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What Is a Saucepan and What Does It Look Like?

A saucepan is a staple of kitchens the world over, but it's not immediately clear how to differentiate between a saucepan, saucier, stock pot, sauté pan, and all the other pots and pans. In this article, we'll discuss what a saucepan is, what a saucepan is used for, and what a saucepan looks like. Let's get cooking!
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Here's what a saucepan is...

A saucepan is a piece of cookware that's typically circular and metal with high sides and a long handle. Saucepans' high sides serve two purposes. The first (and obvious) purpose is that these high walls allow for more food and drink to fit inside the saucepan. The second, less obvious purpose is that they give the saucepan a larger surface area, which — when paired with their smaller base — means saucepans can more evenly heat their contents by surrounding them on all sides. Saucepans are taller relative to their width than, say, a stock pot for this exact reason.

Saucepans are typically associated with the creation and reduction of sauces — hence the name — but also excel at braising, deep frying, and boiling water due to their depth.

The most popular cookware material for saucepans is stainless steel. Stainless steel cookware is used by professional chefs and home cooks alike because it can handle the high heat necessary for many recipes, has spectacular heat retention, conductivity, and evenness, and is easy to clean (stainless steel is dishwasher safe, though a hand-washing with a cleaner like Made In's stainless steel cookware cleaner is recommended).

To get a clearer picture of what a saucepan (also stylized as sauce pan) is, let's compare saucepans to similar pieces of cookware.

Saucepan vs. Saucier - These two are very similar, with the key difference being that sauciers have a rounded bottom for ease of whisking and cooking grains (coming at the expense of additional contact with the burner).

Saucepan vs. Stock Pot - Stock pots are built for long simmers, which is why they typically have larger widths than saucepans — when you're going to stay at the same temperature for a long time, the evenness of your heating doesn't matter as much. That's not to say a sauce pan with lid can't simmer as well as a stock pot; just that stock pots aren't as good for sauce-based dishes and saucepans typically have less volume than stock pots.

Saucepan vs. Saute Pan - A saute pan is somewhat of a combination between a saucepan and a frying pan. Saute pans have larger bases, which make sauteing and searing easier than they are in a saucepan. Saucepans' high walls make them superior at making larger batches of sauce, cooking grains, and boiling water. One way of looking at the relationship between a saucepan, saute pan, and stock pot: cook pasta in your stock pot, make the pasta sauce in your saucepan, and finish the pasta dish in the saute pan (nonstick pans also work well here).

Now it's time to talk saucepan uses! Saucepans are one of the most versatile pans there is. First off, they can make sauces of all kinds with ease! This includes the 5 French mother sauces, BBQ sauces (like Kansas City BBQ sauce), and pasta sauces (if the saucepan is made of a nonreactive metal like stainless steel, which can handle acidic foods like tomato sauce and citrus with zero issues whatsoever unlike uncoated cast iron).

Furthermore, saucepans are incredible vessels in which to boil water for your French press, pourover, or steep. An oven safe saucepan (like Made In's line of saucepans)? It makes a great all-in-one pan for braising. Ever make beans from scratch? If so, a saucepan is soon to be your new best friend. Tarte filling, hot cocoa, even scrambled eggs — the list of saucepan uses goes on!

2 qt saucepan on burner

And here's what a saucepan looks like:

As noted above, saucepans are typically circular and metal with high sides and a long handle. Some have the addition of a helper handle, and others come with a metal or glass lid. Some come fully loaded with all those things, and some are even square or rectangular! Saucepans come in many shapes and sizes to fit the various needs of saucepan users.

Those crafting a pasta sauce from scratch or planning to braise will want a larger, nonreactive saucepan like a 4 QT stainless steel saucepan. Premium saucepans with this extended volume oftentimes feature a helper handle in addition to a stay cool long handle. This makes them easier to move around your kitchen and manipulate on your stove when full and heavy. A lid is oftentimes included as well to accomplish such tasks as preventing evaporation, retaining heat, and creating a steam environment. Here's an example of what a 4 QT saucepan looks like:

made in 4 qt saucepan on white background

Made In 4 QT Saucepan

Smaller saucepans, like a 2 QT saucepan, are popular with those who make small batch sauces (such as marinade reductions), boil small batches of water, or prefer to make their grains on the burner. Because they don't tend to get as heavy as larger saucepans, smaller premium saucepans typically don't feature a helper handle (while still boasting a stay cool long handle and lid). Here's an example of what a 2 QT saucepan looks like:

made in 2 qt saucepan on white background

Made In 2 QT Saucepan

There are plenty of other saucepan sizes — from 7+ QT down to 3/4 QT (like Made In's unique, chef-inspired Butter Warmer!) — to fit whatever your saucepan needs may be. Convinced that a saucepan is for you? Check out our award-winning selection of 4 QT Saucepans and 2 QT Saucepans now.

Want some more information before you buy? Our industry-leading customer service team knows cookware can be confusing and looks forward to addressing any questions you have.

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