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Fry Pan - what is the most practical size?

Hi all Chowsers,

I am looking for a fry pan for every day use but I don't know if a 10 in or a 12 in would be most practical. There are only 2 of us in the household but we have a lot of family dinners. Would I need both?

Also, All Clad SS or MC2?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I have a 12" Swiss Diamond that I just love, and seems to work well when I just cook things for the two of us. I'd go with the larger one.

    1. I'm single, but a lot of times I cook with leftovers in mind. I have a 10" skillet, but often wish it were larger. I picked up a 6" one at a yard sale, and use it occasionally, but I can't think of many - if any - times when it would have been a problem using the larger.

      1. I am a single old retired man and have both 10" and a 12" cast iron fry pans. I use the 12" 95% of the time. Also a little 6" I use for a couple of fried eggs.
        Size matters :-)
        Hope this helps make up your mind.

        1. Go for the 12 inch. I have a 10 inch and 12 inch, and I reach for the 12 inch a lot more than the 10. About the only time I use anything smaller is when I'm making scrambled eggs for one (something about the smaller pan size helps it come out better) or reducing wine for bearnaise sauce. Make sure you buy a skillet (with sloping sides) and not a saute pan (with straight sides). Despite the name of the saute pan, it's more suited for braising; the skillet is much more versatile.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            I agree if you buy 12 inch fry pan with "LID". I bought my All-Cald 12 inch with lid last summer and I love it. I know i could buy 12 inch "Saute" pan instead of this but I k now fry pan serves me better as I have 3.5 qt buffet casserole for my braising needs. 12 inch saute pan with lid is really fabulous if you saute greens, like Swiss chard and Turnip green as they have a big volume at the beginning and after cooking they become smaller amout. For this purpose, I always feel 10 inch is a bit too small. In addition, In a 12 inch skillet, you can put 2 steaks and 2 chicken breast withough touching each other. When you braise, sometimes you want to brown your meat not in your dutch oven but in a large skillet. A 12 inch is ideal for it. So, Unless you are single, I recommend a 12 inch skillet with lid.

          2. Why not get both? Emerilware pans (rated
            higher by Consumer Reports)
            are available for about half the price of All-Clad.

            1. Also need to add, a 12" fry pan with the sloping sides has a bottom area about the same as a 10" or even smaller saute pan with the straight sides. A 12" is not as big as you think.

              1. We've got both (All Clad SS) and we use the 10 inch skillet about 80% of the time. Honestly, it's because it fits in the sink and the dishwasher more comfortably than the 12 inch skillet does. The 12 inch skillet is great if we're cooking breaded, well, anything because it gives us a bit larger a surface area and things fit easily. But for sauteing just about anything for two people, the 10 inch is plenty large enough.

                If I were picking just one for every day use I'd go with the 10 inch. It's easier to move around, easier to clean and gives me more room on my cooktop for other pots and pans. When cooking shallow fried items, I can work in batches and keep warm in the toaster oven. So, I'd get that and a 3qt saute pan with a lid instead of the 12 inch skillet.

                1. I'd go for the bigger one. All-Clad is nice and it works quite well, but also consider disk bottom pans like Sitram, which are also very good quality

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: chuckl

                    Good point. One of All-Clad's selling points is that it is clad all the way up the sides. Great on a saucepan or stock pot but totally unnecessary on a fry pan. Wasted money. Get one with an aluminum clad bottom and save $100.

                    1. re: billieboy

                      I use the sides on mine sometimes. It just depends on how you cook I guess.

                      1. re: wekick

                        Agree. I believe cladding is more important in a frypan than in any other shape cookware. I frequently use the sides of my 10" clad frypan. With only 2 people to cook for, I find my 12" frypans are seldom used.

                        1. re: DuffyH

                          Hi, Duffy:

                          I'm more on billieboy's side on this one. In most frypans, IMO, there's too great a temp differential to make it worthwhile.

                          About the only thing I "fry" on a frypan's walls are the ends of the outside bacon strips that won't fit on the pan's floor. More accurately, I just *park* them there until the next spin of bacon roulette.

                          What do you like to cook on the sidewalls rather than in a larger pan?


                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Bacon is one but anything that kind of shrinks as it cooks and you are fitting just a little more than the pan holds. One of my best pans for this is a 14 inch skillet, heavy aluminum. As things cook they regress to the bottom. I could get out two pans but this works. I have also put the fat of a pork chop up against the edge to brown better.

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Hi Kaleo,

                              Like to cook on the sides? Nothing. But by trailing ends of things, like fish or chicken cutlets, up onto the walls of a pan, I can fit more without using a larger pan than necessary.

                              I don't think we're all that different, but I don't see anything wrong with using the walls of a nice thick clad skillet.

                              Maybe it's a reflection of the way I cook. Recall that I'm strongly in the pre-heat camp, using medium (or lower) heat for almost everything that goes into a skillet. This tends to mitigate temperature differences, especially when paired with an appropriately-sized skillet.


                              1. re: DuffyH

                                I guess we differ about "necessary". I can fry a whole pound of bacon all jumbled up in a 10-inch frypan, but won't unless I have no alternative.

                                My issue with frying-on-the walls is that there's almost no fat there. It's a little like some of your french fries poking out of the oil. ;)

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  I don't see the necessity of using a big honking skillet to cook a couple of chicken cutlets, just because one might be a little long. As wekick noted, most things shrink down a bit and fit just fine.

                                  The food comes out just fine, not undercooked, not dry, nicely browned.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    And this is the reason I bought the 6 qt. Viking sauté, there was a lot of floor space for browning. I was going after square inches not volume, and things don't brown as well if their not in contact with the bottom of the pan. I could have worked in batches, but prefer not to if there is another way. It's a big honking pan but I can handle it.

                                    1. re: mikie

                                      Smart man. And you needn't worry over crowding your Childean mushrooms.

                      2. Interesting. I usually cook for 1 or 2 and would have thought the 10" would be the clear choice, but lot's of people seem to prefer the 12". I guess it depends on what you cook and how you cook it. I have way too many skillets, including a massive 13.5" cast iron that gets used maybe twice a year, but I consider my 10" cast iron and aluminum skillets essential. I assume you have cooked using both sizes. If you like cooking for two with the 10", consider buy two of them and use both when you need to cook for 4. That said, when you have a really big item to cook (like a whole fish) that is just a little longer than 10", a 12" skillet is mighty handy.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Zeldog

                          Yeah, it was the "cooks for family occasionally" rider on the cooks for two that made it a tougher call for me. Is it better to have to scramble on occasion to make things work with the smaller skillet or to have to deal with the larger pan all of the time. I ultimately made my recommendation of the 10 inch skillet, but I can see how it's all reasonable.

                        2. Over the years I have found that the 12 inch cast iron is the workhorse. I also use a 14 inch cast aluminum pan (cast iron is just too heavy at that size, but the aluminum is a lot stickier for cooking and cleanup), and a 10 inch Farberware and an 8 inch farberware and a 5 inch aluminum. It all depends on the size of what I'm making, more or less. I can do 2 bone-in rib steaks in the 14 inch that won't fit the 12 inch. The smaller pans won't do a whole fish. The bigger ones are too big to make a brown butter sauce, so I use the smallest one. You can use the 10 inch to saute the mushroom caps for what you are making in the 12 inch. And so it goes.

                          Oh, it also matters what the handles are made of. I won't trust the farberware in the oven.

                          1. Another consideration is your stove. With 8" coils on my electric stove, the outer rim of my 12" skillet does not heat evenly. I still use it when I need the space, such as for pancakes, but for most other items I use a 10" dutch oven. A 'stir fry' pan (8" base, 11" rim) also gets more use than the 12" skillet. In both cases I am substituting depth for bottom area.

                            What do you mostly cook? I'm more likely to braise a pork shoulder than pan fry several large steaks. I'm happy to have the 12", but it is used for specialized tasks, not daily cooking.

                            1. Wow, thanks for all of the responses!! I think I'm going to go for the 12 in for now and then purchase a 10" later on....
                              I would mostly use it for fish filets, steak, sear scallops or whatnot. I have a wok for my stir frying needs and I also have a 4 qt. saute pan. I am trying to add the basics into my cookware collection. Thanks so much!!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: itstangy

                                I hate to say this as I really really really don't like non-stick fry pans, but they do have their use. One of which is fish, the other eggs. You may have to buy two. Sorry.

                                1. re: billieboy

                                  It is possible to do fish in a traditional pan. Heat the pan dry, then add oil. The fish should release on its own once it's fully cooked.

                                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                    I agree with the hot pan cold oil advice, and don't move your fish around once you place it in the pan. Also, if you're cooking a fillet, start on the flesh side and finish on the skin side. don't overcook

                              2. 12" definitely. And if I could only have one, it would be a cast iron.

                                1. A 12" can take less food, but a 10" can't take more. So I'd go with the 12".

                                  1. I use my 10" nonstick more than anything else. The electric cooktop means for the 12" pan I need to use a larger rear burner.

                                    At least during the Christmas season, and sometimes more of the year, Calphalon sells a two-pack of nonsticks, either 8&10 or 10&12, for around $40-50 which is essentially half-price; less if you use the ubiquitous Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons. I also love my 4qt chef's pan, good for chili, soups, braised vegetables, and instead of a wok - the wider bottom is generally necessary to get enough heat for stir-frying on electric stoves.

                                    1. Hello, I am looking to buy a 10 or 12 inch skillet just like you were when you posted this. What did you end up with and how did it work out for you please?

                                      1. I like to think 10" is more pratical. Let's put it this way, 12" can handle anything 10" can, but 10" cannot handle what 12" can handle. However, 10" can handle small amount of food better than 12". So, unless you think you cook alot, I think 10" is better.

                                        1. I'd definitely go for the 12". JMHO, but for me more room means less mess and better browning for some applications that require it. If you are ever considering using an induction cooktop, you'd be better off with the magnetic SS. If not, MC2 works perfectly fine, and I could be wrong, but I think it's slightly thicker than the SS. HTH.

                                          1. We have both a 10 and a 12 and use them both all the time. There are just 2 of us. Today I was just cooking for myself and used the 12" to cook a cubed sweet potato (wouldn't fit in the smaller one) and the 10" to cook two eggs (cook more quickly and evenly than in the bigger one). Great breakfast.

                                            1. I have a 10" and hate it. I find the 10" too small for dinner meals and too big for breakfast eggs. I'd recommend the 12" for meals and a small non-stick (6" or 8") for eggs or a fish filet. BTW: I cook for just myself.

                                              1. The stated size of a pan refers to its diameter at the top. A pan with sloped sides will have a considerably smaller cooking surface. My 12" All Clad fry pan measures slightly less that 9.5" diameter at the bottom. Also, when frying or sauteing, it is best to have some extra room and not to have to cram the individual pieces together. For these reasons, if I were buying just one pan, I would go with the majority and choose the larger 12" one.

                                                1. I'm single, and I use a 12" hard-anodized aluminum skillet almost all the time, and a 10" nonstick for a couple of eggs or a fish fillet. If I had to keep just one it would probably be the 12", but I use both. Neither has a lid but I wish the 12" did - bought a universal lid for it.

                                                  There are some 11" skillets around, but I haven't seen any of them in a store.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: armagnac

                                                    Old discussion. I have a ten inch AC Ltd braiser that gets used a lot, and a 12 inch AC skillet that gets some use, but maybe a Demeyere 11 inch pro line is a good compromise.

                                                    1. re: brooktroutchaser

                                                      AC French skillet in 11" would be a good large skillet, too. It should have almost the same floor space as a slope-sided 12" skillet.

                                                      I've got a 5-ply USA Pan 11" skillet that is deeper than most by almost an inch. With a cheap Calphalon lid I picked up at BB&B for ~$15, it does double duty as a sauté pan/braiser.