Ask Unclutterer: Storing pan lids

Reader Kate submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Cookware lids are a pain in the neck! With limited drawer and cabinet space I am forced to store my pots and pans one within the other – which leaves the lids to fend for themselves. They are big in diameter and the handle makes them awkward in shape – so my only solution this far has been to throw them in a drawer like a messy bunch of Frisbees. I’d love to hear if have a solution.

Since you have a drawer that is large enough for your lids, you’re only a few steps away from an organized solution.

Grab your largest and smallest lids, and head to your local office supply store. For less than $10, you should be able to find a file organizer that you can repurpose for lids. Just make sure that the specific organizer you choose works with your lids, which is why you’ll want your smallest and largest lids with you. Put the file organizer in your drawer and then vertically drop in all of your lids.

There are also organizers made specifically for lids, but I think they’re they exact same thing as what you get in office supply stores.

If you didn’t have a drawer, I’d recommend an organizer that attaches to the back of a cabinet door. This way, you don’t have to sacrifice horizontal storage space for items that can easily be stored vertically.

How do others store pan lids in kitchen cupboards and drawers? Give Kate even more ideas to choose from in the comments.

Thank you, Kate, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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40 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Storing pan lids”

  1. posted by Krisha on

    erin, my image of a drawer full of pot and pan lids wouldn’t accommodate the file organizer solution. i see them being place horizontally atop one another, which would be far shallower than the organizer, let alone the largest lid.

  2. posted by Sara on

    Ugh, lids! I hate them!

    Being a college student, I have a bunch of pots I’ve collected, but they aren’t a nice matching set. So I have some with huge handles, some that are very domed… it’s really difficult to store the pots themselves really, let alone the lids!

    Unfortunately my ‘elegant’ solution as of right now is that they just live on top of my stove. I am permanently -2 burners because they have pot lids stacked on top of them for easy access… and I hate it!

    I will look into trying something new, but I have a feeling some of my lids are too big for a folder organizer.

    Someday, I would like to just buy a set of pots that match, so not only will I not have a dozen different sizes and shapes of pots, but I will only have 3 or 4 pots total. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive πŸ™

  3. posted by Morfydd on

    I’m not shilling for IKEA, I swear, but the Rationell Variera costs three dollars. Three dollars!

    And you can mount it on a wall or inside a cabinet, or even horizontally.

    I love mine – 9/10ths of my kitchen storage is an expensive (non-IKEA) hanging system, and the Variera looks perfectly nice next to it.

  4. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Morfydd — I forgot about the Ikea options. They’re great, too! Thanks for the reminder!!

    @Krisha — If that is the case, then the vertical ones are a great way to go!

  5. posted by Molly on

    We actually store our pots and pans with their lids on them. They’re on display. Altogether, our collection lives on a small bookshelf in our living room – our kitchen is very small, and the pots and pans are very nice!

  6. posted by Vicki K. on

    My pots are stored on one of those pull out tray/drawers and I like my lids to be nearby, so I found a plastic rectangular storage container in which to “file” the lids. The box sits on the same tray as the pots for easy access and contains all my lids. It seems like having the right sized container is key.

  7. posted by JoDi on

    I use a mesh plastic basket like this one (but a little smaller) and stand the lids vertically in it.

    You can get them in whatever size you need to fit your largest lid. I bought mine at Walmart.

  8. posted by Ruth M on

    My husband bought a vertical plate hanger that perfectly fits my 5 Rachael Ray lids with the big orange handles. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it is very handy.

  9. posted by JoDi on

    The link didn’t make it into my comment for some reason. Let’s try again:;sku=17039

    The website is stacksandstacks dot com in case the link doesn’t show up again. Search for mesh baskets.

  10. posted by anon on

    I have a hanging pot rack. The lids hang on hooks on it.

  11. posted by Lola on

    I have a rack very similar to the Rationell Variera lid rack Morfydd mentioned, except it’s a little shorter/more compact. I think I got it at Bed Bath & Beyond, but can’t find it on their web site, so who knows. I have it mounted inside the door of the cabinet where I keep my pots and pans, but you can also hang it on the outside of a cabinet, or the wall, or wherever.

  12. posted by Karolina on

    If you only stack your pots two-deep (one inside another, but not three or more), it might work to put the smaller pot’s lid on the smaller pot but upside down, so the handle is pointing downwards, and then put the larger pot’s lid over that. This should work regardless of whether the smaller pot is taller or shorter than the larger pot.

  13. posted by Celeste on

    I currently use the under-stove drawer for the lids because mine are all different and don’t stack.

    Two things I’ve done in a tight kitchen are to use the top of kitchen cabinets (if available) to stack baking pans and tins, and to store what I can in the microwave or regular ovens. The two pitfalls here are that you have to empty either one before use (meaning you need to find someplace else to set these items during that time) and that you need to ensure that nobody preheats the oven while stored items are in it (since it’s much harder to find storage space for a hot metal item as it cools, and some lid components may not be oven safe). But if you live alone and are super pressed for space, it’s something to consider.

    Otherwise it might work to have a plastic crate or set of plastic drawers near the entrance to the kitchen, so you essentially create storage space out of the room. It’s inelegant, but it keeps them clean and nearby.

  14. posted by Maggi on

    I do the same thing as Karolina – pots and pans are paired together by size, smaller inside the larger one. The lid of the smaller one is inverted, then I’m basically able to put the lid of the larger one on right side up, and it all stays together. The only issue I have is with my Le Creuset red bell pepper pot – the bulbous shape doesn’t work so well with that method. It stands alone in its vegetable-y glory πŸ™‚

  15. posted by Sheryl on

    This is a very timely post – I’m in the process of “re-structuring” my living room and kitchen by putting the living room furniture down in the family room (we live in a quad-level), moving the table and chairs in the living room and turning it into a dining room, and adding a DIY island to the kitchen.(Making it out of a thrifted buffet that has some great drawers and cubbies.)

    I’ve been thinking long and hard about how/where I’m going to store things like pan lids and baking sheets, so I hope to see some great ideas here that I can use! πŸ™‚

  16. posted by Karen on

    I also use an Ikea lid holder, which I hang on the wall. It’s useful, but actually the lids are kind of pretty. If you have a galley kitchen, the wall at the end of the galley is a good place to hang them. They’re shallow enough that they don’t interfere with opening cabinets or the refrigerator, if it’s up against that wall.

    Another thing I do is to buy standard sized pans as much as possible, so my lids are somewhat interchangeable. I actually take a tape measure and measure before I buy. You don’t necessarily have to use a specific lid with a specific pan – my 12″ lid will fit any standard sized 12″ pan. Sometimes I think pan manufacturers make their pans odd sizes just to make you spend more to get the lid.

  17. posted by Anne on

    I have a corner cupboard with a lazy-susan type of rotating wire rack inside. The shelves are adjustable in height, so I made the top one shallow and throw my lids there. They slide over each other, but the lip keeps them in most of the time. It’s seems sloppy, but is out of sight and works well for us. I imagine you could do this with a pull-out shelf too.

  18. posted by Jaclyn on

    My “real” lid holder has a smaller lip on it than file holders do, so it’s a bit better for small lids. YMMV. I use a specialized vertical baking pan holder too, because the slots are wider (holds muffin tins) and there’s no slope. Either way, getting those items vertical whenever possible helps so much!

  19. posted by Michele on

    One could also consider downsizing the number of pots and pans in the kitchen. For my lidded pans, I get by with a large saucepan with handle, a small saucepan with handle, a large 2-handled stockpot, a large cast-iron pot with a wire bail and a glass lid, and a graniteware water-bath canner.. The stockpot and cast-iron pot are stored in the oven. The two saucepots nest in a cabinet next to the stove. The canner stays on top of the fridge, and I store my canning tools (jar lifter, Foley food mill, thermometer, canning funnel, etc.) inside it.

    For other tasks, I use 2 small cast-iron skillets, 1 large cast-iron skillet, and a cast-iron griddle. And my crepe pan, a unitasker that you can have when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    Honestly and for truth, I find I do not need any more pots and pans than I already have.

  20. posted by Jude on

    I use interconnecting plastic file organizers which can be adjusted to fit the size of the lids. Pots are stored on the wall if they have handles; in cupboards if they don’t. I also have wire shelves where I store the pots beneath the shelf and the corresponding lids above. This summer I’m going to recycle most of the plastic storage containers I own (now that they’re recyclable in my area) because since I’ve never been able to find a lid with my current system, I avoid using them. I’m also going to reduce the number of pots/pans I have.

  21. posted by Bill Burge on

    I have a very large stock pot that I only use when I’m making mass amounts of stock to freeze. So I stack up all my lids in the dead space inside it because the only lid that wouldn’t fit in it, was the lid to the stockpot itself. And I actually pitched that lid because if I ever need one, I just put a sheet pan on top of it.

  22. posted by Misty on

    I hang my pots and pans from the Ikea Grundtal shelving in my laundry room:


    I don’t have it pictured here, but I slide the handles of the lids over the pot/pan handles and hang each lid with its pot or pan. It works very well, except for the stock pot lid, which I put with a frying pan instead. I saw this in a kitchen store and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before!

  23. posted by knitwych on

    If you choose to use a file sorter for lids, I’d recommend against heading to the office supply store! The prices there are always higher than they are at places like Target and Wal-Mart. Check your local thrift store first. I’ve seen sturdy wire or metal sorters in several thrift stores for as little as $3!

    I can testify to the fact that file sorters work great. I just started using one and I no longer have to worry about lids or cookie sheets tumbling out of the cabinet.

  24. posted by Catherine on

    well, if you don’t use more than two pans or so at one time that need lids (and most meals I cook anyway do not require more than that) the best solution I found is to go to your local restaurant supply store and buy a large flat all metal (metal handle too, gets hot but lasts longer than plastic) lid that fits your biggest pot. It will then of course fit ALL your other smaller pots. Buy two, maybe one largest and one medium sized, if you want to get fancy.

    This also allows me to save money buy buying discounted high end pots and pans that may have ended up in the discount store because they lack their companion lid.

  25. posted by Korta on

    My “pot lid” solution is very easy (but might be a bit drastic for most people…I threw them away. The number of times I NEED a pot lid is so minimal that I use a plate the few times I need it. Probably wouldn’t work for most people…but I like it!

  26. posted by sunshine on

    I did a big dejunking session and released my carosel in the corner cupboard. Then I store my saucepans with their lids on in the carosel. It may not be hugely space efficient, but it is very simple to find and put away the saucepans and lids. Cutting down the amount of stuff I had in the first place was the key for me.

  27. posted by Mo on

    I have struggled with a small kitchen too….yuck. I use the ikea plate holder (it is made out of wood) and store lids straight up in it. Works great. I also use it for tupperware lids.

  28. posted by Brandon on

    Great idea with the file organizer!

  29. posted by Susan on

    I pyramid my pots and lids. Place a large pot on the shelf, place inverted large lid on top of it. Place mid-sized pot on lid of large pot, place inverted mid-sized pot lid on top of mid-size pot. Place small pot on mid-sized pot lid, place inverted small size pot lid on small pot. I have two shelves in the pot cupboard but the top shelf is only half the depth of the cupboard. I can just place my stock pot in the back of the cupboard under the top shelf. The pyramidded pots go in the front where they can be stacked as high as I want since there is no upper shelf to contend with. I hope this makes sense.

  30. posted by Cheryl on

    I keep my 1 large simmering lid out and then only 2 others that fit tightly on the pots. There’s never a need for many lids in my house, and a plate works in a pinch if it would ever be needed. When we moved, I just left all the other lids w/ the extra pans in our storage room.

  31. posted by DawnH on

    I use a plastic dish drying rack (it doesn’t have sides) and store all the lids upright. It neatly holds all of them from little to huge.

  32. posted by Another Deb on

    My Saladmaster saucepan lids are able to sit inverted in the pots when they are hanging.

    That works in theory, but they slip out at the angle they hang on my wall. I use an old metal meat loaf pan from the thrift store to file them, which works just fine.

  33. posted by Emily on

    I use a dish drainer to hold my pot lids in what would otherwise be a “dead space” corner.

  34. posted by Mardi on

    Firstly unclutter your pans – I only have two saucepans and two frying pans. Then you can keep the lids on them.

    All right, I lied, I also have a third (extra large) frying pan and two stock pots that I use for bulk freezer cooking but they are used rarely so aren’t kept near the stove where my everyday pans are. Their lids are, however, also kept on them to keep dust out.

  35. posted by Soochi on

    I use a wok for almost everything with its big domed lid that sits on the stove. Also have a stacked steamer with domed cover that lives on a small chest. I have a few other pans in the drawer at the bottom of the stove but seldom use them.

  36. posted by gypsy packer on

    If, and only if, the lid has a deep interior lip, use a carbide drill bit to drill a hole in the lip, then hang the lid from a hook. If you have one lid which fits several pots or skillets (look for this at secondhand stores, new kitchenware stores etc), ditch the duplicates.

  37. posted by Marie on

    We have a pot rack over the island, so even though the cabinet under the stove isn’t big enough for all the pots with their lids, the lids alone fit just fine.

  38. posted by Sheila on

    I go the cheap, cheap, cheap way. I use a sturdy cardboard box and store the lids horizontally in it. I can easily pull it out, much as you would a pullout shelf, to access lids in the back.

  39. posted by Robin on

    I have this:

    A little pricey, but it’s absolutely perfect. I outfitted three bottom cabinets from with Rev-a-shelf drawers and it transformed them from a disorganized wasteland to fantastically organized, usable space. It was about $200, but cheaper than the Ikea kitchen remodel I REALLY want. πŸ˜‰

    I have a pot rack for the pots and pans themselves, so I store round cake pans, pie shields, tart pans, etc. in the other sections.

  40. posted by Robin on


    With the notable exception of the pot rack I don’t like storing things out in the open. It looks cluttered and anything that isn’t used at least weekly gets dusty and then has to be rewashed before use. I prefer having everything tucked away.

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