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Every Kitchen Deserves a Saucepan

They might just be the most versatile tool at your disposal.

By Rachel Robey
Jul 18, 2022
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Saucepans are among the most common styles of Cookware, used daily by home cooks and professional chefs alike. They’re immediately recognizable for their small circumference, tall and straight edges, long handle, and tight fitting lid. Their design is best suited for tasks like simmering, boiling, and reducing liquids and sauces. However, the same can be said for Sauciers, Rondeaus, and Stock Pots, making it difficult to decide what pan to use and when.

Here, we’ll outline the design, uses, and construction of saucepans, and why no kitchen—or Cookware Set, for that matter—is complete without one.

What Is a Saucepan?

A saucepan is a piece of cookware with a flat, circular base, tall and straight sides, an extended handle similar to that of a Frying Pan, and come in a range of sizes (though usually between 2-4 quarts). Generally, saucepans are made from metal and will be deeper than they are wide, which increases their total capacity and ensures rapid, even heating of the contents. They come with a tight fitting lid and may or may not be Non Stick.

Premium saucepans are commonly constructed from Stainless Steel due to its ability to withstand high heat, conduct it evenly, and retain it efficiently. When choosing the right stainless steel cookware for your kitchen, make sure you’re looking at cladded options made from premium raw materials.

What Is a Saucepan Used For?

Saucepans are most frequently used to make and reduce sauces, but they can also be used for small-batch braising, confit, rice, and deep frying, depending on the quantity or yield of your recipe. Our 2 quart saucepan is ideal for single or small servings, while our 4 quart saucepan would be preferable for a family-style meal.

  • Sauces: A saucepan is great for making sauces both sweet and savory. This is because the tall edges allow for water to evaporate, thickening and concentrating the reduction. No matter what sauce you’re making—tomato, béchamel, velouté, hollandaise, or even a custardy crème pâtissière—a saucepan will never lead you astray.

  • Confit: The most famous type of confit begins with duck cooked low and slow in its own rendered fat. In addition to being deliciously luxurious, it’s a method of preservation. Increasingly, it’s become common to confit garlic, tomatoes, and other vegetables, usually in olive oil. However, you can also confit fruit in a sugar syrup. Whatever you choose to confit, a saucepan is the perfect vessel due to its depth. To properly confit, you want to fully submerge the ingredients in fat or liquid. Think of it like deep frying, but at a bare simmer.

  • Rice (and other grains): There are a million ways to make it and everyone has their own preferred method, but a saucepan with a tight fitting lid can reliably get you to fluffy rice, farro, barley, and more. Of course, it’s also great for things like risotto, which must be built more slowly and stirred constantly.

How Does a Saucepan Differ From Other Pans?

A saucepan’s primary distinguishing feature is its size. They are, on average, much smaller than other types of Cookware. Their limited capacity and tall profiles are the only things that would prevent you from using them as you might use a saute pan, a saucier, or a stock pot. For small recipes, they’re extremely utilitarian and can often be interchangeable with other pots and pans. While it might not always be the ideal choice for things like pan-frying or searing, a saucepan is generally able to do almost everything  a saute pan, stock pot, or saucier can do.

Saucepan vs. Stock Pot

In many ways, a saucepan is simply a scaled down version of a stock pot. Both have a circular base, straight edges, and are deeper than they are wide, all to facilitate the simmering of soups, stews, stocks, and broths. However, stock pots are typically intended for much larger volumes of liquid, generally from around 6 quarts to 12 quarts.

Additionally, where a saucepan typically has one elongated handle, a stock pot has two small looped handles on either side to make carrying and transporting easier. Both saucepans and stock pots have tight fitting lids with a handle on top, and can be made of the same materials: stainless steel, aluminum, Copper, or enameled. It’s more common to find non stick saucepans than a non stick stock pot.

Saucepan vs. Saute Pan

Aesthetically, saucepans and saute pans are remarkably similar. They both have a round circular base, tall straight sides, and a long handle. Both come with a lid, and are similar in terms of maximum capacity (between 2-4 quarts). However, where a saucepan is taller than it is wide, a saute pan is wider than it is tall. For example, our 4 quart saucepan has a  cooking surface diameter of 7.5” and a depth of 5”, while our 3.5 quart saute pan has a cooking surface diameter of 9.5” and a depth of 2.5”.

In practice, this makes our saute pan better suited to pan-frying, searing, and sauteing than a saucepan, as its shallower depth allows liquids to evaporate more easily, while the saucepan is better suited to simmering and reducing sauces and gravies.

Saucepan vs. Saucier

The venn diagram comparing saucepans vs. sauciers is a near perfect circle. The primary difference between the two is that the saucepan is much more ubiquitous in home kitchens, while the saucier tends to fly under the radar. Additionally, the saucier has rounded, sloping edges that soften the transition from base to walls. The benefit of this is that it makes whisking and stirring sauces easier, as there are no nooks, crannies, or corners that your utensil can’t reach. No more stuck, burnt, or unincorporated edges.

Saucepans tend to be slightly taller and narrower in profile, which gives them the edge when it comes to reducing and simmering sauces. They’re more or less on par with sauciers in terms of capacity, but may run slightly smaller. Compared to our 2 and 4 quart saucepans, we offer 2, 3, and 5 quart sauciers.

Saucepan vs. Frying Pan

Like saucepans, frying pans are absolutely fundamental for any home cook, and among the most commonly recognizable types of cookware. Between the two you can do just about anything, which is why they’re usually paired in barebones starter cookware sets. A saucepan will reliably take care of most small-scale simmering and boiling needs, while a frying pan can handle most of your pan-frying, sauteing, and searing.

Unlike a saucepan, a frying pan is wider than it is tall, has sloping sides, and does not come with a lid. With a frying pan, the goal is usually to encourage ingredients to cook through, take on color, and undergo the Maillard reaction (a lid would trap steam and inhibit this in particular). Liquid may be used for deglazing a frying pan, but it’s not usually the primary ingredient. Conversely, a saucepan is designed to circulate heat evenly through liquid.

Do I Need a Saucepan?

Simply put: yes. It’s the most basic piece of cooking equipment available, and without one your culinary options are going to be extremely limited. On the other hand, a good saucepan will allow you to experiment with all manner of soups, stews, curries, sauces, pastas, grains, glazes, jams, gravies, mashed potatoes, even quick pickles. There’s a reason every starter cookware set includes a saucepan, why every Airbnb has at least one saucepan, and why campers will often bring just one small saucepan: they might just be the most versatile tool at your disposal.

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Now that you have a thorough understanding of what a saucepan is, how it differs from other types of cookware, and why it’s integral to a well-stocked kitchen, you’re ready to upgrade your kitchen. Whether you prefer non stick, stainless clad, or copper, we have something suited to the way you like to cook, plus tons of recipes to get you started.

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