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What size saute pan works best for you?

michaelnrdx Mar 21, 2010 09:17 PM

What size is the most useful for a wide variety of purposes

  1. j
    Jemon Mar 21, 2010 11:01 PM

    How many people do you usually cook for? For me, most often cooking for two people, I think it's great to own at least 2 good 10" sautee pans. Technically, I guess I would say that what I like are the fry pans, with the slanted sides, rather than the sautee pan with the straight sides. If you are cooking for a 4 person family all the time, a 12" or even 14" would probably be best. I usually think that you want something large enough to fit a serving for everyone in, but not so large that it's hard/awkward to use for everyday purposes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jemon
      Chemicalkinetics Mar 21, 2010 11:20 PM


      As you pointed out, the frying pans have a slanted/tilted sides. As such, a frying pan with a 12" top will only have a 10" bottom. In this sense, a 12" saute pan is actually larger than a 12" frying pan, which is why a 14" saute pan will be really huge.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
        Jemon Mar 28, 2010 03:22 AM

        Is that how they measure them? Either way, the heart of the matter is that a pan should probably be chosen for the size of the jobs that you need to use them for. It isn't that hard to go out shopping where you can look at them, pick them up and hold them. Even put things in them to mimic the cooking weight.

        1. re: Jemon
          Chemicalkinetics Mar 28, 2010 07:27 AM


          I agree. Every person has different purpose and preference. A good way to go to a store, hold the pan, feel the weight and envision the cooking process with the pan.

    2. tanuki soup Mar 21, 2010 11:14 PM

      I think it's nice to have two saute pans: 10" and 12". The 12" for when you really need it, and the 10" for the other 80% of the time.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tanuki soup
        BobB Mar 22, 2010 08:51 AM

        That's exactly what I have. The 10" gets almost everyday use, the 12" is for big jobs (the 12" holds nearly 1-1/2 times as much as the 10").

        1. re: tanuki soup
          BigE Mar 22, 2010 09:45 AM

          Yup...the 10" gets the lions share of work.

        2. b
          brhau Mar 22, 2010 12:19 AM

          I have a 12" sauteuse that I use constantly. I cook mostly for 2 people. I think it's really nice to have a large size with straight sides. But you know, I also have smaller pans. I don't think of it as much as finding the one pan that will work for everything, but rather having a few sizes that span the tasks that I want to accomplish. So I would say let your own workflow be the guide. i.e., what pans do you already have and what do you wish you had? There's your answer.

          1. hobbybaker Mar 22, 2010 07:52 AM

            Depends on what you are mainly using for and for how many people. Also, what are the other pans you have.

            I have no saute pan.
            I use my 12 inch frying pan for browning and 3.5 qt Le Creuset buffet/casserole for saute/simmer and short braising recipes.

            For a small amount, I use my 3.0 qt SS saucier (All-Clad's closeout with a loop handle just like a copper core version) for browning, saute, and simmer, too. This pan is an amazingly versatile tool. We are two people, so for the recipes I want no leftovers or only some, I use this pan.I do not make risotto many times, but if I do, I will use this pan.

            (I saw another thread by you, which is "Is a 12 inch Saute Pan too big" and try to answer to both of them here. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/696182.


            Hope it helps.

            1. r
              RichardM Mar 22, 2010 08:39 AM

              I have the AC 4qt. saute which is same inside diameter as the 3 qt. (10"+) so taller sides. I use it for frying as well and I'm happy with the results.

              1 Reply
              1. re: RichardM
                chuckl Mar 22, 2010 07:23 PM

                It's a nice pan. I have a 3 quart and I have to admit it gets a bit crowded sometimes making pasta. A 4 would be a tad better size for me

              2. k
                knet Mar 22, 2010 02:00 PM

                10" saute pan gets more airtime in my kitchen though I also own a 12". It doesn't come out often and I quite often regret buying it because it is much less useful to me than I thought ( in some cookware-buying fever) it would be. Same with skillets - the 10" gets used much more often. If you have a large cooktop and a lot of people OR you want a lot of leftovers you may find more use for the 12" than I do.

                10 Replies
                1. re: knet
                  dcole Mar 24, 2010 02:21 PM

                  I have a few of the All Clad French Skillets, which have a steeper sloped side, which make them more of a cross btwn a fry pan and saute pan...worth taking a look. When you hold a AC French Skillet next to a regular AC skillet of the same diameter, there is significantly more flat cooking are before the sides start to slope.

                  1. re: dcole
                    hobbybaker Mar 24, 2010 04:33 PM

                    I too like the 11 inch French Skillet with a domed lid from Macy's. $79.99 is a good deal for an All-Clad piece. This seems to be available only at Macy's.. at leat based on the web. If I did not have my 3.5 qt LC buffet casserole, I would have bought it.

                    1. re: hobbybaker
                      grnidkjun Mar 25, 2010 10:29 AM

                      I have the 13" stainless french skillet.. I use it a whole lot more than I thought I would. I love the amount of cooking surface on it.

                      1. re: grnidkjun
                        hobbybaker Mar 25, 2010 10:35 AM

                        Does your 13 inch have a lid? Grnidkjun, I am so tempted to buy this 11 inch one as I do not have any saute pans. Bad habit as a sale price taker:) but it looks really good:)

                        1. re: hobbybaker
                          grnidkjun Mar 25, 2010 10:40 AM

                          No, the 13 does not have a lid.. but you know me.. I snapped it up at TJM for $50.

                          The 11" is tempting to me too not so much for the lid, but I like the space provided on these pans' cooking surface.

                          I have a kitchen aid 5ply stainless 10".. but find myself wishing for more surface area when I don't need as much as the AC french 13".
                          I would guess the 13" has as much surface area as a normal 14" fry pan, so am thinking the 11" would be comparable to a 12" as far as flat bottom cooking surface.

                          I do get what I believe is called the maillard effect a good bit with oil spreading to the sides of the pan, but I think this is common.. not a defect.. I just swirl the oil around a little every so often.

                          1. re: grnidkjun
                            hobbybaker Mar 25, 2010 10:51 AM

                            The 13" for $50! you are such a winner!! I decided to go to Macy's this weekend and at least take a look at it in person.

                            1. re: hobbybaker
                              grnidkjun Mar 25, 2010 11:09 AM

                              It had a few scratches.. but hey.. I'm going to do the same!
                              Let me know what you think of the 11"

                              1. re: hobbybaker
                                grnidkjun Mar 29, 2010 07:32 AM

                                Did you go get a peek at it?

                                1. re: grnidkjun
                                  hobbybaker Mar 29, 2010 09:28 AM

                                  Hi, grnidkjun. 11" is smaller and shorter than I thought. The bottom diameter is about 1/4 inch or so shorter and the side is 0.1 inch or so shorter than the 12' fry-pan with a lid that I own. I doubt that total capacity of the pan is the same as the 12'. Also, I found the lid of the 6 qt stockpot fits well to the 11". So, you do not necessary need a lid (as you own the stockpot) but the price without a lid was still higher at Bloomies (even after a discount) than that with a domed lid at Macy's. My conclusion is that I don't need it as I have the 12' fry-pan. The 13" french skillet looks good in terms of the size but the 4 qt saute pan with a loop handle is clearly more practical if only one would be purchased:)

                                  1. re: hobbybaker
                                    grnidkjun Mar 29, 2010 09:31 AM

                                    thanks Hobby.. I think you just cured my temptation.
                                    I have the 4qt saute.. so I think I am set. :)

                  2. tzakiel Mar 29, 2010 12:33 PM

                    I usually cook for three, so I like having a 12" saute and a 12" fry pan. If I cooked for two I'd probably want 10" versions as well. But I'd still get a 12". It's hard to cook for any sort of gathering in a 10" pan.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tzakiel
                      knet Mar 29, 2010 05:26 PM

                      Very true but even a 12" would be a stretch if the gathering is more than 3 people. I find it easier to use two 10" pans then simultaneously

                    2. a
                      armagnac Mar 30, 2010 05:47 AM

                      Decades ago, I bought a 10" tin-lined copper sauté pan, a thing of beauty and a fine cooking tool. But I haven't used it in ages, though I like to look at it now and then. <grin> My 12" skillet has just as much flat surface area, while its sloped sides and flared rim make it far more versatile and handy. If you regularly cook for four or more, the extra cooking surface of a 12" sauté pan could be a useful addition. But I really don't see the point of a 10-incher.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: armagnac
                        BobB Mar 30, 2010 08:13 AM

                        Skillets and sauté pans have slightly different functions. In effect, a sauté pan is a kind of cross between a skillet and a dutch oven, with sides low enough to let you sear & fry, but high enough to add liquid or other ingredients and slow-cook the contents.

                        I use skillets more for flat(tish) items like bacon, eggs, and pancakes, sautéing small quantities of stuff, or cooking items that just need to be browned.

                        My 10" sauté pan gets a lot of use for things like chicken parts or other chunks of meat that start out with browning but then get a sauce or a bunch of chopped veggies added in. The high sides make it easier to stir and flip the contents without spilling as you can push against the sides of the pan with the spatula.

                        Also, while I haven't scientifically tested this, it seems to me that the 90° angle of the sides makes the bottom heat more evenly, especially when the pan is covered.

                        Even uncovered, the straight vs. sloping sides produce different results - straight sides are going to keep more moisture in the pan, while the sloping sides of a skillet encourage more air flow and hence more evaporation. Each has its uses.

                        1. re: BobB
                          armagnac Mar 30, 2010 10:59 AM

                          Obviously a 10" sauté pan works for you, and once it did for me too. But as a practical matter, I've found both about the same to work with physically. (Except that with a sauté pan, a whisk won't get into the "corners.") And as mine are made of different metals, I can't attribute any performance differences between them, such as more or less even heating, specifically to their shapes.

                          Sunday I made Prudhomme's Poorman's Jambalaya in a 12" Cuisinart skillet, sautéing and flipping the meats and "trinity" just fine, then nearly filled the pan with rice and plenty of stock, stirring occasionally, without sloshing any of it over the rim. The result was as moist as I could wish; didn't have to add any liquid later on, though of course I could have.

                          An 11" or 12" straight-sided sauté pan provides more cooking surface and volume than any skillet, and if that capacity is what michaelnrdx needs, it might be a good choice for him. As for the 10-incher, your and my comments may help him decide whether it would be worth the cost and storage space.

                        2. re: armagnac
                          anna s. Jul 24, 2010 02:11 PM

                          EDIT: wrong post.

                          1. re: armagnac
                            anna s. Jul 24, 2010 02:13 PM

                            New here. Been lurking for a while........

                            Sooooo, armagnac, would you be willing to SELL your 10" tin-lined copper saute pan? that's exactly what I'm cruising the net for? :)

                          2. k
                            keepercat Mar 30, 2010 12:08 PM

                            How about AC's 4 quart saute/simmer pan? Looks like a nice compromise. Any feedback on these?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: keepercat
                              hobbybaker Mar 31, 2010 09:58 AM

                              keepercat, you will find some good feedback on it here. I hope you will get newer feedback, too though:)

                            2. Hank Hanover Jul 24, 2010 08:19 PM

                              All clad's 3 qt with a lid and a helper handle.

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