No, it is not the same thing as a frying pan. Here’s why you need one.
A saute pan, or a pan with a large surface area, straight sides, and a helper handle, is an staple in any kitchen. Much like the relationship between a chef and their knives, the relationship between a chef and their pans is sacred. After all, the right or wrong pan can make or break a dish, so knowing which pan to use and when is considered fundamental in a chef’s education.
But because not everyone goes to culinary school, we’re walking you through basic techniques and tools of the trade, starting with the humble saute pan.
Typically used for sautéing, saute pans excel at the stovetop cooking technique derived from a French tradition in which ingredients are cooked in a small amount of fat over moderate heat.
A traditional saute pan has a large surface area and relatively low walls to encourage browning. Typically, walls are straight rather than sloped, as in a frying pan. Our Saute Pan is similar to our Rondeau Pan, albeit slightly smaller and squatter, with a long handle to facilitate the wrist flicking movement associated with sautéing (more on that later).
Thanks to its intentionally large surface area, a saute pan is ideal for dishes that require large quantities of ingredients, building flavor early on for soups and stews, or making sauce-based dishes and braises.
While saute pans excel at (as their name suggests) sautéing, these versatile cookware staples can be used for so much more. Here are some of our favorite uses.
Once you have a saute pan handy, the method is easy to pick up. By following these tips, you can successfully sauté anything.
While the differences between a saute pan, a rondeau, a frying pan, and even a saucepan may seem slight, the results that you’ll get from using one versus another will drastically affect the outcome of your dish. Here’s how a Saute Pan compares to other types of Cookware lurking in your cabinet:
Initially, saute pans and skillets (or frying pans) may seem interchangeable, and in a side-by-side comparison they usually are. You can fry in a saute pan and vice versa, but if you’ve ever had to stir a saucy dish in a skillet barely capable of containing the recipe’s full volume, you know that what’s possible and what’s pleasant is not always the same thing.
The saute pan has higher vertical walls and a larger overall capacity, making it better suited for braises, stews, and the like. For this reason, it also comes with a lid, allowing you to trap moisture and heat or prevent liquids from reducing too far.
On the other hand, a skillet’s sloped sides, flat bottom, and shallower depth is better suited to quick cooking methods like searing steak or frying eggs. They don’t come with lids, and are generally sold in different diameters (ours come in 8”, 10”, and 12”) to suit a variety of tasks from toasting nuts to making omelets to batch cooking shakshuka.
Like frying pans, saucepans typically come in a multitude of sizes to accommodate a multitude of purposes. Because they are geared primarily toward sauces, they have tall, straight sides to make reducing large volumes of liquid easier. Our saucepans are around twice as deep as our saute pan, and are perfect for gravies, reductions, and the odd instant ramen fix. Conversely, the saute pan caters to dishes that are saucy by nature: pastas, braised proteins and vegetables, curries, brothy beans, and so on.
Both have a long handle to make movement around the stove easier, but the saute pan also includes a smaller, U-shaped handle opposite, which makes transferring the pan from stove to oven to table much easier. For a more thorough breakdown of the difference between saute pans and saucepans, check out our guide.
Of all the cookware comparisons, the saute pan and wok might be the most distinct. As covered previously, the saute pan has a wide base to maximize surface area, shallow straight-edged walls to increase its capacity, and a lid to cover it as needed.
The wok, on the other hand, is constructed with a small flat bottom and tall, sloping sides. Traditionally, woks have curved bottoms that fit into specific wok burners, but we designed our wok to be functional for home cooks and added a flat bottom.
Technique is another place where they differ. While most commonly associated with stir-fries, woks can be used for a multitude of purposes, from blanching to deep frying to indoor smoking. Saute pans are equally versatile, and probably a bit more approachable for the average home cook, but they are mostly used for their namesake cooking method.
Because it’s a rather niche French piece of equipment, there’s a high probability that this is the first time you’re encountering the word “sauteuse.” Like a saute pan, a sauteuse features a wide base and tall sides, but they’re often made from enameled cast iron, similar to a Dutch Oven. In fact, from a strictly aesthetic point of view, they most closely resemble a Dutch oven, with colorful enameled exterior, dual handles, and a tight-fitting lid.
Unlike both saute pans and Dutch ovens, a sauteuse’s sides slope outward. Depth-wise, however, they sit somewhere between both. And as far as functionality is concerned, they’re generally considered just about as versatile as either, equally suited to braising, boiling, and definitely for one-pot meals.
A saute pan is generally considered to be an essential piece of cookware, and satisfies a specific gap many home cooks have when cooking dishes like dirty rice, braised meats, or pasta sauces. These large, versatile pans may not be reached for as often as a frying pan, but are excellently suited for the task at hand when they’re needed.
With any luck, this covers everything (and then some) you wanted to know about saute pans, from what they are to how they’re used. And if you’re someone who consistently uses a frying pan when the recipe specifically calls for a saute pan, hopefully this gives you the push you need to round out your cookware collection and get yourself the full suite of tools your cooking deserves.
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