In your kitchen, you most likely have a decent-sized collection of different types of pots and pans. But, if you’re just starting out, you may not know which are the best types to have and use when you cook in your kitchen. Using the microwave may be very convenient, but it doesn’t give you the same taste and texture that you’ll get from a nice meal made with the correct types of pots and pans. Better meals are prepared the old-fashioned way on a stove or in the oven, and you’ll need cookware to do this, mainly pots and pans.
The thing is, there are dozens of options for cookware today. You can purchase a specific type of pot or pan for virtually any purpose or dish. This can quickly get crowded if you’re not sure what you need, and this is why we’re going to outline the top types of pots and pans to add to your collection and make delicious meals below.
There are dozens of types of pots on the market, and each one can be valuable in its own right. However, you most likely will only need a core few in your kitchen, depending on your cooking style. Pot by Jay Dodge / CC BY-SA 2.0
22 Types of Cooking Pots
Pots are cookware that have higher walls and can hold sauces or water. You can cook food that you’d traditionally put in a pan in a pot, but it can be more difficult to manage. One big exception is scrambled eggs. Most people will cook them in a pan with lower sides, but they also work well in a small pot, and the taller walls allow you to stir them while you cook.
Pots can work in the oven or on the stove, but most can’t go into the microwave due to the metal content. We’ve picked out several great examples below to consider adding to your collection.
Did you know aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth today? It’s an element that falls into the boron group on the periodic table under the symbol AI. You see it used for a huge range of projects, including making types of pots that are extremely durable, have a nice shine, and can withstand higher temperatures.
Braisers or braiser pans are a flat bottom, large pan with a lid that is moisture locking. This design allows you to multitask with this piece of cookware, and it makes it a versatile addition to your collection. You can use them to brown food on the stovetop, and they work just as well at slow-cooking food in the oven. Some of these pans even get designed to serve right at the table when you finish cooking everything.
It is entirely possible to cook casseroles in a slow cooker or a dutch oven, but you can also buy a specific type of pot that is specially designed to make casseroles. One popular option is the low-rise casserole pot that is deep enough to have several layers without it overflowing.
4. Cast Iron
Cast iron is a very popular option, and you typically get them as cast iron skillets. They’re very similar to fry pans, but the main difference is their material. Since these options are made out of cast iron, they can be heavier. The best thing you can do, if you’ve never had one before, is go to a store and pick it up before you buy it. When you pick out a cast iron skillet, you want to make sure that you buy one that is pre seasoned. If it’s not, your food will stick to it.
Ceramic is a popular material that is made from clay that gets hardened using high heat. This is a non-toxic type of pot or pan, and it’s great at withstanding higher temperatures without any damage. As a bonus, it’s also decent for non-stick properties.
6. Cookware Set
You can always buy your cookware in a bundle that includes several types of pots or pans. It’s a nice way to save money and have everything match. It’s a nice pick for those who know exactly what they’re looking for, and this makes it easier to purchase. These sets can range from 10 to 18 pieces, and each set comes with different variations in each set that get tailored to what you need.
Many people think that copper cookware is extremely expensive, but it’s not. However, it’s also not the cheapest option on the market. For many households, it’s a viable option. The main reason why you’d pick out copper kitchenware is because it heats up very quickly and it heats very evenly. It’s also easy to clean, and it has a very pretty look that matches a more refined or rustic design style. There are better copper pots and pans available that are lined with stainless steel because they last much longer over tin.
8. Double Boilers
A double boiler functions like a steamer, but the insert is a pot without any holes in it. These are great for any food that cooks best using steam heat that you don’t want to submerge in water, like chocolate.
9. Dutch Oven
A dutch oven is a very large type of pot that is made out of cast-iron. You can put it in the oven or use it on the stovetop. It’s great for helping you evenly cook larger meat dishes that require a higher level of heat. It’s also popular to use this pot to cook stews, soups, casseroles, and for frying, roasting, or even baking bread. You could most likely get away with cooking most of your meals in this type of pot. If you get an enamel-coated dutch oven, it’s called a French oven.
10. French Oven
As we touched on, this type of pot is a form of Dutch Oven. The main difference between the two is that the interior has an enamel coating, and this means that you don’t have to season it. This is why a lot of people call this type of pot an enameled Dutch oven instead of a French oven. You can use this pot to cook a large variety of dishes, including pork, beef, roasts, poultry, and briskets. This option comes in a range of colors, and this makes them excellent for adding a nice pop of color to any cookware set.
The skillet or fry pay is an essential kitchen tool that can be one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you’ll buy. Stir-frying, flipping omelets, and searing proteins is easy with the correct pan. These pans come with slightly curved sides and a flat bottom, and this makes it easy to turn foods over or simmer them in oils. The material the pan is made of will dictate how hot they can get. Nonstick pans should go over low or medium heat to help keep the coating, and stainless steel can withstand high heat. You can choose from a huge range of sizes, and they usually don’t have a lid included.
If you like cooking bigger breakfasts, a griddle is great. You’ll get a lot of flat surface area for pancakes, eggs, hash browns, bacon, and more to cook on. You can choose from an electric griddle that comes with its own heat source or a stock-top griddle that you sit on the stovetop and use the burners to heat it up.
13. Milk Warmer
Most kitchens won’t have this type of pot. However, if you routinely like warm milk in your drinks and you prefer not to heat it up in a small sauce pot, you can get one that is specifically designed for this purpose. As a bonus, it also reduces the chances of scorching the milk.
As the name suggests, this type of pot is specially designed to cook pasta, and there are two main types. One type comes with a perforated locking lid that allows you to pour the water out into your sink and leave the cooked pasta inside the pot. The second type is one that has a metal strainer insert that goes inside of the pot. When you finish cooking your pasta, you lift the metal strainer portion out and get cooked pasta in the strainer.
15. Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers are a type of pot that comes with a quick-release option that takes even less time to finish cooking your meal without having to waste water to cool everything down. The lids seal the pot completely with the liquid boiling away inside. Steam will build under this pressure to give you higher cooking temperatures with shorter cooking times. The sizes can range from 3 to 8.5 quarts.
If your pressure cooker has a detachable pressure regulator, you can use it to adjust the pressure to low, medium, or high. The higher the pressure is, the higher the internal temperature will go, and the shorter the cooking time will be. There is a safety valve that will vent the steam automatically, and the timer is one of the most important accessories you’ll need. A couple more minutes of cooking time won’t bother a pot roast, but it’s enough time to ruin vegetables or any delicate dishes.
You can get two main types of sauce pots. One type of pot will come with handles on both sides and the other will have one long handle. The two-handled version is technically the only type of sauce pot on the market. The second one falls into the saucepan category if you want to get technical, but many people simply call it a sauce pot.
As the name suggests, the saute pan is one that you use to saute items. This translates to being able to fry food while it moves quickly around the pan while covered securely with a lid. This pan is very similar to a fry pan when it comes to the initial design because they have a flat bottom too. However, instead of having rounded sides like a fry pan does, this one has straight sides. They’re also deeper than a traditional fry pan, and you can use them for a range of things. They work well for searing, deep frying, and preparing some sauces.
A steamer type of pot has a metal screen that sits above the pot’s bottom. You put water in the bottom of the pot and the steam will cook whatever you put inside the steam basket insert. This is a great way to steam your vegetables without losing any nutrients.
19. Stock and Soup
This type of pot is very large, and it has a flat bottom with very deep sides. You use it to cook liquid foods that don’t need to be very close to the source of heat. Stockpots also let you brown or saute before adding the liquids when you make stews, soups, or stocks. The tall profile makes them great for keeping pasta submerged during the boiling process. This pot comes in several different sizes, and it’s a good idea to keep several sizes on-hand so you can scale your food when you cook for a large or smaller group.
A roasting type of pan is a large, rectangular-shaped pan that has lower sides. This design allows the oven’s heat to reach whatever you’re cooking as much as possible. You use these pans with a roasting rack a lot of the time, and this will help put the food above the cooking surface. It’s nice if you use it to cook in the dry heat of your oven at higher temperatures. This is an essential type of pan to have on hand to roast chicken, turkey, or other roast types.
21. Stainless Steel
If you’re looking for top-notch, high-end cookware, stainless steel is usually what comes to mind. The benefits of these types of pots are that they offer decent heat transfer, they’re easy to clean, durable, and they don’t release any toxins.
A wok is sort of like a frying pan, but the bottom of this pan is much smaller. The walls are slanted and rise much higher. This type of pot works well to cook vegetables and rice at high heat for stir fries.
Popular Cookware Material Types
Now that we’ve gone over 22 popular types of pots, you should narrow your choices down further by picking out a favorite material. No matter which pot you’re looking for, the weight is going to make or break your cooking experience. A heavy type of pot or pan will sit very securely on your burners, but it should be light enough to lift easily.
Aluminum is one of the most popular materials available for your cookware. It offers great heat conduction, and it’ll distribute the heat evenly throughout the pan. Aluminum can be anodized too, and this helps to harden the surface to make it more durable. Hard-anodized types of pots or pans are harder than steel, and they’re much less prone to damage. It’s also safe to pop into the dishwasher between uses.
Thai type of cookware is also relatively inexpensive for those on a budget when you compare it to other materials. However, if you leave your aluminum untreated, it’s very prone to reacting to foods and staining. This is why you should consider getting aluminum pots with a non-stick interior because it’s less likely to have reactions or discolor with heavy use.
Cast iron is very heavy-duty and thick. It can take a little longer to heat up, but it distributes and retains heat very evenly. If you want to braise, brown, slow cook, bake, or stew, this is the best type of pot to have. Cast iron is available with an enamel coating or in Bare iron.
When it comes to routine maintenance and care, there are a few things you have to consider. For starters, these skillets should never soak in water or remain damp after you wash them. These skillets can rust if they get exposed to water for a longer period of time. To clean it, you’ll have to learn the cleaning process as it’s specific to this type of pot and pan material.
You’ll want to pour a half of a cup of kosher salt onto the skillet and rub it with a paper towel. This will remove any impurities or dust. Once you finish, you should wash it with soapy, hot water and dry it immediately. After a lot of use, you may want to oil the pan with canola or vegetable oil, and you may need to heat it up in the oven for 30 minutes at 450-degrees. This will cause the surface to get darker and season the pan. You can choose from:
Bare Cast Iron
Any cast iron in this category has to get seasoned before you use it. The seasoning process will give your cookware a nice non-stick surface that will last decades. Once you season the pans, you should avoid soaking them or washing them with soap. The best way to keep them clean is to wipe them with a cloth.
Enamel-Coated Cast Iron
This type of cast iron gives you all of the benefits of normal cast iron. However, the biggest advantage is that it requires less cleaning and maintenance. Some foods won’t cook well in it, so this is something to keep in mind. Acidic foods can react to the coating and strip it off. This will require you to season the pan again.
Cast iron is a very popular and old material to use on different types of pots and pans, but it does require minimal upkeep to keep it serviceable. Cast Iron Pans by ☼☼Jo Zimny Photos☼☼ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Carbon steel is only found in expensive and high-end types of pots and pans, but you can find it used once in a while in very cheap cookware. You maintain it just like you do cast iron, but it’s a much lighter weight option. It works well for any type of cooking that needs a quick heat change because it’s very good at maintaining a steady temperature. The most common cookware pieces that feature this material are stir-fry pans and woks.
Ceramic-style cookware is an excellent insulator, and it won’t react quickly to heat. You can usually find ceramic used in casserole dishes or in any types of pans or pots that cook slowly at consistent temperatures. It’s much lighter than cast iron, but it’s more fragile too. You can choose from earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.
If you use two types of cookware materials and put them together, you’ll get the benefits of both. Clad materials are popular with stainless steel as it has an aluminum clad. Aluminum lends thickness to the pot or pan and the stainless steel has excellent heat conductivity that prevents any corrosion. It’s also easy to maintain. This cookware can easily last a lifetime, and it’s generally very expensive and heavy as a result. If money isn’t a worry, we suggest this type of cookware.
Copper is the single best heat conductor. It’s nice to have if you plan to cook on top of the stove where you have precision temperature control. Copper can react with foods, and it can be toxic if you’re not careful. So, copper pots and pans usually have another material lining the inside, and it’s usually stainless steel.
The biggest drawback of these types of pots is the maintenance required to keep them looking nice. Copper can discolor, so you’ll have to regularly polish it to remove this discoloration. Also, it scratches and dents easily.
As the name suggests, nonstick types of pots and pans have a specialized coating on the inside that makes it hard for food to stick when you cook. This makes it easy to cook non-fat, healthy foods. Since it won’t stick, it makes cleanup a breeze. You can find this in combination with other materials. One disadvantage is that it can be very easy to scratch the surface, especially if you use metal utensils on it. Instead, you want to use nylon silicone utensils.
Porcelain gets fired very hard. Many people consider it to be delicate, but it can actually be very durable. You usually only use it on the stove, microwave, and oven. It also usually comes with a white coloring, and there are two main types you can choose from. They are:
- Earthenware – This material is the less strong of the two, and it has a reputation for scratching or chipping with heavy use. You’ll typically see this material used as serveware instead of cookware.
- Stoneware – This material also gets fired to get just as hard as porcelain. The biggest differences between the two materials is that stoneware utilizes a different clay type, and it comes in several color choices. Also, stoneware can come with different finishes.
The final popular material for your types of pots and pans is stainless steel, and it makes great general-purpose cookware. It’s durable, lightweight, and very easy to clean. However, it’s a very poor heat conductor, so most cookware pieces are actually made with an aluminum or copper disc in the bottom to help distribute the heat much more evenly.
Because it has a very smooth surface, stainless steel is one material that is very easy to clean. It’s also safe to put in the dishwasher. If you notice discoloration, it’s easy to get stainless steel cleaner and help restore the natural look. You can use metal utensils on this material since it won’t scratch.
We’ve outlined 22 basic types of pots and pans that you can outfit your kitchen with to make the cooking process much more fun and easy. Once you figure out which material you want, you can easily create a custom set of pots and pans that look nice and meet your needs.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.