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4-qt stovetop pan; which shape most versatile?

I want a 4- or 4.5-qt. pan for my gas cooktop. I need your advice specifically on its shape.

I have various 3-qt. and 5-qt. pots and pans, different materials and makers. For my next good-pan purchase, I want something in the middle size-wise for use on my gas cooktop. Here are some of the things I'd like to use this for, in order of priority:

1) soups, stews, smaller amounts of stock;

2) cooking pasta in amounts a little too large for my 3-qt., but not big enough so that I want to drag out my largest/heaviest pots (say a one-pound package of pasta);

3) occasional use for boiling larger amounts of potatoes, other veggies, etc.;

4) occasional use for larger (but not vast) amounts of sauces.

I understand the intent and use of each of these as specialty pans, but I avoid buying single-purpose equipment, when I can help it. I've searched a lot of the threads on here and other cooking sites plus other material. I see arguments for and against sauce pans, sauciers and fait-touts/Windsors. I'm getting confused.

My first choice would be a saucier, because I *like* working with that shape (I like to whisk), but I'm not sure it cooks pasta properly. My second choice would be a Windsor, simply because I don't have that shape, but I don't know how versatile it is. But maybe I'm way off the mark here, and should just get a sauce pan with rounded corners. ???

I realize no one pan may do all of these things well, or even adequately, but I'm getting to confused as to which shape would handle the greatest variety of tasks. Thanks for any advice you can give me.

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  1. Sounds to me like you already have what you need. If a 3 qt is too small, you have the 4qt and 5 qt. You can cook soup, potatoes, stews and sauces in any of them.

    1. I think your best bet is the All-Clad 4.5 qt. ragout pan. It's a 4.5 saucier shaped pan but with some good bottom area. It has a helper handle and a domed lid. It was formerly called the James Beard pan. It's not easy to find but Bloomies has it. It's about $170, but I think they have a sale today with $25 off (need coupon but sometimes the store will give you one) and 10% off. If I could just have one pan in my kitchen this does about everything.

      3 Replies
      1. re: blondelle

        Hi, blondelle. TY for the suggestion. I've been looking for it online all day, but so far, I'm striking out, even on Bloomie's site. I may give them a call tomorrow. Perhaps they don't sell it online.

        I think you really understand exactly what I'm looking for. One of the many reasons I love the Calphalon tri-ply copper saucier is that it has enough room on the bottom to brown one large bone-in pork chop or beef shin if I'm making a quick soup. It creates an excellent fond and releases and cleans easily. But, it's only large enough to make about 3 or 4 servings of soup or stew--or, 1.5, if my husband's involved. :-)

        I noted on another thread, though, that I may be the only person in the world who's incompatible with All-Clad. I have problems with stuff sticking and burning in my A-C (SS). I can't figure it out. I *think* I follow the guidelines for using the pans--pre-heat them on low heat until they're hot, put the oil in, let that heat, have the food at room temp, etc. It sounds like you have good luck with the A-C, though, huh? Any tips?

        1. re: blondelle

          This is the pot I was referring to and posted about previously. I'm surprised no one replied regarding it as it's the perfect pan. There's nothing you can't make in this. It's the perfect union of saucier and saucepan and the domed lid lets you braise a whole chicken or roast too.

          http://i10.photobucket.com/albums/a13...

          1. re: blondelle

            Gosh, one look at that photo, and I think I'm in love with that pan. That looks like something I could have some fun with, if I can get over my A-C problems. I googled "James Beard ragout pan" and came up with references to Williams-Sonoma selling it to support the JB Foundation. However, I haven't been able to locate it on the site...*yet*. Going back to look. Thank you so much for posting that; that was very thoughtful of you.

        2. I have and use my Staub the most. Here is a good deal on QVC.

          http://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx/vi...

          11 Replies
          1. re: mcel215

            I actually ordered one of these for my MIL last night. She was admiring my LC's last time she was here. We were originally going to send her one of the Batali pots but when I saw this was much less expensive and was a Made in France Staub piece I thought I'd send this instead. I'm a bit concerned never having seen it in person before...

            Anyone ever bought one of these Staub pieces from QVC? The price seems too good to be true actually?

            1. re: ziggylu

              I have a small Staub Cocotte and a larger 5-quart one, ziggy, but they're the original, not the QVC version. I'm sure in some way Staub has found a way to make them more economically specifically for QVC, but I *DON'T* mean to say, "cheaply". I love my Staub pots and use them constantly. I don't think Staub would do anything to reduce the quality of something it sells to the extent that it would tarnish its brand. Plus, according to the link that mcel provided, the QVC version offers a ltd. lifetime warranty. Maybe you could see if that is the same that Staub offers on the original cookware, to put your mind at ease?

              When I bought these pieces, I had to choose between Staub and Le Creuset. I liked the light colored interiors of Le Creuset much better. I want to be able to see changes to the food against light or reflective backgrounds. But the Staub knob and handles allowed my use of them in the oven at any temp, which was more important to me. I see here the QVC version of Staub offers you the best of both worlds. :-)

              I've ordered a few things from QVC before, and I like their customer service. Maybe you could call them with your questions.

              1. re: Steady Habits

                Thanks. The specs all look like it's same quality as Staub normally is, just a light interior with that honeycomb(which I think I would hate but MIL won't use it as much as I do and probably won't mind) and the handles are a bit different. The reviews of the old Staub line QVC carries is all positive so I'm hoping this will be too.

                This is the first thing I've ever purchased from QVC(just happened to catch my attention when flipping channels last night) so that combined with never having seen it before I guess makes me a bit nervous since I had it shipped directly to MIL as a gift. I'm sure it will be fine though.

                I'm still astonished by the price. I actually used to be a buyer for one of the big warehouse clubs so understand what enormous buying power can bring but the price just really seems to good to be true. (This was called "Today's Value" last night was even lower than the price in the link above. I paid $59 for it last night).

                1. re: ziggylu

                  I can certainly understand having a little trepidation when you're buying for MIL, but don't get to see the merchandise first in person. (Heck, I'm nervous when I *do* see it in person, and it's for MIL.) All kidding aside, though, the other thing that makes it tough is that pots and pans, and our individual priorities for them, are all so personal.

                  I don't really like to purchase things online or by mail order, so QVC is one of three online sites I've used. It took me a few years to give in and do it, and only after one of my girlfriends kept showing me all this good-quality merchandise she buys incessantly from QVC. :-)

                  Don't forget to let us know how MIL likes it!

            2. re: mcel215

              I already have enameled cast iron, also Staub--and, like you, mcel, I use it *a lot*. Don't you love the stuff? I find my little one makes the *best* rice (among dozens of other things).

              I should have been clearer, to say I'm looking for something in between that's...well, a little easier on my back, LOL. So...stainless...or clad cookware...and something that will get water boiling relatively quickly. What do you have for saucepan types? Anything you'd recommend? Thanks.

              1. re: Steady Habits

                Steady Habits, I'm a newbie in cooking and cookware but I've read quite a bit and have made some purchases. I agree abt the cast iron, the 5 qt Staub I bought is sooooo heavy for me and I am a younger physically fit person.
                Anyways, I am in the market for something about that size. Maybe you don't need the saucier or windsor shapes because if I understand correctly those shapes are intended to facilitate reduction/evaporation. For the tasks you described I think the plain old regular shaped pots might do.

                1. re: bessa

                  bessa, yes...sometimes I feel like I'm going to break my back lifting that 5-qt. Staub, and,depending what's in it, it's actually made my oven racks sag slightly (cheap racks, though, I suspect). I still love it, though; it cooks things so beautifully, and there are some things I wouldn't make in any pot but that one. But a little bit lighter one will be welcomed, and I need something with a long handle for certain uses.

                  I think you're right about the evaporation factor, and it looks like, from what I'm seeing in availability, I may have to go with a convention sauce pan with rounded corners. But I do love using a whisk in a saucier; hence, my quest.

                  So tell us, since you're newer to the adventures of cooking...what do you like to cook, and which pans have you gotten that you especially like? Be careful--a little unsolicited advice from someone a little bit further along (read: older)--once the pots-and-pans bug bites you, you'll be in danger of becoming a crazy person like me. I actually find myself thinking about pans before I fall asleep at night. Of course, it could be worse. Knife people seem even more intense about their cutlery than some of us are about our cookware. ;-)

                  1. re: Steady Habits

                    Steady Habits, I like the Staub 5qt as well. So far tried it out a couple of times but it was too big for what I was making. I did notice a difference in how it cooked compared to ss when I was doing a section of a recipe that called for cooking onions. I am so looking forward to trying out recipes suitable for this size and type of cookware.

                    My most favorite is the allclad 3 quart cassoulet in ss even thought I only used it once so far (just got it.) I think I am obsessed with rounded bottoms like you are because I just had to have this pan! This will probably be my most widely used pan bc I cook for one and it seems like it will be versatile (I only paid 60 bucks for it!) I like that is is ss so that is more responsive to changing temperatures in comparison to the enameled cast iron braisers in the same shape also the size is perfect for me. I hope to get my hands on some restaurant supply cookware as I have maybe one or two pieces to buy. The sitram, paderno gg, bourgeat stainless and other lines in the same category appeal to me.
                    What have I tried cooking lately? Yesterday was Hazan's Essential recipe for Bolognese sauce and today will be falafel.

                    So, regarding your quest for 3.5 -4 qt. Have you considered a sauteuse? I know it is not a saucepan/pot but it has the curved bottom and on another chowhound thread a user posted pics of the Paderno GG to demonstrate the taller sides. Here is the link to the thread:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/381992

                    1. re: bessa

                      I know what you mean about the rounded pans. I only have the one, and I was kind of lukewarm about buying it, but I wanted the size. Once I cooked with it, I was crazy about it.

                      Yes, I've considered a sauteuse *and* a cassoulet, LOL, because--basically--I want every nice pan in the Galaxy. But, you know...sometimes a woman has to choose between pacing herself and explaining to her husband why she didn't. :-) *A* cassoulet is actually quite high on my list, but I'm looking for something in earthernware, because I bake beans a lot. I've baked them in the little Staub, but...no. They're not the same when they're baked in metals. We bake our beans in clay in New England, or we don't bake them ;-). But I don't want a traditional beanpot...I want a cassoulet. So that's also taking some time.

                      P.S. *Great* price you got for the A-C! That's, like, less than half of list. I always try to get a good deal on kitchen equipment, as good as I can without sacrificing quality. I think that's part of the cook's job, too...making resources go as far as we can, so we have some left for the next great pot :-).

                      How did the falafel turn out?

                2. re: Steady Habits

                  Sorry, I didn't see that you were looking for something "other" than enameled cast iron!

                  I have a couple of small (ancient) faberware sauce pans that are lighter on my
                  back, but to tell you the truth with two staubs, I hardly ever use them any more.

                  They may be heavy, but I adore the product.

                  1. re: mcel215

                    I do, too, mcel--adore the Staub. They have redeemed the investment a hundred times over. It's like you barely have to do much of anything once you add the ingredients. The pots do the cooking and the cleaning, and everything turns out moist and tender...and rich in flavor, too. But I think like bessa pointed out above, for this application, I'm looking for something that's more quickly responsive to temp changes (plus the longer handle). Eventually, though, I want another Staub in an in-between size, or maybe an oval.

              2. I mentioned elsewhere of my difficulty in finding "Dutch ovens". Likely the real issue is some manufactures tend to take the "diameter:height" ratio of the pan, and call it something that it is not. Like manufacturing a mini stock pot and putting a handle on it, just to call it a sauce pan.

                So what I am getting at, is you maybe in the same boat as myself, that some manufacturer doesn't make the pan fulfilling your need. Like something in between a handled dutch oven/sauce pan. Perhaps you may be looking for a dutch oven?

                1. Steady Habits, I have never used Anolon and so can't necessarily recommend this(particularly with teh nonstick coating) but it sounds like you're looking for something like this?

                  http://www.surlatable.com/product/coo...

                  Edit:

                  I see on another cookware thread you have Demeyere that you like a lot. Have you seen this piece?
                  http://www.surlatable.com/product/coo...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ziggylu

                    I'm thinking of a sauce pan handle, ziggy, though I like the size and had definitely been wondering about the tapered shape of the Anolon you linked me to. I've stayed away from rondeaux and everyday pans, because I'll be using this often on the burner, and I notice that my helper handers get hot stovetop, but my longer handles never do.

                    Ha ha, though...you've got me on my thing for Demeyere and, especially, Atlantis. *That* is a beautiful pot. Maybe I do need another short-handled Dutch Oven, after all ;-p. I know I could just give in and buy one of their sauce pans, but...as much as I am willing to spend for *some* cookware, I haven't been able to talk myself through the extravagance of spending what Demeyere fetches to cook a box of dried pasta or whip up some chicken soup. Maybe I need to get over that, though, and just do it. I just worry, though, that this type of itch escalates, and that next week I'll be on here asking you guys whether you think I should take out an equity loan for some $800 copper stockpot I've begun to covet.

                    1. re: Steady Habits

                      Heh. Wouldn't be one to deter you on that myself since I must confess to having a copper pan fetish.

                      FWIW, if you just want something inexpensive for boiling the handles on that Anolon piece is a material that won't get hot on the stovetop. They're also oven safe to somewhere around 400 degrees I believe. The nonstick would be the sticking point(ha!) on that pan for me, though.

                      I know All-Clad has a 6qt deep saute that would work for you in terms of size and shape but is probably too big?

                      With a two person household I get what you're looking for. I typically use my LC's for boiling pasta and potatoes and the like(either the 3.5 or th 5.5 depending on what I'm doing) but they do require mitts when draining. I have a 4 qt sauce pan I use a lot too that's clad and the handle stays cool on that.

                      1. re: ziggylu

                        Yes, re your 4-qt, that sounds exactly how I would like to use it. I saw an A-C sauce pan that was slightly bigger, 5.5 or 6 qts. I may go that route if my original quest is unsuccessful.

                        I get confused about Analon and Circulon. I've never used either and I can't keep them straight. But...I guess like you...I am *no* fan of nonstick. I *really* don't like cooking in it. I had to when I was young and uber-broke and we had to settle for my MILs hand-me-down pans. I was grateful not to have to scratch for the money for cookware at the time, but never enjoyed them). I've been curious about anodized from time to time, but, additionally, Staub's the only thing I'll make an exception on the black background for.

                  2. One of my favorite pots is a 4 1/2 quart stainless steel rondeax -- a two-handled shorter stockpot. It closely resembles a Dutch oven. Because it is wider, water boils more quickly. It is one of the workhorses in my kitchen, and the fact that it has handles like a Dutch oven makes it easy to lift, strain pasta, boil corn, make soups in and put in the oven. This pot happens to be a Paderno Grand Gourmet with a thick aluminum disk base, but you may find similar shapes in clad models as well. I preferred the disk bottom even on gas because it didn't scorch when browning vegetables for soup or stews, but many people with gas seem to like clad construction for their burners. I think as long as you are careful to regulate your flame so that it is not coming up the side of the pot (which is a safety hazard for the cook), disk bottom is a good choice as well.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: RGC1982

                      I think I found the pan...

                      http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/brow...

                      I haven't called them for any information, yet, but did yours come with a lid? (Without a lid, it is useless for my needs.)

                      Anyway, that the right shape of pan that I have been looking for all this time.

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        I was about to say, RGC, that I prefer clad cookware, but then I remembered that the Demeyere Atlantis that I think is so perfect isn't actually clad cookware. :-). I do like cooking with clad, but I'm not sure why, other than the idea that the heat would be more even below and around the food.

                        The diverse ways in which we each react to cookware is so strange, how something that feels so comfortable and manageable to one of us might drive somebody else crazy. I used to scorch more food *with* disk-bottoms, but, honestly, what I had at the time were cheap (not "inexpensive"--I mean, "cheap")-- pans. You know. One screw barely attaching the handle of a five-quart pot. My Phillips head screwdriver was my most indispensible kitchen tool in those days. :-) I've noticed through the years that a number of higher end manufacturers tend to offer a disk-bottom option for stockpots, particularly, so you're probably on to something. There seem to be a lot of comments online from chefs who choose Paderno. I've never even seen one. You like the way they're made, then?

                        (So many pans...so little time!)