The Joy of One: Pan

My husband and I have had a pretty nomadic life together, and since we were always on the move, we never invested in quality cookware. Pots and pans are heavy and awkward to transport, so we would usually pick them up randomly as needed, then donate the lot before moving on and starting over again.

Well, we’re hoping to stay in our current location for the long haul, so when it comes to kitchenware, it’s time for a change in strategy. And that’s part of the motivation behind my One series: I’m ready to choose quality, versatile items that’ll last forever, instead of a mishmash of “temporary” things that sort of get the job done.

Furthermore, when it comes to cookware, few things stress me out more than a cabinet with a clanging, haphazard pile of pots and pans. That’s why I could never buy pots and pans in sets—it would drive me mad to rustle through a multitude of pieces to find the one I’m looking for. I would much rather open a cabinet and see a few carefully-chosen items sitting peacefully in their spots, without competing for elbow room with a dozen others. To me, that makes for a more serene kitchen than having a pan in every shape and size.

The combination of our cross-country move and an induction cooktop in our new house has given me an opportunity to start over again with respect to cookware. I’ve been researching various options, tracking our meals (and what we use to prepare them), and engaging any willing parties in conversation about their favorite pots and pans.

For my family of three, I find a large pan essential for our needs—but I didn’t want to own both a frying pan (shallow with curved sides) and sauté pan (deeper with straight sides). Fortunately, I found a brilliant compromise: a deep, multipurpose stainless steel pan with sloping sides and a lid. It can be used to sear, sauté, stew, stir fry, brown, braise, and reduce sauces. The higher sides keep liquids in, yet still allow for tossing on the stovetop. (For those who want to know, it’s called a “weeknight pan” by the company that makes it.) It can even go in the oven.

As if that’s not versatile enough, it can also be used to make one pan pasta. Like Toni, one of my Commenters last week, I discovered this on the internet and was intrigued by the simplicity (and minimal cleanup) of this technique. You simply put the pasta, olive oil, vegetables, herbs, etc. in the pan, cover it with water, and stir frequently for about 9 minutes while the water evaporates. (No need to lug 8 quarts of hot water across the kitchen to dump in a colander!) I started experimenting about a month ago with this One Pan Lemon Garlic Pasta, and it’s become one of my family’s favorites (I replace half the butter with a drizzle of olive oil for a less creamy sauce). I look forward to expanding my repertoire of these one pan dishes, as they’re perfect for busy weeknights. (So if you have a favorite, please tell me about it in the Comments!)

We’ve been using this One Pan exclusively for two months now, and so far it’s covered all our needs. However, I should point out that we’re not big egg eaters (my daughter will only eat them in hard-boiled form). If you like yours fried, scrambled, or as an omelette, you might need a small cast iron skillet. (I’ve read that with the right temperature and enough fat, you can cook eggs in stainless steel without sticking, but I haven’t tried it myself.)

So this has been a pretty easy Joy of One challenge—see, they’re not all as crazy as One Shoe. ;-) And I have to say, I’m just enjoying this series so much. I thank you all for your wonderful comments on my Simpler Kitchen post—so many great ideas and resources. I loved hearing how your grandmothers used their hands or favorite teacups to measure, and I’m totally inspired to make hummus with a mortar and pestle (as Bette pointed out, it’s been made for centuries without a food processor!).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on having One Pan. Would that work for you, or do you have reason to own more?

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

51 comments to The Joy of One: Pan

  • denise

    I have one pan with a glass cover – looks to be a similar shape and size to the one you use and it is all i need. I do eggs in it without any issue and i do not go crazy with extra olive oil and have not had issues with sticking. i have not tried the one pan pasta but i do cook my veggies in this pan. i have a silicone steamer/colander that fits the pan so i can steam veggie or i sauté them in veggie broth and some herbs.

  • Julie Caouette

    I’m loving your Joy of One series! It’s really inspiring. Here’s my favorite one pan recipe.

  • Hilde

    I do not own a full food processor or a blender, but I have an immersion blender that I use several times a week to make smooth tomato sauce, or to blend pumpkin soup for example. It comes with a little cup that I use to make hummus in. Never occurred to me to use pestle and morter, but of course!

    The other day I was saying to an acquaintance how I was thinking of buying a “real” blender for making smoothies, since that doesn’t work too well with the immersion blender. He said: so why don’t you just buy one? They’re only about thirty bucks! I think I may have stared at him like he was an alien – I am so used to taking a long time to mull over purchases now, that it would never occur to me to “just buy it” on a whim. I don’t want clutter in my life, and I won’t buy something unless I’m absolutely sure I will love using it all the time. So I’m going to experiment with my immersion blender a bit more. I guess my mindset has changed a lot!

    • Dylan

      The IP is probably the most useful kitchen item I’ve purchased in years. I’ve chopped nuts with mine, blasted frozen fruits, made hummus and bean dips, and chopped hard veggies with it like turnips, broccoli, and carrots. But where it really shines like you said is in making creamy soups. I really recommend an IP if people are sick of hauling out their FP or blender to do these kinds of tasks.

      I don’t do smoothies but if you’re really serious about them, you probably will need a blender or a Vitamix. Definitely do your research because you can really vary your smoothie ingredients if you have the right machine. My friends who have Vitamixes love them but they are way more machine than I’d ever use. Also, the containers are plastic because the HP of those things is so powerful it would shatter a glass container. Huge footprint as well. You could probably put a baseball bat in a V and it would pulverize it into saw dust. They are really monsters.

      There are also smaller blenders for single servings. I’ve got my parents’ old Oster beehive, it’s also a workhorse but it’s heavy and the IP is such a great little tool, I never use the big blender anymore. Good luck!

  • Mmmm that lemon pasta looks good!

    I have been following along with your Joy of One series with my own series the Luxury of Less:

    You had one coat – I had four. You had one pair of shoes – I had 7.

    When I first saw this post I got excited, I thought it might be my lowest count yet as I only have 2 fry pans, but it wasn’t to be as I soon realized you were counting all your pots and pans which means I know I have quite a few more. I will have to count and take some pics and I will add it to my series.

    Thank you for this series I am finding it really inspirational. Wondering what you will count next has kept me on my toes and I find that I am getting rid of clutter with the thought “I don’t want to get caught out if that’s what Francine counts next!” :-)

  • Paul B

    I like this post very much indeed – it has made me think about minimalism in the kitchen, which is somewhere I can, on occasion, overlook. Time to check my cupboards methinks :)

  • Janet

    I have 1 pot too – this reminded me I need to find it a better lid. I also only use 1 pot. It is big enough to hold soup for my family and I can cook anything else in it I’d use the set of different sized pots for. Looking forward to your next Joy of One.

    • Janet

      oops – I pot and 1 pan.

      • Karen T.

        Me too — one pot and one pan. My pan sounds a lot like Francine’s, though I successfully cook eggs in it often! BTW, the one pot and one pan are used for just my husband and me most of the time, but I always make enough for leftovers, and I can cook plenty to include our adult son who visits for dinner or brunch most weekends.

  • Betsy

    If the pan you pictured in this article is the one you actually purchased you made a great decision. For years I would purchase inexpensive pans over and over. What I spent in a year could have gone towards one great forever pan. I finally purchased the pan in your picture a year and a half ago and it is perfect! It does the job and is so easy to clean……also it’s made in the U.S.A. I’m embarrassed to say it took me years to figure out how one better quality item is a much more worthwhile and economical purchase.

  • laura m.

    I have aSatinless pan similar to that of yours use it for stir fry and sauteing meats, etc, also have stainless (heavy duty) 8 and 10 inch I bake meats in or reheat leftovers using broiler in oven. Also have a med size cast iron one. I do not bake with glass bake ware, always thought it was “iffy”. Never bought sets, like to pick out open stock like TJ Maxx or Ross outlets. It’s just two of us and we do not entertain.

  • Dylan

    Do you not eat rice and oatmeal? I can’t really see cooking these types of things in a saute pan. I need at least a saucepan and a Dutch oven since I eat brown rice and beans pretty much daily and I like cooking enough for 3-4 days at a time, plus I cook beans from dry. I’ve got a Cuisinart saute pan, they are really great for stir fries, heating veggie burgers and beetballs, making curries and tomato sauces. But for soups and stews, and cooking batches of brown rice and oatmeal, or for cooking beans on the stove or in the oven, it’s not something I’d pull out.

  • Diana

    Nice pan.

    I make overnight fridge oats for work. It makes life simple when I pack all of the work meals & lunch boxes I don’t have to think much.
    I have a designated container for each person: oats, water, almond milk or coconut milk, chia seeds & frozen berries. Give the contents a quick shake & leave overnight in the fridge.
    I have flirted with different overnight oat combinations but this is the common favorite. Easy to make, easy to clean up, exactly portioned per person.

    I like this entry. I could use some simple reliable kitchen routines.

    • Karen T.

      Overnight oats work great without a pot — I second that! You can also do it in the morning (and have a warm bowl) if you boil water in a kettle to pour over the oats, chopped apple, raisins, whatever. Let it sit while you make your bed and it’s ready to eat.

  • […] This series was inspired by Francine at Miss Minimalist who is doing a series The Joy of One, where she is blogging about the items she owns one of. One coat, one pair of shoes, one pen etc. You can see her post, The Joy of One Pan here. […]

  • I went and counted my pots and pans, I have a few more than 1! You can see my count here in my Luxury of Less series where I am following Francine’s lead and counting my stuff.

  • Marissa

    Like you Francine, I have finally purchased an All-Clad 8-inch stainless steal pan that was made in the United States and I love it! 8D My aunt bought my last Cuisinart 8-inch stainless steel pan from me and that pan was made in China. It was a good pan, but I must say, my All-Clad one is exceptional! It is so much better than my old pan and cooks my food faster! I was also planning on buying the All-Clad pan because even though I don’t buy Made in USA stuff most of the time, I would prefer to buy local and I care about quality cookware a lot. I even have two Le Creuset pots I saved up for and paid cash for each one! I don’t use my bigger one a lot, but when I need to cook something big, I always go to that pot! If you really want baller cookware and don’t mind how heavy it is, get Le Creuset cookware. It is the master cookware and a lot of the pots with lids and I think the sauce pans are made in France! At least my two pots are. I even checked before buying them just to be sure. > _<; However, some of their products are made in China, but regardless, the cookware is still exceptional.

    But since I buy food in bulk from Costco, for example, chicken thighs, when preparing to store it properly, I use glass Pyrex dishes that have lids that go on them and they are both made in the USA! You could buy ANCHOR dishes with lids, but their glass is made in the USA, but not their lids, which is why I never touch those. :C I just love Pyrex dishes so much. <3

    So that is most of my kitchen stuff! ^ o^ I care about my health a lot, so I try to avoid terrible kitchen products like teflon pans unless I have to cook with one. But keep it up with buying good kitchenware! You will thank yourself later! ^^ If you are blessed enough to pass that Made in USA pan down to Plumblossom or someone else, you have officially made a good investment! 8D

  • Hi Francine!! I am loving this series of “The Joy of One”. Recently I came across a website that might interest you since it’s in alignment with what you teach: They only offer superbly crafted items that will last a lifetime.

    Your essays inspire me to choose better and choose less. I find myself “saving” for well crafted tshirts. :)

  • MelD

    I am enjoying this series, though I am probably far from ‘one’ of most things!

    This pan looks great, though it would be too large for some things like sauces. I always like one small saucepan (and have had my tiny Ikea PS pan for well over 10 years, it’s a great little pan; the previous pan lasted about 20 years but the plastic handle eventually broke – it was given to me by a neighbour when my eldest daughter was born, so I could cook baby food).

    In addition, I like one small pressure cooker pan (can be used normally, has 2 lids) that is 5 litres, I think, and has been my main go-to for nearly 30 years. As I don’t live in the US, I am happy to have this high quality pan made just 21 km (13 miles) from where I live (Kuhn Rikon of Switzerland). I have had less luck with frying pans and dislike the Kuhn Rikon one I have, though for a while I’ve been happy with a 28cm ceramic-lined one. In addition I use two other lidded Kuhn Rikon saucepans that aren’t essential to me but nice to have – I think they are 1.5 litre and 2.5 litre content. These pans have taken me happily through a family of 5 for 26 years and still look good, too (they have brass handles!). More recently, I have invested in a Le Creuset pot which I use for all kinds of stews and baking bread, so I’m enjoying using that and use the others somewhat less, now that there are just the two of us, occasionally 1-2 in addition. I think how many pans you really need can depend on the size of your family and the phase of life you are in!

    I did recently get a plan glass lid for the frying pans, as my husband felt it was necessary. I will be trying out your one-pan-pasta, as I love one-pot meals.
    Also, I use my electric kettle a lot, so don’t heat water in a pan. If I did/do, I would also use the tiny pan (1 litre) even more.

    But there are a few more pans in my cupboard because my husband likes using big, deep pans and also has a copper fish kettle (!). He uses the Kuhn Rikon stainless steel dimpled frying pan I hate, and two other larger pans, as well as a Wok pan, so they take up space, too. He also uses his grandfather’s antique goose roasting pan, which we store in the cellar, about three times a year… In fact, I would get rid of about half of our kitchen stuff if I could, but since hubbie enjoys cooking, I don’t!

    My nearly-100 year old granny really does use pans until they break! I don’t know how old the half-dozen pans in her 80-year old kitchen are, most are missing handles (they can then be used in the oven!), and the “new” ones we are not allowed to touch when we cook for her are at least 50 years old and neatly wrapped in newspaper on top of the cupboard… There’s quality for you!

  • Anna

    I think you are making your life unnecessarily complicated and limiting how you cook just to avoid having an extra pan. We use a frying pan, a couple of pans for rice, pasta, sauces etc and a big stock pan for making chicken stock, big batches of food etc. Each to their own but it’s not a big deal having one extra pan.

    • Dylan

      I don’t understand how people entertain owning only one pan. I have friends over on a pretty regular basis, usually 4-6 people. At holidays I have up to 10 or 15 people. I definitely need more than one pan just for entertaining. And one medium sized pan doesn’t really lend itself to batch cooking, which I like to do.

  • Betsy

    Janice- The pan is from All-Clad. It’s the best investment I ever made in cookware.

    • Janice

      Thanks, Betsy! Do you know the size of it? I’m trying to find one online. Sorry for all the questions.

      • miss minimalist

        Betsy’s right, it’s an All-Clad pan in the 4-quart size. Mine was actually called a “saute simmer pan” and has a brushed stainless exterior, but it’s nearly identical (from what I can tell) to the more widely available “weeknight pan” (which has a polished exterior).

        • Alison

          It’s good to see All-Clad given the credit here.

          Although I appreciate that you don’t want your blog to become a commercial, and I wouldn’t want to see that happen either, there are some brands that deserve credit for staying close to their founders’ mission and values, and one of them is All-Clad. From the beginning, All-Clad was built to last and deliver high performance. I don’t know anyone among friends and family with All-Clad (particularly the D5 (five-ply range)) who regrets the investment. And it is, indeed, heartening that they continue to manufacture onshore, not yielding to pressures to move offshore as so many others have.

          • I have a set of All-clad I bought over 25 years ago. They are the stainless steel and they cook and look as good today as they did 25 years ago. It’s worth the investment in good cookware. Also, Le Creuset is worth the price as well.

    • miss minimalist

      It’s the first piece of quality cookware I’ve owned, and it’s wonderful. Love that it’s made in the USA.

  • I wrote a few weeks ago about my One Pan and how much I love it. I chose a saute pan with lid because we eat a lot of eggs and the flat bottom is imperative for omelettes. We also have a small sauce pan and a stock pot, but that’s the beginning and end of our pots and pans cupboard. I love how streamlined it is. we’ve been operating with this set for ~4 months and i’ve never once found myself unable to cook a meal because we were lacking in the cookware department.

    • Alison

      I think this is completely do-able, particularly using All-Clad 5-ply (which could probably last over a hundred years with proper care), and I would add a steamer insert because I steam daily from about April through September.

      I would want to add one or two pieces of bakeware as well. Baking brownies in stainless doesn’t cut it — been there, done that.

  • Jaime

    I would love to know the make and model of a pan like the one she has in the picture above. Does anyone know what it is?

    • Dylan

      It’s the All Clad weekend or weeknight pan? It’s a cross between a saute and a saucier, and you can probably find it on Amazon. The bourgeois stores like C&B and Sur probably carry it too if you want to buy it new and not used. I’m guessing you can pick one up used on Ebay too at a pretty decent price.

  • Sara

    Your one pan seems like a quality pan, and the one pot meals sound really good. Sounds like it’s really working for your family.

    We’ve got 7 pots and 3 pans in our family of four which is more than we need, but there it is. One pot is there just because it’s a pretty vibrant yellow enamel. :) It may sound strange, but three of the pots have sentimental value to me, since one’s from my childhood home and the two I’ve had since my student days; they were the first pots I ever bought. Our three pans are all cast iron; the smallest is also from my childhood home and with good care it’s still like new. (We actually make eggs in that one, it’s easy enough if you know a couple of tricks.) The other pans are larger, and I guess one would be enough…

  • jackie

    Why not poach your eggs. Cooking eggs at a lower temp preserves the goodness.

  • Rhiannon

    I love this idea. But we eat a lot if eggs in my house. A LOT. So I found this pan;
    It can also go in the oven but it is ceramic non stick, so no terrible chemicals. And it is muh cheaper than many of the other weeknight pans I have found online.

  • Cherryl

    I love this idea. After downsizing my kitchen quite a bit, I still have a set of pots and pans that I didn’t think I could do without. I have done away with most appliances, though. My appliances consist of a good cutting board, paring knife, chopping knife, French Press (for coffee), manual can opener, and an Imersion Blender. I gave away my Ninja, regular blender, and food processor.

    I think I’ll keep my stainless steel skillet with glass lid, small stainless steel pot with glass lid, and just one 8 quart stainless steel pot with glass lid, because I use them often. The rest will go to the thrift store. I’m already downsized to four place settings and two serving spoons. We even drink our wine out of our glass coffee cups.

  • Hi Francine, I love your pan, very ideal in depth & width, specially for making Asian dishes. Previously I had one like yours but it is non stick skillet, after the non stick Teflon effect not working well, we’d like to buy that same thing but not available anymore. Now we use 2 non stick skillets, medium one for eggs/make sauces/condiments, bigger one to make Asian menu as well as spaghetti. However, I’m a “Two” things person, not “One”. But I boil spaghetti/noodle in another pan (milk pan). Happy cooking, Francine.

  • […] This series was inspired by Francine at Miss Minimalist who is doing a series The Joy of One, where she is blogging about the items she owns one of. One coat, one pair of shoes, one pen etc. You can see her post, The Joy of One Pan here. […]

  • […] This series was inspired by Francine at Miss Minimalist who is doing a series The Joy of One, where she is blogging about the items she owns one of. One coat, one pair of shoes, one pen etc. You can see her post, The Joy of One Pan here. […]

  • Leila

    I’m gonna try it! I think I could do one wok altogether because they’re good at everything, but for now, one cast iron pan, one wok, and one teflon pot. :D They can’t go into the dishwasher, so just less washing since I normally let them pile up in the sink until I run out. And isn’t that the point of minimalism. Less work and worries. ;)

  • Jennifer

    I was really inspired by this article and spent the past two weeks researching which one pan would fulfill all/most of my needs. In the end, I went with a 12″ stainless steel ‘everyday’ pan and so far it is great! I can use it for sauteéing vegetables, making rice, and saucing pasta. I can even use it to bake in (made a delectable German pancake this weekend!). It should also work perfectly for risotto, polenta, and other grain-based and one-pot dishes. I plan to move a lot internationally in the future so this lightweight, large yet compact pan will make a great companion for my expat kitchen!

    While this could probably cover 95% of the meals I make, I do think that a stockpot for pasta, making soup, and boiling vegetables is also a necessity. Since that won’t require anything fancy, I plan to just pick up a new cheap one each time we move.

  • Mike

    My favorite cookware is VISION by Corning Glass Works. As far as I know, they’re no longer made, but they sold well years ago, so the’yre probably in a resale shop near you. They’re not made of the same glass composition as the modern Pyrex pieces available in the U.S. (the ones that tend to break when exposed to large temperature changes); they withstand high temps, are oven-safe (no broiler), dishwasher safe, and last a very long time. My parents have used a few pieces for over 40 years now; some of the pieces were wedding presents back in 1972! Alas, they are not magnetic, so they would not work on an induction cooktop, but they do just fine on a non-induction electric or gas cooktop.

  • Debra Wheeler

    I love your one pan. I would trade the rest of my Stainless set for it, but I can’t give up Great Grandma’s #7 Fe skillet. I use it for almost everything: brownies, cake pan, cookies, casseroles, apple pie, Chicago deep dish pizza.

    The George Foreman Evolve griddle with exchangeable plates is the other thing I can’t live without. It’s better than a toaster oven and cooks twice as fast.

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