THE best cooking pans will yield the best results when you’re whipping up something delicious to eat.
But with so many sizes of pans and different materials to choose from, where do you start?
Think about your cooking habits now and what pans you get the most use of and those that have been sidelined to the back of the cabinet.
If you’ve just moved into your own home and are starting out – or want to throw away your current pans and start again – there are some must-haves.
These are a large frying pan, three saucepans of varying sizes (often sold in a set so they match) and a big, deep stockpot or casserole dish for cooking in large quantities.
After that, there are plenty of other pans you could get for specific cooking tasks, such as woks, griddle pans, small milk pans and sauté pans – but perhaps they’re not essential.
Your next decision is what material the pans should be made of, though you can always mix and match as some materials are better at some cooking tasks than others.
Here we take you through what’s available, their pros and cons and which brands are best.
1. Stainless Steel
These are the workhorses of the pan world as they’re ideal for almost every cooking task, especially browning meat and braising.
They’re stylish, as the handles are often made from stainless steel too, giving a uniform look.
As a result, the whole pan can be put into the oven as well as on the hob (don't forget oven gloves).
Pros: Durable, easy to care for, heats up quickly, dishwasher and oven-safe and usually compatible with induction hobs.
Cons: Can be tough to clean, especially if uncoated.
Best Brands: Circulon & All-Clad
Power of three
- Circulon Ultimum Stainless Steel 3-Piece Pan Set, £144, John Lewis – buy here
This set comprises 16cm, 18cm and 20cm lidded saucepans with Circulon’s special non-stick coating.
You can use metal utensils with these pans and pop them in the oven, plus they come with a lifetime guarantee.
- All-Clad Stainless Steel 4-Quart Saute Pan with Lid, £258.26, Amazon – buy here
All-Clad pans aren’t cheap, but they’re brilliant for all types of cooking and will last for a very long time.
And this sauté pan comes with a lid for added versatility, and is deep too so can double up as a frying pan.
As this is a US brand, their pans are listed in quarts – four quarts is 4.5 litres.
Made so that food glides off the surface, they’re perfect for more delicate dishes such as eggs and pancakes.
Little or no oil is needed, making them a good choice if you’re looking to cut fat from your diet.
Pros: Very easy to clean; can be used in the oven, depending on handle material and also on induction hobs, depending on what it’s made from.
Cons: Can scratch easily, especially if metal utensils are used; more difficult to brown food.
Best Brand: Tefal
- Tefal Supreme Plus 32cm Non-Stick Aluminium Fry Pan, £21, Argos – buy here
Tefal’s cookware comes with a Thermo-Spot in the middle of the pan, which tells you when the pan is at the ideal temperature to start cooking.
This frying pan has a scratch-resistant coating, is oven safe up to 175°C and is dishwasher safe. It’s also great value too.
4. Enamelled Cast Iron
Good-looking and very durable, these pans can be transferred from your hob or oven straight to the dining table.
They’re great for searing and browning meat, as well as slow cooking and stewing.
Pros: Heats up evenly and retains heat well, the enamel coating doesn’t react with acidic ingredients and is corrosion resistant. They’re also dishwasher and oven-safe.
Cons: Heats up slowly and very heavy – even heavier when filled with food – and the enamel can chip.
Best Brand: Le Creuset
- Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron 28cm Round Casserole, Marseille Blue, £225, John Lewis – buy here
This gorgeous, iconic casserole dish is hand-crafted, so it’s not cheap, but will last you a lifetime if looked after properly.
It’s the lightest cast-iron cookware on the market and can be used on the hob, in the oven and even on a barbecue.
Choose from 10 colours and five sizes
Copper pans look stunning, provide quick, even cooking and cool down fairly rapidly too.
The thicker the gauge of the copper, the more durable the pans will be – look for 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch thick.
Pros: A great all-rounder pan that cooks practically everything well; very stylish; can be used in the oven if the handles are made from copper, stainless steel or brass.
Cons: Very expensive and can dent easily. Incompatible with induction hobs and require regular cleaning with copper cleaner if you don’t like a patina to build up over time. Must be cleaned by hand.
Best Brand: Mauviel
- Mauviel M'Heritage150 24cm Copper Saute Casserole & Lid with Stainless Steel Handles, £359, Amazon – buy here
Yes, copper pans are expensive, but if ever there was an investment piece of cookware, this is it.
Copper inherently heats up quickly, so this casserole dish will cook rapidly and evenly, while the stainless-steel interior coating makes it easy to clean.
Pop it in the oven or use on a hob.
Aluminium is a brilliant heat conductor and lightweight, so aluminium pans are easy to lift and move around.
They can stain and discolour pale foods, though, so look for anodised aluminium pans to counteract this.
Pros: Most affordable pans available, lightweight and strong. They’re dishwasher safe but can dull and scratch over time, so are probably best washed by hand.
Cons: Can discolour some foods and impart a bitter taste if not anodised.
Best Brand: Prestige
- Prestige Duraforge 28cm Aluminium Square Grill Pan, £29.99, Amazon – buy here
One for steak lovers, this roomy 28cm aluminium griddle pan has a stainless-steel base for even heat distribution, plus it can be used on all types of hob, including induction.
It has a five-layer non-stick coating for durability and dishwasher and oven safe up to 180ºC.
If the best cooking pans are a start, but you're looking to kit out your kitchen, have a look at the best slow cookers you can buy.
Looking for more great household goods? Take a look at our sun Selects Home section.
And you can find an even wider range of recommendations on the Sun Selects main page
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