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If you're an avid home chef, finding the right cookware is key. Pots and pans are used on a daily basis, so they need to withstand frequent use and abuse. We all need the basics — skillets, frying pans, saucepans and stockpots — though specialty items such as dutch ovens and woks also help us prep our favorite meals. As you prepare to splurge on new pieces, be sure to consider the following to find the best cookware for your needs:

What types of cookware should I buy?

One of the easiest ways to stock up is to buy a cookware set. They usually range from seven- to 15-piece sets, though of course there are more specialized options for the expert cooks. At the minimum, your cookware collection should include large and small saucepans with lids, a stockpot with a lid and a fry pan. For more diversity, mix in a covered saute pan and a smaller frying pan or skillet so you’re prepared to cook a stove top dish of any size.

What specialty cookware pieces should I buy?

If you already have a standard set, now it's time to specialize! Griddles and grill pans are always popular additions, while dutch ovens are functional as well as beautiful countertop accessories. Kettles are great for making tea on cold days, and roasting pans work well for turkey and chicken. Of course, when you buy it, you need to store it, so think about what dishes you make the most, and if you have the space to store the item when not in use.

Should I buy stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron cookware?

This is an age-old question that all depends on your budget and cooking concerns. Stainless steel cookware is nonreactive, heavy-duty and fairly affordable, though an uneven heat distribution means your cooking might suffer. Copper cookware is quick to heat up and offers more even cooking, but can leave a metallic taste in some foods. Aluminum is lightweight and budget-friendly, though it can warp or scratch with high heat and might not last as long. Ceramic cookware is known for it’s even cooking ability and nonreactive qualities, which means virtually no chemicals will leach into your food; some models are even dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Finally, cast iron is durable, heats evenly and will last a long time, but does take awhile to heat up, and requires initial seasoning and on-going care. Decide what qualities are most important for you and fit within your budget — slowly building up your collection with high quality cookware is always good way to go.