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4 Tips for Picking the Right Cookware

Pro Tips for Choosing Pots & Pans with Haven’s Kitchen

Haven’s Kitchen

May 3, 2022

When we talk about cookware, it’s not about having every size and shape of pots, pans, and dishes. It’s about having high-quality, durable tools that will help you feel really confident while using the right tool for the right job. No matter what you’re going to be cooking, make it in a pan that works for you and for the cooking technique called for in the recipe. Watch the full video, here, or keep reading below.

What kind of cookware is best? 

There are a million types of pots and pans out there, but not all of them are necessary to get the job done. We like choosing versatile, multi-use pans that can be used for many different cooking styles. We also make sure that our pans are oven-safe, so we can easily transfer things to the oven to finish cooking or keep warm. (No plastic handles here!) Our favorite multi-use pans are: cast-iron skillets, Dutch ovens, saute pans, baking dishes, saucepans, and grill pans. 

Luckily, there’s a range of companies that offer everything from luxury to bargain range pricing. Think about quality first, and buy things that are within your budget with a focus on durability. Cast-iron skillets, when well cared for, can be passed down through generations. Buying a high-quality item once always beats buying a cheap item that has to be replaced often. 

Cast-Iron Skillet

Our all-time favorite, most used pan is a cast-iron skillet. They come in all sizes, shapes, and different colors as well as raw cast-iron or enamel coated. Pick what works for your aesthetic and cooking style. Raw cast iron requires a little more maintenance, so definitely choose the enamel-coated if you’re a low-maintenance type of cook. The great thing about cast iron is it gets really really hot, so if you find yourself searing meat and vegetables often, this is the best way to get a really hard sear. You can transfer cast iron straight into the oven, making it the best option for stove-to-oven recipes. Enameled cast iron can double as a serving dish, just put it on top of a trivet and everyone can dig in. Cast-iron skillets are also great for shallow frying because they keep a super steady heat. We’ll bet the best fried chicken you’ve ever had came from a cast-iron skillet!

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Dutch Oven

Another pot that we find ourselves using all the time is a Dutch oven. These are typically high-sided, enameled cast-iron pots. You can do all sorts of things in here, from making rice and beans to full-on soups and stews. It’s also really heavy-bottomed, you can transfer it to the oven straight from the flame. It works for everything and it’s a show stopper in the middle of the table. We love making a big pot of stew with lots of garnishes for an easy and customizable dinner that feeds a crowd. Dutch ovens can be used for everything from baking bread to cooking pasta, making them a super versatile pot that’s long-lasting.

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Vegans and omnivores alike will love this flavorful bean stew!
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Braiser

Another option in the world of cast-iron enamel is a braiser, it’s kind of a cross between a Dutch oven and a cast-iron skillet.  We use our braiser as both, it has a tight-fitting cover, and it’s a bit lower sided than a Dutch oven. Let’s say you’re making farro and you’re baking it with chicken, you can sear your chicken, put in your grains, add some broth, cover it and bake it, all in one go. You can also use it to saute, shallow fry, and of course braise meats and vegetables.

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Saute Pan

We love having a large stainless steel saute pan on hand.They’re great because you can just saute or stir-fry vegetables very lightly in them. For things like schnitzel or tempura, you can fill it a little higher with oil and use it as a fryer. It’s nice to have a smaller handle on one side and a longer one on the other so that if you’re carrying it you know it balances out. If you buy a large skillet, it’s also a good idea just to have a little baby frying pan. You can roast nuts in it, fry an egg, or reheat a small portion of leftovers easily. Stainless steel pans are low maintenance, lightweight, and easy to clean. 

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Sauce Pan

A saucepan is super important, especially perfect for cooking grains, making one or two servings of small pasta, or re-heating smaller servings of broths and soups. The key to a good saucepan is a tight-fitting lid. A lot of times you’re really trying to keep the steam in, if your lid isn’t tight-fitting and steam is escaping, you’re not going to get that rice as cooked and fluffy as you want. Saucepans come in a range of sizes and are typically stainless steel, making them lightweight and low-maintenance. 

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Baking Dishes & Sheet Pans

It’s good to have a couple of baking dishes on hand, different sizes that you can use for brownies and baked goods, but also serving and heating side dishes or making enchiladas, roasted vegetables or lasagna. A baking dish is one of those things that’s really nice from oven to table. Part of the confidence is just feeling like things look really pretty. When you put a beautiful baking or casserole dish on the table with something beautiful in it, it just makes people happy. 

Sheet pans are probably one of the most used tools in our kitchen. We’re obsessed with sheet pan dinners! We like the quarter or half sheet size, and always buy one with a rack that fits snugly inside for recipes that call for roasting or cooling something on a rack. You can cook everything from a sheet pan dinner to a sheet cake with ease, plus you can use parchment paper sheets to line them for super easy clean-up! 

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Grill Pan

Lastly, we’re huge fans of a grill pan! In New York we can’t grill all year long, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t crave that kind of charred-seared outer crust on meat and veggies, and that’s exactly what you get when you use a grill pan. You can start things off on a grill pan and then finish them off in a hot oven, or cook entirely on the grill pan. Tender veggies cook in just a few minutes but have that delicious smoky taste thanks to the high heat of a grill pan. Just make sure to turn on your exhaust fan or get some ventilation going so things don’t get too smoky. 

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These baked chicken wings are crispy, tender, and full of coconutty flavor.
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4 Tips for Choosing the Right Cookware:

Here are our go-to rules when choosing our next piece of equipment. 

1. Find staples that work within your meal plans. If you have a big family or you’re a meal-prepper, larger sized pans might work best for you to cook large recipes or multiple meals worth of something. If you mostly cook solo or like to eat different things every day, mid-sized and smaller pans might work best. Look through your top five favorite recipes and see if you can find any patterns or common factors in technique to determine where to invest the most. 

2. Quality over quantity. Buying a set of 20 different pans is a storage nightmare, and it’s very rare you’ll use all of them regularly. The price might look like a bargain, but it’s not always a useful purchase. Instead, invest in three or four quality pieces that are durable and multi-use. 

3. Avoid plastic. Plastic handles can melt during high heat cooking and release toxins into the air, plus plastics are not oven safe. Techniques like braising, roasting, and baking are out of the question, giving anything with plastic handles zero points on the versatility scale. Look for pans with stainless steel handles, or things like cast iron that are one solid piece. 

4. Cook Happy! As always, we find that following your intuition and choosing things that bring some excitement to the cooking process will always result in success. Have your eye on that bright yellow stand mixer or beautiful new olive set of enamel cookware? Chances are you’ll be more inclined to use tools that you enjoy and that you’ll be proud to serve to your family and friends, and self. Invest in joy! 

So there you have it: this is the mindset we use when approaching buying kitchen tools, and the staples that we find ourselves using the most. Having the right cookware makes us feel super confident and joyful in our kitchens. When you’re choosing cookware it’s not about quantity or having every different size of each thing,  it’s about choosing things that are going to work for you and are going to make you feel good and last a really long time.  Quality, quality, quality! That’s the message!

All of the cookware that we showed you today is from our friends at Staub and Zwilling. Click the links for more deets! As always, check our recipe ideas and more cooking tips on our youtube channel, our website, or scan the QR code on the back of our sauce pouches.

Thanks for reading, and cook happy! 

xo

HK

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