I need a stainless pan in which to fry chicken. Cast Iron is too heavy for me to lift. I would like to be able to fry enough for 2-4 people. Would also like to be able to make gravy in it or maybe French fries. However, frying chicken is my priority.
Fry Pan, Skillet or Saute pan????
Thanks so much for your help!
You should look into some vintage cast iron. Much lighter than the Lodge many are forced to use today. My #12 Griswold feels lighter than my stainless steel pan of the same size. I would get a #10 skillet if I were you. It should be roughly 4 lbs, the same as an an All-Clad of the same dimensions. Dont overlook rusted pans if you can get a great deal. Cast iron is easily restored through a self cleaning oven or with Easy-Off Heavy Duty Oven Spray (I used the latter and left it outside tied up in a garbage bag for 3 days)
At one time I put together a spread sheet on saute pan sizes with square inches of surface area vs qt. size and weight. There is a huge amount of variation depending on the material of construction, wall thickness, and diameter of pan.
The lightest weight pans are aluminum, followed by low cost SS with either a disc bottom or just thin walls. The better multi clad pans were next and copper was the heaviest, not counting cast iron, which I consider a frying pan not a saute pan.
A 3 qt. saute with lowish sides would give you the most surface area with the least weight. The Scanpan Pro 3.5 qt saute pan has a diameter of 12.5 inches and a weight of just 2 pounds. Compare this to a Demeyere Atlantis 4.2 qt. saute pan with a diameter of 11 inches and a weight of 10 lbs. 8 ounces. I didn't include the really low cost cookware made in China, the lowest price saute pan I compared was the Mauviel M-cook 5ply 3.4 qt pan at $190. The Viking 3qt saute pan has an 11 inch diameter, equivelent to 95 sq. in. of surface and is under 5 lbs. it will hold 4 good sized chicken breasts.
I'd go with a sauté pan. The higher sidewalls will better serve your primary purpose. Size is the issue. Are you willing to batch fry to save pan weight, or is it more important to fit all the pieces into the pan at once? If you'll fry it in 2 batches, a 3 quart should suit you fine, surface area tends to run about 11-12". Otherwise, a 4 quart is your pan.
I don't fry chicken, but if I did I would use my All-Clad French Skillet. I have the 11", which is good for three servings. Four might require the 13". Mine is from the LTD2 line and is quite light. I expect the stainless exterior would be a little heavier, and of course the 13" would be heavier.
The French Skillet has a different profile than the ordinary frying pans, and is a little deeper. Not as deep as the 4-qt sauté pan, however (which is a heavier pan). I think the 11" would work for you if four people had modest appetites.
Do you deep fry or pan fry? How often do you need a larger pan; for those occasions is two pans at once an option. This would keep loaded pan weights down since cast iron is too heavy for you.
You could also try thin iron De Buyer pans. My mom uses those for the same reasons as you. They are a lot lighter than cast iron, don't hold much heat so temperature vary a little more but, they cook close enough to cast iron for her.
<Fry Pan, Skillet or Saute pan???? >
If you are want to shallow fry the chicken pieces, then any of them will work. If you want the potential to deep fry the chicken, then a saute pan is the prefer choice due to the higher side.
That is tough part, isn't it? A larger pan will allow you fry for more people. However, a smaller pan will be more convenient. I am guessing a 4-quart is a good size, but there is no perfect answer.