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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.

            1. Thank you everyone. I didn't find one that jumped out at me at that sale, but I feel much more self assured about buying a 4 qt. now.


              2 Replies
              1. re: NYChristopher

                Hi Christopher,

                I have several saute pans (lots of storage space) and usually cook for three. Here is my recommendation:

                Don't buy All Clad. Clad construction is NOT what you want on a saute pan because you will probably use it to sear and then put it in the oven anyway. A heavy bottomed pan is best here -- even Martha Stewart says so :). Go for maximum surface area. I use a six quart Cuisinart most often (old line heavy duty ss, not like the newer ones) myself. It allows me to cook pork tenderloins, steaks, redfish filet -- you name it. Strangely, I hardly use my beautiful and expensive copper Mauviel, which is a 4 quart model, because things seem too tight for some meals and the fact that it does not have a solid disk bottom makes it a poorer choice for searing. The copper is constructed in layers, similar to the All Clad design, which uses different metals, but I am thoroughly convinced that a heavy disk bottom does a better job no matter whether you use gas or electric (I have used both). I also use the six quart disk bottom to make a knockout paella because it is large enough to cook things like this plus arroz con pollo, etc. Get the biggest one you can find and you won't be sorry.

                Now, since my model is no longer being made, I would take a long hard look at Paderno, sold by Bridge. Beware of other Paderno lines in other stores -- this is the professional line and their 1/4" thick aluminum base has proven to be amazing in their Rondeaux. I have never found a burn mark or ring on the bottom of one of these pots, but I do get them on All Clad and the one clad piece of Demeyere that I use. Paderno is SS and is about half the cost of Sitram -- and I have no idea why. Possibly due to relative cost of aluminum core versus copper. If you want to spring for more money, check out Demeyere on line, which has a similar construction in their disk bottom saute pans. However, the thick aluminum bottom on the Paderno is just awesome. If had to buy all over again, I'd probably invest in this line for a few more pieces like the saute pan.

                I think All Clad construction is overrated for some cooking techniques. Great for some things, not for all. Most people just swallow the advertising and follow the WS rep's advice, so this brand gets way too much mention for what it really does.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  Agree with every word. My almost-everything-pot is a ~10" diameter 6 1/2 qt. Meyer 18/10 stainless and 1/2" thick aluminum bottom I bought at TJ Maxx for under $30. I don't even know what to call it--sauce pot, casserole...... It's all steel, handles/lid/knob. I make jam and chutney and all my thick prone-to-stick things in it ; large evaporation surface and almost impossible to scorch anything in it.

                  My ~35 year-old Farberware and Revere stainless pots with 1/8 alum. disk bottom still look like new and perform at least as well as my daughters' All-Clad.

              2. Well, I hope we'll get into using a saute pan as much as everyone seems to because I picked one up today at Costco. I've eyed it there a few times and couldn't resist anymore, 5qt stainless Tramontina for 30 bucks. It has a heavy try-ply aluminum core base, about 1/2 inch thick. Stainless lid and handles, about 11 inches in diameter. It's now the shiniest thing in our kitchen stocked mainly with a mishmash of Calphalon nonstick (bought mostly as cheapo editions, like $10 Professional Nonstick omelette pans from Amazon several years ago, etc). Our only other stainless pieces are ancient but work fine, although we haven't been using them too much

                Anyway, it seems like it should be fine for the price. It'll be good to have and even if somehow we don't end up using it often because we just throw up our arms as the stainless vs nonstick ;-) or the weight or something we won't be out a ton of cash for a pricey one. It does seem like this may be some sort of special cheap edition Tramontina. There's no mention of a warranty anywhere, kinda odd, although I guess at Costco at least you could get your money back if not a new pan. But what, really, should go wrong with a stainless pan like this? Not much. Or maybe it's just that Brazil is that much cheaper to make these things. We'll see. If you're looking for such an animal they may have some at your Costco.

                3 Replies
                1. re: CrazyOne

                  I think you have done very well. Tramontina gets raves across the board for its top quality construction and very reasonable price. 5 qts. is perfect -- not too big, not too small.

                  BTW -- Anything made in Brazil is considerably cheaper than what is made in Europe due to the exchange rates. It is a really good deal, and I doubt you will need to worry about a warranty with Costco. Just keep your receipt - they will replace defective merchandise most of the time, but I don't know for how long.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    A 1/2" thick alum. base is about as good as it gets. You'll have to work hard to burn things.

                    1. re: PhoebeB

                      Enjoy it. I think I have to go check out the Tramontina. If my beloved Paderno is 1/4 inch, the Tramontina must be a fabulous pot to cook in. That disk bottom won't have a single hot spot. No, you won't be burning a thing -- and you should enjoy knowing that it would take a $450 Falk copper pan to do the same job.