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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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