HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Is a 12-inch saute pan too big?

I've been looking for a cheap, but good 10-inch saute pan for a while, with no luck. Yesterday at IKEA, I settled for a heavy bottomed 9-inch saute pan, a bit too small I felt. ($20) They had a 10-inch non-stick saute pan, but I really hate good cookware coated with nonstick. (You can't use metal utensils on it, and you won't get a fond for pan sauces.) Anyway, today, I saw a $30 12-inch heavy-bottomed saute pan (not coated with nonstick) at Chinatown. It certainly is big enough for me, but I'm not sure if a 12-inch saute pan would be TOO big for some uses. Any opinion would be appreciated.

EDIT--What size works best for you?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The real question is - will your stove accomodate it? The pot should not be too big for the burner element it will be used on. Beyond that, there are a couple of considerations. For example, anything requiring a small amount of liquid is not great for a too big pan as the liquid will burn more easily. On the other hand - in general small amounts can be cooked in a big pan but the reverse is not true. I'd take a look at your cooktop and assess whether the larger pan fits the burner well enough and make a decision on that basis.

    1 Reply
    1. re: knet

      What size is most useful for you?

    2. It could also be unwieldy if it doesn't have a helper handle.

      1. it also depends on your physical abilites. if you are 30yo, 250lb, weightlifter, no problem. If - on the other hand - you are 85yo, 93lb, with severe osteoporosis, probably not a great idea. Obvious extremes, but like all other cookware, if it isn't comfortable for you, its not gonna be something you use. I've got a 12" pan in the back of my cupboard, rarely use it but glad to have it when i want it. it is absolutely the best for making cornbread.... yum

        1. It depends more on the weight than on the size at this point. If you think you can saute with the weight, then you are fine. If you think you have problem lifting it up, then you sure will have problem when the foods are in it. Thus, the pan is not suitable for you.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I think the weight is fine. I don't plan on tossing things in the saute pan anyway. My main concern is whether a 12-inch would be too awkward when cooking smaller amounts of things. The 12-inch gives a generous amount of space for me to brown a lot of pieces of meat without crowding the pan, but I'm concerned whether it will making cooking things like a risotto (for three or four people) or a tomato sauce difficult (easier burning or over-rapid evaporation). What size works best for you?

            1. re: michaelnrdx


              Great points, I didn't think of those. Usually a bigger pan is good for avoiding over-crowding a pan. I used to have a large 12" saute pan, but I never used it make risotto. I think you are right. I don't think it will work well for making small size risotto.

          2. I used to own a 12" cast iron fry pan. It was a monster. Very heavy, and really took up too much room on top of the stove. It was of course extremely spacious for cooking in, but I wondered about the burner size in relation to it, as there was almost 2 inches overlap of the pan all around. I ended up donating it to a friend for his restaurant kitchen. After that I decided to never get a pan more than 10" (bottom).

            1. There can be an issue with too fast evaporation and burning if you cook small amounts of liquid in a too large pan.

              1. For burner size, you can always get one of these. It would help a 12 inch pan.


                1 Reply
                1. re: pguidry

                  Wish I had found this thread series before I started requesting replies for deciding between a AC saute 6 quart pan and an AC saute 6 quart pot. The money I saved is a lot, the size of my induction burners, my electric burners, hot plate are all under 11 inches. The (pot) one is just perfect to fit on them. The saute 6 quart (pan) type will over extend and have read where you must move the contents away from the side often and heat only usually is intensified where burner touches regardless of the triply AC. Then I read Amazon and it said they have Limited Lifetime Warranty. Searched all over places and found Lifetime Warranty specifically stated two other companies sellling the AC 5206 one.. Decided to write to AllClad Inc. Answer this morning from them is they will replace of course if anything occurs without abuse of the item. So, I think saving $130 plus reading the above makes me feel like I did not make a mistake. Long handle does not bother me and helper handle is a plus. It fits into my regular oven without any problem. I like I can push it once on edge of rack with the long handle to the middle part of the oven depth when oven very hot where with two short handles this is a little more difficult to do. Thanks for the suggestion,Ppguidry in March about the burner size plate helper at Amazon. I have the 4 for my electric stove and it certainly saves a lot of cleanup of insides of burners also but they do not help that much if you have a 13 inch pan which overextends to the outer chrome ring I have found. Best to stay 12 inches and under if possible it seems.

                2. I have a 12" All-Clad stainless steel frypan, but a 10" would probably have made more sense, as I live alone, and don't entertain that much. Its surface area is 8.5". I use it for boneless/skinless chicken breasts mainly.

                  What I use most often is a 9,5" nonstick frypan, when I make a grilled cheese sandwich. It has a surface area of 6"--perfect for the task. I bought a set of 3 nonstick pans because the Minimalist recommended them for fish, but I've come to realize I prefer to roast or poach fish. The middle-sized pan, however, is perfect for grilled cheese.

                  I have a 14"/7c saute pan from Calphalon that I never use anymore. I bought it back in the '80s for use in catering. I usually put it on two burners. Or I would if I ever used it. If anyone in Pittsburgh could use a large saute pan...