Home » Meal Planning » Different Types of Cookware – What pots and pans do you need?

Different Types of Cookware – What pots and pans do you need?

Aug 1, 2023 | Meal Planning | 0 comments

Different Types of Cookware

Pots vs. saucepans, skillets vs. sauté pans – learn about the different types of cookware and which pots and pans you actually need.

Meal Prep Meal Plan

Key Takeaways

  • Figuring out cookware can be overwhelming but you do NOT need it all. A few quality pots and pans go a long way.
  • Choose what your cookware is made of carefully. I personally prefer stainless steel for both effectiveness and cooking safety.
  • If you love to cook, there are some fun items like a grill pan or bamboo steamer basket that are nice to collect over time. However, these are certainly not essential.

How many pots and pans do I need? What pots and pans do I need? You'll get a different answer depending on who you ask. For me, it's all about efficiency and the enjoyment of cooking.

If you know me at all, you know I'm all about efficiency. I love finding simple ways to make mundane tasks a little easier, freeing up more time and energy for the things that matter to me.

Whether that's batching, learning the best way to chop various items or, you guessed it, choosing the correct cookware among the myriad different types of pots and pans for the correct job, I'm all about it.

Using the correct pot or pan not only results in tastier food, it also makes for a more enjoyable cooking experience. If you've ever tried to simmer sauce in a too-shallow pan or stir-fry veggies in a small skillet, you know what I'm talking about. But with all of the different terminology, it can be a little confusing to select the right pan, even if you're trying to strictly follow a recipe. No worries, I'm here for you!

I've put together a simple guide outlining different types of cookware, including common uses. You by NO means need all of these! Unless both your budget and kitchen space are unlimited, you're likely going to want to pick and choose. I've tried to organize by which pots and pans I find to be the most essential cookware but, of course, use your own judgment based on your cooking style and what you already have.

You'll notice I include mostly stainless steel or glass cookware because that's what I use the most. Curious about ceramic as an alternative? Organically Blissful has a detailed guide on ceramic cookware, including whether or not it's safe to use.

And if you have any questions, shoot me a message on Facebook or DM me on Instagram @prepdish! I'd love to connect with you.

Essential Cookware

Types of Cookware Saucepan Pot vs Pan

Of all the different types of cookware, these essential cookware items are the ones you'll find again and again on our Prep Dish meal plans, and the ones I constantly use myself. While there are tons of different choices out there, if you have these pots and pans, you'll likely be able to make just about anything you want.

Sheet Pan (AKA Baking Sheet)

What is it? A sheet pan / baking sheet is a rectangular, flat baking pan with a raised rim. Sizes vary (quarter sheet pan, half sheet pan, full sheet pan). I recommend having multiple sheet pans.

While you'll find cookie sheets listed separately below, you can absolutely use a baking sheet instead, especially if you're not a big baker.

Uses: You can use a sheet pan for anything from baking cookies to some of my favorite “sheet pan meals” like Curry Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs, Potato Nachos, and Easy Sheet Pan Greek Chicken.

Baking Pan (AKA Baking Dish)

What is it? A baking pan is a deep, usually rectangular pan designed to go in the oven. It can be made of glass, ceramic, metal, silicon, etc. I recommend having both a 9×13 and a 9×9 baking pan.

Uses: Use your baking pans for lasagna, any type of casserole, and desserts.

Small Pot

What is it? A small (1-2 quarts) pot is a deep, circular pot with two short handles, meant for the stovetop. You can use either a small pot or a small saucepan (see below) – you do not need both.

Uses: These are great for making sauces.

Medium Pot

What is it? A medium (4 quarts) deep, circular pot with two short handles, meant for the stovetop. Similar to the small pot, you can use either a medium pot OR a medium saucepan (see below). You do not have to get both!

Uses: Medium pots work well for cooking grains (or cauli rice).

Large Pot

What is it? Large (8 quarts +) deep, circular pot with two short handles, meant for the stovetop.

Uses: Large pots are excellent for soup, chili, or anything where you have a large volume.

Small Saucepan

What is it? Deep, circular pot with one long handle, meant for the stove top. 1-2 quarts

Uses: Small saucepans work well for low-volume items like sauces or my favorite paleo oatmeal.

Medium Saucepan

What is it? Medium (4 quart) deep, circular pot with one long handle, meant for the stovetop. You can use a medium pot in place of a medium saucepan if you like.

Uses: Medium sauce pans work well for smaller batches of grain, like quinoa, or polenta.

Medium Saute Pan

What is it? a medium saute pan is a round pan with straight sides, 9-10 inches in diameter, 2-4 inches deep, with one long handle.

Uses: This pan works well for sauteing veggies or cauli rice.

Large Saute Pan

What is it? A large saute pan is a round pan with straight sides, 10-13 inches in diameter, 2-4 inches deep, with one long handle.

Uses: This is useful for sauteing larger batches of veggies, especially items like kale that take up a lot of room before cooked. You could also use it in place of a skillet for dishes like this one skillet pork Cajun pork.

Deep Saute Pan

What is it? This is similar to a large saute pan, but deeper, 4-5 inches deep, for larger quantities or saucier items.

Uses: Anything you'd like to saute that's large in volume or has a sauce. It would work well for stir fry if you don't have a wok.

Types of Cookware – Nice-to Have

Collapsible Steamer Basket

While I would not consider the below pots and pans to be essential cookware, they are nice to have if you do a lot of cooking.

Cookie Sheet

What is it? Cookie sheets are rectangular, flat baking pans without a raised rim, though one edge is often slightly raised to enable easy removal from the oven. These are great if you make a lot of cookies because it makes it easier to get cookies off of the pan without squishing them out of shape.

Uses: Cookies! Breakfast cookies count too.

Pie Pan

What is it? Pie pans are round baking dishes, 1-1 1/2 inch deep with slanted sides. They're usually 8 or 10 inches in diameter, though sizes vary. These are not just for pies! Pie pans work great for frittatas as well.

Uses: Pies and frittatas.

Loaf Pan

What is it? A loaf pan is an 8×4 or 9×4, deep rectangular baking dish.

Uses: Loaf pans are of course great for bread but also for meatloaf, nice cream, and bars like these or these.

Oven Proof Saute Pan

What is it? A round pan with straight sides, 10-13 inches in diameter, 2-4 inches deep, with one long handle that can go in the oven as well as on the stovetop. This could also be made of cast iron.

Uses: Anything you want to start on the stovetop but finish in the oven, like steak.


What is it? Deep, rounded pan with either one long handle or two short handles. Woks distributes heat evenly. They're great for stir fry but you can use a deep saute pan if you don't have a wok.

Uses: Stir fry!

Broiler Pan

What is it? Broiling is a method of cooking food in the oven at a high temperature, with direct heat generally coming from the top of the oven rather than the bottom. A broiling pan has two parts, both rectangular. The top has slots, allowing any liquid / drippings to drain into the deeper bottom pan below it.

Uses: Broiling pans are great for crisping up meat you cooked in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, like in this recipe.

Collapsible Steamer Basket

What is it? A collapsible steamer basket is a metal steamer basket you can add to any pot of boiling water to steam things like veggies. This is a great choice for anyone who likes to steam on occasion but does not want another large cookware item taking up space.

Uses: Steaming veggies, like the broccoli in this firecracker chicken with chili sauce, broccoli and rice.


What is it? A skillet is a round pan with outwardly slanted sides, 9-13 inches in diameter, 2-4 inches deep, with one handle

Uses: Use a skillet for dishes like this creamy Tuscan garlic chicken or garlic butter chicken with spinach and bacon.

Types of Cookware – Fun-to-Have

Grill Pan

While not essential cookware, the below items are fun to have if you love to cook! These can also make great gifts.

Grill Pan

What is it? A pan you can put vegetables or fish on that goes directly on the grill.

Uses: Grill pans are wonderful for more fragile foods like fish, grilled fruit and grilled veggies.


What is it? A large, flat, rectangular pan, great for foods that need to flipped, like pancakes. You can use a griddle like the one linked above that fits over two burners, or an electric griddle.

Uses: My favorite use for a griddle is pancakes!

Tiered Steamer

What is it? Often made of bamboo to absorb moisture, tiered steamers enable you to steam multiple items at once.

Uses: Tiered steamers work for dumplings, meat and veggies.

Double Boiler

What is it? A double boiler is a stack of two pots – the bottom pot is filled with water and the top pot, which nests on top, cooks food using the steam produced by the bottom pot. Great for melting chocolate without burning.

Uses: Any recipe where you need to melt chocolate. I recommend this chocolate bark or my mocha mousse.

Indoor Grill

What is it? A standalone electric appliance, allowing you to grill items indoors.

Uses: Anytime you want to grill when the weather's not cooperating or you don't have time to fire up the grill. Try it with burgers!

FAQ – Common Questions about Types of Cookware

pot vs pan

What is a pot vs pan?

A pot is deeper with higher sides while a pan is generally more shallow. Pots generally have two short handles as well, while a pan often has one long handle. Those are the main differences in a pot vs pan.

What are the different types of pots?

The different types of pots essentially comes down to the size of the pot and what it's made of. You can find small, medium and large pots, all of which are useful. Pots come in a variety of materials but I recommend stainless steel for both safety and effectiveness.

What types of pots do I need?

Having a small pot, a medium pot and a large pot is useful.

What types of pan do I need?

Some of the most commonly needed pans are a small saucepan, a medium saucepan, a medium sauté pan, a large sauté pan and a deep sauce pan.

Beginner Menu Guide


Sign up for our free newsletter and get a free meal plan plus more weekly tips and recipes delivered to your inbox!

Allison Schaaf Chef, Prep Dish

Prep Dish is a gluten-free, paleo, and keto meal planning website. Celebrity personal chef & dietitian Allison Schaaf thoughtfully crafts each plan using her own well-tested recipes. Each meal plan allows you, the home cook, to spend only 2-3 hours preparing a week’s worth of crave-worthy, healthy meals using seasonal, whole foods (nothing processed!). We aim to save you time while keeping your family’s taste buds happy.

Along with a weekly menu, you’ll get a printable grocery list and recipes for prep day — just one day of preparation yields scrumptious, good-for-you dishes all week long. Learn more…

See How You Can Eat Healthy All Week Without Spending All Day Prepping Meals!

Get healthy and delicious done-for-you meal plans delivered right to your inbox! Join thousands of families who have discovered how Prep Dish makes life so much simpler!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This