Kitchen Basics: Part 5 – Pots and Saucepans

Versatility is also important in selecting pots and saucepans. What’s the difference? Believe it not, the type of handle. A pan will have a single long handle you grip like a lever. A pot usually has smaller handles on either side. Both types can, and should, have lids.

Most people find a stock pot of about the 8-quart size is most useful for the home kitchen, although I’ve easily gotten by without one. Most stainless steel stock pots come as a set that includes a lid, a steamer basket and a larger strainer basket usually used for boiling large pasta or vegetables. These can be very useful, especially if you like steamed vegetables or dumplings or if you like to make a lot of soups. A pot of this size also is best for all kinds of pasta, which needs at least about a gallon of water to cook properly.

Personally, I find these extras can just get in the way, as you have to find a place to put them if your using the pot but not the baskets. And counter space is a problem in the small bachelor kitchen. But most cooks swear by their stock pots and it is a useful tool.

However, if I had a real shortage of funds to spend on kitchen equipment, I would settle for a large sauce pan or saucier (pronounced saw-see-ay). The only real different here is that the saucier has curved, bowl-like sides that make it very whisk friendly, while the sauce pan has straight sides like a conventional pot.

Why do I like the saucepan? Because I think for the size it has greater versatility than the stock pot. A large pan, about 4 quarts, can be used for one or two servings of pasta and most side dishes. A cheap collapsible steamer basket can fit inside for steaming vegetables and other things.

I think you should also have one other size saucepan. I find a one-to 1-1/2 quart sauce pan to be very useful for heating up small amounts or making sauces. The small size keeps the heat more concentrated and takes up less valuable space.

There’s just one other cooking vessel we need to have all the basics that go in or on the stove. We’ll cover that next.