Measuring a frying pan is a fairly simple exercise.
Once this is done, you should stretch your measuring tape all the way across the front side of the pan. Just check the measurement from the edge of the measuring tape till the end of the pan and you will get the relevant measurement of your frying pan.
You should be aware of the fact that the overall size of any pan is usually defined by its longest dimension. And in case of a frying pan, it would be the widest part from the top. That is from lip to lip of the pan.
While this is the most common way, when a company or store defines a frying pan, they will almost always be talking about its side to side dimension.
If you want to be more precise, you can measure the size of the pan from the inside of the top lip all the way to the other inside top lip in a straight line. This is the overall size of the pan in which its lid must fit snugly (if it has one).
However, this technique will not help you to figure out the total volume of your pan. This is because all pans are typically measured according to the central diameter of the lip. That is, not the diameter of the actual cooking surface.
Apart from that, most home burners (this includes both gas as well as electric/induction cooking ranges) have space limitations. This means that barring large commercial cooking ranges, they have been designed to comfortably fit a frying pan with a maximum size of around 12 inches or so, in diameter.
The Sauté Pan VS. the Skillet Frying Pan
Due to its straight sides, a foot wide sauté pan will also have an equally wide, 12-inch cooking surface. This will come to about 113 square inches in volume. Compare that to a skillet frying pan. Since the latter’s cooking area is smaller, even if it’s the same size as a sauté pan, it’s volume will also be less than that of a sauté pan.
This is because a skillet frying pan has sloping sides that are extended outwards by at least an inch on all sides. This means that the effective cooking area is only approximately 10 inches or so which comes to around 80 square inches in volume.
In a nutshell, if you have a skillet and a sauté pan of equal diameters, the skillet frying pan’s total cooking area will be at least 30 percent less than the cooking area of the sauté pan. This is a pretty large amount of lost cooking volume.
In the real world, you will be able to quite comfortably fit around ten pieces of chicken in a large one-foot wide pan but not in a skillet. Additionally, if you own the latter, you will have to do the job in multiple batches.
Boiling Water and Making Curries and Stew
Once again, the straight edges of the traditional sauté pan will allow you to squeeze in a much higher volume of liquid for making curries and stew. And best of all, you will be able to do the needful in the same amount of oven space.
Furthermore, the usual straight sides will also make the liquid inside much less likely to splash outwards. This is useful when you move your pan from the kitchen to the dining table or transfer it either into or out of the oven.
It will also allow the pan’s lid to fit in more tightly as well, thus minimizing evaporation to a great extent.
The extra volume will be a handy advantage when you are executing tasks such as deep-frying meatballs in your pan in an inch of cooking oil. You can even use it to braise half a dozen chicken thighs in red wine, for instance.
The outward sloping skillet frying pan is actually considered to be far superior when it comes to sautéing food than the actual sauté pan itself.
Here, the size of the pan does not matter since the best way to properly sauté anything involves rapid cooking in hot fat while constantly agitating the food (this is also called stir-frying).
You can easily cook small to medium-sized pieces of finely chopped vegetables and cubes of meat this way. The sloping sides of your frying pan will allow you to shake the pan as much as you like without spilling the contents.
Executing the Jump and Flip Maneuver
The sauté pan is particularly useful for successfully executing the jump and flip maneuver that many Michelin class chefs like to show off on TV cooking shows. However, it is important to understand that this maneuver is not just for ego-boosting alone.
On the contrary, it is by far and large the best way to redistribute the food items in the pan and so making sure that everything is evenly cooked.
While you can theoretically sauté your meals in a straight-sided pan as well, it will not be as easy as doing the needful with a frying pan. This is largely due to the constant stirring and turning with fork or spatula.
Evaporation Plays a Key Role
The overall geometry of a pan can also affect its moisture retention abilities. That is to say that the design of the pan contributes to how effectively moisture is driven off your food, thus leaving it hot and crispy.
Apart from that, it will also decide how rapidly the sauces in the dish will evaporate. Many expert chefs claim that the sloped sides of a frying pan will also get rid of excess moisture in the meat you cook. And the more rapidly the juices evaporate, the more efficiently you can sear the meat.
The Role of the Total Cooking Area in Searing Meat
Yes, it is certainly true that a frying pan can sear meat more effectively than a regular pan, but only if it has the exact same cooking area. In other words, the average foot wide skillet frying pan with its 10-inch cooking space will sear foods far more effectively than its 10-inch sauté pan counterpart.
However, when searing your steaks in a pan, you should do well to remember the larger surface area of a regular pan will not offer any major advantages over its skillet frying pan counterpart.
This is especially true if you have the same quantity of food that requires searing at very high temperatures. (such as extra well-done steaks, for example). In either case, you will have to cook the meat in multiple batches.
Much the same applies to reduce sauces as well. The sauces will also evaporate just as fast in a foot-wide sauté pan as in its 12-inch skillet counterpart.
In light of the above, we can safely determine that we can figure out how to measure a frying pan in just a few simple steps.
With that said, it is very important that we also take its volume and total cooking area into consideration as well.
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