Versatile cooking pans for the home chef

Go forth and cook.

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No matter what level you cook at, nothing is as tragically avoidable as ruining a perfectly good meal by using the wrong pan. Sure, you can technically make sauce in a skillet, but you might lose half of it over the rim—or you can try your hand at stir-frying in a saucepan, but the results are more likely to be overcooked. Just like you wouldn’t use a hammer on a screw, you wouldn’t want to wrestle your next meal out of your poor, unwitting ingredients. Outfit your whole kitchen with a pan set, or pick and choose your favorites à la carte.

Here’s a list of our favorite pans currently available.

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This classic frying pan from Calphalon makes a great all-around workhorse for your kitchen with its generous circumference and depth. The included tempered glass lid fits great if you’re looking for a speedy simmer, and the pan is even oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit so you can fry and bake without dirtying another pan or bothering with a transfer. Three layers of non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe construction round out this bad boy.

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For a snazzy and versatile option that’s great for steaming and braising, you can’t go wrong with this porcelain-enameled cast iron saucepan from Tramontina. Its 2.5-quart capacity holds plenty for a full course of a meal and makes for a great serving presentation as well. Those ridges on the lid aren’t just for looks, either: they keep condensation circulating throughout the pan so your food bastes itself as it cooks.

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This handcrafted carbon steel wok is a great choice for high-temperature stir frying with minimal oil or savory seafood boils. Whether your choice is rice, meat, vegetables, or noodles, a wok is a time-tested design that heats up quickly and evenly, making for a fast and healthy cooking experience. This is a particularly good choice if you’re frying up a large volume of food for your friends and family.

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If you’re outfitting your kitchen and want to go all-in, this seven-piece set from HexClad will take the guesswork out of picking and choosing individual pans and keep you covered in every stovetop situation. The four stainless steel pans come in 8, 10, and 12-inch sizes, are scratch-resistant and nonstick, and come with three compatible tempered glass lids. Use them all at once to fearlessly cook a multi-course meal and just toss the whole set in the dishwasher afterwards.

This story originally ran in the Winter 2021 Taste issue of PopSci.