I love to cook and bake. I cook at least six days a week (we do takeout/delivery on Fridays for a treat) for my family, especially in the last year. With all four of us spending more time at home, we’ve been eating more meals at home. Since my schedule can be a little erratic, I have come to rely on a few trusted pans to handle everything from breakfast to dinner to dessert. They are the workhorses of my kitchen, the pans I reach for every day whenever I prepare a meal. Below are my five favorite multi-use pans and tips on how to maximize their use.
I have gone through a few different brands of non-stick skillets, and T-Fal is my favorite. I use mine every day for pancakes or eggs in the morning, quesadillas at lunch, or stir-frys for dinner. They come in a few different sizes. I keep two, an 8.5-inch and a 12-inch. My 8.5-inch permanently lives on the stove top for easy access. The best part is that they are oven safe (as long as they don’t have a wooden or plastic handle) up to 500 degrees F. You can always double check the manufacturer’s instructions before you buy to be sure.
Tip: To maintain the life of your non-stick skillet, clean gently with a non-abrasive sponge and soap. No steel wool needed.
As an 80’s kid, I loved the Pyrex commercials! How cool was it to see food boiling in its pot! Pyrex dishes have always been synonymous with potlucks to me. Someone always brought a casserole or a side dish in one at any party I attended. I use mine for small casseroles, gratins, and of course, pies. Use them in the microwave or the oven and serve from the pan, and they are excellent for chilled dishes as well.
Tip: Place pie dish on sheet pan to catch drips that bubble over from the dish.
This heavy weight does it all: braise, roast, fry, sauté, and even bakes bread. It’s an investment, but nothing retains the heat better for frying chicken, fries, mozzarella sticks or anything else for that matter. I use mine for stove-to-oven braises, long-simmering soups and stews, frying, baking, and my Sunday roasts. A 5.5 quart is heavy, and quite large, but it can accommodate a 5lb roast comfortably. If the meat you’re cooking is long, consider an oval Dutch oven of the same size.
Tip: This pan may require elbow grease to clean. Clean right after use to minimize stuck-on food.
This pan is commonly referred to as the brownie pan, but I use it for all my bar-type desserts, sheet cakes, and other desserts that need more real estate than a pie pan. I also use it for larger casseroles, like lasagna, baked ziti, smothered pork chops, and even roasts. I often roast a chicken in mine when I want to catch the pan juices to make gravy. Its higher sides keep liquids in.
Tip: Line the pan with parchment paper or foil to ensure your baked/roasted goods come out with ease.
The fifth and final pan in my cooking arsenal is a half-sheet pan. They are the shallowest of all the pans featured here, but the short sides are necessary for maximum heat exposure. I can make a whole meal on a half sheet. Ever hear of sheet pan dinners? This pan is made for that and more! Besides the usual dozen of cookies and mountains of roasted vegetables (potatoes and asparagus are family favorites), I love using sheet pans for batch cooking in the oven, like searing a few pounds of meatballs, browned chicken thighs, or a pound of bacon. When I don’t have to babysit searing meat, I can cook another part of the meal, like pasta sauce and noodles for dinner or eggs for breakfast. Lastly, they are good for use with other pans like #2 and #4 to catch the drips and spills from smaller pans.
Tip: When purchasing a half-sheet pan, look for ones that feel heavy. Heavy ones can take the heat a little better and are less likely to warp over time.
These days, it seems like the cooking never ends, even for someone like me that loves to cook. The clock is always ticking when my family is hungry; but armed with these five pans, I can conquer any meal. What pans do you use every day?
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