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cooking pots - big vs medium vs small

I've decided to go nuts and purchase the Demeyere Atlantis line and am picking sizes now. I bought the largest saucepan based on the following reasoning:

'Although I live alone and am generally cooking for only 1 or 2 adults, I do, on a more than monthly basis, cook for larger groups (4+ adults) - therefore I should get the larger sizes because I can use those for both small and large amounts, whereas a small pot will not work for larger amounts.'

Is this reasoning faulty? What, to me, would make it faulty is if there is some downside to using a large pot to cook a small amount of food - flavour/taste etc/-wise. Is there? And if not, why shouldn't I buy all the larger sizes (specific pieces: conical saute pan, skillet, stoclpot and possible low/straight-sided saute pan)? Space reasons only?

I'm not asking anyone to tell me what to buy, so dont worry about giving advice that I'll follow and possibly regret - I genuinely want the feelings of more experienced cooks on this issue.

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  1. Do make certain that whatever is the largest size you choose that your burners are adequate to heat the bottom of the pan.... Using a larger size pan than you need is often energy inefficient.

    A downside to cooking in larger pan is that you have to use more liquid or fat in proportion to your protein or veggies than you would in a smaller pan in order to cover the bottom to the same depth.

    Some things you may want to cook, like some rice and grain dishes, will work better when there is a substantial depth to the layer of the food in your pan. I don't use a rice cooker, for example, I cook rice on the stove. If I spread 1 cup of dry rice out in a 5qt pan, I'm more likely to get a nice thin layer of crusty rice than the pile of fluffy rice I'd get in a 2qt pan.

    Then again, when cooking for 4 you'll probably find the 1.5qt saucepan you use for single portions of veggies when you're alone is plenty big to make your beurre blanc sauce.

    1. I cook usually for either myself & my hubby, or myself only. The size I use the most often is a 3.5 or 4 qt deep saucepan to boil pasta, make soup, make rice, sautee veggies, steam,, etc. The others in order are 2.5 qt shallow saucepan (sauteeing items when the 4 qt is being used), 1.5 qt saucepan (mostly for sauces, a bit small otherwise), and 8 qt pot (for braising, large batches of soup, etc.).

      For me, the annoying thing about using big pots (larger than 4 qt) is that it's a pain to wash.

      1. I have found that when cooking proteins--like sauteing a chicken breast, for example--in a large pan, the pan gets too hot and the butter/oil burns. If I lower the heat the chicken will not cook. If too little volume is used, it's kind of like setting an empty pan on a burner.

        Ditto the pain in having to wash large pots on a daily basis...but as we've learned from your other thread, you've got that under control!

        I do recommend that you try out the large saucier, as it is quite heavy when full and can be difficult to maneuver.

        4 Replies
        1. re: E_M

          I have the largest conical sauteuse, and while it is one of my favorite go-to pots (I think it is 3.5 quarts), it does not have a helper handle opposite the long handle, and it is really hard to lift when full. Worse, I have chronic elbow pain, so this is a really tough pot for me if I have to fill it. Instead, I switch to a double handled casserole when that happens. The reason it is particularly hard with Demeyere is that they are very heavy pots to begin with. They are my favorite, however, and I wouldn't dream of not using them. My other most used pots are a smaller sauce pan, about two quarts, and the larger casserole/rondeau, which is a 4 quart pot. I have larger pots and many other kinds, including a lot of LeCreuset, so it is interesting to me that I love using these so much.

          1. re: RGC1982

            I heartily agree about the need for a helper handle on that larger 3.5qt Demeyere conic sauteuse. I got one and returned it for the 2.6qt version (which makes more sense for this household anyway; not sure what I was thinking when I made the original order). Demeyere makes a two-handled version of the 3.5 conic sauteuse, or is that the double handled casserole that you're referring to?

            1. re: ellabee

              Sorry I just saw this now. No, the casserole has straight sides. I did not see a double handled conical sauteuse when I purchased my pot. It seems like a good idea for a 3.5 quart pot.

              1. re: RGC1982

                For chowhounds who might be interested, here's a link to the two-handled version of the Demeyere conic sauteuse: http://www.metrokitchen.com/product/D...

                There's also a 5.1qt version.

        2. My most frequently used pots (not frying pans) are the 2.5 qt and the 6 qt dutch oven. The 1.5 qt pot is the next most frequently used.

          1. First, I really like the look of the Atlantis line. That bottom rim makes them very modern-looking.

            http://www.125west.com/c-140-atlantis...

            My most frequently used sizes:
            * Dutch oven: 4.5 or 5.5 qt

            * saucepan: 3 qt.

            * all 3 sizes of skillets. I like my 8" non-stick for eggs, a 10" regular SS for fish (though I prefer to roast fish, generally), and a 12" regular SS for 2# of breaded chicken breasts, which is for something I make frequently (at least once a month).

            * small, medium, and large roasting pans. If I had to pick one, it would be the large (12" x 16"). I use it to roast a side of fish with potatoes and vegetables. Ditto a whole chicken w/veg.

            Looking on the site above, the first things I'd choose are the 3.2 qt. saucepan, the 5.5 qt. casserole, and either the 11" or 12.6" skillet. There's no roasting pan, so I don't know what to tell you there.

            I live alone, and eat alone 90% of the time, FWIW.

            1. Hi, montrealeater:

              Is your reasoning faulty? The answer is yes and no, or multiple yesses and nos.

              You are onto something when you think a larger vessel is more versatile for the simple reason that it can hold more servings. Therefore, if you must limit yourself to a small number, shifting to a larger range can be wise. A larger vessel when full, however, makes for a greater thermal mass, e.g., in boiling pasta, making stocks or blanching vegetables; this is an advantage insofar as the large amount of heat stored in the large liquid volume more easily comes back to temperature when additions of food are made. For example, I recently blanched just 2 servings of broccoli florettes in 8G of boiling water and did not even lose the boil--veggies come out crisper more colorful and flavorful if you don't steep them until the boil comes back up. Pasta benefits, too

              But there is a downside to this thermal mass--a lack of responsiveness. Even with copper, the most responsive of the common materials, a large vessel full of hot food will take a long time to cool. This will also happen (even more) with other materials, and even on induction quick turns down are not going to happen. My 8G copper stocker was still warm to the touch 12 hours after the gas was turned off.

              Yes, you can cook smaller amounts in a larger vessel without creating a huge thermal mass--visualize making 1C of sauce in the bottom 1/2 inch of your stockpot! But that creates other problems. Unless your hob matches your pan, those can include unevenness/hotspotting, and the risk of scorching and excessive evaporative losses are always there in shallower-filled saucepans. Saucepans are proportioned the way they are for a reason: to balance these factors. That is why--if you can afford the batterie--you are usually better off moving reduced sauces, glazes, etc. into progressively smaller saucepans. Few people can actually take this to its logical conclusion, which is to have multiple pieces of every size of each pan geometry, etc. But if you're making two sauces and have 4 or 5 graduated saucepans, you can for example go 5-3-1 and 4-2.

              Not that I travel in these circles, but with the Atlantis you may initially have a "Polo Pony" problem if you're on a budget. That is, you may have one phenomenally good saucepan/pony to start the competition, but what are you going to do when it's time to change horses? If you're committed to adding ponies to your stable over time, then you can make do until then.

              A small exception lies in the Windsor and fait tout conical saucepans. Their ever-narrowing bottoms do keep the volume-to-surface ratios in balance longer than do their straight-walled counterparts. So you can get by with fewer of them.

              Whatever you choose to do, I hope this has been of help.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              PS: There are those who say they *like* larger sautes and skillets precisely *because* of the unevenness problem. Some even tout the terrible conductivity of CI sautes and frypans as an advantage (different temp areas allow the cook to "adjust", etc.). I'm not one of these people, though. But IF your saute/frypan/poelle heats evenly, erring on the side of larger can be advantageous in the sense of the old Julia Child warning: "Don't crowd the mushrooms!" P

              1. I also cook for one. My most used pieces of Demeyere are the 2.3qt saucepan and the 9.4" frypan. My most used piece of cookware is a cheap 8" nonstick frypan.

                The 9.4" frypan will hold 2 half breasts of boneless skinless chicken or 2 boneless pork chops or a strip steak or ribeye. I use my 11" frypan for French Toast because it will hold 2 pieces of bread.

                I have the 3.2 qt saucepan but don't use it as much as the smaller one.

                I have thought of getting a conical sauteuse to make pasta sauces because of the smaller bottom surface. Too large a surface can become a problem when making sauces as the first responder pointed out.

                1. Thank you thank you, all. Based on all of your advice I think I will go with a 9.4 inch frypan (medium), a medium (not large) sauteuse and a small saucepan (to add to my just bought large saucepan). I'll use this setup and see how it goes and then add more pieces later if I feel it's necessary. Good idea? (I already have a few LC dutch ovens, so am assuming - correctly? - that I don't need more from a different line?)

                  E_M, you're making me laugh with the dishwashing commentary. Know that I have 2 dogs and therefore never have to deal with any baked on crud, because they do a very thorough job of cleaning them for me. I will have to let them know that they should be thankful being allowed to lick Demeyere pans :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: montrealeater

                    No, you do not need to replace your LC French ovens. I take back what I said about the Demeyere casserole. I thought you were going All New. What color(s)?

                  2. ThThere's no choice; you need a pan for the largest
                    recipe you'll fix. But few people limit themselves to a
                    single pan. I'd feel silly melting a little butter in a
                    stockpot.
                    aa