How Many Pots & Pans You Really Need

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Moving into your first place is a time full of excitement and newfound independence. Decorating and furnishing your home brings up all kinds of questions, but when it comes to the kitchen, the biggest inquiry is: Just how many pots and pans do I really need?

You will need a quality set of six pots and pans to get started in your kitchen. You should get two frying pans and two saucepans in varying sizes, as well as one good stockpot and a saute pan. This will cover the essentials for basic, everyday cooking. 

In this article, I will break down the different types of pots and pans you will need and why they are essential. I will also share with you the benefits of non-stick and stainless steel options, as well as my favorite, budget-friendly cookware sets. You’ll be ready to host your first dinner party in no time! 

How Many Frying Pans Do You Need?

You need two frying pans in your kitchen: an 8” (20.32 cm) and a 12” (30.48 cm). These two sizes work best for a multitude of recipes, allowing you the ability to cook pretty much whatever you wish. 

An 8” (20.32 cm) frying pan is an excellent tool for making:

  • Single-serving meals
  • Easy flapjacks
  • The perfect omelet

12” (30.48 cm) pans are fantastic for:

  • Everything-in-one-pan meals
  • Serving groups of 4-6 people
  • Searing steak, chicken, or fish
  • Sauteing vegetables

These two pans should cover your bases for most recipes, but if you wish to add a third frying pan to your collection, a 10” (25.4 cm) pan is also handy to have! A 10” (25.4 cm) pan is a nice, happy medium when the 8” (20.32 cm) isn’t quite big enough, and the 12” (30.48 cm) is too large. It’s also great to have an extra pan at the ready when cooking larger meals that require multiple pans.

How Many Saucepans Do You Need?

You need two quality saucepans to fulfill your basic cooking needs. Be sure to choose two different sizes, one large and one small. Saucepans are most commonly used in heating liquid for things like soups, broth, gravy, and sauces

These pans are also excellent for reheating leftovers, cooking one-pot meals, and making rice. The saucepan size you need will depend on the amount of liquid you need to heat or the amount of food you are trying to prepare. For most recipes, having both a 2-quart (64 fl. oz) and a 4-quart (128 fl. oz) saucepan should have you covered. 

What Size Stock Pot Do You Need?

You will need an 8-quart (256 fl. oz) stockpot on hand. This medium-size pot is a great choice for most of your cooking needs and is still small enough to be stored with ease.

Stockpots are great for brewing delicious chili, comforting soups, basic broth, and heartwarming stews. Stockpots typically range in size from 5 quarts (160 fl. oz) to 16 quarts (512 fl. oz).  

Choose the right size pot for your kitchen by considering the number of people you will be feeding and the amount of food you will be cooking at any one time. I recommend the 8-quart (256 fl. oz) pot because it isn’t huge, but it still has enough room to boil a 1 pound (16 oz) bag of pasta! 

Do You Need a Saute Pan?

You need a saute pan for cooking with both liquids and dry heat. Because its sides are vertical, rather than tapered like a frying pan, a saute pan does a great job of keeping liquids and ingredients contained while stirring and sauteing. 

You can use a saute pan for cooking a wide variety of recipes. Some of the more popular ones include:

  • Stir Fry
  • Curries
  • Casseroles
  • Pasta
  • Sauces

You can also use saute pans for sauteing vegetables, browning, or searing meat. Because they usually come with a lid, they are also great for all-day simmering. 

These pans come in various sizes, but the most common one—and my recommendation—is a 4-quart saute pan.

Non-Stick vs. Stainless Steel Cookware

With so many cookware options out there, it can be tough to know which choice is right for you! To help you choose, here are a few of the pros and cons of both non-stick and stainless steel options. 

Pros and Cons of Non-Stick Cookware

Pros

  • Great for light cooking (eggs, fish filets)
  • Breaded meat or vegetables will not stick
  • Easy to clean
  • Requires less oil than stainless steel

Cons

  • Not recommended for high temperatures
  • Cannot be used for searing
  • Acidic foods can break down the non-stick coating

Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware

Pros

  • Long-lasting, strong and durable
  • Great for searing and browning
  • Responds quickly to temperature changes

Cons

  • Foods are more likely to stick to the pan
  • Can be difficult to clean
  • Does not hold heat as well as non-stick

Budget-Friendly Cookware Sets

Knowing what type of pots and pans to buy is only half the battle. Now that you know what you need, the shopping begins! 

Pots and pans can be purchased individually or as a complete set. I recommend buying a cookware set because they are typically more budget-friendly when purchased all-in-one. Cookware sets usually come with additional helpful gadgets like utensils, a strainer, and pot holders.

One of my favorite cookware sets is the Styled Settings 15-Piece Pots and Pans Set available on Amazon.com. This non-stick set has all of the essential pots and pans as well as silicone utensils and felt protector pads to prevent scratches during use and when stored away. I love that this set is both functional and stylish—it adds a little fun flair to your cooking experience! 
An excellent Stainless Steel option is the Cuisinart 77-11G Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel 11-Piece Cookware Set, also available for purchase on Amazon.com. In addition to the two frying pans, two saucepans, 3-quart (96 fl. oz) saute pan, and 8-quart (160 fl. oz) stockpot, this set also includes a handy stock pot steamer insert! This set is made by Cuisinart, a company long known for producing high-quality kitchen products.