Here’s How: Choose the Right-Sized Pan for the Job

HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend. Today, we’re talking about when size matters–in your stock of pots and pans.

We love to learn new techniques and experiment with deliciously unfamiliar ingredients. To do so, we employ a drawer full of pots and pans. In our recipes, we refer to those pans all the time–our large pot for boiling water, or our medium-sized pan for frying up beef for pad see ew. What size pans do we intend for you to use each time you cook our recipes? Well, that depends on the meal.

Read on for tips on how to choose the right-sized pan for the job.

Frying Pan

A large frying pan will be a true workhorse in your Blue Apron kitchen. From browning chicken for Chicken Tikka Masala to searing tilapia for Tilapia with Shallot-Tarragon Butter, you’ll find yourself setting your frying pan on the stove for nearly every meal you cook. We alternate between two pans, one nonstick and one a heavy stainless steel pan. Both are about 12 inches in diameter, which means there is plenty of room any task we encounter, from sautéing onions to flipping fish. You can even go for a bigger pan–a 14-inch frying pan will cook up to 4 chicken breasts at once!

Don’t have a pan that’s exactly this size?  The good news is that you can improvise. The main criteria is simply that you have enough space to cook your food: onions won’t sauté and meat won’t brown properly if you’re crowding them into the pan. (They’ll steam instead, which means less flavor.) If necessary, you can brown two filets of cod, for example, in two smaller frying pans.

Large Pot

When we call for a large pot, we’re likely cooking pasta, or, in this case, gnocchi. When pasta cooks, you want to give it lots of space to dance around the boiling water. In a crowded pot, your spaghetti will cook unevenly and even stick together. Don’t let that happen. Haul out the biggest pot you got, one that holds at least 6 quarts.

We tend to call for a medium pot, rather than a large one, when we’re just cooking grains and vegetables, which often don’t need as much space. But if you only own one pot, make it a large one.

Small Pot

The small pot should hold about 1 1/2 quarts and have a tight-fitting lid. We use the small pot almost exclusively for cooking up grains, from brown rice to bulgur wheat. Even more important than the exact size is that the lid fits snugly onto the pot. Since most grains steam as they cook, you don’t want to let boiling water or hot air escape from the vent in between the pan and the lid. If your lid doesn’t fit tightly, you can seal a sheet of foil on top of the pot before placing the lid on.

Baking Sheet

We use our baking sheet for heating up bread or naan, baking meatballs, or finishing our quinoa-falafel patties. The main criteria for your baking pan is simply that it fits whatever you need to bake. Make sure you have enough room to allow for a few inches of space between meatballs or falafel to ensure proper cooking on all sides. As with your frying pan, if your baking sheet is on the small side, improvise by using two.

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