|Circulon 12'' deep skillet|
My answer is in the title. Here's why. A 12 inch deep skillet (also known as a frying pan) is so versatile. I use it for just about everything. It's great for making omelets, stir frying vegetables, browning meat and sauteing sauces.
A chef would probably raise an eyebrow, but I often cook spaghetti, or homemade soups in mine. It may not be proper, but the size and depth are perfect for one pan meals. Lots of ingredients fit in the skillet, and it is easy to stir the food around, or not -- when a meal just needs to simmer. There is enough room for two large portions of pasta to swim and not stick together. After cooking, I can serve dishes straight from the pan. Call me lazy, but it works. (Yes, I can hear you!)
If your skillet is oven-safe, you can even pop it into your stove to bake a meatloaf, casserole, salmon or cornbread.
Usually you end up not using many of the pans that come in a set.
So if you only have space or a budget for one good pan, a 12 inch deep skillet is your best choice. [If you find an 11 inch pan, that works too, and is easier to store in smaller kitchens.] Whether you fry an egg, or whisk a hollandaise sauce, it's a real multi-tasker.
Later on you can add a 10 inch skillet (cast iron is useful; up to 10 inches is liftable) and a 6 inch skillet (to brown garlic), as well as, a 2 or 3 quart saucepan.
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