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Oct 14, 2008 11:33 AM

Which saute pan to buy

First of all, I have a glass ceramic kitchen stove, and the largest burner I think measures 9.5"... a standard, crappy glass ceramic kitchen stove (I miss my gas stove).

I need a suate pan. I'm guessing I can't go any larger than a 3.5qt pan, correct?

It's going to be used mostly for a) stews (which we usually have with rice) and b) whenever I want to fry something and don't feel like using my cast iron, since no matter how I season my cast iron and keep seasoning it and keep making bacon in it, food still sticks on it and takes ages to clean.

I have a bunch of cookware, but the ones I use are my 10" cast-iron skillet, a non-stick frying pan (mostly for eggs), a 12" deep non-stick skillet (I think 8" at the bottom, and I believe it's actually a stir-fry pan, but I hear some places calling it a deep skillet) that I desperately need to get rid of, and two cuisinart classic stainless steel saucepans of different sizes.

My budget: around $100. I want something that can last me for 5-10 years, and somewhere down the road I can upgrade to somethign better like copper.

My problem: I know I DON'T want non-stick. But I can't choose between tri-ply, anodized, etc. Frankly, I don't know the difference. I do know that if it can go in the oven, it's a plus. If it can go in the dishwasher, it's a plus.

I've seen these two so far:

And I saw this, but it's more than I can afford (I have found a second hand one though, said to be in good condition, for $100. good deal?):


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  1. You'll learn to cook with this cooktop. The key is to get pots with thick, flat bases (disk bases). Save the clad construction for your gas cooktops, because no flames will ever be licking the sides.

    Try this link for one of the high end Tramontina pieces with a disk bottom construction. You can also, believe it or not, find Tramontina at WalMart and at Sur Le Table. I have an older Cuisinart disk bottom saute pan, but the bottom did not stay as flat as I would like it, so I upgraded to Demeyere, but that is $250 or so.

    1. Thanks, RGC. The price is certainly good, and it looks like a solid cookware, although I've never heard of Tramontina.

      I also found a new calphalon tri-ply stainless steel 3 QT saute pan,
      for around $90. Does that sound like a deal?

      4 Replies
      1. re: sepandee

        I have found some Calphalons to be unable to retain their perfectly flat bottoms over time, so I am down to two skillets, one of which spins dangerously on my cooktop, so it will be going to the garage sale next time. I've not used Tri-Ply, but it is a clad construction, which means sides as thick as the bottom, however the bottom is thinner than a disk bottom construction. That is not the best pan for a ceramic cooktop, and neither is All Clad or Cuisinart Multi-clad, etc. for that reason. Go with thick bottoms that stay flat over time and disperse heat well to the edges, so that you can use a smaller burner. Tramontina is a Brazilian manufacturer of several different lines of cookware, much of it high end. The 125West site actually has a number of their lines, as does Sur Le Table. Because it is made in Brazil and not Europe, it is less expensive than the French, Italian and Belgium cookware that will run you about $200+ for similar quality, If you stick to disk construction, and want to spend more money, you can check out Paderno Grand Gourmet at Bridge Kitchenware, which has a 5 mm aluminum bottom, or Demeyere, also at 125 West . If you look at Demeyere, some pieces are clad, so don't buy anything like the conical sauteuse for this purpose. I'd recommend Atlantis standard saute pans. For Paderno, buy ONLY the Grand Goumet line, don't buy the stuff made on PEI, and only buy the Italian made (sold at Bridge Kitchenware). The pans made in Canada are not made by the same company.

        What I like about all of these disk bottom lines is that the thicker disk bottom really minimizes hot spots, so you can use a bigger pan on a standard ceramic burner since the heat transfers well to the edge of the pans. The Tramontina with disk bottom construction will do that too, making it a bargain versus the European manufacturers.

        1. re: RGC1982

          good advice from RGC in particular, you'll be best off with something with a disk bottom which won't warp. Sitram makes a nice saute pan with a disk, also available at Bridge, I think. and with the size of your burner, you're right to stick to a 3 quart. The big advantage with a good saute stainless saute pan is you can sear on the cooktop and finish in the oven.

          1. re: chuckl

            I second the Sitram 3 qt saute pan recommendation. I own the Profiserie model, because it is induction-capable, while the Catering line is not. I don't have induction yet but I'm trying to buy for the long term.

            I also have the 3 qt All-Clad saute pan, which I love as well. Even though they are both 3 qt saute pans they are quite different. The Sitram is deeper (3 in), with a smaller diameter (9.75 in). The All-Clad is about 11 inches wide and 2.5 in deep. The disc on the bottom of the Sitram is VERY thick (5mm?), and in my opinion, it heats up faster and more evenly than the All-Clad. Cooks Illustrated disagrees with me, and they conducted scientific tests so what do I know. In their review of 3 qt saute pans (which you can look at for free if you sign up for their two-week trial) they rated Sitram dead last, mostly because the disc does not extend all the way to the edge of the pan. I bought it anyway because I found a new, open-box deal at Amazon for $30 so I thought I'd give it a try. I think they sell it new for about $70 but you could probably get it cheaper elsewhere. Also it doesn't come with a lid - you buy that separately (but buy the Catering line lid, which is supposed to be much sturdier). I just use the 24 cm lid from my Le Creuset which fits perfectly. Anyway I'm glad that I disregarded CI's advice because I do like this pan a lot and can use it for more stew-y things than the much wider All-Clad. It doesn't have a helper handle but it is lighter and easier to maneuver than the All-Clad. Also, I think the quality of the stainless is different -- I was boiling water and threw some salt in, and the salt created those white marks that don't affect performance but don't look that great. Bar Keepers didn't work to get it off. That has never happened with any of my All-Clad.

            One more thing about the All-Clad. is having a 20% off All-Clad sale right now - even if you only buy one piece. So I think it ends up being close to $100. These are cosmetic seconds - I've never bought from them but just search the board for people's experiences with them.

            In your situation I'd get the Sitram Profiserie 3.3 qt saute pan. The bottom is heavier and more solid than All-Clad. If I were cooking on glass (and believe me it would be an improvement on my electric coils) I would choose the Sitram.

          2. re: RGC1982

            Thanks again, RGC. And Chuckl.
            One question on the Tramontina: the saute pan with the straight side is called a frying pan on 125west, and the frying pan with sloped sides is referred to as a saute pan. Am I missing a point here?

        2. I wouldn't get a saute pan at all. Unless you want to do that chefie flip thing, I would go with the Le Creuset buffet casserole in the 3.5 qt. size. It's a 12" two loop handled deeper frypan, with a domed lid. They can be had on Ebay for about $100. Awesome for stews, sauteing, frying, roasting, baking, braising and much more versatile than a saute pan. If you take care of it it will last your lifetime and then some.

          4 Replies
          1. re: blondelle

            Interesting, blondelle. It's the first time I've heard/read a suggestion like this. How come you're the only one giving me this advice? I'm sure you're right but again, it's the first time i hear this. Moreover, I have no experience with casseroles whatsoever.

            1. re: sepandee

              I agree with blondelle 100%. I have an AllClad 4-quart sauteuse like this one


              that I reach for probably 90% of the time a saute pan is called for. As blondelle says, it's so much more versatile and is damned handsome to boot so can go directly from stovetop or oven to table. I originally bought it just because I liked the look of it and simply coveted it. Along with my cast iron skillets, it's the pan I reach for more than any other.

              1. re: JoanN

                that's a nice looking pan, I hadn't thought of that, but it looks quite versatile. Here's one on ebay that's a little cheaper.


            2. re: blondelle

              I totally agree that the LC buffet casseroles and dutch ovens are great pieces of cookware. I have several, and they're among my most-used pieces of cookware. But saute pans they ain't.

              The critical difference here is thermal mass. Think of a saute pan as a Ferrari and a piece of enameled cast iron like the LC as a Rolls Royce (Mazda Miata and Toyota Avalon, if you're more practical). A saute pan's job is to be responsive - to get hot quickly when the heat's applied and to cool down quickly when it's removed. Enameled cast iron, on the other hand, is best at delivering smooth transitions; it heats up and cools down much more gradually, so the food inside doesn't notice the "bumps" when the heat applied to the pan fluctuates slightly.

              Both have their place in the kitchen, and there's considerable overlap in their capabilities. If you have to choose one, make the choice based on what you're going to be doing with it. The saute pan is better for (duh) sauteing (tossing ingredients over high heat for relatively short periods of time), while enameled cast iron is ideal for braising (cooking with low heat on the stove or in the oven for longer periods of time).

              But why choose? For your budget, you can get a decent saute pan AND a piece of enameled cast iron (a 3-quart casserole or a 6-quart dutch oven, which is about the same diameter but has taller sides). You'll have to get Lodge instead of Le Creuset, but lots of folks here have good things to say about the Lodge products, and they're available in the $40-50 range. As for stainless cookware, skip the name brands and the gourmet stores and head straight to your local restaurant supply house. Look for a heavy-duty stainless saute pan with a thick sandwich bottom; it should also be around $40-50.

              Good luck, and let us know what you decide to do.

            3. I love this pan:

              Calphalon Commercial line, 2.5qt shallow sauce pan which can double as a saute pan b/c of it's shallow height. Very thick aluminum gauge construction and heavy. Roughly 7-8mm thick all around. Thicker aluminum than what you'd find in any of the allclad (or comparable clad ware) or anodized aluminum cookware. Very cheap too as the line is basically discontinued.

              It has a lifetime warranty so you can return it and get a replacement for free. I love this pan for its uses. I actually bought two of these pans(amazon has it on sale sometimes from $19.99 to $24.99), and returned one for warranty replacement recently and Calpahalon sent me a Calphalon One 2.5 sauce pan (but not shallow).

              Since it's so cheap you can buy this one and find another pan to suit your other needs. I would normally recommend something like this for $25-30 :

              but it isn't in stock (not sold directly) at

              2 Replies
              1. re: Cary

                correct me if I'm wrong but isn't hard anodized not suitable for dishwasher and oven use?