There is a market out there for really big cookware. I’ve seen a paella pan available for rent from one of the local cooking stores that could double as an adult-sized snow disc. Le Creuset sells a 13¼-quart Dutch oven that I’d like to see someday. I can’t imagine ever having a use for it and I wouldn’t want to spend over $400 for a pot, but it sounds like it’s a mighty impressive piece of cookware and worth a look. Even if I could think of something to cook in it, it weighs 22 pounds, empty. Filled, I’d never be able to lift it. Perhaps the 13¼-quart behemoth is a rare purchase for anyone, but Le Creuset also sells a 9-quart model, coming in at a mere 18 pounds. Someone must be buying these things, right?
Me, I hang out at the other end of the cookware size continuum. If you’re just cooking for one, you can use cookware that’s verges on cute.
The cast iron skillet (6½” diameter) was my grandmother’s. My mother never used it, something I chalk up to being sold on the wonders of Teflon. She left it and its larger companions in a cabinet, where every now and then I’d find them and pull out the smallest one to look at. Even when it hasn’t been made into a humongous Dutch oven, cast iron is heavy; this skillet was the only one I could lift without a struggle. Decades later, when I inherited the cookware, I finally got to use the little skillet for real. It’s the perfect size to fry a single egg, and after almost a century, the iron is so well-seasoned that the egg slides over it as if it were nonstick. Except that this is nonstick you can use metal utensils with.
The technical name for the little saucepan is “butter warmer.” I do melt butter in it a lot. But with its 2-cup capacity, it’s also a fine pan for heating a bit of spaghetti sauce in. There are saucepans smaller than this, but I’ve learned to avoid them. A saucepan so small that it isn’t stable on a stove burner is more dangerous than cute. Sometimes the handle weighs more than the bowl part, causing the saucepan to tip over; sometimes the bottom is so small that it can’t balance on the burner. Sometimes both. (Be reassured that I learned all this without enduring an actual injury or fire.) This ½-quart saucepan, though, is heavy for its size and large enough to rest firmly on a burner. Now if only I could find a lid for it.
The same company that makes giant Dutch ovens makes smaller ones as well. This little red pot is their ¾-quart Dutch oven. I admit I don’t use it as much as its larger siblings, but it’s perfect for a single serving of nabemono, a Japanese one-pot dish that makes dreadful leftovers (which is why I’d go to all the trouble of cooking just one serving of it). The even tinier (2-cup) yellow pot can be used to bake a single beet. Yes, I do things like that.
Of course most of my cookware and bakeware is “normal” size, with pots in the 2- to 4-quart range, and most of the time I make a full recipe’s worth of food and dine on the leftovers for days afterwards. But for those times when preparing just one serving of something makes the most sense, I’ve ended up with a good selection of equipment to handle that.