Share your 3 pans strategy

Hi guys , what would be your 3 pans strategy for every day cooking tasks, for egg breakfast, high heat searing, stir fried veggies, acidic sauces, braising. I expect the three pans to be versitile enough to cover different sizes, material, constructions, and shapes, ie, frying pan, sautepan, braisers, rondeau, dutch oven, wok. Please ignore saucepan and high wall stockpot as they are mainly for boiling liquids.

My pick will be:

  1. 24cm carbon steel pan for breakfast, fried egg, omelets, fish fillet, small potion of non-acidic food.
  2. 26cm stainless steel pan, for general task, stir firing, pasta, steak searing.
  3. 28cm double loop handle saute/rondeau, large quanity of veggie, high heat searing, braise. At 28cm it becomes heavy to toss food , so i prefer a stationary pan with large bottom area to cook food.

If necessary, I could make do with my Calphalon 2-quart chef’s pan. And nothing else.


non-stick saute pan for eggs, 14" SS All Clad for almost everything else; LC dutch oven or SS saucepan for sauces like bechamel, soup, chili.

As I have to discount my saucepans, I’ll have to stick to a two pan strategy - frying pan and wok.

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10" non stick skillet for eggs and anything that is already fatty that doesn’t need additional oil (nor do I need to get crusty). 12" saute pan stainless steel (I would take carbon too, but my carbon is smaller) with higher lids for anything that might be saucier or just needs a bit extra room and a lid. 13" wok for everything else (steam, braise, stir fry, deep fry…does it all!).

If really pushed, I really could just use a wok and maybe a dutch oven and be good to go.

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1.) 10-12" Non-stick for eggs and other sticky stuff.

2.) 12" Cast iron for searing meats and shallow frying.

3.) 10-12" clad SS for everything else.

I could pretty much use the above for everything, but have smaller versions of each which makes things faster and simpler for single servings.


A large CS fry pan, a jelly roll pan, and a Dutch oven usually cover it all well.

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Only 3? Top 3?

  1. A rondeau with cover, because I can then omit a saute and a frypan, and it fits in the oven.
  2. An oven with cover.
  3. A 2-3Q Windsor.
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I started counting the pans I really use, meaning 1-3 times a week. When I got to 10, I shrugged and left it at that.


Just like Tim, I use a range of different pans weekly.

I’m the proud owner of 58 pans and pots and I wouldn’t want to get rid of one of them.

If I had to pick 3 pans, here’s what I would pick

Meat/steak searing
Darto N27 27 cm high sided frying pan in 3 mm carbon steel OR Demeyere Proline 28 cm high sided frying pan in 4.8 mm thick 7-ply

Sautéing/eggs/fish/reheating leftovers/delicate stuff
Mauviel M’STONE 24 cm ceramic non stick sauter pan OR Demeyere Alu Pro 28 cm non stick high sided frying pan

Pasta dishes/wok dishes/one pot dishes/braising
Mauviel M250c 28 cm rondeau 2.5 bimetal copper OR Demeyere Apollo 32 cm wok in thin 7-ply

My most often used pans are my Demeyere Apollo 32 cm thin 7-ply wok, my Mauviel M’STONE 24 cm ceramic non stick sauter pan and my Mauviel M250c 24 cm copper sauter pan.

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Large rondeau with cover,10” nonstick or carbon steel frypan; 2.5-3.5 qt saucier with cover.

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  1. Flat-bottom wok with lid - sautéing, stir-frying, pan-frying, steaming
  2. 4qt pressure cooker - doubles as a regular pot, also cooks multiple things at the same time using separators.
  3. 1.5qt saucepan - for daily tea, small amount of sauce, boiling eggs, or a couple of servings of rice / grains / pasta / lentils and soup.
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  1. Stainless steel stovetop pressure cooker, can also be used as a regular pot and as a serving piece, by swapping out the lid. It has curved sides so that makes it more versatile. It can pressure cook, steam, simmer, etc.
  2. A large nonstick chef’s pan - the curved shape is quasi-wok, but the flat base makes it sit easier on my gas burners. It has a lid. It can do many things: stir fry, sauté, simmer, steam, etc.
  3. Pinpointing #3 was hard. It’s either a small nonstick pan for 1-2 eggs, toasting spices, etc. Or it’s a large cast iron griddle with a small rim that can be a tava for rotis/dosais, or can also heat up/shallow fry patties …

Of course, there are multiple other pots and pans …

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I thought there may be a combination more creative than what others have mentioned already, but ultimately settled on a pretty similar list.

  1. 24 cm saute - Searing and sauteing, rice and lentils, tossing pasta, wilting vegetables, steaming

  2. 28 cm rondeau - Similar to 1) but at a larger volume

  3. 8 inch cast iron pan - This was the only item that involved a bit of wavering to consider a nonstick pan of the same size. The decision ultimately came down to tasks that only cast iron can handle (baking, searing) over the obvious convenience of nonstick in making omelettes; I’d just have to preheat a bit longer and spend a couple minutes longer to clean.

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I find it odd how many choose nonstick. It doesn’t seem very versatile to me. No high heat uses, delicate for metal spatulas, spoons, and whisks, and not very good at creating fond. I know people love them for eggs, but with very little fat a carbon steel pan handles eggs beautifully.

A SS pan handles eggs just as well, but everyone uses the pan they find easiest / most convenient / comfortable.

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Why 3?

I just need a wok.

And I’m good.

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The same reason for buying different sport shoes for hiking, football, and basketball. I am a cookware lover so i need reason to own a small collection of cookwares and not being excessive at the time😂. I hope each piece of cookware can optimize for different cooking styles. There are always multi purpose one do it for all cookwares like a wok. But I seldom sear a nice steak in a wok, as if a non stick pan is good to make a super soft fried egg and omelet with gentle heat. A heavy cast iron is good at browning thick cut of meat.

I never cook eggs without some fat … without, it just seems …wrong. I’ve also never used a non-stock pan for “nonfat” cooking. The amount of fat I use can be quite negligible; not everything needs to swim in butter, although there’s nothing wrong with that :joy:

I suspect most people opt for nonstick because they don’t know how to maintain and season a pan, or they think that SS will cause insurmountable sticking, which it won’t, if things are done properly.

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