Most of us need only one or two sauté pans in our kitchens.
So to choose the right sauté pan that will work for our needs, we must know more about the different dimensions available.
But what size sauté pan do you need?
Factors to Consider when Getting a Sauté Pan
The size of sauté pans is expressed in quarts.
They are available in sizes ranging from one to twelve quarts, with three to six quarts being more popular than other sizes.
In general, sauté pans measuring 3 to 5 quarts are the ideal size to cook for 2 to 5 people. Smaller and larger pans are better for smaller or bigger groups.
When choosing a sauté pan, you should consider factors like the type of ingredients for cooking, the number of people you cook for, ease of handling, your budget, and the size of the stovetop.
Based on these factors, let’s find out how to choose the right sauté pan.
How to Choose the Correct Size Sauté Pan for Your Needs?
You can use various criteria to differentiate sauté pans, like the amount of food they hold, the material used for construction, heat retention capability, weight, and much more.
Let’s look at these important factors to help you choose a sauté pan of the right size for your cooking needs.
1. Number of People You Are Cooking For
The bigger the sauté pan, the more ingredients it will hold.
Hence, larger pans are better when you must cook for more people.
Based on the number of people to serve, we can categorize sauté pans as follows:
- 1 to 2 quarts: To cook small batches of vegetables, eggs, or meat for one person.
- 3 quarts: Holds enough vegetables, fish, and meat for two to four people depending on the serving size.
- 4-quarts: A four-quart sauté pan is wide enough to hold four full chicken thighs. Serves three to four people.
- 5-quarts: Holds enough food for four to six people. It can be used to cook vegetables, including leafy greens.
- 6-quarts and bigger: These are big sauté pans that can be used to prepare family meals. They are suitable for making pasta, stews, and even soups.
If you regularly cook for three or more people, you need a pan that is at least three quarts.
A pan that is any larger may not be very easy to handle. It’s not required unless you regularly entertain big groups.
2. Method of Cooking
Sauté pans are generally meant for dry heating.
This means that they are built for cooking food at high temperatures using less oil.
The food will be tossed and turned inside these pans and covered and cooked.
Nevertheless, you can use sauté pans for other cooking methods too, like frying, braising, and steaming.
When choosing a sauté pan, consider what method of cooking you often use.
If you frequently steam and prepare sauces in a sauté pan, you will need a larger pan to hold the liquid without splattering.
Meanwhile, smaller sauté pans are suitable for regular sautéing and stir-frying.
Another important factor is whether it can accommodate all the cooking ingredients without overcrowding.
The pan surface should be large enough for the ingredients to spread out.
Stuffing too many ingredients into a small space will increase the cooking time.
This will lead to excessive steam and moisture production that can affect the texture of the final dish.
3. Size and Nature of The Cooktop
Sauté pans have a wide, flat base.
It should sit properly on your cooktop for even heat distribution and proper cooking.
It’s also important for the sauté pan to sit flat on the burner to accommodate shaking during the cooking process.
So this is an essential factor to consider when making your choice.
Choose a bigger sauté pan only if your cooktop is large enough to accommodate the flat base.
If not, it will end up with hot spots in different places, and the food will not cook evenly.
You can decide the size of the pan based on which burner you commonly use for cooking.
If you have an induction stovetop, it’s equally important to choose a sauté pan made of ferromagnetic materials like cast iron or carbon steel.
4. Weight of The Sauté Pan
Most of the time, cooking in a sauté pan involves shaking it and tossing the ingredients around.
Since you will be handling the pan a lot, its weight and maneuverability become a concern.
Small sauté pans are naturally easier to handle.
Meanwhile, as the diameter of the pan increases, it gets heavier and more difficult to manage.
The material used for constructing the pan also affects the ease of handling.
For instance, pans made of cast iron tend to be heavier than stainless steel pans of the same size.
You may want to consider this aspect as well when choosing your sauté pan.
If you regularly cook small portions of food, you can opt for a small sauté pan made of heavy metal like cast iron.
The other option is to choose a bigger pan made of stainless steel or aluminum to make it easier to handle.
5. Size and Shape of The Handle
Apart from the size of the base, the length of the handle is just as important when choosing a sauté pan.
The handle is a highly functional accessory since it allows control over the mixing and tossing process.
A long handle makes it easy to hold the vessel without feeling the heat from the cooktop.
Hence, pay attention to the size and shape of the handle when choosing a sauté pan.
Different brands will have slightly different designs for handles.
This can make a significant difference in how well the pan fits in your hand.
A long and sturdy handle will make it easy to shake the pan and move it around.
It should also have heavy and strong screws or rivets to ensure the handle is attached securely and doesn’t come off.
6. Heat Conductivity
The size and material of construction decide how quickly or slowly a sauté pan heats up.
For instance, pans made of stainless steel and non-stick materials heat quickly.
Apart from the metal used for construction, the size of the pan will also affect the time required for heating.
Large sauté pans made of cast iron can take very long to heat.
If you are always in a rush to finish cooking, choose a smaller sauté pan with a lighter base.
Stainless steel, aluminum, or non-stick pans are usually perfect for such needs since they warm up and cool down quickly.
Interesting Further Reading: 5 Pans Used by Gordon Ramsay | Pans Used by Professional Chefs
7. Storage Space
Sauté pans aren’t easily stackable because of their handles.
This can make it difficult if you have limited space to store cookware.
Bigger sauté pans have long handles that occupy more space.
You may want to factor in this problem when choosing a sauté pan.
It’s a lot easier to store smaller sauté pans because they have a smaller footprint, making them easier to accommodate.
Since sauté pans come with lids, you will also have to find a suitable way to store the lids.