Types of Pan
Large Pan

This takes about 1.5 to 2 litres of liquid and is generally used for boiling vegetables and sometimes cooking stews. It should be a lidded and heavy bottomed pan. You’ll need a good strong handle that gives you confidence when you lift the pan, and generally speaking, it should be easy clean if not non stick – though many pans of this type are not coated with non stick material, some of the better quality ones are enamelled.

Medium Pan

Usually about 1 litre capacity and is used for making sauces and cooking smaller items such as boiling or poaching an egg. It is a good pan for warming food, should be lidded and is similar in specification to the large pan.

Small Pan

A lidded pan, very heavily constructed for making sauces both sweet and savoury. They often appear over engineered, but this is done specifically to allow an even heat using a low light, so as not to introduce burned tones into your delicate sauces.

Frying Pan (Skillet)

This should be heavy-bottomed, a very robust pan with a long handle. The pan has a lipped outer edge to allow pouring easily and a heat proof handle to allow the pan to be transferred to the oven or put under a grill. Non stick or otherwise, this pan needs to stand up to all kinds of utensils working in the pan, and should be robust enough not to buckle or change shape on heating.


This is a pan without a traditional handle. Very robust, lidded and capable of withstanding heat on the cooker and in the oven for many hours. Frequently cooking in these pans involves the sweating of onions, carrots and celery followed by the addition of browned meat – which has also been cooked seared in the casserole. Then large volumes of liquid and rapid changes in temperature. Furthermore, it should be able to withstand the scraping of burned patches when cooking in the oven – the tastiest part of the casserole.

Stock Pot

Very large pans, often with a thin side but extra thick bottom. These are for boiling bones and offcuts, pigs feet, fish bones and heads, vegetables and other items for making stock, but can also be used for making cheeses. Usually of 1 gallon capacity, these pans are very useful, especially if you have to make a lot of soup, or boil a chicken.

Buying a Pan
The best you can afford

There are two schools of thought when it comes to buying pans, buy cheap and replace them when they are worn out, or buy as expensive as you can and look after them to keep them for a lifetime.


There are many reasons why an expensive pan is better than a cheap one, not the least that the experience of cooking is so much enhanced with a good pan, but what actually makes ‘a good pan’, and you will find they really don’t have to be so expensive after all.


First of all, almost always buy the heaviest pan. Yes, they are heavy and therefore somewhat harder to lift – especially if full of hot liquid. However, a heavy pan distributes heat much more evenly and once hot, the pan stays hot for a lot longer than a thin one.


This allows cooking a lower heat, not only saving money, but more importantly allowing you to cook more perfectly without risk of burning or overcooking.


The pan should be easy to clean, don’t think a cheap non stick pan is better than a more expensive conventional one, an enamelled pan such as made by Le Creuset is both easy clean and fairly non stick. However, watch enamelled pans for cracking and chipping – which occurs when used too hot.


Pan handles are important. They should instil confidence. They should have no gaps in them – some are made from folded sheet steel and have a gapped join, make sure this is not going to trap your skin when handling. Handles should also be oven proof so you can transfer from the cooker to the oven or grill without concern. Remember the handle will be hot, so have some form of protection to hand always.


Lids should be as heavy as possible for two good reasons. Firstly they fit well, held in position by their weight. Secondly they get hot, creating an even cooking volume within. They should always have a steam hole, otherwise they will lift with potentially dangerous results.


Most pans are made either from steel or aluminium. Steel, being heavier, takes longer to reach temperature, but keeps this temperature longer. Aluminium heats and cools more quickly. The best cooking experience comes from a heavier pan, so judge accordingly.


Although they look very beautiful, copper pans are very expensive. Copper is a good conductor of heat and is heavier and denser than steel, though more malleable. Both aluminium and copper are not as durable as steel.