Best Au Gratin Pans

Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for Best au gratin pans

Potatoes au gratin is one of those dishes that transcends typical home cooking. From the creamy cheese sauce to the brown, crispy breadcrumb topping, this dish is both delicious and, let’s face it, pretty awe-inspiring when you bring it steaming hot to the table. It’s also easy to pull together if you have the right equipment. One item you definitely need to create this iconic French dish is an au gratin pan. 

These shallow oval pans are perfectly designed to cook any au gratin dish to perfection. More than that, they can also be used for casseroles, cobblers, roast meats, and as elegant serving dishes.

While there aren’t a lot of features associated with an au gratin pan, you still have a number of considerations when shopping for one. This buying guide examines everything from pan size and temperature tolerance to materials and price. We also offer up a variety of our own top picks, those au gratin pans we feel are some of the highest quality or best bargains currently on the market.

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Au gratin pans are typically oval, but you can find some that are round or rectangular.

Key considerations

Capacity

Au gratin pans come in a range of sizes. Before purchasing one, you should have an idea of what size you need. Are you cooking for just yourself or a few people? Will you be using the pan frequently to cook for larger groups?

While you can find pans that indicate their capacity in ounces, au gratin pans usually indicate what they hold in quarts (a quart equals 32 ounces). Au gratin pans range from 1 quart to 3 quarts and more.

You won’t find many choices in terms of depth, however. These pans are typically no more than 1.5 to 2 inches deep. A shallower pan helps produce a crisper crust.

Temperature range

Regardless of the type of au gratin pan you purchase, it should be able to handle some pretty high temperatures. These pans are usually rated for up to 500°F or even 600°F, depending on the pan. If you need to cook something at 600°F, be sure your pan is up to the task.

It’s a given that au gratin pans can be used in the oven, but you can use some of them in other ways too. They can be used under a broiler because that’s an integral part of the au gratin cooking process. Some are also safe for use in the microwave, on the stovetop, and even in the freezer. The more ways you can use your au gratin pan, the more you’ll be able to do with it in your kitchen. However, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations before using your au gratin pan in anything other than an oven.

Sets

Most au gratin pans are sold individually; however, some come in sets of two, four, or even more pans. While sets are more expensive, having several au gratin pans provides you with more options in terms of cooking more dishes at once as well as choosing the proper size pan for the group you’re serving.

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Did You Know?
The au gratin cooking method originated in France, where the term translates to “by grating.”
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Features

Design

While all au gratin pans are intended to go from oven to table, some are more elegant than others, making them great serving dishes when you’re entertaining guests. The material an au gratin pan is made of usually determines how it will look sitting on your dining room table. Materials range from the elegant silvery finish of stainless steel to the earthier stoneware pan. Some glazed ceramic au gratin pans come in a choice of colors so you can match it to your dining room’s color or the pattern of your dinnerware or other serving pieces.

Materials

Au gratin pans are made of a variety of materials, but three, in particular, are the most common: stainless steel, ceramic, and cast iron.

Stainless steel: As mentioned above, the shine of stainless steel is attractive in a formal setting. Stainless steel is also extremely durable and long-lasting. If you opt for a stainless steel au gratin pan, consider choosing one with three-ply construction. These pans include a layer of another metal, such as aluminum, sandwiched between layers of stainless steel, which improves heat conduction and promotes more even cooking.

Ceramic: Ceramic pans, including stoneware and porcelain, are all made from kiln-fired clay. While these are a more traditional option for au gratin pans, they’re also less durable than stainless steel and can chip or even break.

Cast iron: If you’re searching for a nearly indestructible au gratin pan, consider choosing a cast-iron one. While cast-iron pans both conduct and retain heat effectively, they’re much heavier than stainless steel or ceramic pans and can rust if not cared for properly.

Handles

Handles are standard on au gratin pans, usually located on each end to easily carry the pan from kitchen to table. Some are made as part of the pan (ceramic), while others are riveted to it (stainless steel). Some are loops, while others are scalloped tabs with a grippy texture. A few au gratin pans don’t have handles at all. Whatever their shape, the handles should be large enough to comfortably hold and rugged enough to hold up through frequent use.

An attractive au gratin pan can also be used as an eye-catching serving dish for all kinds of food.

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Au gratin pan prices

Inexpensive: Au gratin pans start at around $10 to $20. In this price range, you can find smaller pans of usually a quart or less. These are largely ceramic pans, although some less durable and smaller stainless steel pans are also in this range. These au gratin pans tend to be more utilitarian than elegant.

Mid-range: In the $20 to $30 range, au gratin pans are larger, many with a capacity of up to 2 quarts. Both ceramic and stainless steel are common here. Some au gratin pans in this range come in a set of two or three pans, which can be used to cook several foods or as a group of matching serving dishes.

Expensive: If you’re cooking for a crowd or searching for a more elegant au gratin pan, you’ll spend $30 to $50 and more. Many of these pans have a capacity of 3 quarts or more. They tend to be more stylish and more durable: cast iron au gratin pans are in this price range. You can also find sets of four or more pans here.

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Did You Know?
Some au gratin pans can be used in the microwave, which provides you with an easy way to store cooked foods and reheat them later.
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Tips

  • Look for a pan with copper. While uncommon, some stainless steel au gratin pans include a layer of copper on the bottom. This not only adds to the overall appearance of the pan but also helps conduct heat to cook more consistently in a shorter amount of time.
  • Match your pan to other cookware. If you’re seeking to coordinate your cookware, search for an au gratin pan made by a company that makes a variety of products with a similar design.
  • Check the temperature tolerance of the pan. Traditional potatoes au gratin is baked in the oven and finished under the broiler for a crisp, brown crust. If you want to make the traditional recipe, be sure to pick up an au gratin pan that’s designed to work under the broiler.
  • Check for a warranty. One sure sign of quality in an au gratin pan is a lifetime warranty. It’s an excellent way to protect your investment for years to come.
  • Don’t forget the oven mitts. The handles of an au gratin pan are convenient for moving the pan from broiler to table, but they are also hot. Be sure to always wear oven mitts or gloves when moving your hot au gratin pan.
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While stoneware and porcelain are made in much the same way, porcelain is created from more refined clay and is more durable.

FAQ

Q. Does food stick to these pans?

A. That depends on the pan. Some ceramic pans are glazed, which helps keep food from sticking. Some stainless steel pans are also designed with a stick-resistant surface. And while uncommon, some au gratin pans have a nonstick interior like that found in other types of nonstick cookware. Regardless of the surface, your best strategy to limit sticking is to prep the interior of the pan by greasing it with butter or oil.

Q. Are au gratin pans dishwasher safe?

A. Most of these pans can be safely cleaned in the dishwasher, but definitely check the manufacturer’s care instructions before you clean the pan for the first time. If the manufacturer recommends that you clean the pan by hand, you’ll have a much easier time of it if you first soak the pan in warm water to loosen any cooked-on food.

Q. Does an au gratin pan come with a lid?

A. Au gratin pans traditionally do not include a lid, but you might be able to find one that does. For foods that are cooked au gratin style, you want the liquids to evaporate, which helps to create that classic crust that distinguishes these foods. Covering the pan would keep the liquids from cooking off.

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