What material is the best pan you own made of?

I am building my own kitchen (YAY) and I also need my own set of pots&pans. I want the essentials, so I already opted for a copper saucepan (need it for styling purposes as well) and a cast-iron skillet. I need something for stir-fries and that can really favor caramelization. My nonstick pans are awesome, but they don't exactly do a good job in this sense, and I don't love steel pans. I set my eyes on lyonnaise / blue steel / carbon steel pans, but I read that you cannot cook with acidic foods in them (so no deglazing with wine)...
What is your experience in this sense? What would you recommend in terms of materials and brands? And what is your favorite pan you own?

Thank you!

Valentina Solfrini


Joe November 12, 2015
I love Le Creuset enamel pans and pots!
AntoniaJames November 9, 2015
I use my All-Clad large pot with two handles all the time; I mean, all the time. The small All-Clad saucepan gets a lot of use, too. They clean easily, conduct well, are easy to handle, all-around fine workhorses.
For less frequent use but a real favorite, is my oval Le Creuset gratin dish. It's a beauty, and for gratins you simply can't find anything nicer. I know nothing about styling, but I do know that the ones like mine that I've seen in beauty shots look so classy.
I have a large flat generic lid with a heatproof handle that fits on my large (12") skillet, and on any other pan with two handles (i.e., nothing angled up to get in the way, at least for the smaller ones). I got it a restaurant supply store. I put it in the indispensable, real keeper category. It's of excellent quality, but not a fancy brand.

I love the heavy, stainless steel lined copper skillet I was given years ago. Mr T bought it at Sur La Table (their brand, made in France). Another real favorite that I reach for constantly, it conducts perfectly, while turning heads with its classic beauty. Plus, it goes into the oven - so helpful.

I hope this helps. ;o)
foofaraw November 9, 2015
Btw, what is your stovetop? I think pots and pans design and material depends a lot on it.
I love 3-ply stainless steel with copper on the middle. Very easy to use, rust-proof, good at conducting heat and no heat spot. Because we have ceramic stovetop, I cook even all my stir fries &fried rice in pasta pot because it has largest (flat) contact with heat source and I never have problem turning them with spatula.
foofaraw November 9, 2015
Oh, and all stainless steel for the handles too, so it can go to oven. Also choose the one that have thick(er) bottom to distribute the heat nicely (ours is ~1/4 - 1/3 in thick). I don't remember if the one we have is Pro-Clad, or
Nan November 9, 2015
Cast iron. Lodge skillets, le Creuset Dutch ovens.
Smaug November 9, 2015
I wouldn't want to say anything about "best"- depends too much on what you want from it, and you have to decide if price, storability etc. are part of the equation, but the pan I reach for most (cooking for 2 people) is probably my cheapo Joyce Chen 91/2" wok, with a lid (Ace Cook) I bought separately. The pair was probably no more that $25 on Amazon, but it usually seems to be the best tool for the job. After experimenting with some expensive nonsticks, I think I'm going back to buying $20 Teflon pans and replacing them regularly- the expensive ones don't really seem to last much better.
Alexandra V. November 9, 2015
Stainless steel rondeau.
QueenSashy November 9, 2015
Valentina, so glad about the new kitchen, congrats, you must be so excited!!! I might be a little bit weird in this respect, but I use my Le Creuset Dutch ovens for almost everything. My favorite is a wide and shallow round Dutch oven, it is about 4 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter and is wonderful for browning vegetables, sautéing and caramelizing onions, reducing excess liquids and slow cooking. I do not make too many stir fries, but when I do, I use it instead of a wok because of the large surface area. However, I bought it about 15 years ago, and not sure if Le Creuset carries it any more... And I know this might matter to you, Dutch ovens are also great for styling, especially some of the muted colors (gray, aubergine, truffle, slate, cream), both Le Creuset and Staub have a range of exciting new colors.
ChefJune November 9, 2015
Le Creuset pots in all colors are great for food styling. They are also quite heavy, even when empty. If you are young and strong, that shouldn't present a problem.
Valentina S. November 9, 2015
Thank you Queen! Well, I will be definitely get a dutch oven. I know I'd use it a lot!I actually think I'll get a classic Italian stone dutch oven. I already own a small one and use it a lot.
ChefJune November 9, 2015
I swear by my carbon steel pans, and deglaze with wine all the time. Only thing - you can't wash them. You need to clean them out with kosher salt.
My favorite pan is one you can only find on eBay... It's an original Cuisinart 5.5 quart deep saute with lid that has a copper pocket on the bottom. The original cookware was made in France. What's on offer these days is from either China or SriLanka - not sure which.
Coco E. November 9, 2015
Since you already have a copper and cast iron, I would strongly recommend getting a wok with a lid (yes I know that sounds daunting). These are high-capacity, and can handle anything from stir-frying, braising, steaming, frying, deep-frying, and even smoking. If you do, make sure you get one that's light enough for you to manage with your left hand (if you're right-handed), that has a lid, and is not cast iron (which makes acids a no-no and also makes it much heavier). One last thing, if you have been blessed with a gas range, then go for a wok with a rounded bottom, otherwise stick with one that has a flat bottom.
Valentina S. November 9, 2015
Thank you! I was actually thinking of a wok :) And I do have a gas range! If I were to go for a wok, I'd probably get a classic carbon steel one. Is yours carbon steel?
Coco E. November 9, 2015
Yup, mine is carbon steel - it's non-reactive, light and pretty much indestructible. All the best to your wok-hunting!
Nancy November 9, 2015
If I had to pick one pan for dessert island (or all) cooking, it would be a deep covered cast iron skillet (or Dutch oven)....for versatility (soup to cake), compatible with every heat source, low cost, sturdiness.
2nd choice is a pan with a conductor metal protected by or sandwiched by a surface more convenient for cooking (e.g. enameled cast iron, steel sandwich with copper in between).
BTW, the no-acid thing for cast iron is more about not doing long cooking or storage with an acidic sauce or liquid, because of the interaction with the pan. You could deglaze with stock and add a bit of wine off the fire for flavor, or even a very quick deglaze with wine.
Avoid aluminium. While data linking it to Alzheimers etc. are inconclusive, they are worrying.
Recommended by Food52