The Very Best Pots and Pans Every Home Cook Needs for 2021

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Courtesy of Lodge

If you like to cook, you *absolutely* need great cookware. Because you can do everything right, but if you don’t have the best pan to sear and simmermeatballs, they might not come out all that well. Same if you’re shallow-frying Parmesan chicken cutlets, or sautéing greens, or roasting a whole chicken. And so, we’re taking a look through all the cookware that made it onto our list of Kitchn Essentials, the tools and gadgets we honestly think will make us all better cooks in 2021. (You can browse the whole list here.)

If you’re just building your cookware collection, this list is a great place to start. Or, if you’re looking to upgrade some pots and pans, it’s ideal for that, too. Here are our top picks.

Note: We’ve indicated which ones are “repeat winners,” meaning they were also chosen as our top picks in last year‘s Kitchn Essentials!

1 / 12
Cast Iron Skillet
Sur La Table

We gift this skillet to every beginner cook and newlywed couple, because it's sure to become an heirloom piece. Lodge is *the* name in cast iron cookware and makes their pieces in Tennessee. Buy one for yourself and use this pan in your oven or on the grill, and for Saturday morning pancakes and weeknight dinners. We love the 12-inch for bigger families, but the 10.25-inch option also gets the job done. Note: Caring for it isn’t as hard as people say! You just need to know a few things.

2 / 12
Dutch Oven
Williams Sonoma

There are lots of Dutch ovens out there, but this will forever be our favorite. It’s got a black enamel interior, which shows less wear and tear compared to the lighter-colored ones. It’s also got a tight-fitting lid and self-basting spikes to keep moisture in the pot. We also love Le Creuset's Dutch ovens, which have a smooth, white interior and tend to be better for beginner cooks who need to see their fond. As far as a more budget-friendly pick, we recommend the $120 one from Milo.

3 / 12
Nonstick Skillet

This nonstick skillet is so slick, fried eggs will come right off of it with no (zero!) oil. It has a stainless steel handle with a grippy silicone overlay and is oven-safe to 390°F. It also comes with a 10-year warranty. If you'd rather opt for a ceramic nonstick skillet, this one from Caraway is our top pick. It's super-slick, comes in fun colors, is oven-safe to 550°F, and is induction compatible.

4 / 12
Stainless Steel Skillet
was $129.95

Readers ask us all the time if All-Clad really is worth the money and we say it is — especially when it comes to a fry pan. This skillet has three bonded layers (that's what the d3 means), so it heats super evenly and gives meat that coveted sear. It's also comfortable to hold and doesn't discolor easily.

5 / 12
was $179.99

Food Editor Meghan Splawn says her 2-quart saucepan is the best piece of All-Clad she owns. For this roundup, though, we suggest sizing up to the 3-quart just to make sure you have a pot that's big enough for whatever you're making. And if All-Clad isn't in your price range, this saucepan from Tramontina is also fantastic and is less than $100.

6 / 12
Sauté Pan
Great Jones
was $110.00

This pan is more like a sauté pan crossed with a skillet: It's deep, has curved walls, and holds up to three quarts. "You can use it like a mini Dutch oven and totally just bring this right to the table for serving," says Faith Durand, Editor-in-Chief.

7 / 12
Bed Bath & Beyond

You can pretty much do anything in a big stockpot, but you’ll find a too-small one incredibly limiting. This one holds up to 12 (!!!) quarts and, while you might not fill it up every day, you'll be glad to have such a big option waiting in the wings when you need it.

8 / 12
Wok Shop

Faith has half-joked that this wok is the one thing she'd grab from her house in a fire (once her family was safely outside, of course!). That's how much she loves it. It's made of carbon steel, which is durable and inexpensive; heats quickly and evenly; and can become virtually nonstick. It has a flat bottom that sits solidly on stove burners. And it has wood handles that won't overheat.

9 / 12
Casserole Dish
Great Jones
was $75.00

As soon as we tested the new Great Jones Hot Dish, it became an immediate favorite. So, it's no wonder it's our new go-to casserole dish. "The large handles are what make this casserole dish ridiculously amazing," writes Lisa Freedman, Lifestyle Director. "I’ve used a lot of casserole dishes in my career (it’s my job!) and most of them can be hard to grab — without putting your mitt right into the food. I’m hooked on these handles."

10 / 12
13x9-Inch Pan

We sometimes reach for this metal 13x9 for casseroles, too. It heats up quickly and is really good when you want to brown the edges of whatever you're cooking (ahem, ziti!). You'll also want one of these for cakes, cornbread, blondies, and anything that requires straight edges for presentation.

11 / 12
Roasting Pan
Made In
was $139.00

Meghan got one of these carbon steel roasting pans a few years ago and quickly declared it “the $99 pan that everyone needs.” Yes, even those who have no plans to host a Thanksgiving ever. She likes it for roasting veggies, braising, baking, making deep casseroles, and more. “It’s lightweight, heats well, and is nonstick.” Plus, it’s smaller than those too-big roasting pans out there.

12 / 12

We spent a lot of time testing braisers this past year, and our hands-down favorite was this one from Le Creuset. It browns beautifully (thank you, enameled cast iron!) and has roomy handles that make it easy to move from the stovetop to the oven, a wide cooking surface, and a lid with a sizable, grippy knob. As its name suggests, it's great for braises, but it's so much more versatile than that: We use it for stovetop chili, to roast a chicken in, to shallow-fry, and for all our one-pot pasta dishes.

Credit: Kitchn