Basic Pots & Pans

For those of you who discovered The Bachelor’s Kitchen fairly recently, we’re rerunning some of earlier posts so you won’t miss out on any of the fun and information. The following post is great for people setting up a kitchen for the first time or wanting to get back to basics.

When setting up a kitchen for the first time or downsizing to a smaller kitchen, one of the first things to be considered is kitchen equipment. So, let’s start with pots and pans and other cooking vessels.

Now, we’re not talking about all the possible things you might need, just the basics you need to make a simple meal. And I think the best points to consider are versatility and value.

At the top of my list is a cast-iron skillet. This old fashioned pan is incredibly inexpensive, extremely versatile and with proper care can last for generations. If you can, shop for one at estate sales, yard sales or second-hand stores, because these skillets probably are already broken-in, especially if you can get one at an estate sale. But even new, cast iron is relatively inexpensive. Prices new range from as little as $10 for an 8-inch model to around $35 for a 15-inch. Many of the new skillets being produced today are pre-seasoned. That means they have been treated with some kind of oil or fat after being heated. Seasoning makes these skillets practically non-stick.

Even if the pan comes pre-seasoned, you’re going to want to understand how to keep it seasoned. Rule number one: No Soap Ever! Detergent will strip away the seasoning. In this case, grease is good. Cast iron should be cleaned with just hot water and sponge. You can use one designed for non-stick cookware if you need a little extra abrasion. Really tough stuck-on gunk can be dealt with by adding a couple tablespoons of kosher salt after you’ve drained off as much grease as possible. Use a wooden or plastic spoon to gently scrape up the stuck-on food. Why kosher salt? Because it’s the right size to provide gentle erosion without scratching the nice seasoned patina. Then soak in hot water or pour water in the pan and put it over medium-high heat until the water starts to boil. Turn off the heat and allow the pan to sit until it cools. Then, while soaking in hot water, use your sponge to work the pan clean. It will still be a little greasy feeling, but that’s okay, it’s still clean.

Once your pan is well-seasoned, you’ll probably only need to wipe out the pan with a paper towel or sponge. If you have to soak the pan, you’ll want to re-season. Once the pan is dry, use a paper towel to apply a think, even coat of oil, shortening or cooking spray. Make sure no oil is pooling on the inside of the pan. Place the pan in a very warm oven and turn off the heat and allow it to set in the oven until cool. Then place a clean paper towel inside the pan before you put it away.

With care, the cast iron skillet will last for generations. It can be used for baking as well as frying. The larger ones are great for making sauces, gravies, one-dish meals, casseroles and even bread. I wouldn’t use anything else to make authentic Southern style corn bread. And it works great for making flatbreads, like focaccia. It’s also the perfect vehicle for making steaks because it takes high heat, produces a great sear and then goes into the oven to finish.

The cast iron skillet is probably one of the best pans you’ll ever have for the money. It’s well worth the investment.