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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?

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  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

              Michael,

              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).