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I just moved across country and basically sold everything I own including my cooking pans. I used to use a medium-high sided two handled pan that I cannot find an image for to show you. It worked for my purposes but I am generally cooking risotto for six and it never held enough and I would end up with some of my grains still on the crunchy side. I tried a larger around pan and it would not heat evenly enough on a conventional range. In a moment of desperation I tried using a wok, that was not a good idea. In any case I find myself on the hunt for a good pan to use that will handle six servings and heat evenly, I know I could cook in batches but I am generally just trying to get dinner on the table.

I am also aware that pans are subjective but with such a price range difference out there I don't have the money to experiment.

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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I suggest getting a quality stainless clad saute pan or saucier. For years I made risotto in the All-Clad 3 qt. saute pan shown here:

All-Clad 3 qt. saute pan

Unless you're serving huge portions this is plenty of room for 6 servings of risotto. There are larger options available though, including a mammoth 14" 6 quart one.

This pan easily does 90% of the work in my kitchen, so at any price it carries its weight in the kitchen.

That said, this past Christmas I got the All-Clad 3 qt. copper-core saucier shown here:

All-Clad 3 qt. saucier

It's a very close matchup, but this pan is perfect for making risotto. The higher sides are a definite benefit, but you don't sacrifice much in flat surface area. The copper core is amazingly responsive, noticeably more so than aluminum. It's obviously rather expensive, so if you're uncomfortable spending that much on a pan I'd suggest getting one of their regular 3 qt sauciers -- you'll spend at least half as much.

If I only had one pan in my kitchen though, I think I'd still go back to the saute pan above. Its versatility is just unmatched.


Regarding your concerns that a wider pan won't heat as evenly, this is generally true for a cheaper pan. However, All-Clad pans use magic to bond a layer of aluminum (or copper) between a layer of magnetic stainless (exterior) and 18/10 stainless (interior). The end result is a very even heat which you can actually confirm with an infrared thermometer.

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+1 for incorporating magic in your answer! :) –  Pål Brattberg Dec 4 '11 at 20:42
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The important part of a good pan is the bottom. It has to be thick, so it heats evenly and doesn't deform easily. The material is less important, but going from good to excellent (cheaper to more expensive) you should look at:

  • Seasoned cast iron.
  • Aluminum sandwiched between layers of stainless steel.
  • Heavy copper top-coated with stainless steel.

Look at what the Curious Cook has to say.

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Thank you for the link, that article was helpful. –  Varuuknahl Sep 23 '10 at 14:52
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I have an enameled cast iron stockpot that works very well. Need to make sure to start it on low heat and give it time to warm up otherwise the pot will get too hot.

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This is the best thing for risotto. It provides a nice steady heat with minimal fussing. Also perfect for gumbo and stews. The Le Creuset french oven pot is the "gold standard." –  Angelo Aug 31 '11 at 15:48
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I usually just use a 5-6 quart stainless steel pot. Your cook time will go up (it pretty much has to when you're cooking in quantity), but it should fill the need. If your rice is still crunchy, keep adding liquid. Rissoto doesn't really have a definite cooking time.

If you get something with lower sides and a wider bottom, you're going to end up with cool spots (as you discovered).

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I have already selected an answer for this question but I came across more information and thought I would share for the sake of completeness. I picked up a book at the library called Things Cooks Love, Here on Amazon. And it is a book written by the people at Sur la Table, which is from Pike Place Market here in Seattle, WA. That is the background now here is the relevance.

Apparently there is a Risotto Pan, here is the definition from the book: The traditional copper risotto pan has a thin tin lining and a removable steel bale handle that in the past was used to suspend the pan over a cooking fire. The straight sides and broad cooking surface provide ample room for stirring and even heat distribution.

There is also a page dedicated to the pan and possible pan substitions, that I will not include here, but it is on page 287 if you have the book. Apparently there is also a special wooden risotto spoon that has a pointed tip and a hole in the bowl.

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For years I have used a 3 quart non stick saute pan by Calphalon (in fact I made lobster risotto last night). I always had great results using this pan, and use it exclusively for making risotto. However, I recently upgraded to a conduction cook top, and the Calphalon pan will no longer be an option as it is aluminum. I recently purchased an All Clad stainless steel cookware set that comes with a 3 quart saute pan. Although it is NOT non stick, I am sure it will do well for risotto. As mentioned in previous posts, when making risotto you should heat your pan slowly and take your time. Risotto is a work of art and the best part of making it is enjoying a great glass of wine with your guests while stirring (I often encourage my guests to help with stirring while I see to other parts of the meal). Cheers - Gerard

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