This Is My Absolute Favorite Pan for Better Risotto

published Apr 3, 2018
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

By now, risotto has finally managed to shake that myth that it’s a fussy, restaurant-only dinner. Once you have the hang of the technique —it’s pretty easy to make and doesn’t require a single special tool. I’ve cooked risotto in everything from a Dutch oven to an Instant Pot with great success but I have one pan that I love best for cooking risotto. This one pan helps me cook risotto faster, with greater ease, and more regularly — here’s why.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

A High-Sided Skillet Is Best for Risotto

The best risotto showcases the combination of tender grains of rice in a creamy, brothy sauce. To achieve this result, evaporation — a key but easy-to-miss step — is essential.

I’ve found that wide, slope-sided skillets cook risotto too quickly. Their shape encourages rapid evaporation, which means the rice is dry and often overcooked. Many people favor cooking risotto in a sauce or soup pot because it slows evaporation, but I’ve found this can often lead to soupy, undercooked risotto.

But a heavy-bottomed, straight-sided skillet — something in the 10- to 12-inch range — is ideal for cooking risotto. It’s just the right size for making enough risotto to serve four to six people with excellent results. Here’s why.

It’s faster.

The short sides of this pan help with faster evaporation of the cooking liquid, but at a rate that doesn’t encourage overcooking. The shape also makes the maneuver of adding the warmed broth more efficient. Coupled with the even heating of a heavy bottom, this pan also accelerates the cook time.

It’s creamier.

The shallow depth and wide surface area also means that the broth is evaporating at about the same rate that the rice is cooking, leaving behind a concentration of starch that yields a creamier risotto.

It’s more accessible.

Most home kitchens have a straight-sided wide skillet. Some might be 10-inch, or nonstick, or even cast iron, but this pan is incredibly common (meaning you have every opportunity to cook risotto regularly).

Sometimes equipment can be a hinderance — making a technique-driven recipe like risotto feel corralled to a particular utensil — but the truth is you just need a wide skillet to make a good, basic risotto. Try cooking your risotto in your widest skillet and see how much more creamy it becomes in less time.

Even cast iron works!

A cast iron skillet certainly works if that is the widest straight-sided skillet you have, but a light-colored pan will help you keep on eye on aromatics as you build the risotto.

Do you have a favorite pan to make risotto in? Are you Dutch oven fan? Can’t get enough of the Instant Pot? Share your favorite pan in the comments and tell us why you love it.