When it comes to building out your cookware collection, it’s easy to get bogged down by all the options. Do you want a smaller skillet that’s perfect for single-servings of eggs? Has cast iron been calling your name? Are you weighing the pros and cons of nonstick? Don’t worry, we can help.
The good thing about selecting cookware is that there’s really no wrong way to do it. Choosing the right skillet or set really just boils down to who you are, the kind of meals you make, your budget, and how much space you have. Someone with a limitless budget and sprawling cabinet space might spring for a 14-piece cookware set, while someone wanting to start small might opt for a single pan that can reliably do different things without breaking the bank.
If you’re looking to buy that first (or second, or third) piece but are having trouble deciding, we’ve rounded up seven of our favorite pans and skillets that are worth the investment.
1. Five Two by GreenPan Essential Sauté Pan,
This small sauté pan is perfect for anything from boiling eggs to cooking pasta, to melting chocolate to garnish a freshly baked cake. It’s made from fully clad, tri-ply stainless steel—meaning it’s ultra sturdy and heats up evenly—and has V-shaped stay-cool, non-slip handles for added comfort. If you want a reliable, wallet-friendly pan, this is a fantastic place to start. If you’re building your collection from scratch, consider the full seven- or 11-piece collection.
2. Le Creuset Classic Enameled Cast-Iron Skillet, 9″,
If you’re looking to try out cast iron but don’t know exactly where to start, this nine-inch skillet from Le Creuset is a great entry point. It’s multi-purpose—use it to sear, sauté, bake, and more—and comes ready to use, with no seasoning needed. Its black-satin interior is formulated for higher surface temperatures, can be used with metal utensils without worry of scratching, is oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and comes in seven vibrant colors.
All-Clad has been making cookware for over 50 years and it shows. This stainless-steel sauté pan was designed with a tri-ply construction and an aluminum core, allowing for extra durability and lightning-fast heating. Even better, All-Clad cookware is made of fully bonded metal. What does that mean exactly? Because metals have unique strengths—like thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance, or ductility—a piece made of bonded metals combines all of those strengths into one for a top-tier construction you can rely on.
4. Staub Cast-Iron Daily Pan With Lid, $300
This cast-iron pan has its name (the “Daily Pan”) for good reason. Its versatile shape allows for a myriad of tasks—it’s shallow enough to stand in as a frying pan or skillet and deep enough to take on stir-frys and curries without spills—and has a tight-fitting glass lid that can go right into the oven. It’s an ideal pan for any one-pot meal or a night where you want cleanup to be quick and painless.
In case you missed it, we recently raved about this pan’s not-oven-safe twin. Luckily, the only difference between that well-loved pan and this one is, well, this one’s even better. It’s light as a feather, can safely go from the stove, to the oven, to the table (just don’t forget to put down a trivet), and looks great while doing it.
If you want a reliable nonstick ceramic pan, take a look at this set of two from GreenPan. Each pan (you’ll get a 10- and 12-inch skillet) is made with a slick Thermolon ceramic nonstick coating that’s free of PFAS and PFOA chemicals, and is safe for all stovetops, your oven, and even your dishwasher.
Lastly, we recommend taking a look at this multi-use braiser. Yes, this one is pricier than something typically categorized as a “starter” piece, but we think it’s worth considering based its bang-for-your-buck mentality. Not only does our test kitchen use it for things like braising short ribs and making hearty stews, but we’ve also used it to bake fruit crumbles and eggy stratas, roast pork chops, fry chicken, and even cook pancakes on its wide, flat surface. It truly is a cookware workhorse you didn’t know you’d need.