How to Measure a Frying Pan? (Dimensions Explained)

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How to Measure a Frying Pan? (Dimensions Explained)

When I was living alone, I had a small frying pan to make omelets, caramelized onions, sauteed veggies, and almost everything that needed frying. But after two of my friends moved in (ah, there goes my peace), there were three stomachs, and I would cook three batches of the same thing (trouble, I know).

After settling on most other things, we decided to do some kitchenware shopping. A bigger frying pan was at the top of our list because that poor little pan wasn’t meant to serve three people.

Once we started scrolling through different options, deciding on one pan felt hard; larger pans seemed better for bigger food batches, and smaller ones seemed more convenient. After some debate, the three of us settled for a 12″ carbon-steel frying pan, and it instantly became our favorite.

Cookware’s size is as important as its material, construction, and manufacturer; you can’t use a 20″ pan to cook eggs, nor you can expect an 8″ skillet to cook stews. Be proactive and find a middle path to save your money, time, and energy altogether.

If you’re looking for a bigger and better frying pan but don’t know which size and shape to opt for, I’ve written this guide precisely for you. Follow along and understand how to measure a frying pan and pick the best one for your kitchen.

How to Measure a Frying Pan’s Dimensions?

Most manufacturers mention the size between the top lips of a skillet, i.e., 12″, but that’s not the correct way. If you wish to know its cooking surface, place the measuring tape/rule inside the pan’s walls.

Place your pan on the countertop, face up. Get a ruler or measuring tape, place it on one top lip/wall, and run it to the other side. This will indicate the pan’s width.

If you have a straight-edged pan or skillet, this measurement will indicate its exact cooking surface. However, edge to edge distance doesn’t show the cooking surface of sloped and edged cookware.

Does the Shape of Sidewalls Matter in Choosing a Frying Pan?

Newbie home cooks assume that straight saute pans and curved skillets perform the same function, but it’s not that simple.

Although both are used for cooking at high temperatures, their shapes impact your overall cooking experience. How much cooking area you get in a pan or skillet depends upon its shape.

Sloped Pans

When a pan’s sidewalls are curved, its cooking area is shorter when compared to straight-walled cookware. However, that’s not a con.

A skillet’s sloped sides encourage evaporation and result in faster browning, something time-smart cooks love. Whether you have to smear meat or reduce sauces, curved frying pans serve the purpose just right.

Another advantage of using sloped pans is convenient stirring. You can quickly flip your food without it getting stuck to the bottom and ensure even cooking. Stir-frying becomes easier when your pan has sloped sides, but be careful of splattering.

Skillets also let you easily slide utensils under the food, something we all like.

Straight-walled Cookware

If you purchase a 12″ saute pan, its cooking area will also be 12″, thanks to the straight construction. Measuring saute pans is also easier because they are flat, and you don’t have to worry about the curved sides.

These pans hold more liquid and are perfect for cooking big food batches. Straight walls allow lids to fit tightly so that moisture and evaporation cannot escape from the pan.

You can cook stews, ribs, chops, etc., in these large frying pans, and their moisture seal won’t fail you.

Which Pan or Skillet Must Be in Your Kitchen?

The answer to this question is subjective, but if you frequently cook at home, you must have a 10″ and a 12″ pan in your kitchen. 10″ skillets are ideal for cooking eggs, caramelizing onions, searing meat, sauteing vegetables, and other such tasks.

And when you’re in the mood to cook fancy, take your 12″ saute pan out and brown some stews, ribs, chops like a professional chef. Once you’re sure about the needed frying pan/skillet size, its shape becomes secondary.


Are frying pans measured from the top or bottom? Frying pans are measured across their top, as that gives a better idea of the cooking surface. Place your pan on the countertop (facing upwards), run a measuring tape from its center to the other side, and you’ll know its size. Wall and bottom thickness don’t change this width; a pan is labeled 8″ or 12″ according to its central diameter.

What is the standard pan size for home kitchens?

There’s no one fits all rule because every home has different culinary preferences. If you cook eggs every morning and saute veggies quite frequently, have a reliable pan/skillet handy for quick food fixes.

10″ or 12″ frying pans and skillets are good for home kitchens. If you cook for two people, a 10″ skillet/pan should suffice, but if there are three or more people at home, a 12″ skillet will do. 

You can also get a bigger pan for family meals, even if you barely use it. This large pan will save your time and energy when it’s time to cook for the fam; otherwise, you’ll be forced to cook several food batches in a small pan.

What frying pans do professional chefs use?

Although it’s a personal preference, most chefs use cast-iron, copper, and carbon steel frying pans. These materials are good at heat distribution and cleaning, hence work well in busy kitchens.

A saute pan’s sloped sides let professional cooks stir-fry. The deep cooking area of a frying pan is better at entrapping temperature, so the answer varies.

Should a frying pan be smaller or large than a stove’s burner?

When a pan/pot is smaller than the burner, it gets dangerously heated, and you don’t enjoy cooking this way. On the flip side, a large pan also doesn’t sit well with a small burner; its center is heated beyond the ideal limit, and the chances of food burning are higher.

Therefore, your cookware should be of the optimum size. If your stove doesn’t have burners of different sizes, get pans/pots no bigger/smaller than 2 inches from the stove.

This 2-inch difference is bearable, and it doesn’t impact your cooking experience. However, you’ll have to be extra careful about the handles of such cookware because they can get insanely hot.


Measuring a frying pan is a straightforward process, but knowing the difference this size makes is more important. If you’re a new chef, uncertain about which pan to choose, estimate your cooking needs.

Do you live alone? How often do you cook in your kitchen? What are your favorite foods, i.e., sauteed veggies or seared meat? These questions will help you choose the best frying pan for your kitchen.

Remember this rule, your frying pan or pot shouldn’t be more than 1-2 inches bigger or smaller than your stove. If the pan is much larger than the stove coil, it doesn’t provide sufficient heating, and it takes longer to cook.

Whether you get a cast-iron pan or an aluminum one, understand its dimensions and heating capacity to enjoy an exceptional cooking experience.

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