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Dec 10, 2011 10:06 PM

is a 12" fry pan too big to use on an 8" electric burner?

I bought a new set of cookware from American Kitchen. It included a 12inch fry pan but my biggest burner is only 8 inches across. It's too small so I'm left asking the question about using it on stove top. I'd hate to get rid of the fry pan. I've looked at newer electric stoves but they all had one burner at 8 inches and the rest at 6 inches. Any suggestions??

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  1. Use the'll be fine.

    1. I would think so. That's a lot bigger than the 4 inch gas burner under my 8 inch grate that I put a 12 inch pan on daily.

      1. Is the 12" across the top, and are the sides flared? What's the diameter of the base? Also what the construction of the pan?

        Food beyond the 8" of the burner might not brown as well, but the pan might still be useful.

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          yes, 12" is across the top and the sides do flare out slightly. Diameter is 10" at the base. Stainless steel construction.

        2. Sure, many people have that situation. It could help to move the food
          around a bit during cooking.

          1. It's OK.. It all depends on how well your pan conducts heat. If it has copper in the base or aluminum it should be fine. Even cast iron, a poor conductor of heat will work well if the pan is given time for the heat to be equalized. The only problem I can see is if your owners manual specifically limits the size of pan you can use. I had an electric smooth top range that prohibited canners(16" wide). I used it anyway with no problems.

            6 Replies
            1. re: wekick

              Actually, I would argue no. Cast iron will be worse of course, but putting a large fry pan on a small burner will not produce good heating surface even if the pan is made of copper or aluminum, see the last two row of photos:


              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I've seen that article before and it seems to use sort of extreme conditions to illustrate a point. While ideal to have a pan that matches the burner, I would say the majority of cooks don't have this luxury because if you have big burners then they can overshoot your little pans and vice versa. We had a lot of kids so we always used a 12" skillet to cook with on an 8" electric burner and the pan makes a big difference in the evenness of heat.
                There are many things in this article that I question as to how they relate to actual cooking.
                First of all I can't think when I have ever needed to cook dry flour in a pan without stirring it. If I am making a roux, it also includes fat and stirring. Often there are liquids added while cooking.
                They don't state the size of the burner vs the size of the pan. It seems to have more discrepancy in the picture in the article than what the OP is talking about. The burner seems to be about 33% of the cooking surface as opposed to the OP burner covering 80% of the surface.
                The configuration of the heat source will make a big difference as well. It says a high output burner(whatever that means) is used and the heat seems to be directed all to the center of the pan, almost like a wok burner. None of the pictures seem to use a conventional gas or electric burner. The pan in the upper pictures seems to set off center as well.
                They don't really disclose the exact composition of the pan used and cast iron can vary quite a bit pan to pan. I have some that heat pretty evenly and have ditched others that don't. They don't test copper on any of the "tests". It would also make a difference in the thickness of the materials used in the pan.
                How high is the heat turned up? Lower heat applied over a longer time is going to allow the whole surface to even out in temperature. I almost never have my burners cranked all the way up.
                The last two rows are of an induction burner and I can't comment on that as I haven't cooked on that but maybe because it heats so fast and the way the heat is produced you have to have a closer match in size.

                If I were the OP, I would give it a try and see how it works. If you hate it but need that size, get something with a lot of copper in the base because you will always have the size mismatch and that is the best heat conductor of any conventional pans. If you don't need that size and hate it,-get a smaller one you like. All stainless is going to be one of the poorest heat conductors.

                Here is more than you wanted to know.

                1. re: wekick


                  "First of all I can't think when I have ever needed to cook dry flour in a pan without stirring it."

                  The flour is just something for illustration for temperature. It is a probe. Think of it as a thermometer or thousands of little thermometers. Surely, if someone put a thermometer, you are not going say that you never cook a thermometer for food. As for your "stirring" point, that I wholeheartedly agree. I think if the foods are to be stirred, then the whole argument for even heating surface will become very different. An extreme example is Chinese stir fry, where the foods have to be constantly moved. Consequently, an even heating surface has no use in Chinese stir frying. In fact, the opposite -- a focus heat spot is preferred. That being said, a fact is still a fact. A large pan on a small stove will not produce an even heating surface as a large pan on a large stove. Will we need that even heating? That is completely up for us for judge/decide. It may be necessary. I wasn't trying to tell the original poster to keep or not to keep the pan as you can see that in another post below.

                  "They don't really disclose the exact composition of the pan used and cast iron can vary quite a bit pan to pan...."

                  I am pretty certain the other pan is an All Clad stainless steel pan which is really an aluminum based cookware through triply construction. I think you are missing the more important points of the article. The take home messages from the photos are the following. Point number 1: A cast iron pan (first row) does not provide the same heating evenness as an aluminum based pan (second tow). Point number 2: When a stove is much smaller than the pan, both pans display uneven heating, but the aluminum based pan (row 4) still performs better than the cast iron pan (row 3).

                  I agree with fourunder and you. The original poster (if possible) should just give the pan a try and see if it lives up to the expectation.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I understood the point of the article. The whole article is about cast iron. To counter the belief that most people have that cast iron heats evenly, they used an exaggerated circumstance-a tiny high heat burner and an an item that burns easily, flour. It is showmanship.

                  2. re: wekick

                    I tried it and it didn't heat evenly at all. Didn't need to try it to know that much. Doesn't matter though as I've found a dear friend who loves the 12" fry pan. We traded fry pans so we're both happy. Big thanks to all those who tried to help me. I appreciate it!! I apologize for posting it in the wrong section. I'm learning :)

                    1. re: wekick

                      An 8" burner under a 10" bottom covers 64% of the surface (8 under 12 44%) - that's in area. Heat from the burner has to transverse vertically .2" of cast iron, but to warm the rim has to travel 5x that (1"), and spread circumferentially as well. At the same time the outer rim is loosing heat to the surrounding air.

                      If you can stir the food, the uneven heating isn't a big deal. But if you can stir it, wouldn't a deeper, but smaller diameter pot do just as well? The large diameter pan is most useful for food that you can't stir, like steaks, or pancakes or french toast. But those are precisely the items where you will notice the uneven heating.