xo Kelly

  • Terry
    February 24, 2021 at 10:42 am

    I season my cast iron almost the same as you, it when I’m done cleaning it in water to make sure it is truly dry I will put it on a low burner for about 5 minutes then oil it up. Sometimes after that process I will put it in a 500 degree oven for 60 min turn off the oven and let it cool inside usually overnight it makes it more non stick

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 11:37 am

      Great tips, Mom! The pan you gave me has a wonderful nonstick surface now, thanks to your seasoning! Talk soon, xo Kelly

  • Paula
    February 24, 2021 at 1:55 pm

    This was interesting. I have a cast iron skillet I’m still trying to get used to. I’m new at cooking with cast iron.
    One question I have is do I have to re season it after every use? Mine does not have the shine your pan does. Mine is dull.
    Also I made your chicken and artichoke recipe in it but the next day when I went to reheat my leftovers everything looked grey. Not good!! I threw it out.
    So maybe I need to season this pan!!! What do you think.

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Paula, Interesting. I wonder if your pan came preseasoned…? I would start by washing it in hot water and use a steel wool to scrub out the inside, dry it very well with paper towels, and then dry it out further over a low burner for about 5 minutes. Then oil it with grapeseed oil, over the whole pan, keep wiping out the excess oil until you have a thin, matte layer of oil. Place it in a 500 degree oven for 60 minutes, then turn off the oven and let pan sit in there overnight.
      Then start cooking fatty foods on lower temperatures. It is recommended to use grapeseed oil when first seasoning a pan because grapeseed oil doesn’t degrade as quickly as many other oils and fats. Safflower oil is another good option. Avoid using olive oil or coconut oil when trying to establish that base coating of seasoning; at the beginning, when developing a strong base layer, avoid cooking acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus. Here’s a link to 5 recipes to cook in your pan to help season it:
      I would season it as described above, then get to cooking some caramelized onions, as recommended by Field Company (see above link). I hope that helps, Paula. Reach out if you need more clarification or have more questions.
      xo Kelly

      • Kelly Djalali
        February 24, 2021 at 2:18 pm

        One more thing, Paula. I don’t put my pan in the oven overnight every time I cook with it. I do, clean and oil it as described in the post after every meal I cook in it. Hope that answers your question. xo Kelly

      • Paula
        February 28, 2021 at 11:21 am

        Thanks! I’ll try this. I have to get some grape seed oil.

  • Susan Goins
    February 24, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Kelly! I have a set of stainless pots and pans but everything sticks in the fry pan. Is there a way to season stainless or do I need to lower the heat? Thanks for sharing these tips. I have a large cast iron and the only downside it’s heavy. I use Crisco oil to season mine. Sorry to be so chatty.

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 2:37 pm

      Hi Susan! No bother, I love to chat! Hm, about that fry pan…You can season a stainless steel pan. It’s similar to the cast iron seasoning process:
      Wash it with soap and water, dry it out well.
      Heat the pan on a burner set to medium and let it warm up.
      Then rub a light layer of grapeseed oil (or Crisco, if you prefer) over the interior surfaces of the pan.
      Let the pan begin to smoke and remove from heat. Once cool, wipe out excess oil. You can repeat this process as necessary.

      At high temps, meats and veggies will tend to stick to pans until there is enough of a sear on them to release from the metal surface. So, unless you’re intending to sear something, experiment with lower temps and see if that helps, too.

      About that cast iron…that is the downside they are heavy. Field Company’s pan is lighter than the other, vintage one I have. Crisco works for seasoning because it is a high smoke point fat. High smoke point fats like grapeseed and safflower oil are also good because they don’t break down as quickly as something like, olive oil.

      I hope I have helped you navigate that sticky pan issue. Thanks for writing in today! xo Kelly

  • Mary.
    February 24, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    Nice post. I’m going to try Barkeepers friend on my copper pan. Also, I store my pots on a stairway wall on hooks on a metal grid which is coated with a rubbery surface. I got the idea at a kitchen store. It works well for us.

    • Kelly Djalali
      February 24, 2021 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Mary! That’s a handy way to store pots and pans. That way you can see everything right there! I was amazed how well that Bar Keepers friend worked. Thanks for dropping by today! Have a great day! xo Kelly