Why you need it: The wide surface of this pan (also called a skillet or a sauté pan) browns and crisps, making it a good pick for searing salmon, pan-roasting chicken, stir-frying vegetables, and sautéing almost anything.
What to look for: Treat yourself to two versions of this multitasker. Buy one with an untreated surface, which works better for browning meat and caramelizing onions. Get another one with a nonstick surface to make grilled-cheese sandwiches or pancakes that slide off the pan without much oil. Opt for a pan that is 10 to 12 inches in diameter so that ingredients aren’t crowded together. Also, consider one with a hollow handle, which is lightweight and easier to maneuver across the burners.
RS pick: All-Clad’s Copper-Core stainless-steel 10-inch fry pan ($180, amazon.com) heats up quickly. For nonstick, go for the Scanpan cast-aluminum 10¼-inch fry pan ($135, amazon.com), which has a ceramic-titanium finish. It’s oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.