It can be hard to figure out what exactly your first real kitchen needs before you get cooking, and it’s easy to get distracted by fancy gadgets and gizmos instead of focusing on the basics. But it’s best to get the essential pots and pans before you can start thinking about zany accessories. After all, it’s not until you’ve got the basics under control that you can start planning your first classy adult wine tasting or very grown-up dinner party. Just stock your cupboards with the right tools, start practicing the 15 things you need to learn to cook before you turn 25, and get ready to impress your friends. These 15 pots and pans will have you boiling, baking, roasting, and frying with the best of them.
1. Rachael Ray 3-Piece Sheet Pans ($30): Rimmed sheet pans in a variety of sizes are essential. They’re not just for making cookies, either — you can use them to roast meat and veggies, or to make convenient sheet pan meals in the oven.
2. Calphalon 8-Inch Square Cake Pan ($15): One or two square cake pans will come in handy at birthdays, but you can also use them for roasting smaller portions of meat and vegetables.
3. Wilton Ultra Bake Pro 9-Inch Round Cake Pan ($7): Round baking pans are great for cakes too. You can also use them for frittatas or shakshuka, and, when really pressed, as a substitute for a pie pan.
4. Anolon 16×13 Roaster ($120): Roasting big cuts of meat requires a heavy, deep pan. This one will fit everything from roast beef to turkey, and will collect any juices that accrue during cooking so your oven stays clean.
5. Sur La Table Loaf Pan ($13): A loaf pan is essential for making quick breads and sandwich bread. You can also use it for whipping up molded foods, like terrines or cheese logs.
6. Williams Sonoma Goldtouch® Non-stick Pizza Pan ($25): While you can make pizza on a sheet pan, it’s a lot easier to maintain the crust’s round shape on this pan. Best of all, it’s non-stick, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to get your pizza off once it’s cooked.
7. Threshold™ 9×13 Cake Pan ($6): From baking cake for a crowd to cooking a big batch of chicken legs, you can’t go wrong with a 9×13 cake pan. You can use it for casseroles, baked pasta, and roasted meats too.
8. Calphalon™ 12 Cup Non-stick Bakeware Muffin Pan ($15): You’ll be munching on made-from-scratch muffins and cupcakes on the daily with this essential pan. You can also use a muffin tin for making mini frittatas for quick, on-the-go breakfasts.
9. Calphalon Contemporary ™ Non-Stick 5 Quart Dutch Oven ($80): A Dutch oven that can be transferred from the stovetop to the oven is one of the most versatile tools a kitchen can have. Boil spaghetti, bake bread, braise beef, slow-roast chicken — all are possible in a Dutch oven.
10. Zwilling Spirit 12-Inch Ceramic Non-stick Skillet ($90): A good non-stick skillet should be used for just a couple of things, and if treated kindly, it should last quite awhile. Eggs, delicate fish, and pancakes can all be made on your non-stick skillet, and pretty much everything else can be made with something else.
11. All-Clad Tri-Ply Stainless-Steel Sauté Pan ($225): A sauté pan can be used for all sorts of things. Stir fries, sautés, sauces, and more cook up beautifully in this must-have pan.
12. Le Creuset Pie Pan ($50): Having a dedicated pan for forming pies makes life much easier. It’s the only way to get the signature crust around the edge that you’re used to — a round cake pan produces something more like a tart than a pie.
13. Threshold™ 8 Quart Stainless Steel Pasta Pot ($35): A large pasta pot comes in handy for lots of big cooking jobs. Boil lobster, cook potatoes, make a vat of stew, or stir up big batches of sauce for canning in this eight-quart number.
14. Sur La Table Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Saucepan ($100): A sturdy stainless steel saucepan is one piece you’ll never get tired of using. This versatile pan can be used for making sauces, gravy, soup, pudding, and much more.
15. Lodge Cast Iron 10.25 Inch Skillet ($13): Once it’s seasoned, you can use a cast iron skillet for just about anything. It’s particularly great for searing meats or frying up fatty foods like bacon and sausage.
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