Have you noticed how your tastes change with the changing of the seasons?
When autumn arrives, there’s a coolness in the air from the shorter days that seems to naturally switch our cooking mindset from breezy summer fare to comfort foods. The casual lightness of picnics and outdoor grilling gives way to hearty harvest soups and comforting stews.
But, just because we switch to indoor cooking, that doesn’t mean we have to become kitchen slaves. And that is one of the very appealing aspects of one-pot meals. Wonderfully convenient and easy to prepare, recipes crafted in a single pot or pan are ideal for busy weeknights.
Easy to make with simple preparation and a minimal amount of cleanup, they’re straightforward, delicious, nutritious, and comforting as well. Is it any wonder we love them?
And just because they’re considered to be comfort food, that doesn’t mean they have to be calorie laden or heavy in low-nutrient ingredients. They can be hearty and satisfying and still come in at under 400 calories a portion.
In this definitive guide, we’ll be covering the following:
- Our 3 Top Rated Pans
- More About Preparing One-Pot Meals
- Sheet Pan Suppers
- Casserole Baking Dishes
- Dutch Ovens
- Slow Cookers
Bottom Line Up Front: Foodal’s Most Recommended Pans For One-Pot Meals
Our panel reviewed multiple contenders for the three top pans that we consider to be the “best” and these three were the top choices by far – and all by the same manufacturer, All-Clad.
Although these aren’t the cheapest solution (but far from the most expensive – check out Demeyere if you want to see some heart palpitation-inducing prices), you’ll be guaranteed to get a new piece or pieces of cookware that are:
- High quality.
- Made in the USA, rather than a Chinese sweatshop with questionable quality control.
- Inclusive of a lifetime warranty.
- Multipurpose – though two out of three of these are sold as casserole dishes, they can be used to make soups and stews, used as mixing bowls, and so on.
- Likely to become a cherished piece of your kitchen equipment that can last for a lifetime (or longer).
To give you an idea of how much our staff loves these pans, Mike Quinn, founder of Foodal, stated that if he were to be limited to only five pieces of gear in his kitchen, it would be these: three pieces of All-Clad, a colander, and a chef’s knife.
Best for Skillet Meals
This beautiful, stainless steel 4-Quart Weeknight Pan with Lid from All-Clad is truly the answer for the skillet version of one-pot meals. The wide design with tapered walls is perfect for sautéing, 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 pan 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 24 x 13 x 6” with the lid on, and weighs 6 pounds.
Manufactured in the US, this pan is made to last and comes with a lifetime warranty. Suitable for all stovetops including induction, it’s also dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended.
Happy Amazon shoppers are over the moon with this aptly named pan. Its well thought out design allows a variety of cooking methods to be performed with precision and ease, making one-pan meals a pleasure to cook.
The depth and shape also make it a stand-out from others: 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.
Besides the 4-quart tri-ply version shown above, it’s also available in All-Clad’s five-ply D5 line that features a middle slice of steel sandwiched between layers of aluminum and stainless steel, which improves induction response. The D5 line also has a brushed finish, versus the polished silver surface found on the tri-ply line.
A multi-purpose pan of extreme value and quality – and not one person expressed buyer’s remorse at the time of this writing. Check prices and customer reviews on Amazon now.
Best Multipurpose Casserole Dish
Another work of art from All-Clad, this handsome tri-ply stainless steel 4-Quart Casserole Dish with Lid is everything you need for casseroles, and can also work as a mini stockpot for stews and soups.
Featuring All-Clad’s triple bonded construction of 18/10 stainless steel with an aluminum core for superb, even heating, this casserole offers outstanding performance and easy cleaning.
The interior starburst pattern improves nonstick performance and the riveted, large loop handles are easy to grip – and they stay cool, even under extreme heat.
The high, straight sides and smaller cooking surface ensures the pot stays hot and minimizes evaporation – perfect for simmering and stewing. The well-fitted lid rests tightly on the dripless rim, and also has a large loop handle for easy grasping with oven mitts.
Measuring approximately 11.5 x 8.5 x 5” with lid, it weighs 3 pounds. Dishwasher safe (although hand washing is recommended) and safe for use on all stovetops, this pan is made in the US and comes with the All-Clad lifetime warranty.
Based on the reviews on Amazon, everyone who buys this casserole dish loves it. It quickly becomes one of the most used pans in the kitchen because of its durability and even, consistent heating.
An ideal size for small families and empty-nesters, satisfied customers claim its superb quality is typical of All-Clad cookware, and that it brings great value and beauty to the kitchen.
Best Multipurpose Cassoulete (or Soup) Dish
Still in the line of casserole dishes, this sleek stainless steel 3-Quart Cassoulet with Lid is also from All-Clad, but it has more tapered sides, typical of a traditional French casserole – which makes it a wonderfully versatile pan.
Constructed of All-Clad’s 18/10 bonded stainless steel, the pan heats quickly and holds an even heat throughout, with no hot spots.
The rounded base is the ideal shape for easy stirring and whisking, and its versatility makes it ideal for stews, soups, and casseroles. The lid has a large loop handle and sits securely on the dripless rim, and the stay cool side loop handles on the pan make the transfer from stove to table convenient and easy. This cassoulet measures 13.5 x 10 x 3”, and weighs 3 pounds.
It can be used on all cooktops and is dishwasher safe, although hand washing is recommended. Made in the US, it comes with a standard All-Clad lifetime warranty.
All of the reviews on Amazon are positive (at the time of this writing), with the size and multi-functionality of this pan making it a kitchen favorite. And, of course, the sturdy and durable construction is noted as well.
All-Clad is so well known, for good reason – it’s a big hit with those looking for high quality and value. With its handsome profile, transferring this beauty directly to the table for service is no problem. By all accounts, this is a pan everyone should have in their kitchens.
About 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.
Around the world, most cultures have their own version of one-dish meals. Usually, these meals will utilize the regions’ most abundant food sources.
Wondering what it might be like to “cook” without any pots and pans at all? Check out Allison’s Sidhu’s post, “What’s Cooking? Space Food and the Gastronaut Question.”
If you need a bit of inspiration to create your own one-pot meals, think of the ingredients found in an Irish stew, a Spanish paella, a French cassoulet, or an Asian stir fry. Then adapt the ingredients to suit your particular region’s produce, and you’ll have your own signature dish.
That’s a Crock!
As much as it might be perceived as the standard piece of cookware in this department, the beloved Crock-Pot isn’t the only item of kitchenware to warrant our attention for single dish meals. Many other options are available, including woks, skillets, Dutch ovens, casserole dishes, tagines, and sheet pans.
But, regardless of the pan that’s chosen, everything is cooked together in one vessel. And you can count on a blending of flavors that will create something with extraordinary flavor.
There are those hard core, one-pot enthusiasts out there that insist true single-pan meals must contain and cook every element in a meal to meet the criteria. We’ve gotta say, we don’t necessarily agree.
And while some one-dish meals go well with biscuits on top or have rice included, not all will. We’re a bit more liberal-minded and think that a side dish of warm rolls, bread, rice, quinoa, spaghetti squash or lentils is perfectly acceptable, even if does involve a second pot!
Also, while not every recipe may contain all of the ingredients needed for an ideally balanced meal, the nature of single-dish meals does lend itself to adding in a couple extra vegetables to improve the nutritional content.
Great for slipping the veggie wool over fussy eaters’ eyes…
Another bonus to one-pan meals is that they’re a natural for cooking in batches. Recipes are usually easy to double, so that a portion can be frozen for later.
Sheet Pan Suppers
For weekday meals, a short preparation time is always a bonus for the home cook. And that’s one of the main reasons that one-pot meals are so attractive – everything is prepped and chopped, then tossed into a pan and cooked together.
An increasingly popular version of the one-dish meal 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, the ingredients are roasted in a single layer using a dry, high heat, while slow cookers or casseroles use a liquid to slowly simmer or stew the ingredients.
It’s important to note that a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan is not as sturdy as a baker’s sheet pan, as they may “pop” or warp in a hot oven. Sheet pans are generally made of a heavier gauge metal with a deep one-inch rim, and they come in full, half and quarter sizes.
To ensure the best success with sheet pan suppers, the following tips will help:
- Completely line the sheet pan with parchment paper or tin 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 air 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.
- Any protein source used for sheet suppers 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 fabulous tasting results. Bathe the meat for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours – you can find a couple of nice marinade recipes in this recent post.
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 (the lower the number, the thicker the metal) so they won’t warp in a hot oven, and that have at least a 1” deep rim.
Vollrath Aluminum Wear-Ever Heavy-Duty Sheet Pan
This 16-Gauge Closed Bead Natural Quarter Sheet Pan by Volrath is a top seller on Amazon (at the time of this writing) in Commercial Food Pans.
It features impact-resistant, heavy-duty 16-gauge aluminum with a closed bead that includes reinforcing galvanized non-rusting rods.
It measures 13 x 9.5 x 1” and has a slightly flared rim for easy stacking, and also comes in a half sheet size.
Made in the US, Amazon customers love its sturdiness. Reports say it can handle any oven heat without buckling, popping, or warping. And, being aluminum, the entire surface heats quickly and evenly.
Satisfied shoppers also make a point of noting that it washes up nicely.
However, as it does not have a nonstick or anodized surface, care should be taken to prevent the aluminum from leaching into food, by always lining the surface with parchment paper. This makes cleanup much quicker as well.
USA Pan Bakeware Aluminized Steel Half Sheet Pan
USA Pan offers this Half Sheet Aluminized Steel Pan, made of commercial grade aluminized steel and reinforced with steel wire to prevent buckling.
Measuring 18 x 13 x 1”, this half sheet has a corrugated surface for better air flow, and is coated with Americoat – a proprietary silicone coating that’s BPA, PFOA, and PTFE free.
Another pan that’s made in the US, verified shoppers are most impressed with this pan’s heavy-duty construction and the heft of the rolled rim, which makes it more like a handle for easy lifting.
And the silicone coating on this pan is also getting rave reviews – appreciative users report that foods simply don’t stick, it’s durable, and cleanup is super quick and easy.
Mediterranean Chicken Sheet Pan Supper
This savory sheet pan supper is quick to prepare, economical, nutritious, and delicious – a winner for any night of the week. And the washing up time is minimal as well, which seems to make it taste even better!
Serve with a side salad to round out the meal. Everything else is prepared on the sheet.
Casserole Baking Dishes
Like sheet pan suppers and crock pot dinners, casseroles are 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 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.
Pyrex Easy Grab 2-Quart Casserole Dish
Pyrex gives us this 2-Quart Glass Casserole Dish and Lid that’s made of non-porous glass for performance that won’t buckle, stain, or absorb odors.
Made in the US, it measures 8 x 12.5 x 3” and features large ergonomic handles. And it is safe for use in the oven, dishwasher, microwave, and freezer.
Satisfied Amazon shoppers like its simple and attractive appearance, and versatile performance in going from stove to tabletop to freezer. Easy cleanup in the dishwasher is another selling point as well.
Corningware French White III Oval Casserole Dish
This 2.5-Quart Oval Casserole with Lid from Corningware has an elegant French white finish, which makes it suitable for any kitchen decor.
Easy to clean, the non-porous ceramic stoneware won’t absorb odors or stains, and it is suitable for use in the oven, microwave, and dishwasher. It measures 13 x 9 x 4” and is made in China.
With a redesigned lid, customers now report that this dish performs admirably, and as expected. Attractive and functional, it works well for cooking, storing, serving, and reheating.
Traditionally, Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, but this version uses ground beef. And it’s also easily adaptable for using up leftovers too: switch out the ground beef for an equal amount of diced, leftover roast beef, and add any mystery veggies you like. All it needs is a salad on the side for a nutritious, well-balanced meal.
Technically, you’re using more than one pot to prepare a Shepherd’s Pie, but it’s so darned good, this is a detail that’s easy to overlook!
And if you’re really short on time, you can use instant potatoes for the topping. It won’t taste as buttery-rich, but they work in a pinch.
This dish can also be made in a vegetarian, meatless version.
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, 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 braising or sautéing.
They’re made from different materials such as 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 required. Large ovenproof knobs and handles are a must as well, as these pots are heavy when they’re empty, and even more so when full of ingredients.
Lodge Pre-Seasoned 5 Quart
A top seller on Amazon.com in Dutch Ovens (at the time of this writing) and my personal favorite, the Lodge Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart Dutch Oven is a classic. The domed lid is self-basting, and the generous loop handles on the sides and lid make handling easy.
Pre-seasoned and ready to use, the rugged cast iron heats slowly and evenly, and retains its heat. Made in the US, this oven measures 12.5 x 10.5 x 6” and weighs 13 pounds.
Ideal for all stovetops, this pot can go directly from the burner into the oven, for convenient and easy preparation and cooking.
Verified customers at Amazon love that this Dutch oven features high-quality construction, is extremely durable, and provides even heating with no hot spots – perfect for slow cooking or even artisan bread making. For those that have had problems, the attentive Lodge customer service makes it right.
And while this Dutch oven does come “pre-seasoned,” that doesn’t mean it won’t require maintenance to keep the seasoning intact. If you need to wash your cast iron cookware with soap and water after each use as I do, give it a mini seasoning when dry. Heat on the stove top for just a couple of minutes, then rub all surfaces lightly with your favorite oil.
Put the lid on and allow to cool, then wipe off any excess oil before storing.
Tramontina Enameled 6.5-Quart
Tramontina brings us this Enameled 6.5-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Lid in a handsome cobalt blue. The easy to clean enameled surface is BPA and PTFA free, and the solid cast iron provides superior and even heat retention. This is another Made in the USA product.
The large loop handles on the pot are complimented with a sold cast stainless steel knob on the lid that’s both oven safe, and easy to grasp with oven mitts on. The lid also has self-basting condensation ridges that uniformly collect and direct vapors onto food, producing moist and tender meals.
This oven measures 14 x 11 x 8” and weighs just a tad under 14 pounds.
The customer reviews at Amazon tell us that, for an enameled cast iron pot, the Tramontina offers great value for the price compared with other brands. The enamel is durable and cleans well, and the pot itself has all the characteristics of cast iron – even heating, superior heat retention, and a substantial, hefty weight.
A couple of shoppers have mentioned that the rim of the lid needs to be seasoned to prevent rust as it isn’t enameled, but this seems to be a minor point compared the overall high level of performance.
Dutch Oven Short Ribs
Delicious, delectable, and oh-so-tender, these short ribs are worth waiting for.
Serve with a tangy Caesar salad, a hearty, artisan bread for mopping up the braising sauce, and a glass of red wine. This is the perfect, comforting one-pot meal for any cool, wet days autumn may bring.
A slow cooker or crock pot 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.
Suitable for cooking roasts, soups, and stews, 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 crock pot consist of a housing unit with a heating element, a cooking vessel of glazed ceramic or porcelain (the “crock”) 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 cooking crocks and lids made of different materials as well, like nonstick aluminum.
Ingredients are placed in the crock along with a liquid, the lid is put on. Then the unit is turned on, to work its magic.
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 programmable timers with a “keep warm” setting, large handles for easy moving, and a snug-fitting lid.
Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central
Cuisinart offers a unique 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker that provides three programmable cooking functions – slow cooking, browning, and sautéing, 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 Teflon-coated 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.
In the Amazon verified customer reviews, a common point of praise is 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 sautéing 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.
However, Teflon being Teflon, the coating on the interior of the pot will eventually break down and chip or bubble, even when babied with silicone-only utensils.
Hamilton Beach Set ‘N Forget
The Hamilton Beach Set ‘N Forget Programmable 6-Quart Slow Cooker features a clip-secure gasket lid so the juices stay in the food, not on the counter. And a thermometer probe displays the internal temperature of large pieces of meat or poultry as they cook.
The large and clear LED display is easy to read, and the easy push button controls can be set for three different cooking functions. The stoneware crock is removable and dishwasher safe for hands-off cleaning.
Satisfied shoppers note that this model provides a slow, accurate heat for delicious results, and are particularly impressed with the innovative snap-tight lid. It keeps the ingredients self-basting instead of watering countertops, and makes transporting the slow cooker safe and easy.
Another convenient item is the stay-warm component that starts automatically, to keep your meal warm after the programmed time has finished.
Slow Cooked Chicken Tikka Masala
Fragrant, spicy, and warming, this chicken tikka masala is wonderful to come home to on a dreary, wet day.
Serve with a tossed green salad, a savory chutney, and some naan along with a steaming mug of chai tea, and it’s sure to chase away any rainy day blues.
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.