How to Choose Pots and Pans

Confused about which pots and pans to buy? We’ll help you make a purchase you won’t regret:

  • Why you should never buy bundles
  • Which pan types are the most useful
  • Which materials you should get

Never Buy Cookware Bundles

When buying cookware, everyone dives towards the 7-in-1 bundle. Get everything you need in one box. Why not?

No matter how tempting it looks, realize that you’re getting an awful deal:

  • Bundles usually include lower quality cookware that you’ll need to replace soon.
  • Those unused pots and pans will eat up precious kitchen space.
  • You won’t use most of it because the shapes and sizes won’t fit your cooking style.
  • You’ll end up spending more long-term.

Always buy your pots and pans one-by-one. Choose them depending on what and how you like to cook.

Which Pots and Pans Should You Get?

Your choices depend on how you cook and what you cook. Let’s dive through your options:

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Skillets (aka “pans”)

When you say “pan,” you almost always mean a skillet. Flat, wide, with sloped slides, you can do 90% of all your cooking in skillets.

  • Can shallow-fry and sear.
  • Sloped sides mean you can slide food out.
  • Can stir-fry, but can be a bit messy compared to a wok.
  • Short handled versions can fit in the oven.
  • Easy to clean because of their compact size.

The two most popular sizes are the 10-in (~25cm) and the 12-in (~30cm). The 10-inch fits two eggs nicely, while the 12-inch can do three. For small kitchens, the 10-inch offers the advantage of being small enough to fit in your sink. The 12-inch will, but you might have trouble maneuvering.

🤔 Should you get a skillet? Yes. It’s a workhorse.

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Straight-sided Skillets

Unlike sloping-sided skillets, straight-sided skillets offer vertical sides that surround the pan.

Pros

  • Can shallow-fry
  • Can braise and do more with liquids

Cons

  • Hard to toss off of the straight sides when stir-frying.
  • Can’t slide food out of the pan.

🤔 Should you get a straight-sided skillet? Probably not. They’re not bad. But everything it does, a wok can do better.

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Sauce Pans

We often get confused by the term “sauce pan” because we just call these “pots.”

But unlike pots, sauce pans sport single long handles. They’re basically deep skillets with straight sides. In restaurants, chefs use them to make batches of sauces which explains the name.

Pros

  • Great for small batches of liquids like sauces or soups.
  • Great for melting butter due to the small surface area.
  • Much easier to maneuver than a stockpot because of the long handle.

Cons

  • Long handle means bigger sizes won’t fit in the oven.
  • Can’t do large batches of soups or braises

Small kitchens benefit from sauce pans due to their flexibility—they’re a cross between a skillet and a stockpot. We suggest you get the middle size. The small ones look cute, but they may limit what you can do with them.

🤔 Should you get a sauce pan? Yes, especially in a small kitchen.

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Stock Pots

Even deeper than sauce pans, stock pots use two short handles on both sides. Meant to cook larger batches of liquids, stock pots are designed to carry heavier weights so having two handles help.

Pros

  • Great for large batches of soup or braises like adobo.
  • Most sizes can fit in the oven.
  • Can deep-fry but not ideal due to the narrow opening.

Cons

  • Requires two hands to lift due to two short handles, unlike sauce pans.
  • Short handles get hot.
  • Hard to shallow-fry, stir-fry, or sear due to depth.

🤔 Should you get a stock pot? Only if you like to make huge batches of soups or stews.

Dutch Ovens

Dutch ovens (they’re not ovens lol) look like stock pots. But you’ll notice an obvious difference: they’re made with cast iron and they usually look colorful and bright. (We’ll go over cast iron in a bit.)

Pros

  • Looks amazing. Great for serving in parties.
  • Shorter than stock pots, great for searing or pan-frying.
  • Weight helps them stay in place as you cook.
  • Keeps heat longer—excellent for catering and gatherings.
  • Longer heat retention also makes them great for deep-frying.
  • Sears meat well. Prevents oil splatters because of the high sides.
  • Bakes bread well.

Cons

  • Very expensive, usually 2-4x the price vs stockpots of the same size.
  • Very heavy. Unwieldy to clean for weak arms.
  • The outer coating can wear down over years of use.

🤔 Should you get a Dutch oven? Yes, if you have the budget, deep-fry frequently, and entertain guests. Most households don’t need both a Dutch oven and stockpot, so just choose one.

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Woks

Despite their reputation of being useful only for Asian food, woks offer the most versatility no matter what you cook. You might also think that they only work well when you can toss food like a pro, but that’s not true. Even beginners benefit from woks.

Pros

  • Uses much less water and oil because of the wide, concave shape.
  • The best pan for deep-frying.
  • Also the best for steaming or blanching.
  • Also the best for stir-frying. Prevents food from flying out.
  • Heats up and cools down fast.
  • Flat-bottom woks work on both gas and induction.
  • Light and easy to maneuver.
  • Extremely affordable for what it can do.

Cons

  • Needs a bit of maintenance if made from carbon steel and cast iron.
  • Takes up more kitchen space.
  • Can’t cook flat food like Spam, tortang talong, or pancakes.

🤔 Should you get a wok? Yes, if you deep-fry, stir-fry, and steam.

Which Materials Should You Buy?

Stainless

Get a stainless pan in your kitchen if you want something that just works:

  • Doesn’t stain or rust.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Can handle all materials: steel, wood, silicone, etc.
  • Doesn’t need maintenance.
  • Oven and dishwasher-safe.

But not all stainless pans work great. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, (usually below P900) you’ll find thin, single-layer stainless pans. Don’t buy these. These pans, because of their thin material, often end up burning food due to extreme hotspots.

When buying stainless pans, look for tri-ply pans. Tri-ply means that 3 layers of metals: stainless for the two outer layers, and aluminum sandwiched in the middle. Aluminum offers superior conductivity which creates even heat distribution across the pan. On the other hand, the stainless outer layers offers rust protection and durability.

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Don't Confuse Stainless for Aluminum

Because both pans look silver, you might think they’re the same. Aluminum offers better conductivity than stainless, but it rusts and gets damaged more easily. Aluminum is often cheaper, so you might find them on the lower end of the pricing scale. Often, aluminum will feel much lighter and appear less shiny than stainless. Pinoy kawalis are usually made of aluminum.

🤔 Should you buy stainless? Yes.

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Non-stick

Filipino households like to use non-stick pans for everything. It’s kind of become a meme that every house has a non-stick pan scratched beyond recognition.

If you want your non-stick pan to last, only use it for sticky food like eggs and pancakes. No reason to use them for anything else.

Non-stick usually comes in two materials PTFE (commonly known under the brand “Teflon”) and ceramic. Both will wear down with use and will need to eventually be replaced.

Pros

  • Can cook eggs or pancakes perfectly.
  • Usually the cheapest pan.
  • Can’t handle high temperatures or burning food.
  • Can’t be used in the oven.
  • Can only be used with plastic or wooden utensils.

Cons

  • Can’t be scrubbed or handled aggressively.
  • Safety concerns with Teflon because the coating gets mixed with food as it degrades.
  • Lasts for only a year or two with regular use.

Unlike other pans, non-stick pans should be considered disposable. Once food starts sticking, you might want to get rid of it for safety reasons. The coating that’s preventing food from sticking will slowly degrade and mix with the food you cook.

🤔 Should you buy a nonstick pan? Yes, but use it only for eggs and sticky dishes.

Aesthetic Ceramic

Popularized by brands like Neoflam’s Fika or Caraway, aesthetic pans look great on camera. Their light, glossy surfaces highlight the food being cooked in ways that other pans can’t.

However, these pans are just really non-stick ceramic pans with a new look.

They suffer from the same durability issues as nonstick pans. With regular use, expect to use them for just a year or two. If you want these pans, make sure you take the same extra precautions as you would for non-stick pans.

🤔 Should you buy an aesthetic pan? Sure, but treat them like nonstick pans.

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Raw Cast Iron

Most cooks don’t cook with cast iron because it’s intimidating. Unlike stainless pans which you can use and abuse without ever giving it a thought, cast iron wants some of your attention.

Pros

  • Extremely durable, lasts forever.
  • Very heavy.
  • Affordable.
  • Offers unparalleled heat capacity, keeping food hot for a long time. (Think sizzling plates)
  • With proper seasoning, becomes non-stick. Can cook eggs decently. (Not as non-stick as Teflon, though)
  • Oven-safe.
  • Sears steaks and chops excellently.
  • Usually sold as straight-sided skillets. (Good or bad depending on what you cook)

Cons

  • Needs seasoning.
  • Without seasoning, develops rust when wet.
  • Dark color makes food hard to see.
  • Great for deep-frying because oil stays hot as you drop food.
  • Needs a towel or handle holder because handle gets really hot.
  • Without seasoning, adds a weird flavor with acidic food like tomatoes and vinegar.
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Carbon Steel

If you come across carbon steel pans, which is less common than cast iron, treat it like cast iron. Carbon Steel works almost the same as cast iron, offering the same advantages and disadvantages. One big difference is that they’re usually lighter and come as sloped skillets or woks.

🤔 Should you buy a cast iron pan? Yes, if you don’t mind the weight and are willing to do maintenance. A huge boost if you cook steaks often.

Enameled Cast Iron

Unlike raw cast iron, enameled cast iron appears bright and smooth. Coated with enamel, It differs from raw cast iron quite a bit:

  • The most expensive of all home cookware.
  • Slightly non-stick.
  • Smooth and glossy.
  • Light colors make food easy to see.
  • Looks gorgeous while being durable unlike aesthetic non-stick pans.
  • Can handle metal utensils. (But needs a bit more care vs raw cast iron)

🤔 Should you buy an enameled cast iron pan? Yes, if you have the budget.

Careful: Plastic Parts

Some pans come with plastic parts, usually as handles of the pan itself or the lid. Avoid these.

Pans always come in contact with heat, and as you already know, heat melts plastic. This can not only lead you to an accident, it can also mingle with your food. On top of the dangers, plastic also won’t let you use your pan in the oven.

The Top 5 for Most People

Now that you understand pan types and materials, you should choose them based on what you cook. Spend time and pick them out one-by-one.

But if you’re too lazy to give it thought, just go for this list:

In case you don’t mind cast iron’s maintenance, consider replacing the two skillets with a cast iron skillet—with proper seasoning it can act both as a regular skillet and a non-stick one.

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