Most of us have a cobbled-together collection of pots and pans that we've added to over the years, but if you're just starting out, you might be confused by the sheer amount of choice that's available! Many homes don't need a vast array of pots and pans & a small well-chosen selection can cover all your needs.
Saucepan sets will kit you out with the essentials that are used most often, such as a milk pan, two or three saucepans and a frying pan. Even if you're cherry picking individual pans to make your set, it's worth starting with these basics.
Once you've chosen your essentials, why not supplement your saucepan set with a few individual speciality pans? Choose a steamer or griddle pan for healthy cooking; a stockpot or jam pan for larger quantities, or a wok, stir-fry pan or paella pan for exotic dishes. And if you've never quite perfected your poached egg technique, there's a pan for that too!
All pan materials have their benefits, and once you've decided which pans to buy, you'll need to consider which material is right for your kitchen. An aluminium pan will be lightweight with good heat conductivity, carbon steel pans are ideal for cooking over a high heat, and cast iron can be heavy but is very durable. Copper pans are the best for heat distribution, but the most people tend to choose enamel, hard anodised, stainless steel or non-stick pans as these are good all-rounders and the most affordable.
To get the benefits of several materials, look for cladded pans, or pans with layered or sandwiched bottoms & perhaps with an aluminium core base. A good set of pans is a long-term investment & before you choose, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Buying Pans.