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Jun 8, 2007 11:16 AM

Question before buying a saute pan

A prominent New York City-based cookware store that moved from SoHo to the Village is having their annual "yard sale" this weekend (that should be enough to tip the knowledgeable without sounding like I'm pimping for the store).

I will be window shopping unless I find what I think to be a fair priced "necessary add" to my kitchen.

While I troll the online auction world for a Griswold #8 or #10 (you folks here convinced me I'd be better served with Griswold than Lodge), I started thinking about saute pans.

QUESTION: What size saute pan would you recommend for two birds?

I see All-Clad makes them in 2, 3, 4 and 6 qt. sizes.

Presumably Paderno, Sitram, Tramontina and Demeyere all come in comparable sizes

This will be my only saute pan purchase, and I rarely cook for more than two-to-four (small NYC apartment, you know) so I'd like to get it right the first time.

Brand recommendations gladly accepted, as well (I'm a total amateur, but aspiring and improving).

Thanks for your input.


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  1. Christopher -

    One tip re:AllClad -- the 3qt and 4qt saute's are the same diameter but the 4qt is deeper (obviously). I think for four you will want atleast 3qt/4qt. When looking at
    various brands pay attention to the handle. It should feel 'right' to you.

    Have fun.

    1. Don't buy too small. You can do small amts. in a larger pan but not vice-versa. And to cook things like fresh greens or summer squash for even 2-4 people takes a BIG pan at the start.

      Do you have a TJ Maxx near you? They sooner or later have outs/remnants of almost every top brand and lots of lesser-known but perfectly serviceable brands, all at great discounts.

      I've bought several pieces of my best cookware there for $10-$30, incl. a wonderful stainless saute pan with glass lid, 4 1/2 + qt., ~4" tall, 11 1/2" diam., thick aluminium disk on the bottom, long handle and grip handle. It has no maker's mark at all but couldn't please me more after at least 5 years of hard use. It's the most versatile pan I own for both sauteeing/braising. I do my duxelles and rhubarb jam in it because of its good depth and big surface area for reducing.

      Three of my constant standbys are Farberware & Revere Ware stainless saucepans w/the aluminum disk bottom.They cost very little new, still look like new after 20-30 years, cook perfectly. The aluminum disk is only ~1/8th inch thick, but if what I'm cooking would tend to stick/scorch I always use a flame tamer anyway.

      (A flame tamer, BTW, is one of the first things you should buy. I sometimes stack two of them under something I want to cook really slowly or know is prone to stick/scorch.)

      The only fairly pricey new cookware item I think I've ever bought is an 11" sq. Scanpan griddle with unconditional lifetime-warranted non-stick surface (even with metal utensils). It takes a long time to heat through, but it sure cooks things beautifully and evenly--no hot spots. The food at the edges cooks exactly like the food in the center.

      My best advice is that price is no absolute guarantee of quality. I know at least a half-dozen people who bought or received as a wedding present a full set of a certain prestigious & pricey brand of cookware, and after a few months of using it were almost stopping people on the street trying to give it away. My daughters seldom use some of their Le Creuset pieces because they're so durned heavy and hard to clean.

      If you find a real steal at your sale, grab it. If not, consider starting out with decent workaday basics from Target or TJ Maxx or Walmart or yard sales until you learn what you want for the long term. You might be surprised at how little of it you'll ever want to replace.

      Always keep in mind that everything you don't spend on cookware you can spend on good stuff to cook in it.

      1. Christopher,
        In my opinion, a good saute pan is a real workhorse. You want one you can put in the oven, after, say, searing a steak or salmon fillet for finishing. You also want one that heats evenly. I use mine to make my pasta sauce, then dropping the pasta into the sauce to finish it. that said, you don't want a plastic or wooden handle, or a pan that can't handle oven heat. To me, it's worth the expense of investing in quality for this particular pan, since it gets so much work. I'd go for one with a sandwiched bottom, either copper or aluminum sandwiched between stainless for good conductivity and even heating. brands to consider would include all clad, demeyere, sitram and others.The question then becomes size. 2 quart will be too small and the 6 quarts are huge. you can probably get away with a 3 quart, but you might want to consider a 4.

        1. I've found my 3 qt. (All-Clad stainless) to be a good size when cooking for 2. I've cooked for 4 using it but, depending on the recipe, it can get a little crowded.

          1 Reply
          1. re: DanW

            I agree. My 4 1/2 qt. barely holds a good mess of greens or summer squash, esp. when I'm making enough for company or a potluck supper. Might as well get one that's big enough for special occasions. Doesn't cost or weigh much more or take up much more room.

          2. The biggest mistake you can make with a saute pan is buying too small. 2 people, the 3/4 Qt is fine. If you ae going to be using it to cook for 4, you need a 5 or 6 qt. pan. If you don't mind cleaning by hand, the Calphalon Ones are excellent. All-Clad LTD are the best I've ever cooked with, haven't tried the copper but I hear it is just as good, if not better, and dishwasher safe. I'm not familiar with the other brands you listed.