Workman received a 6-quart stainless steel sauté pan as a wedding gift 16 years ago and has since used it for everything from pancakes to arroz con pollo. It has a wide, flat bottom that may seem huge but is key to giving food space to brown, since ingredients will just steam when packed too closely together. Its straight, fairly high sides (most are about 2 1/2 inches) accommodate liquids, which means you can sear chicken breasts, add stock or tomato sauce, pop the lid on and let the whole thing simmer without worry of it bubbling over; you can also stir a reduction easily and not have it spill out.
Size: 6-quart (13-inch diameter)
Make sure to...buy a pan with a smaller, "grab" handle opposite the long, main handle. Because these pieces can weigh nearly 7 pounds (empty!), you'll probably need to hold on with two hands when putting it in the oven or bringing it to the table. The little handle should be big enough that you can grip it while wearing an oven mitt.
But don't...get a pan that's too big for the burner element it will be used on. While a large pan is undoubtedly useful, if you buy one that's out of proportion with your stove, you'll constantly be moving food so it cooks evenly, and will have trouble fitting two more pots (e.g., for a vegetable and a starch) on the cooktop alongside it. Measure the diameter of one of your stove's grates (or heating elements if you have electric) before you shop, and don't buy a pan that's more than an inch bigger across.
Try this recipe: Chicken Piccata-ed or Plain