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How Frying Pans Are Measured: A Helpful Illustrated Guide

Frying pans come in several sizes; the most common are 8-, 10-, and 12-inch.

But what exactly do those figures mean? How are frying pans measured?

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How frying pans are measured
  • Why the advertised size can be deceiving
  • And the various ways different brands display frying pan measurements

By the end, you’ll know which numbers matter and be able to confidently choose the right pan for your kitchen.


Use the links below to navigate the guide:


How Frying Pans Are Measured

Frying pan sizes are determined by measuring the pan’s diameter from rim to rim.

Measuring a stainless steel frying pan
Measuring a stainless steel frying pan

Usually, the size reflects the distance between the inside of the rims. But some brands measure from the outside of the rims, which adds between a 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch.

Measuring a pan from the outside and inside rim
Measuring a pan from the outside rim (left) and inside rim (right)

Some frying pans have flared edges for dip-free pouring. In these cases, the size can be even more deceiving since the diameter is measured from flared edge to flared edge.

Demeyere cookware flared rims
Demeyere cookware flared rims

That said, some brands include the entire flared edge in their measurements, while others don’t.

Since the measurement is taken at the top of the wall on each side of the pan, the size displayed online and on the pan’s box doesn’t accurately reflect the actual size of the flat cooking surface.

Frying pans have sloped walls, which means the flat area for cooking is smaller than the diameter from rim to rim. Pans with steep walls have larger cooking surfaces than pans with sloped, low-profile walls.

And since the slope of the walls varies by brand and collection, one brand’s 12-inch frying pan can have a larger cooking surface than another brand’s 12-inch frying pan.

Measuring the cooking surface of a frying pan
Measuring the cooking surface of a frying pan

When cooking foods like steak, eggs, burgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches, the size of the flat part is what really matters.

On average, the cooking surface diameter is two to three inches smaller than the pan’s advertised size. However, the difference between a pan’s advertised size and the cooking surface size depends on the slant of the sidewalls.

Measuring the flat cooking surface of a non-stick frying pan
Measuring the flat cooking surface of a frying pan with steep sides

I measured the cooking surface of several frying pans to show you how much smaller the flat cooking surface is compared to the pan’s advertised size and how the ratio varies by brand.

To accurately measure the flat part of the pan, I placed a small level in the center of the pan and marked where the pan started to curved upward.

Measuring the flat cooking surface of a frying pan

As you can see in the data below, the flat cooking surface of most 12-inch frying pans is around 9 inches. The flat part of most 10-inch frying pans is about 8 inches. 

Frying PanPan DiameterCooking Surface Diameter
All-Clad Copper Core12 inches9 inches
All-Clad D512 inches9 inches
All-Clad D312 inches9.5 inches
All-Clad D3 Everyday12.5 inches10 inches
All-Clad G510.5 inches8.5 inches
All-Clad HA110 inches9 inches
Pioneer Woman12 inches10.5 inches
Made In Stainless Steel12 inches9.5 inches
Made In Non-Stick12 inches9.5 inches
Made In Carbon Steel10 inches7.5 inches
Misen Non-Stick10 inches8.5 inches
Demeyere Atlantis11 inches9 inches
Heritage Steel12 inches9 inches
Zwilling Motion12 inches9 inches
Tramontina PRO Series12 inches10 inches

Other Frying Pan Measurements

Displaying the diameter of a pan is standard in the cookware industry, but each brand has its own way of listing the pan’s other measurements. 

For example, All-Clad and Misen display the pan’s total length from the end of the handle across the pan.

How All-Clad Frying Pans Are Measured

Misen also shows the handle length in its specs list.

How Misen Frying Pans Are Measured

Made In includes several measurements.

How Made In Frying Pans Are Measured

In addition to total diameter and cooking surface diameter, Made In shows the following:

Height: The distance from the counter to the top of the handle.

Made In Frying Pan Height
Made In Frying Pan Height

Depth: The distance from the counter to the pan’s rim.

Made In Frying Pan Depth
Made In Frying Pan Depth

Length: The distance from the end of the handle to the far edge of the pan.

Thickness: Also referred to as gauge, thickness is the distance between the inside and outside of the pan. It’s measured by pinching the pan’s rim with a caliper.

What Size Frying Pan Do You Need?

The most common frying pan sizes are 10 and 12 inches. However, the right size for you depends on several factors.

10 versus 12 inch pan_cooking surface
12-inch pan (left), 10-inch pan (right)

Larger pans can cook more food per batch, but they’re heavier, more expensive, and require more storage. Plus, they’re not the best choice for liquid-based meals as the food can spread too thin and evaporate too quickly.

For example, making a thick, fluffy omelet in a small frying pan is easy since the walls help contain the eggs before they become firm. Eggs can spread too thin in a large pan, leading to a flat, overcooked omelet.

The table below shows the best-size frying pan for common foods you might prepare at home.

Frying Pan SizeCooksIdeal For
5 Inches1 eggIndividual desserts, one egg
8 Inches3 eggsFluffy omelets, one chicken breast
10 Inches5 eggsGrilled sandwich, eggs for two, small sauté
12 Inches6 eggsFamily meals, three to four burgers, two large pork chops
14 Inches8 eggsEntertaining/feeding a crowd

Some of the factors you should consider when choosing a frying pan include:

Household Size

If you’re cooking for a family or frequently entertaining, a 12-inch frying pan (or larger) may be necessary. However, if you live alone or in a smaller household, you may be able to use a smaller diameter pan like an 8- or 10-inch.

Types of cooking

Think about the types of food you plan to cook most often before picking a size. Frying, browning, and roasting require more space. If you overcrowd a small pan, the ingredients’ moisture will cause a steaming effect, which prevents you from achieving the intended golden brown crisp.

Seared salmon in a Heritage Steel pan
Seared salmon in a Heritage Steel pan

When the food is crowded in a small pan, that steam can interfere with searing and browning and prevent you from achieving a crispy exterior. However, a smaller pan can contribute to fluffier eggs.

Weight, Material, and Maneuverability

You want to be able to hold and move your frying pan without straining. If you cook eggs often and like to flip them without a spatula, you may want a smaller, lightweight pan you can flick with your wrist.

Cast iron pans weigh the most (12-inch skillets weigh 8 pounds on average), while aluminum and stainless steel pans are the lightest.  

This chart provides a quick look at how 10- and 12-inch pans compare in weight:

Brand/Collection10-Inch Pan Weight12-Inch Pan Weight
All-Clad D3 Stainless3.5 lb4 lb
Scanpan Professional Non-stick2.3 lb3.3 lb
Williams-Sonoma Signature Stainless Steel Nonstick2.8 lb3.2 lb
Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron5.1 lb6.1 lb
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet4.2 lb7.6 lb

Stovetop Size

You may not have space for a large frying pan if you have a small stovetop. Ideally, the pan’s base should fit within the cooking element. If the pan is much larger than the burner, it can heat unevenly and warp over time.

Storage Space

Consider your storage limitations before choosing a frying pan size. Larger pans take up more storage, so measure your cabinets and ensure the cookware can fit.

Price

When considering pans from the same brand, the larger pans will always be more expensive. However, frying pans come in a wide range of prices for every budget.

The chart below shows the current prices of popular 10- and 12-inch frying pans.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Bottom Line: Diameter Determines a Frying Pan’s Size

Now that you know how frying pans are measured and why size matters, you can shop confidently for the right pan.

Keep in mind:

  • The displayed frying pan size is the diameter from rim to rim.
  • The flat cooking surface is smaller due to the pan’s sloped sides.
  • Besides diameter, every cookware brand displays other measurements differently (there is no industry standard)
  • The right size for you depends on household size, cooking style, and the types of food you like to cook.
  • The pan size you see online or on the box is the diameter from rim to rim, but there isn’t an industry standard on how brands must display other pan measurements (like height, depth, length, and thickness). 

Bottom Line — the advertised size of a frying pan is the diameter from rim to rim. However, the cooking surface may differ even when pans are advertised as the same size. The diameter of the cooking surface is more important because that’s the available area for cooking most foods (excluding liquid-based meals that fill the sides of a pan).

Look for the cooking surface size on the brand’s packaging or website. You can also contact the brand’s customer support if you can’t find the cooking surface measurement for a particular pan.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s studied consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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