Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: what kind of casserole pan should a First Kitchen stock?

Casserole pans

For many of us home cooks out there, cooking can get emotional.

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I’m not talking about the kind of emotion that makes us sob at the sauté pan, bawl over baking sheets. (Though I have, on occasion, burst into tears as I shove whole Oreos and Hershey Cookies n' Cream bars into pans of brownie batter. But that’s a whole other story.). I’m not talking about our tears over chopped onions, or lumps in our throats as we throw a burned batch of cookies in the trash.

I’m taking about the kind of cooking that makes us feel whole again. 

We all have our dishes. For some, it’s cakes: the pouring of the batter, the emerging, towering masterpiece. For others, it’s chili: the slow, even simmering, the way it melts together, the way one spoonful can hold everything -- the world -- it its tiny grasp.

For me, it’s anything made in a casserole pan.

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese

Think about it. Macaroni and cheese is made in a casserole pan. Eggplant Parmesan is made in a casserole pan. Bread pudding is made in a casserole pan. (Can you tell my comfort foods are carbohydrates and cheese?) The mixing, the pouring, the spreading, the baking: for me, it signifies satisfaction.

So my first kitchen, then, needs a casserole pan to handle this -- to handle any fractured emotions, to keep them in, to turn them into something whole and new again. It’s a tall order. I’ll need your help.

Le Creuset casserole pan

Glass, ceramic, or metal?

When it comes to buying casserole dishes, I’m looking for something that is non-stick, durable, and something that won’t pick up that mac-and-cheese odor and meld it into my bourbon bread pudding. Something clean, easy, and strong. Pyrex glass dishes are usually the go-to; glass, however, is not broil-safe. (And I like the cheese on my gratins nice and browned, okay?)

Instead, ceramic or metal seems like the way to go -- although ceramic is known to conduct heat better than most metal dishes. It’s also easy to clean (always a plus, in my book). The Le Creuset Stoneware Baker is a solid, big ticket item -- and for a less-expensive-but-still-trustworthy ceramic casserole pan, I could go for the Emile Henry 3-Quart Gratin Dish.


Like sauté pans and saucepans, casserole dishes can be useful in many shapes and sizes. The majority of recipes call for pans either three quarts or one-and-a-half quarts; the latter could be doubled, of course, but it may make sense to go for both. Do you find yourself needing more than one casserole dish? And, if so, in what size?

And what kind of cooking makes you feel whole again?

Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Astates
  • Amymerrill
  • Bob Y
    Bob Y
  • smslaw
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


SBMCW November 28, 2012
If you don't want a shiny copper look try a Faulk copper gratin. They have a muted finish. However a 2.5 mm Mauviel gratin will develop a patina fairly quickly. Both are impressive and both come with stainless steel linings
Astates November 29, 2012
Thank you. That said, I also own a lot of Le Creuset and love them. They are however, heavy.
Astates November 28, 2012
So I would like to get a copper gratin/cassarole dish like the one above. I have seen a few on Ebay that antique but am worried about buying something with a tin lining that has worn away. Should I try to find a new one? I love the patina on the older ones.
SBMCW November 28, 2012
I think the Le Creuset wins in the cost benefit contest. I recently sent a oval gratin back to Le Creuset for replacement. Big chunk of the lip separated. Had a new one in three weeks. The first one lasted 25 years. I was in the Le Creuset flagship store in Bethesda MD and the store manager passed on this use: he uses the roaster on the grill to keep side dishes warm or to sauté items that often fall through the grill. Keep in mind that this type equipment gets passed on to children or brothers and sisters. The Le Creuset roaster is akin to a man's blue blazer - it can go anywhere any time - dressed up and down. 25 years is ~9,000 days divided by $200 = ~$0.02 per day..
Amymerrill November 27, 2012
I have a few of each style. I have Le Creuset, Pyrex, and Calphalon metal. I use them all and I choose different ones depending on the food I am cooking. My Le Creuset pan is large, oval, and has a lid. It is very versatile and the cover makes it easy to transport if I need to.
Bob Y. November 27, 2012
You absolutely cannot go wrong with Le Crueset. The ceramic is fine (Emile Henry is fine), but its worth the extra money for the cast iron/enamel. As mentioned you can use it on the stovetop and under the broiler. I bought my first Creuset almost 40 years ago and its still going strong. I feel whole again using that casserole to make a wonderful veal stew that was originally a Julia Child recipe which, over the years, has become my own. Creuset is worth the investment - 40 years from now you'll be thanking me :).
smslaw November 27, 2012
When I got married, we bought three Corning ware casseroles with glass (Pyrex?) covers. Forty four years later, they still get used all the time and are still pretty much stain free.
Sucee November 27, 2012
Goo with enamel cast iron or ceramic. Both clean easily. They also tend to be less costly, thus giving you the option of more than one.
chop C. November 26, 2012
Bought a large Le Crueset ceramic oval casserole dish last week in flaming orange to red fade. Baked leeks in heavy cream to break it in. Worked well and cleaned up easy.
Randi November 26, 2012
What's name/source for the off-white oval casserole pans in the photo above, the ones that appear in so many Food52 photos?
LucyS November 26, 2012
The Le Creuset stoneware is great, but for kitchens with small space I have to recommend their cast iron one. Same size and shape, albeit more expensive and heavier, but you can use it on the stove top!
aargersi November 26, 2012
Here is my go-to. It's enamel and iron. It's easy to clean. And, it's apple green which just makes me happy!
JohnnyG November 26, 2012
Get yourself Emile Henry in every shape & size you can afford. I like the ovals for vegetables, side dishes. I have square for lasagna. I have a flame pot that goes from gas stove top to oven & back. You won't be disappointed. While they won't markup with signs of wear over the years leaving scars of memories behind, they will on the other hand clean up sheerly effortlessly! The cerama coating inside an Emile releases anything--even burnt sugar!