What is the appeal of a one-pot meal?
Wonderfully convenient and easy to prepare, recipes crafted in a single pot or pan are ideal for busy weeknights. They’re also fantastic for whenever you want to reap the benefits of a straightforward – yet so rewarding – preparation.
Stress-free to put together with a minimal amount of cleanup afterwards, they’re delicious, nutritious, and comforting.
Is it any wonder we love them so much?
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And just because they’re considered to be comfort food, that doesn’t mean they have to be laden with calories or heavy in low-nutrient ingredients. They can be hearty and satisfying, and full of wholesome, healthy ingredients.
In order to craft the best version possible of what you’re cooking, you won’t get very far without the best equipment to conquer the task at hand!
In this definitive guide, we’ll review our top five choices of cookware that cover the majority of one-pot or one-pan meal preparations.
We’ve even sprinkled in a few of our own recipes to inspire you before you head out to your convenient cookery adventures.
Here’s a quick look at what we’ll review:
The Best Cookware for One-Pot Meals
Our Top 5 Picks
Let’s look at five different types of cookware for one-pot meals! Each overview will include recipe and preparation suggestions that will be ideal for each piece of equipment.
1. Casserole Baking Dish
Casseroles are typically made with a variety of ingredients baked together in one dish.
Generally, the ingredients are layered, with a protein such as beef, sausage, or poultry, vegetables, a sauce, and perhaps ooey, gooey cheese on top.
While sheet pan suppers are usually ready in under an hour and slow cookers are an all-day affair, casserole ingredients are baked at a medium-high or high heat, and they will be typically ready in one to two hours.
Casseroles also transition well to the freezer, so it’s always a good idea to make a couple at the same time and freeze one for later.
Look for a casserole dish that has a tight-fitting lid with a large knob, and large handles to make handling easier when it’s hot.
If you want a larger size to feed the mouths of many, Pyrex sells a 2-in-1 5.2-Quart Glass Casserole Dish.
It’s made of non-porous, tempered glass for performance that won’t buckle, stain, or absorb odors.
It measures 9 inches by 13 inches, and is 3 inches in depth. It has a capacity of 5.2 quarts, and it features large ergonomic handles.
The lid doubles as a shallow baking dish that is 1.7 inches in depth, expanding your baking capabilities. Ideal for lemon bars, brownies, and tarts, you can enjoy a homemade dessert soon after your dinner!
And due to its tempered glass construction, both the lid and the base can go directly from room temperature to a preheated oven. In addition to the oven, they are safe to put in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer.
You’ll appreciate the simple and attractive appearance, as well as the versatile and durable performance.
And the easy cleanup in the dishwasher is another selling point – the glass resists stains and does not absorb the food’s odor or flavor.
Pyrex has a limited two-year warranty for any manufacturing defects.
Read more now on Amazon to check prices and reviews.
2. Dutch Oven
A Dutch oven is a heavy piece of cookware that can be used in many different ways.
It features a thick bottom and walls that retain an even heat, and a heavy, snug fitting lid to lock in moisture and flavor while cooking.
Well suited for long, slow cooking dishes such as stews, braises, chilies, casseroles, and roasts, most Dutch ovens can be used on the stovetop for browning meat, then transferred directly to the oven – no need for a second pan for either the sauteing or braising step.
We love using the Dutch oven for cooking tougher cuts of meat for long periods of time, yielding a fall-of-the-bone masterpiece!
You’ll know what we mean after you make our recipe for Dutch oven short ribs. Braised for hours in a Dutch oven with an aromatic broth of fresh herbs, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, the short ribs transform into the most succulent and tender main course idea.
Dutch ovens can be made from a variety of materials, the most popular being stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and cast iron, with or without an enamel finish.
The traditional material used for making a Dutch oven is cast iron, and the name originally came from a superior method of casting metal that the Dutch used in the 17th century. It produced a much finer surface for cooking vessels than that of English metal workers, and was the product of choice at the time. This process was later pirated and patented in England, but the name has remained.
Look for a Dutch oven with thick, even sides and a heavy bottom. A tight-fitting lid is also preferred.
Large ovenproof knobs on the lids and handles on the pot are a serious must, as well, as these pots are heavy when they’re empty, and even more so when full of ingredients.
Made In’s Round Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is one of our top choices to use! It has outstanding heat retention and circulation, and can withstand oven temperatures up to 580°F.
It is available to purchase in two sizes, a capacity of 5.5 quarts or 3.5 quarts. The 5.5-quart size weighs 13.69 pounds, and the 3.5-quart size weighs 9.6 pounds.
The smaller Dutch oven is considered a cocotte, and is the perfect size for two heartier servings.
Made In’s Dutch oven comes with a lifetime warranty, covering defective cookware.
3. Oven-Safe Skillet
For the most versatility when it comes to preparing one-pan meals, choose a skillet that is a workhorse on both the stovetop and in the oven!
The All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel Weeknight Pan 440465 is truly the answer for the skillet version of one-pot meals.
The wide design with tapered walls is perfect for sauteing, searing, braising, saucing and reducing, and the depth allows for large pieces of food to fit under the lid without crowding.
Constructed from All-Clad’s own Tri-Ply 18/10 stainless steel, this piece heats quickly with even distribution throughout.
The lid fits snugly on the dripless rim and has a large loop handle for easy grasping with an oven mitt. On the pan, the stay cool handle remains cool to the touch even under high heat, and the helper handle makes maneuvering it a breeze.
It measures 22.9 by 13 by 5.2 inches with the lid on.
Suitable for all stovetops including induction, it can withstand oven temperatures up to 600°F.
With its ability to withstand high heat, you’re able to expand your cooking capabilities for your next dinner, preparing a seamless meal from the stovetop to the oven – and you are able to broil safely for the ultimate crusty, browned exterior!
The depth and shape also make it a stand-out from other options; the heat concentrates in the skillet evenly and with zero hot spots, the rim makes draining and pouring much easier, and it provides the room and depth for sauces and full meals.
With an oven-safe, deep-dish skillet like this, you can make our recipe for a chicken tortilla skillet, packed with melty cheese, succulent shredded chicken, crunchy tortilla chips, and a smoky sauce.
Hand washing with dish soap and a soft sponge is recommended.
This pan is made to last, and comes with All-Clad’s limited lifetime warranty. It’s a multi-purpose pan of extreme value and quality.
4. Sheet Pan
For weekday meals, a short preparation and a quick post-dinner cleanup are always bonuses for the home cook. And these are some of the main reasons why one-pot meals are so attractive – everything is cooked together in the same vessel!
An increasingly popular version of this style of cooking is a sheet pan supper.
Similar to a casserole or slow cooker meal, all the ingredients are cooked together in the same pan for the same time at the same level of heat.
With sheet pan suppers, however, the ingredients are roasted in a single layer, often using a dry, high heat. This is different compared to a meal prepared in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or casserole dish, which usually all apply a liquid to slowly simmer, braise, or stew the ingredients.
With only 5 minutes of prep time, our sheet pan sausage and vegetables recipe is a busy weeknight savior!
A savory mix of meat, potatoes, green beans, and onions combines to create a hearty meal you don’t have to fuss over when you’re strapped for time.
To ensure the best success with sheet pan suppers, the following tips will help:
- Completely line the sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil to make cleanup quick and simple, and to prevent sticking.
- Cut all ingredients the same size for even cooking. Veggies should be a uniform size and meat portions should be the same thickness, so that everything is ready at the same time.
- Ingredients should be placed in a single layer with a bit of space around the meat. This will ensure proper ventilation so that the food is roasted, not simmered. Use a second sheet pan if you have too many ingredients to arrange without crowding.
- Many protein sources will benefit from a marinade. Not only will it add flavor, a marinade will also tenderize, so you can use a less expensive cut of meat and still get results that taste fabulous.
If you’re not familiar with the sheet pan as a kitchen tool, not to worry. They’re not at all expensive and can be found in kitchen supply stores or online.
Look for sheet pans that are made of a heavy-duty gauge metal so they won’t warp in a hot oven, and that have at least a 1-inch-deep rim to hold more ingredients.
KitchenAid’s Nonstick Baking Sheet is made of scratch-resistant aluminized steel, and is designed with the same sturdiness and reliability as the company’s most cherished mixers.
In more detail, its exterior measurements are 21 by 14 by 1 inches, and the interior measurements are 13 by 18 by 1 inches.
It features wide, extended handles for a secure grip as you lift it in and out of the oven.
Its light color and material provide even heat distribution, and can withstand oven temperatures up to 450°F.
It’s safe to clean in the dishwasher.
KitchenAid has a lifetime warranty for its cookware and bakeware, covering defects in materials and workmanship.
5. Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is a piece of cookware that sits on the countertop and is used for simmering foods at a low temperature for several hours, via an electric heating element.
This is a smart choice for cooking soups, stews, and meats – particularly when you have a busy schedule and can’t be home to monitor the cooking process minute by minute.
The appeal of a slow cooker is that you can fill it up with ingredients, set the temperature, and leave it unattended for several hours until the dish is ready. They’re ideal for setting up before work in the morning and coming home to a fully cooked meal.
The basic components of a slow cooker consist of a housing unit with a heating element, a cooking vessel insert that is usually made of glazed ceramic or porcelain – the “crock” in Crock Pot, a brand often used interchangeably with the term “slow cooker” – that sits in the housing unit, and a glass lid.
Newer models will have two or more heat settings such as low and medium, and sometimes a “keep warm” setting as well. Some newer models have separate settings for specific meals.
Ingredients are placed in the insert along with a liquid, the lid is assembled. Then the unit is turned on, adjusted to the appropriate setting and time, and allowed to cook low and slow to work its magic.
When you don’t have a lot of time to stand over the stove, and still want a healthy meal, you’ll slurp up every spoonful of our healthy slow cooker vegetarian white bean chili with butternut squash!
Convenient and easy to use, these are also adaptable for a huge variety of recipes, making them a favorite in many kitchens.
Look for multi-cookers that have the settings you prefer, as well as a programmable timer with a “keep warm” setting, large handles for easy moving, and a snug-fitting lid.
Cuisinart offers a unique 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker that provides three programmable cooking functions – slow cooking, browning, and sauteing, with the option to steam as well.
It has an extra-large blue LCD display, so the time and temperature settings are easy to read.
The nonstick aluminum cooking pot is removable and dishwasher safe for easy cleaning, and the clear glass lid has a cool-touch handle. A steaming rack is also included.
We think you’ll appreciate the accuracy and reliability of the temperature and thermostat – no guessing required to adjust for discrepancies between the ingredients and the display.
The aluminum cooking vessel makes sauteing ingredients first easy, with no need for a separate skillet. The 3-in-1 delivers delicious results, and gives very good value for the price.
There is a limited 3-year warranty, covering defects in materials and workmanship.
More on Preparing One-Pot Meals
One-pot meals offer several benefits:
- They provide big, robust flavors that only come from cooking ingredients together, and allowing the flavors to blend.
- They’re often prepared with simple, earthy ingredients that don’t require shopping at specialty markets, which makes them more economical.
- They can be made to suit low-calorie menus, and numerous other dietary restrictions.
- There’s little fuss in prepping. A good knife and a sturdy chopping block are the basics, plus your pot or pan of choice.
- Cleanup is minimal. With only one pan, after dinner washing time is a cinch.
Satisfying and comforting, these dishes will often serve up as a complete meal, and are generally made entirely in one piece of cookware, from start to finish.
And, they’re easy to balance nutritionally, with a protein, starch and veggies all in one.
They are often cooked slowly, but not necessarily. Many recipes can also be prepared in well under an hour with a simple skillet, wok, sheet pan, or casserole dish.
If you need a bit of inspiration to create your own one-pot meals, think of the ingredients found in your favorite recipes, like what you might find in an Irish stew, a Spanish paella, a French bouillabaisse, a Chinese stir fry, or a Thai curry. Then adapt the ingredients to suit preferences and availability, and you’ll have your own signature dish.
You can count on a blending of flavors that will create something with extraordinary flavor.
Another bonus to one-pan meals is that they’re a natural for cooking in batches if you want to meal prep ahead of time. Recipes are usually easy to double, so that a portion can be frozen for later.
A Complete Meal, Sides Optional!
There are those hardcore, one-pot enthusiasts out there that insist true single-pan meals must contain and cook every element in a meal to meet the criteria.
But we think there can be a little wiggle room regarding this point…
While you can certainly enjoy these meals on their own, there’s nothing quite like a hearty stew with a side of crusty bread, or a spicy curry with a bowlful of white rice!
We’re a bit more liberal-minded and think that side dishes of warm bread, grains, spaghetti squash, veggie noodles, lentils, pasta, and more are perfectly acceptable, even if preparing them does involve a second pot!
What is your favorite cookware item to make the best one-pot meals? Do you prefer the independent ease of a slow cooker? Or do you like the roasted appeal of a complete sheet pan dinner? Leave a comment below!
Hoping to find even more gadgets and appliances to help you out when you have a busy schedule? Review these articles next when you want some extra kitchen assistance:
- 8 Essential Tools and Appliances for Raw Food Chefs
- 5 Helpful Gift Ideas for Anyone Who Hates to Cook
- 13 of the Best Kitchen Gadgets to Save You Time and Money
Photos by Fanny Slater, Meghan Yager, Nikki Cervone, Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Made In and Amazon. Originally published October 11, 2015. Last updated on January 11, 2024. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.