Kitchen essentials: basic pots and pans


Pots and pans
With the number of cookware brands growing every day and the wide range of materials they are made of, choosing the right pots and pans is indeed an enormous job.

Cooking with good quality pots and pans that last longer ease your work in the kitchen. A little time spent on stocking the right kind will help you negate overstocking and give you more space to organize your kitchen better.

Selecting the right size of pots and pans depends on your cooking habits, cuisine, number of people and budget. It is recommended that you do a check before you invest in heavy duty pots and pans. Use stainless steel pots for durability. However, choose only the heavy bottomed pots to avoid burning.

Cookware materials:

Stainless steel: is a nonreactive metal, which means that it doesn’t react with any kind of food. It is always better to invest in only a heavy bottomed pot or pan to avoid burning.

Aluminum: is an inexpensive option, is light weight and a good conductor of heat. The problem with aluminum is that it reacts with acidic food causing it to corrode, affecting the taste of the food.

Anodized Aluminum: is a good option to look for as it is suitable for any type of cooking and are easy to maintain. Since they are dark in color, it can be sometimes difficult to judge the right color of the food.

Lined Copper: Copper is usually the most expensive material that can be used for pots and pans. It heats up and cools down quickly, which helps in avoiding burning of delicate food. Copper reacts to moisture causing harmful chemical reactions. It needs to be regularly polished and maintained well.

Cast iron: works great for pans, especially for grilling. It can be used on stove tops or oven. When exposed to moisture, it can develop stains or rust.

Non-stick: works great for making crepes, dosas or omelets. Easy to clean and maintain. The coating tends to wear out soon.

Porcelain enamel: is applied on pots and pans made of either aluminum or cast iron to avoid corroding. They work great as a saucepan and can be used in an oven too.

Tempered glass: they are oven, microwave and heat proof. It heats unevenly, resulting in food sticking on the edges.

I have listed down some basic pots and pans keeping both Indian and Western cooking in mind:

Frying pan or skillet: is a basic essential cookware and a must have, in every kitchen. You could choose from non-stick, stainless steel or cast-iron. They are available in different sizes.

Griddle: a flat pan with a log handle. They are ideal for cooking or grilling such as pancakes, dosas, crepes, patties, omelets.

Grill pan: A heavy bottom pan that consists of ridges spaced evenly across to stimulate grilling process while cooking meats or vegetables. They are available in non-stick and cast iron material and come in square, round or rectangular sizes ranging from 9-12 inch.

Omelet pan: is same as a frying pan and is mostly available in non-stick. It is also available in an oval shape, ranging from 8-12 inch.

Stir fry pan: it is a deep pan which has a round base that slopes out and upward. It is good for cooking small quantity of multiple ingredients to maintain color and texture.

Wok: a bowl shaped pan that is used to cook food quickly over high flame. It is mostly used for Asian cooking like sautéing, steaming or deep-frying. The wok is approximately 4 inches deep and can be 12-16inch in diameter.

A heavy wok or kadhai or karahi: is a must have for all types of cooking. It works great for dals, gravies or for deep frying.

Sauce pan: A round pot with high straight sides and a flat bottom. It is used for several purposes, such as cooking vegetables, soups, sauces or gravies. Saucepans are made of a sturdy material that is heat responsive, such as lined copper or stainless steel with an aluminum or copper core or bottom plate. Most saucepans come with a cover.

Stock pot: A deep, straight sided pot that is taller than it is wide. They are great for making stocks, soups, gravies or for boiling pasta. They are made of several different materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum, anodized aluminum, copper, and non-stick materials.

Casserole: a round or an oval pan with deep sides, range in different sizes. It is used for making one-dish meals and the meal is served directly in the casserole on the table. It mostly comes with a cover.

Glass baking pan: it comes in various sizes and can be fairly expensive. It works great for baking or for serving desserts.

The other essential cookware is a pressure cooker and an idli cooker. Depending on the local cuisine, you may have to stock your kitchen with certain utensils which are not commonly used anywhere else.

Some basic things to keep in mind: Check out the handles to make sure that they are securely attached and are comfortable to hold. Choose pots and pans with lids either of the same material or with glass tops. Lid should fit snugly and should have sturdy knobs to hold. A basic cookware set from a well-established brand can help you start your kitchen and help you decide which works best for you over a period of time.