in search of a great saute pan
I long for a great, big, honking saute pan. Probably 5 quarts? I want a large diameter (like to put in lots of pieces of chicken); do you think 12" is as big as I should go without sacrificing even-ness of heating? I had read that nonstick is not good for those times you want to deglaze "goodies" from the pan, but one of my pickiest foodie friends told me not to worry about that; do you agree? Are straight sides important?
I don't care about being able to put it in the dishwasher. Anything that big takes up too much space to be worth it, in my opinion, so I'll just wash it by hand.
And of course -- what brand(s) do you recommend? I'd like to avoid spending too much, of course -- and truly, I don't need the "Rolls Royce" of pans; I am not that great a chef, and I don't really want the responsibility of owning a pan so expensive I feel like I have to take care of it like sculpture! But is that a mistake? Is the difference really worth it to an ordinary cook? What brands would you consider preferable, acceptable, and unacceptable choices? For example, the "foodie friend" says she thinks the Calphalon Essentials that they sell at Target for about $80 (but you can get it cheaper on Ebay, of course) looks fine (at least for ME -- I'm not sure whether she'd buy it for herself). Consumer Reports seems to like Anolon at least as well. But I want to know what the REAL experts -- YOU -- have to say.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts on what is probably a question you're already sick of hearing!