My stovetop cooking, don’t ask why, occurs in a 2-inch deep skillet much wider than the stove’s largest heating element. To evenly heat something thick, such as porridge or stew, I have explored various patterns of intermittent mixing with a spatula.

Here is a schematic of my current method, which at each stir takes two or more laps around the skillet. Each arced stroke, beginning with 1, 2, 3 and 4 as indicated, begins at the edge of the skillet and is meant to bring less-heated food to the middle.

I have forgone strokes that go directly from edge to middle as they seem to push each previous stroke’s result back to the edge.

Are there other effective stirring patterns for oversized skillets?

Internet search results in effect just say “stir, stir stir” but not how. This question also relates to stirring a tall oversized pot, which also brings vertical stirring into play.

  • 3
    Porridge may evaporate quickly by this method. I would turn heat down low low and cover, allowing even-ish heat transfer. If it's a very small burner then a large diffuser could be valuable. I love my big frying pan!
    – Pat Sommer
    Oct 31, 2021 at 20:27
  • 4
    I don't think it matters that much as long as you properly move food around.
    – Max
    Nov 1, 2021 at 10:13
  • @PatSommer, true about covering but, again please don't ask why, I do not for now have access to my full set of utensils that include a cover and an appropriately sized porridge/stew pot. A benefactor loaned the wonderfully (I agree!) huge skillet, serving as pot and fryer.
    – lauir
    Nov 1, 2021 at 13:26
  • Dear @Max, if you would advance your comment into an answer that even slightly elaborates on "properly move" I will gladly checkmark it. My early stirring patterns seared the porridge on the middle of the skillet while leaving the sides uncooked.
    – lauir
    Nov 1, 2021 at 13:30
  • 2
    Aluminum foil will do as a makeshift cover.
    – Pat Sommer
    Nov 2, 2021 at 3:31

1 Answer 1


There's no real reason to use a fixed pattern for stirring. Just pay attention and if you see a spot that looks quite done, move it around to mix it with spots that are less done.

Since you mention that you've had trouble with the food near the middle getting burnt, you want to be sure not to leave anything there for too long. Try starting your strokes in the middle, moving outward. (Gently, so you don't slosh over the side.) Be sure your utensil gets right down to the pan and loosen/move anything that might be starting to stick.

(One other thought - if you plan to cook much before you regain access to your regular kitchenware, is there a thrift shop or some such where you could pick up one or two essentials, like a properly-sized saucepan? They're often quite cheap, and once you have your own kit back, you could just donate it back to the shop.)

  • Caledon, thank you for pointing out that what goes around comes around, on a good day. I am frequent to turnabout shops acquistively but not so much donorly. Live and learn.
    – lauir
    Nov 3, 2021 at 18:01

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