The Minimalist: The FauxMartha, on the Only 5 Pots and Pans You’ll Ever Need

Fauxmartha's Melissa Coleman

We recently received a press release for a new cookbook—The Minimalist Kitchen (in bookstores as of last week) by Melissa Coleman—and we were immediately intrigued. She had us at the title alone. Coleman is the creator of The FauxMartha, a food, home design, and parenting blog that offers a peek into what she’s cooking (usually something simple and delicious), who she cooks for (her husband and young daughter), and how she decorates (“cozy minimalism” is how she describes her aesthetic). Here, she shares how to pare down your cookware to just the essentials.

For the first seven years of our married life, we lived in tiny apartments with even tinier kitchens. Somehow we managed to squeeze more tools into those small spaces than we have in the adequately sized kitchen we now have. We were budding minimalists then, much like the tips of branches swollen with spring this time of year, only visible if you’re looking for them.

Over the years, I’ve slowly pared down my kitchen to make it more manageable. I found myself spending so much time sorting through tools and gadgets that I never used to get to the ones I actually used. Just like I always grabbed for the same pair of jeans in my closet, I navigated the kitchen in the same way.

However, it’s hard to know what you need and don’t need in the kitchen, especially when the store sells you a 12-plus-piece cookware set (and that set is considered to be on the small side). Maybe they know something I don’t? I believed what I saw in the stores—that 50 gadgets would make my life in the kitchen easier—until I didn’t. Until the strawberry de-stemmer had finally done more work on my hand while digging through the drawer than on an actual strawberry. It was the first to go.

Minimalist KItchen by FauxMartha
Above: The Minimalist Kitchen: 100 Wholesome Recipes, Essential Tools, and Efficient Techniques (Oxmoor House) is chock-full of ideas on how to simplify your cooking experience, from decluttering your pantry to streamlining your grocery-shopping. Cover image courtesy of Time Inc. Books.
If you’re looking to pare down what’s in your kitchen, look for the things in mint condition, the things you don’t actually use. From there, slowly let yourself get rid of the things you don’t use. If I’m uncertain, I’ll pull the tool or gadget out of the drawer and into a giveaway box. If I never rescue it, it’s probably in the right place.

If you’re looking to pare down your cookware, these are my five essential pots and pans. When considering the size of pans to stock, think about the types of meals you make and the amount of people you serve. Always consider efficiency, too, as you make your decisions. Because inefficiency can make the kitchen maddening.

Featured photograph courtesy of Melissa Coleman.

1. Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens are beautiful. If you’re short on storage space, keep it on your stovetop for natural decoration. These lifelong pots double as a stock pot and a slow cooker (with a lid). Tip: To clean those tough stains from the enamel coating, try Bar Keepers Friend, a little water, and a paper towel. My white (white!) Dutch oven looks brand-new after cleaning it this way.

2. Cast-Iron Skillet

There are a lot of high-priced cast iron pans, but my $20 pan works just as well. In fact, any cast iron works best after a couple coats of oil to build up a natural, nonstick surface. I love to sauté vegetables and make Dutch babies, pancakes, and diner burgers on this surface. Tip: Pizza is best reheated on a hot skillet to achieve a crispy crust. Then add a splash of water and cover to steam. Did I mention this is our microwave? This inexpensive pan is a workhorse.

Faux Martha's Takeout Cashew Chicken in Cast-Iron Skille
Above: Aside from the rice, Coleman’s Takeout Cashew Chicken (serves four) is cooked entirely in one cast-iron skillet. Photograph by Kim Cornelison; food styling by Diana Scanlon.

3. Stainless Steel Saucepan

Of course, you could use your Dutch oven to cook sauces and grains but cooking with a larger surface area will also yield different results. For that reason, using a small or medium saucepan is far more efficient for cooking smaller, everyday batches.

4. Nonstick Skillet

I save my ceramic-coated nonstick skillet for scrambled eggs. Nothing cooks them to perfection better. Oddly, I don’t cook much else on this pan as I’ve found it quickly ruins the finicky non-stick surface. Tip: I’m pretty particular about my eggs. If you’re not, you may not need a non-stick pan at all.

Faux Martha's Breakfast Tostada
Above: For her Breakfast Tostada, Coleman relies on her ceramic nonstick skillet to cook perfect eggs. Photograph by Kim Cornelison; food styling by Diana Scanlon.

5. Stainless Steel Sauté Pan

Compared to a skillet, a sauté pan has taller sides, which can hold more volume while maintaining a large cooking surface area. In a lot of ways, this pan is a shorter version of the Dutch oven. Tip: If you’re really limited on space, skip this and opt for the Dutch oven.

Looking for more ideas on the minimalist life? Consider:

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