Scan this QR Code to follow PureWow on Snapchat!

Your sweet Aunt Mildred bought you a beautiful 14-piece set of pots and pans…and after all these years, you still use only the frying pan and the saucepan. It’s time to get the other guys into the rotation (and, um, maybe finally find out what they’re actually for). Presenting the ultimate guide to every pot and pan in your cupboard.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Every Type of Squash

pot guide 21


What it is: A wide, shallow pan with a heavy bottom and a lid that fits tightly on top. It’s typically made of a heavy-duty material like cast iron or glazed ceramic, so it can withstand high heat on both the stovetop and in the oven. With a braiser, you can sear meat on the stove at a high heat, then add liquid and cook it (or braise, if you will) at a lower temperature in the oven.

What to make: Chicken and Dumplings

cauliflower gratin

Casserole Dish

What it is: This square or rectangular dish, typically made of ceramic or glass, is perfect for baking dishes in the oven on high heat. From polenta to French toast, this versatile vessel can cook way more than tuna noodle casserole. (Although it cooks that nicely, too.)

What to make: Cauliflower Gratin

sauce pan
FotoCuisinette/Getty Images


What it is: You probably have at least two or three of these in your cupboard. Use the little half-quart to melt butter, the two-quart to heat up tomato sauce and the four-quart to boil pasta. (Just remember: It’s always better to have a little extra room than to crowd the pan.)

What to make: One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

RELATED: Why You Should Never Add Olive Oil to Your Pasta Water

pot guide 4


What it is: Think of it as a rounded saucepan with a wider mouth—it’s designed to help sauces cook evenly while they’re reducing and often has a pouring lip. It’s great for gravy and risotto, too.

What to make: Orange, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Risotto

pot guide 51

Roasting Pan

What it is: This workhorse is usually made of aluminum or stainless steel, or if you really want to get fancy, copper. It’s perfect for cooking meat and veggies at the same time in the oven at high temperatures. So pile 'em high and drizzle the whole thing with olive oil.

What to make: One-Pan Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

pot guide 71

Frying Pan

What it is: If you have one non-stick item in your cupboard, it’s probably this guy. It makes a killer omelet, but pretty much anything else you cook in it will probably turn out OK, too. Keep it on hand at all times.

What to make: Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Cast Iron Skillet

What it is: It’s a total pain to keep clean (it involves salt and olive oil), but because it conducts heat evenly in and out of the oven and at any temperature, we’re sold. Best of all, you don’t need to transfer the food into another dish before you dig in.

What to make: Skillet Nacho Dip 

RELATED: 15 Easy Skillet Dinners That Are Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

dutch oven

Dutch Oven

What it is: OK, this isn’t the Dutch oven you put on your registry, is it? More about that later. This deep, cast-iron pot was invented by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1700s and is designed to cook a large batch of food almost anywhere: the stove, the oven, the grill, over a campfire, you name it. (You still have to clean it with the salt and oil process, though. See above.)

What to make: Campfire Nachos

pot guide 91

French Oven

What it is: This beauty is probably what you’ve been calling a “Dutch oven” all this time, and that’s totally cool. Le Creuset and other French companies made their own high-end enamel-coated variation as an update the original cast-iron version. But typically, the Dutch oven and the French oven can be used interchangeably in recipes. 

What to make: Chicken in White Wine

Sauté Pan

What it is: It looks kinda like a frying pan, but the sides are vertical instead of slanted out. This gives it a larger surface area, making it great for sautéing veggies and cooking saucy pasta dishes—best of all, your food won’t spill over the sides.

What to make: One-Pot Seafood Pasta

RELATED: 35 Totally New Ways to Cook Fish

pot guide 111
alexandrashevchenko/Getty Images


What it is: It’s a little portable grill that you can either plug in or heat on your stovetop. It’s the best way to grill meat, fish and veggies when it’s too cold or rainy to throw them on the barbecue.

What to make: Grilled Salmon with Lemon and Garlic

pot guide 121


What it is: This round-bottomed Chinese pot is ideal for cooking food quickly at extremely high temperatures. Cook lo mein, stir-fry veggies, fried rice and our favorite, General Tso’s cauliflower, in this one.

What to make: Chicken Lo Mein

RELATED: 13 Easy Stir-Fry Recipes That Won’t Ruin Your Diet

pot guide 13

Stock Pot

What it is: This is easily the largest pot in your kitchen (typically at least 12 quarts). Cook soup, chili or stew for a crowd, or freeze it and keep it all for yourself. Keep it simmering on the stove for hours to bring out the best flavor.

What to make: Ina Garten’s Homemade Chicken Stock

RELATED: This Veggie Chili Is Ready in 30 Minutes (and Uses Only One Pot)

From Around The Web