Published January 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Would an inexpensive universal lid do just as well as a pricey matching cover?
Many skillets—including our favorite stainless fry pans—come without lids, but shelling out for the pricey matching covers to each individual pan seems like a waste of money. We wondered if an inexpensive universal lid would do just as well; most models sport grooved rings ranging from 8 to 12 inches in diameter and claim to fit a variety of standard-sized pans. To see for ourselves, we prepared French omelets, rice pilaf, and braised vegetables—all of which require a tight-fitting lid—in our favorite All-Clad 8-, 10-, and 12-inch skillets and 4-quart saucepan, covering each vessel with 4 different universal lids and its All-Clad counterpart.
Unfortunately, none of the lids was a one-size-fits-all solution; too wide for an 8-inch skillet and the saucepan, each model sat on the handle and left a sizable gap between the lid and the lip of the bowl. But most of the lids fit snugly on larger skillets, the better models featuring a well-designed steam vent that released enough moisture to prevent steam pressure from building up and rattling the covers but not so much that the foods emerged undercooked. (Lids with no vent were actually lifted from the pot by steam.) Our favorite featured a small adjustable vent that helped it stay put on both the 10- and 12-inch skillets. In fact, it even kept more liquid from evaporating than the All-Clad lids themselves—and at a fraction of the price.