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#Equipment: 9 Essential Pots and Pans

J. Kenji López-Alt Managing Culinary Director

My personal "essentials" lists evolve slowly over time based on not only minor refinements in selection or new product availability, but also on my own cooking style. It's impossible for me to tell you that the pots and pans that I use the most will be the same as the pots and pans you'll use the most. But I can tell you this: I cook a lot, and I cook a wide variety of things, and with these pots and pans in my arsenal, I never find myself saying, "man, I wish I just had [insert pan X here]. Nearly every recipe on this site can be cooked in a kitchen equipped with these bad boys, so if you or a loved one has been extra nice this year, listen up!

Wherever applicable, I've included two versions: the money-is-no-object best, and a budget-minded alternative.

A 10 1/2- or 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet

What it's good for: Heavy cast iron might take a while to pre-heat properly, but once it's hot, it'll sear a steak like nothing else. Pan-roasting or deep frying chicken? Reach for the cast iron. Frying latkes or potato pancakes? You guessed it.

Because of its thick gauge, it's also a great option for slow-cooking or for baking, delivering crisp, golden brown crusts to everything from corn bread to pan pizza

Which one?: Vintage cast iron from a brand like Wagner or Griswold has a smoother, slightly more non-stick finish than modern cast iron, and if you can find it online or in an antique shop, I'd highly recommend it. That said, a good modern brand like Lodge will do you just fine. Check out our Guide to Cast Iron Care for tips on how to clean, season, and maintain a cast iron pan.

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