What Pan Is Best For Cooking Which Dish?

Whatever dish you are planning to cook, there is a right pan for the job. 

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You would think that it would be easy to know what pot or pan to use when you're cooking but unless the recipe says a certain pan should be used, you are left to your own judgment-and whatever cookware is available-about which is the right pan to use for cooking it.

What is the best pan for cooking? 

If you read a recipe, there should be key clues in the instructions that should be able to tell you exactly what you need to be using. Keywords such as "simmer", "saute", and even "deep fry" are indicative of which cookware you should be using. While it's obvious that pots should be used for soups and pan for fried food, it's not always this simple. 

Are you using the right cookware for your dishes? Take note of certain keywords so you know which among the basic pots and pans you have is the right cookware of the dish:   

Photo by Neoflam/SM
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1 Stews: Use pots for soups

When you see the keywords "simmer", "boil", "stew", and "braise", these indicate a dish that you will need cookware that has volume. The soup pot or simply a pot is the best for these types of cooking. Basically, it should be big enough to hold the amount of liquid and ingredients that you will be adding to the pot.  


As to material, a stainless steel pot is best for this type of cooking. While beginner cooks might turn to nonstick-coated cookware for all their cooking needs to avoid the dreaded sticking issue, the stainless steel surface of the pot is ideal for this type of cooking.

Why? The "sticking" is actually desired because this is the foundation of the flavor (also known as "the fond") that will develop and make your dish super delicious and tasty. Don't worry about sticking. When you add the liquid to the pot, it will all become unstuck while the fond will release from the bottom of the pan and combine with the rest of your ingredients to create something delicious. 

Hosh Select Stainless Steel Induction Casserole with Glass Lid 24cm, P1,199.75, Shop SM 

Photo by Cuisinart/Rustans

2 Fried dishes: Use a frying pan 

"Fried" is the basic keyword that should have you immediately reaching for your favorite frying pan. "Pan searing" is the other. Frying is one of the most basic cooking techniques that many beginner cooks are comfortable doing. You know the "frying pan" or "fry pan" as the shallow pan with slanted sides with a long handle. This can be nonstick coated or stainless steel. 

The tricky part is knowing which to use for which fried dish. Use nonstick pans for pancakes, scrambled eggs, and for flawless fried fish, especially skinless fish fillets like cream dory which easily falls apart when cooked. Use the stainless steel for searing chicken, beef, pork chops, and sometimes, whole fish. 

You may occasionally encounter the word "skillet", but did you know that the frying pan and the skillet are two different kinds of frying pans

MultiClad Pro 12in Non-Stick Skillet with Helper, P7,159.80, Rustans 


Photo by Tefal/Rustans

3. Sautéed dishes: Use a sauté pan

There's another kind of "frying pan" that you may be using that actually isn't a frying pan: the frying pan with straight sides, otherwise known as the sauté pan. This pan is best for sautés and stir-fried dishes whose ingredients are frequently tossed if you don't have a wok. A nonstick surface is ideal for this kind of pan but if you know how to use a stainless steel pan right, it can be just easy to use for this kind of dish. 


The sauté pan is actually the frying pan's answer to the stews and braises that start off by frying ingredients. Think of this pan as the "just right" pan that isn't as big in volume as a soup pot that your dish hardly fills it but isn't as small as a frying pan that might overflow either. 

Sauté pans offer you the best of both cookware. It can help you sear the meats for a stew or braise such as the kaldereta or beef stew while giving you more volume so you can add liquid to the pan without it overflowing. If you don't have a skillet, this is the next best thing. 

Kitchen Fun by Beka Mambo Skillet with Lid - 24cm, P2,560, Rustans   

Photo by Neoflam/SM

4 Sauces: Use a saucepan  

Few home cooks really think about sauces but they should. Sauces can make dishes taste different every time! For sauces and small portions of soups, you can turn to the saucepan. The saucepan is a cross between a pot and a pan. It's got the shape of a pot but it's small enough that sports the long handle of a pan. 

These are best when made of stainless steel because nonstick pans are really best for frying food, not for dishes that need to simmer. This may be the most versatile pot you need if you live alone. You can use this little pot for cooking small batches of deep-fried food or simmer a small portion of macaroni or cook a single serving of soup. 

Neoflam Stainless Steel Cookware Sauce Pan 18cm., P1,359.80, SM Department Store 

Photo by Beka/Rustans

5 Stir-fried dishes: Use a wok 

The wok is the most specialized cookware on this list. That's because not everyone will have a wok. However, the popularity of Chinese food as well as its influence on our cuisine necessitates the wok in the Pinoy kitchen. Pancit dishes are best cooked in a wok as do the chop suey, sweet and sour pork, and the beef with broccoli dishes since these need to be tossed quite frequently and vigorously.  

The wok is a large pan, traditionally made of carbon steel, but this is a material that needs to be seasoned, much like a cast iron pan would need to be seasoned. This difficulty in maintenance is why it is now common to see woks made with nonstick coating. 

Beka Nomad Wok, P3,500, available at Rustan's Department Stores, SM Home Megamall, SM Home Makati, SM Home North Edsa, SM Home Aura, Lazada and Shopee




Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here!

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