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There are basically two types -- "saute pans with straight sides and saute pans with sloped sides," says Koetke, who is also vice president of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago. "The one with the sloped sides is technically called a sauteuse. ... And what we refer to as a saute pan here [in the United States] -- the sautoir -- is the one with the straight sides."

But you won't need dozens of pots and pans to be a good cook -- just good pans. "It's better to start with a few pieces and add to it than buy a set of stuff that's really substandard," Koetke says.

Mollenkamp adds: "There are three things you need to be willing to invest in for the kitchen. Knives, a good cutting board and a good pan. If you don't have those things then you're really going to be in an uphill battle."

So what pan should we be using for which cooking technique? Here are Koetke's and Mollenkamp's suggestions based on five types.

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