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Saute Pan vs. Saucepan: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to confuse these two kitchen staples. We break down the differences below.

By Sasha Weilbaker
Mar 30, 2023
sauce vs saute pan on stove
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With so many materials, sizes, and shapes available, it’s easy to confuse different styles of cookware—and how each one is unique. Two kitchen staples—saute pans and saucepans—are no different. Many confuse the two because of their similar names, sizes, and overlap in functionality. W’re here to provide some clarity.

Below, our team dives into the similarities, differences, and uses of each tool.

What Is a Saute Pan?

saute pan on stove

With a large base and vertical edges, saute pans are staples in professional and home kitchens due to their incredible versatility and ease of use. They’re similar in shape to a frying pan, but with a larger volume, perpendicular sides, slightly more depth, and (usually) a lid.

Saute pans are typically available in a variety of different sizes and materials, including stainless clad and non stick varieties.

When to Use a Saute Pan

Saute pans are renowned for their functionality in the kitchen for a wide range of techniques, like shallow-frying green tomatoes, searing skin-on-fish, and (as the name suggests) sautéing vegetables for ratatouille. Saute pans are ideal for large-batch cooking and building flavor early on in liquid-based dishes like soup, chili, and braises.

An oven-safe saute pan (something we think is an essential for this shape) unlocks a range of stovetop and oven meals. The Stainless Clad Saute Pan from Made In, which is safe up to 800F, is the perfect foundation for slow braises, long roasts, and everything in between.

What Is a Saucepan?

saucepan on stove

Saucepans feature high, straight walls, a narrow body, and flat bottom that is the ideal tool for any variety of liquid cooking, like building a black bean garlic sauce, poaching eggs, making rice pudding, or even quick pickling.

Saucepans are constructed from a variety of materials, including stainless steel, copper, and non stick. The material that’s best for your kitchen depends on the type of stovetop you have, personal preference, and the amount of effort you’re willing to put into maintenance.

When to Use a Saucepan

Saucepans are best used while cooking liquids because of their ability to heat evenly and handle large volumes. Therefore, the pan is commonly used for boiling water, making soups, assembling sauces, and concocting warm, hearty stews. Their higher walls slow the rate of evaporation, so they’re a great choice for dishes intended to be saucy.

Additionally, because of their versatility, even heat, and overall depth, saucepans are a great choice when reheating leftovers for next-day eats.

Which Should Be In Your Kitchen?

stainless steel cookware

We like to think about saute pans and saucepans as teammates rather than competitors. The distinct shapes of each tool set them and their ideal uses apart—saucepans hold volume upward, while saute pans hold volume outward. This makes saucepans better for entirely liquid-based cooking (like sauces) since it’s heated on all sides, while saute pans are better for quickly searing and sautéeing.

The two pieces often work in tandem to create popular dishes, such as Shrimp Pad Thai or Chicken and Sausage Gumbo—therefore, we recommend having both tools at your disposal.

Ready to Cook?

While saucepans and saute pans have similar functions, each tool is shaped slightly differently to accomplish unique tasks while cooking. If you’re looking to replace or add either piece to your kitchen, we recommend taking a look at our award-winning Stainless Clad and Non Stick Saute Pans and Saucepans to outfit your kitchen with wildly versatile and responsive cookware.

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