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Which cookware for cooking for 1, 2, or 3 people?

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One of the reasons I have cabinets full of cookware, even though I'm quite the amateur, is that I most often cook for 1, 2, or 3 people. Could be any one of those scenarios on any given day of the week. Less frequently, I'd cook for 4-6 (when family visits).

Anyway, in addition to having different materials of everything (stainless steel, cast iron, stone, etc.), I have different sizes of everything.

Given that I mostly cook for 1, 2, or 3 people (two of whom do not like leftovers), what do you think the ideal collection looks like in terms of types of pans and sizes? We do chicken breasts w/veggies on the side, casseroles, steak, pot roast, tacos, and sometimes pasta. Just basic stuff.

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  1. I cook for two people, and, depending on the dish, I sometimes like to have enough leftovers for one or two more meals, max. I surely have more cookware than I really need, but I enjoy having a choice of pieces depending on what it is I'm preparing. Though I have a few larger pieces, my go-to sizes tend to be in the 3-quart/10-inch arena. But everyone's "ideal" collection is different! Since you seem to have so much (and maybe are looking to pare down?), why not keep a little notepad in the kitchen and just jot down what you use and for what. Do that for a week, a month--you'll quickly get an idea of what YOUR ideal collection is based on what you naturally gravitate towards. Then you can pick a few other pieces you want to keep (larger ones for cooking for company, a specialty item you love, whatever) and pack up the rest. Don't get rid of it right away, just get it out of your kitchen for a month or so and see if you miss any of it. If not, you probably have arrived at YOUR ideal collection!

    2 Replies
    1. re: herring

      Herring has a great idea. I also do most of my cooking for two or three, and most of my favorite cookware pieces are about 3 quarts in capacity. I have a small kitchen, with limited cookware storage, but I still manage to have four pieces with this capacity. All my other cookware is just one piece per size--from two to eight quarts.

      1. re: herring

        Hi kimbers,

        Ditto one more on Herring's advice.

        Cooking for 2 is my daily regimen. My most used pans are right there in the 10", 3 quart size. 3 quart includes my sauté pans.

        We don't eat many casseroles, and I've had one bitch of a time finding something the right size for a casserole for two. 5" square is too small, 8" is too big. 5x7 oval is close.... and so it goes. If you've got a casserole dish that's perfect, I hope you'll clue me in.

        I really think Herring's idea of keeping a list of which pans you reach for, maybe adding a tick mark for each time you use a pan, will tell you what your set will look like. Then if any of those pans aren't the quality you want, upgrade. You can be confident it will be money wisely spent, because you use the pan frequently.


      2. Herring's advice is unbeatable.

        And would be a good m.o. for anyone who's interested in paring down, whether cooking for one or many.