Essential Tools for One-Pot Success

Make simple, delicious dinners that don't require pulling out all the pots and pans.

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love one-pot meals for many reasons, not the least of which is that there are fewer dishes to wash (a plus in the summertime when I’d rather be outside). This week I’ve pulled together a short list of top-rated pots, skillets, and cooking appliances that can help save time without skimping on flavor. First up: our favorite rimmed baking sheet. It’s perfect for everything from fajitas to citrusy, buttery fish on a bed of crisp potatoes. We also love our winning Dutch oven for dishes such as pasta, soups, and stews. Or maybe you want to throw all your ingredients into our top-rated multicooker for a hands-off meal. Once you have your equipment, get cooking with The Complete One Pot Cookbook, a comprehensive collection that simplifies one-pot cooking and delivers recipes guaranteed to please. Delicious food with fewer dishes? Sign me up!

—Carolyn Grillo, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

This pricey pot is still the one to beat. It was the most durable and user-friendly with comfortable handles and lower, straight sides that made it easy to move, load, and unload. Its broad, lightly-colored cooking surface allowed us to cook more food faster and monitor browning. It’s heavy, as a Dutch oven should be, but a bit lighter than some of the others we tested.

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Although the grid pattern on this rack is slightly larger than on the other two models, it’s reinforced with an extra support bar that runs perpendicular to the three main bars. It had a touch more wiggle room in the baking sheets, but it kept pace with the other racks during recipe and durability testing.

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The most current Instant Pot multicooker is a great, easy-to-use appliance. Its flat-bottomed interior pot allows for even searing. Stay-cool handles mean you can easily move the pot, even when it’s hot. The streamlined interface was easy to navigate. A “favorites” feature lets you save go-to recipes. It has a pressure-release switch that keeps your hand away from the hot steam when you vent the machine, and a diffuser on the vent makes the steam disperse slightly more gently. We liked that we could disable the “keep warm” function so that the food wouldn’t keep cooking once it was done. You can also program a timer to alert you after 5 or 10 minutes of natural pressure release, which saves you a trip back to the machine between cooking stages. A few quibbles: The baking function uses steam, so it’s excellent for cheesecake but not much else. The machine doesn’t have a fan to circulate the water and isn’t as accurate as a good sous vide machine, so it’s not capable of true sous vide cooking. It also couldn’t slow-cook large cuts of meat well. But none of these issues was a deal breaker for us. The pressure-cooking, rice, sautéing, yogurt, and steaming functions were all excellent and are reason enough to get a multicooker.

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At nearly half the price of our favorite multicooker, this inexpensive model produced excellent pressure- and slow-cooked food but had a busier, less intuitive control panel. Instead of a digital screen, the button-heavy panel was inundated with presets, making it tougher to navigate. It made excellent white rice and pressure- and slow-cooked beef stew and baked beans, though, yielding tender meat and beans within our recipe times. This multicooker’s nonstick cooking pot was easy to clean, but browning beef took longer. It reduced liquid efficiently and sautéed well, and we liked that it had a manual start button. Overall, this more budget-friendly model produced great results.

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Although made from single-ply stainless steel, this durable, sturdy small roasting pan turned out beautiful, well-browned food. Its handles were a little smaller than we prefer but still reasonably easy to grip. Its V-shaped nonstick rack did a good job of holding the chicken, though it slipped around in the pan a tiny bit more than we would have liked. Note that this model has a slight indentation around the perimeter that serves as a mini grease trough; this can make it a little trickier to make gravy, and you’ll have to move roasting vegetables around a touch to brown them evenly.

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This stainless-steel roasting pan turned out great, evenly browned chicken and potatoes; it’s not tri-ply, so it doesn’t conduct heat quite as quickly, but it’s so thick that it still retains and controls heat well. Its V-shaped rack, also made from stainless steel, cradled the chicken nicely, though it slipped around a touch in the pan. Just a few small quibbles: It’s on the heavy side, so it can be a little unwieldy to lift. And while its handles are big enough to grip comfortably, they rise surprisingly high above the pan; our wrists bumped into them and got burned when we took the pan out of the oven.

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While this skillet started out with a rougher surface than those of the artisan pans, its gently nubbly texture quickly gained seasoning, and by the end of testing it released food and cleaned up perfectly. At about 8 pounds, it’s heavy, but that weight helps with heat retention and browning. Its roomy surface and high sides make it a versatile performer—all at a great price for a pan that will last forever.

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This affordable pan had it all: thick, solid construction; a smooth interior with no handle rivets to bump the spatula or trap food; an ergonomically angled handle; and sides flared just right for easy access but high enough to contain splashes. Steaks formed a deeply crisp crust, tarte Tatin caramelized beautifully and released neatly, and fried eggs just slipped around in the pan.

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The cooking surface was slick, both when new and after extensive use, and food never stuck. It’s one of the lightest models we tested, so it was easy to lift and maneuver, but it was also sturdy and resisted denting. All of our testers liked its wide, comfortable handle. Like every other model, its surface became scratched when we used a knife as if to cut a frittata, but it otherwise held up well.

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Our longtime favorite skillet still beats all newcomers, with a clean design that includes no unnecessary frills. We appreciate the wide cooking surface and low, flaring sides that encourage excellent browning and evaporation; a steel handle that stays cool on the stovetop and won't rotate in your hand; and an overall weight and balance that hit the sweet spot between sturdiness and maneuverable lightness. It resisted warping and withstood thermal shock and outright abuse with nary a scratch or dent. Its three layers of cladding, with aluminum sandwiched by steel, make for deep, uniform browning.

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