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I have a recipe that calls for a frying pan about 20cm across - should I measure from the base, or the top rim?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Manufacrurers measure the rim, so I guess the recipe calls for a pan which is 20 cm across the rim.

It may seem counterintuitive that the recipe specifies such a small pan (that's less than 8 inch for you Americans). But it can have good reasons.

Most recipes aren't dependent on pan size (much). But if you make a small quantity of some sauces, you want it to be thick enough in the pan to heat evenly, instead of a thin smearing of stuff on the bottom of the pan which will overheat quickly. So if you suspect that this is the case, it makes sense to actually use a small pan.

For many other recipes, overcrowding the pan is not too good. If you say what you are trying to make, we could give you an indication whether the size is important in your case.

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Thanks - for info, the recipe was for Pear Tart Tatin. I don't think it was too crucial. I've just always wondered about this and decided to nip out and ask half way through cooking it. –  Kevin Sep 20 '11 at 19:45
    
OK, I assumed frying. Size is more important for baking, because 1) you want some preliminary info on the size, 2) A thick cake doesn't bake as well as a thin one, and 3) in a tarte tatin, the amount of pears is calculated for a certain pan size. –  rumtscho Sep 20 '11 at 19:50
    
Btw, it makes great sense why the measure for the rim - makes it easier to have common lid sizes regardless of the form of the bottom of the pan. –  rfusca Sep 21 '11 at 0:54
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