I want to buy a good skillet or sauté pan. Which should I buy and what is the difference?
–Peter in Chicago
You want a sauté pan. Skillets have slanted sides with less flat cooking surface, sauté pans have straight sides, therefore more cooking surface.
Go for a 12-inch pan if you cook for four or more. A 10-inch works for two to three. I use my 12-inch sauté pan more than any other pan in the house. It takes sauces, braises, pan-fries, stir-fries, poached foods, and doubles as a roasting pan and casserole dish in the oven.
Check out anything you’re considering buying for the four sauté pan essentials:
1. Even heat conduction
2. A non-reactive interior, like stainless steel
3. Two heat-proof handles -- a long one and an opposing loop-shaped one
4. Ease in handling (as in make sure you can lift it!).
Look for sandwiched construction with thick (at least 3/16-inch) aluminum or copper for heat conduction and a stainless steel interior, which doesn’t react with foods. The heat-conducting metal should come all the way up the pan’s sides. If you buy one with just a bottom plaque, you will get a scorched ring inside the pan every time high heat is used.
Handles should be riveted through the pan into its interior. Pick up the pan to see if it’s unwieldy. Imagine it weighted with food.
One brand I like is All-Clad. Anticipate a price tag of more than $100, but you have a pan to pass on to your grandchildren. A good sauté pan never dies.