Sauté Pan Size Guide – How to pick the best size?


When I bought my first sauté pan, the biggest mistake I did was buying the same size as my frying pan. I didn’t know much about sauté pan back then, so it was an amateur mistake.

But now that I use them almost regularly, I always recommend cooks to buy the pan, once you understood the depth and size difference. Sauté pans are different than frying pans. They are actually a hybrid between a frying and saucepan.

These pans have a bigger usable surface area than frying pans of equal diameter. Thus, searing big steaks become easier in sauté pans, and hence you need to understand the size and serving differences before purchasing one.

Understanding Serving Size and diameter of Saute Pans

The size of the sauté pan immensely affects the number of servings you prepare.

For instance, if you have a family of three-four, a twelve or fourteen inches’ (12-14″ diameter) pan would be perfectly fine. Anything smaller than twelve inches would be the best choice for two people. Even then, if you use fourteen inches’ sauté pan, you will have quite a lot of leftovers on your dinner table. If you live on your own and always have to cook on your own, an eight inches sauté pan would be enough to let them sustain. In contrast, if you’re planning to host a house party, any sauté pan that is within the size of eighteen inches is good to go.

Only keep in mind that using such a large pan might be an issue because it will not fit your usual stove burner.

However the capacity of the saute pan is also something you must look into. It may happen that you need a larger capacity in your saute pan and not looking for the diameter only. In that case here is a table to compare the capacity, diameter and serving sizes of a saute pan.

The depth of the sauté pan is measured in quarts. Here is a table to help you have a clear understanding of sauté pan depth and sizes:

Capacity of a sauté pan and diameter***Servings
3 quart or 10 inches1 – 2 servings
4 quart or 10.5/12 inches2 – 3 servings
5 quart or 14 inches approx3 – 4 servings
7 quart or 16 inches approx5 – 7 servings
8 quart or 17/18 inches approx7 – 8 servings
12 quart or 20 inches approx9 – 12 servings

***Keep in mind, manufacturers not always follow a strict capacity and diameter rule. You can also find a saute pan with 10 inches diameter and 4 quart capacity. This table is to give you a general idea of the serving size.

The Safest Sauté Pans to Use

Since you are here reading the saute pan size guide, it means you are planning to buy a saute pan. In that case, I want to share with you my second biggest mistake, which is not looking into the safety of the material while buying a saute pan.

On high heat, many cheap materials release toxic chemicals which result in contaminated food.

Nonstick saute pans are easy to use and maintain. But not all coatings are safe. While searching for a safe nonstick saute pan I came across several nonstick coatings which are hazardous and many of us still use them in our kitchen without knowing.

So, I have made a detailed guide here on different types of safe nonstick sauté pans which are cost-effective too.

Using carbon steel, cast iron, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel are also good choices in sauté pans. However, make sure you trust the brand and only buying high-quality and authentic material-made saute pan.

There is a popular cast iron saute pan in the market which has elements that are banned in Canada but fine in the United States. When I researched about the chemical it was seriously hazardous.

Clearly, you will never know which pan is safe without spending considerable time doing research. Additionally, if you are going for nonstick sauté pans, make sure that the nonstick properties are mentioned on the manual that comes with the pan.

For instance, Teflon sauté pans are available in all sizes, but they start releasing toxic fumes at any temperature that is over 500 degrees F. 

If the sauté pan is made of good quality material, its coating is safe, and you find the right size to go with, you should buy the product.

The Size of the Handle of the Sauté Pan

You want a sauté pan that comes with a long handle. Because you will have to move around that pan on the top of the burner quite a lot.

Though you might not be flipping ingredients in the air all the time, some shaking back and forth is necessary.

A long and sturdy handle has a good feel to it while cooking, so it is crucial for you to purchase pans that feel good in the hands. Regardless of what you’re using your pan for cooking, a well-constructed sauté pan with long handles that remain securely attached to the pot is a must. You need to get one that has rivets or heavy screws at the handles for better durability.

How Would You Select the right Sauté Pan size To Purchase?

The most important thing to remember about purchasing a sauté pan is your needs. You need to remember the number of servings you plan to cook in the pan, how frequently you want to cook, and the stovetop you’re going to utilize for it.

Fourteen inches is a standard size for a sauté pan that you can use for three to four servings. You can go for larger pans like sixteen or eighteen inches for bigger servings. And an eight inches wide sauté pan is good enough for one to two people.

If you plan to use that sauté pan regularly, you need to buy something that is durable and easy to maintain and clean. A nonstick pan is the best choice in that case. If you are looking for a saute pan to use on high heat for cooking outdoors like on burners, go for carbon steel or cast iron.

The Bottom Line

All in all, the size of the sauté pan depends on the number of servings you need to cook regularly, and its handle has to be long and strong. If you can locate a product that meets these two criteria and is made of quality materials, you should grab it for yourself.

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