Kitchen Pots and Pans Buying Guide: Cast-Iron Skillet, Stock Pot, Dutch Oven

Buying a pan set is tempting. You can go from zero to fully equipped with a single click, everything on your stovetop will match, and maybe they’ll even stack neatly when you put them away. You could also put a whole pricey set on a wedding registry and hope that some big spender is feeling generous.

Ya know what, though? Don’t. Like knives, finding a one-size-fits-all solution that works for you is near impossible. You probably already have a couple of pans kicking around, potentially creating needless duplicates. You could also end up with more or less than you want. Plus, one company’s fantastic skillet does not guarantee the quality of its saucepan.

Here’s an alternative: Just get what I’ve got. My collection certainly has its quirks—I don’t own a saucepan, for example—but I make a living with this setup and have no problem working around these limitations. These picks have all stood the test of time in my kitchen, but I encourage you to get only what you need, when you need it. I’ve broken things down from top to bottom starting with absolute essentials, offering a few alternatives, and ending with few things I’m still experimenting with.

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