HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Lids for frying pans, useful or a waste of money?

I was wondering if anyone had strong opinions about the usefulness of lids for skillets or frying pans. I'm finding myself wishing I could cook some covered things in my nicer fry pans, but I'm hesitant to dish out 50 bucks for a lid especially considering how shallow my fry pans are.

Would it just be better to save that money and put it towards a deeper saute pan (where pieces tend to come with their lids included)?

Alternatively, have people had positive experiences using third party lids? Or is it hard to get the right "fit".

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts,

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm a fan of lids for certain dishes. I wouldn't buy one for each pan, however, especially at $50 per. I have a large, heavy lid that came with a 14" SLT saucepan and I use that on top of other pans, including my cast iron skillets. It works fine.

    1. Very useful, I feel.. I have even bought some of those silicone grippy lids for pans that didn't come with lids. And there's always improv- I.e. pizza pans, flat plates, etc. Whenever I simmer a dish a bit or it waits on the stove, I prefer a lid .

      1. I have a large (14 inch) cast iron pan that didn't have a lid, and I bought a "universal" lid that is big enough for it. And I can also use it on smaller pans, so I have gotten a lot of use out of it.

        It doesn't make a tight seal on any size, though, so if you need that, it wouldn't work. But it is fine for my purposes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dkenworthy

          I also have a universal lid, an inexpensive aluminum one. You're right that it's not a tight fit on my various skillets and fry pans, but it comes in handy quite often. Considering how little I paid for it, it was a very good investment.

        2. I use the cookie sheet as the lid for larger fry pans, an odd approach for a cookware devotee with a kitchen full of special purpose (dare I say unitasker) items.

          1. Hi, sancor:

            Strong feelings, no, but I find them very useful. For finishing fried eggs they're marvelous. And they retain heat and moisture when you need to "park" the prep to bring everything together.

            Having said that, I *don't* have any frypans or skillets with OEM covers--I just know which lid from another pan works with mine. Luckily, other than my square cast iron skillet, every one I have has a match.

            IIWY and wanted new, I'd take your frypans into a resto supply store, and buy the cheapest aluminum covers I could find. If you spend more than $10, I'd be surprised.

            Another option... One of my hobbies is high grade copperware. About 75% of the time, a really good pan will have lost its cover. Until I find one that looks like an original match (this can take months), I go to Goodwill and buy a $2 cover.

            Yes, third-party lids are hit-and-miss frustrations. The only solutions are to buy returnable, or to physically take your pans to a brick and mortar store.

            Good Luck,

            1 Reply
            1. re: kaleokahu

              As Kaleo says with old copper, many if not all come without covers. The French devised a copper top with a long iron handle that can fit many pans. Thus if one gets a small, medium, and enormous you can have tops for everything.
              l have two sets of three of these, one for show hung on wall, and one for use hung on pot rack. Works great.

            2. A lid is nice to have, but you don't need to buy a dedicated $50 lid. You don't need perfect lids for fry pans.

              1. I use a 12" grocery store pizza pan as a lid for my fry pan. About $5.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ttoommyy

                  To add, that $5 pizza pan can have a hole drilled and heat resistant handle added for another couple bucks.
                  Great use of the pan displaced by a pizza stone.

                2. I've been impressed at the relatively standard sizes among pans and lids. The 9.5" lid that came with an 8-qt stock pot fits a medium skillet and a large saucier. The 7.25" lid that came with a 2-qt saucepan fits a small saucier. So I expect you can find a lid that fits without spending much.

                  1. I use my frying pan for steaming asparagus (laying it flat on a metal steamer insert) so a lid is essential. Other than that I cannot think of any dish I cook in the frying pan that I cover. But I also have a sautée pan (i.e., with deeper, straight sides than a frying pan), which is my go-to workhorse for lots of my cooking and I'd be lost without a lid to it.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: masha

                      I use my frying pans as saute pans, so a cover is essential. I suspect others do too.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        If you don't have a sautee pan, I agree. But I really urge you to get a true sautee pan. I got one about 10 years ago and it has become the most used pan in our kitchen. I do not know how we got on without one. Got my 20-something son one for Christmas last year, and his says the same thing.

                        1. re: masha

                          Never even crossed my mind to buy one. I've been cooking quite successfuly for over 30 years never having used one. I will look at them though next time I find myself in a kitchen store, out of curiosity if for nothing else. Thanks. :)

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            Ironically, the sautée pan for my son was an afterthought. He'd asked for a new skillet to replace the cheapo one he'd bought when he was first setting up his kitchen. I was in BBB and they had a 3-piece Calphalon set, consisting of a skillet, sautée pan, and lid that was a terrific buy (this one http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...) so I bought it instead.

                            My sautée pan is 5 quart so, in addition to using it on the cooktop for things like curry and risotto, it gets used for braises and similar dishes that start on the cooktop and then go in the oven. Works better than a Dutch oven for brisket, for example, because of the larger diameter.

                            1. re: masha

                              So, if I understand correctly, a saute pan is not really for sauteing; at 5-qts. It sounds more like a pan for braising, making stews, etc. No?

                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                It's got sides that are about 4 inches high, so much lower than a saucepan or Dutch oven, but higher than a skillet. We use it a lot for recipes that start with sautéing, but then have other ingredients (e.g., sauces) added, where you might overflow a standard skillet. So, for example, I use it to make dishes like chicken picatta or other recipes that start with sautéed chicken breasts. It's also the pan we use to sautee fish (e.g., for fish tacos). As noted above, it's our pan for risotto and curry too. It's ideal for any recipe where you want a fair amount of surface area, so that ingredients are not on top of each other, but where you need more height than an omelet pan or skillet. It's also the best pan for making latkes (potato pancakes) as the high sides keep the splatter of oil to a minimum.

                                At 5 qts, mine is pretty large. Most people probably use a 3qt.

                          2. re: masha

                            true sautee pan, I have seen a wide variation of "sautee pans" & have been confused as to which is the real one. What is your brand & size? Thanks.

                            1. re: cstout

                              It's an anodized Calphalon, 5 quart, bought at least 10 years ago. It has one long handle, with a small helper handle to grip on the opposite side since it's pretty heavy to lift when full. I believe that Calphalon may have replaced this model with one that has 2 looped handles instead.

                              1. re: masha

                                sautee pan, thanks for the info. Will google that.

                        2. re: masha

                          I had never thought to use a fry pan to steam asparagus before!

                          1. re: sancor

                            Not sure how my husband & I figured this out when we first started out 30+ years ago, but it's way more convenient than using a dedicated tall, "asparagus" steamer" that holds the asparagus upright, which we've never owned -- the collapsible metal steamer insert takes up way less cabinet space and the wash-up of the frying pan & steamer is easier than the asparagus steamer. (We use a 12" Farberware ss fry pan for this purpose, part of our original cooking equipment acquired as newlyweds, not our newer omelette pans/skillets, which are Calphalon)

                            1. re: masha

                              But the asparagus steamer also works for medium artichokes and is also a very economical deep fryer for single portions.

                              But the real pleasure was to be the first in the crowd to have one.

                          2. re: masha

                            I do that also- never had a dedicated asparagus steamer- it works great!

                            1. re: masha

                              I use a skillet for cooking asparagus sometimes, but I don't use a steamer insert. A 10-inch skillet (often cast iron, but anything of decent weight) is perfect for a pound or so (one bunch) of trimmed asparagus spears. I put them in the pan, sprinkle with salt, add about 1/4 cup of water (or sometimes white wine or dry vermouth), cover, and put on the stove over medium-high heat for few minutes (give or take, depending on the thickness of the spears). Water's mostly gone, asparagus bright green and tender, evenly cooked.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Gee, I just put some water in a skillet, turn up the heat, add salt, then asparagus, let cook 2 minutes, and plate. No lid.

                            2. The key is to pick up glass lids at thrift stores or yard sales for a buck or two. They insulate better than metal and you can see what's going on in the pan!

                              1. I use the large lid that came with a wok. You're bound to have something already that can be used.

                                1. Lids are round. Pans are round. As long as the diameter is the same - and there is no variation from maker to maker for most common sizes - you can mix and match. When possible, I use glass lids so I can monitor cooking, unless things are very steamy, without constantly lifting the lid.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Hi, greygarious: "As long as the diameter is the same - and there is no variation from maker to maker for most common sizes - you can mix and match."

                                    You have been luckier than I. IME there *is* variation between makers, not only in terms of exact diameter, but inset/rebated/radiused/etc. of both pan and lid. Other than with lollypop covers, it's been hit-and-miss with me.

                                    My new rondeau is giving me fits in this regard. The only inset cover I've found that I'm confident will fit is from a French Copper Studio paella pan, and the price is exorbitant. Resto store, here I come...


                                  2. None of my skillets came with dedicated lids. I bought this tempered glass lid for my 12-inch pans, which I like a lot: http://www.amazon.com/Farberware-Cook...

                                    It's sturdy, makes it easy to see what's going on, and because it's domed, there's no issue if pans are really full (for example, with greens before they've cooked down).

                                    For smaller skillets, like others, I just use lids from other pots that come with them, like dutch ovens.

                                    1. We have several SS saute pans that did not come with lids. They all have good fitting lids now because I bought SS lids at Goodwill/thrift shops for just a couple dollars apiece.

                                      1. I usually use lids from other pots and pans for my skillets or frypans. You can buy decent looking Calphalon glass lids at BB&B in various sizes. No need to pay a bundle for lids. You can even find extras at the Goodwill.

                                        1. I have three flat aluminum , self-ventilating lids from Walmart. One fits my two 12 inch iron skillets and a six quart pot, one fits a 10-1/2 inch five quart saucepan and the last one, also 10-1/2 inches, fits my other two skillets, both 10-1/2 inches in diameter. I think they were five or six bucks. You can find all sizes at just about any restaurant supply store. Glass lids are nice, but they don't survive very long and I get along just fine with then ones I have.

                                          1. Most of my kitchen stuff was still in cartons after a renovation and I could not easily locate a lid for the first meal I was cooking so I grabbed the ever handy tin foil and fashioned a lid with it...perfect! I wiped it clean with a paper towel afterwards, let it cool, folded it and put it in the freezer to be used again...and again...and again. When I think it has seen better days I then use it to wrap and freeze something in. I now have several in different sizes in the freezer and It is my go to solution. I don't feel it is wasteful because if I were to pull some foil for freezing an item in the first place it would just be used for that purpose and then disposed of anyhow. Now it has a multipurpose life and ends up in the re-cycle bin eventually. I hope this is helpful.

                                            1. Universal lids work fine for stovetop cooking. They are lighter and easier to handle than heavy cast iron lids. If, however, you are using your frypan in the oven, a universal lid with a plastic handle is a definate no-no.

                                              1. I've had a universal lid for 20 years, think I bought it at the hardware store for minimal bucks. I like that it's pretty flat and can fit on all but my largest pan, and I stick it in the dishwasher. It's a great tool, especially for use with cast iron skillets and grill pans. We've all got lids that mix and match, but I still find myself grabbing this one more often than not. there are very few occasions when I need a tight fit, and I've discovered that over the years lids get dropped in my kitchen and the edges of one or two are dented, so they're not super tight anymore, anyway. In a pinch, a cookie sheet works!