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May 15, 2011 07:44 PM

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:

                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.


            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.