Stock your cupboard with just the essentials, including the only 5 pans you'll ever need!

Seeing as how I’ve been writing Friday Favorites almost every week for nearly five years now (holy cow, where has the time gone?!) it’s clear I love sharing products that I love with you. What can I say, when something special comes along I have to tell someone about it, including the time I emailed all my brunette friends a thorough review of a new hair removal product I tried. TMI? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, today I’m excited to share my kitchen MVPs – the only 5 pans you’ll ever need (plus two bonus, nice-to-have pans!) I mentioned a couple months ago that the spring cleaning bug bit me early this year and I went through every kitchen cupboard, purging them of old, scratched up, and unused pots and pans after new years. Afterwards I not only felt a surge of power (is there anything you can’t do after organizing a cluttered space?) but a sense of clarity. I didn’t need the 10+ pans I’d just ditched from my cupboards – I could get away with half. Stock your kitchen with these saucepans, skillets, plus a couple more pieces, and you can cook nearly anything.

Whether you’re registering for a wedding, replacing scratched up cookware, or simply looking for inspiration on what to keep or toss when going through your own kitchen cupboards, I truly believe a lean and mean kitchen stocked with these 5 pots and pans will get you far, and keep you from stressing out every time you open the cupboard and 16 different sized lids fall on your feet! (Just me? ?)

Just a note: I’ve included brands I know and trust, though the sizes of the different pots and pans is what’s most important. Also, this list is focused on cooking vs baking, so I keep a 9×13″ and 8×8″ baking dish in the house, too!

Psst! This post contains affiliate links though no cost is passed onto you.

12″ Nonstick Skillet + Lid

When I had to go gluten-free I immediately tossed our beat up nonstick skillets, as gluten can hang out in the scratches, and purchased a new 10″ and 12″ nonstick skillet. Nonstick and dishwasher-safe, I consider the 12″ skillet to be my “every day” skillet and use it to cook everything from sauteed chicken, to scrambled eggs, skillet dinners, taco meat, and risotto. If you’re cooking for just one or two people, the 10″ skillet is big enough. Be sure to only use wooden or silicone utensils on nonstick skillets to prevent scratches.



12″ Cast Iron Skillet

The pan that will literally last forever! Cast iron skillets are a must-have for every kitchen. Not only will you be able to pass it down for generations, but they’re extremely versatile – able to go from stovetop, to oven, and even grill – and inexpensive, too. Just $22 for this baby!

Cast iron skillets are perfect for searing steaks and pork tenderloins, getting that signature sizzle on fajitas, roasting chicken, making crispy hash, and even cooking casseroles. Click here for a guide on how to care for a cast iron skillet.

12 inch cast iron skillet |


3 Quart Stainless Steel Saucepan

I really like the 3 quart sized saucepan because it’s not too big and not too small. I can cook roughly 12oz pasta in it, heat up soups, and make rice, quinoa, sauces, and hard boiled eggs. I prefer a stainless steel vs nonstick in this size because I don’t often cook anything “sticky” in it, and the stainless steel will last forever. My parents still use the Farberware stainless steel saucepans they got when they were married 37 years ago! If you’re cooking for just one or two people, I’d consider a 1-1/2 or 2 quart saucepan instead.

3 quart stainless steel saucepan |


6 Quart Enameled Dutch Oven

Be still, my enameled cast iron Dutch oven-loving heart! There is seriously NOTHING a Dutch oven can’t do. I use mine to cook soup, stewchili, and gumbobraise meats, pop popcorn, and fry foods. It holds heat extremely well, cooks evenly, and will last a lifetime. In case you’re sensing a theme here, I’m all about spending a little more money on pots and pans that hold up for decades, vs spending less on ones that will have to be replaced in a year or two. An enameled cast iron Dutch oven is definitely worth the money.

6 quart enameled cast iron dutch oven |


Half Sheet Pan

A must-have in every kitchen! You can use a half sheet pan to roast vegetables, crisp garbanzo beans and kale, make cakes, and bake just about anything. Consider purchasing a silpat to protect the finish on your half sheet pan.

Half sheet pan |


2 Nice-To-Have Bonus Pans

1-1/2 Quart Stainless Steel Saucepan

If you often find yourself cooking just one cup of rice or quinoa, or heating up one or two servings of soup, etc, and don’t want to dirty a big pot, the 1-1/2 quart stainless steel saucepan is the way to go. Big enough to get the job done, but small enough that you don’t feel like you’re wasting space in the cupboard with a bigger saucepan that you don’t ever use.

1-1-2 quart stainless steel saucepan |


10 Quart Stock Pot with Lid

On the flip side, if you have a big family (4+) you’ll find a 10 quart stock pot for cooking 1lb+ pasta on spaghetti night, making big batches of soup, and yes, making homemade stock, very useful. I love to add the chicken bones from a roasted chicken into my big stock pot then add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf, then cover with water and simmer for 6+ hours before straining.

10 quart stock pot |


What’s your kitchen pot or pan MVP?