What is a saucepan?

The ultimate kitchen utility player. Learn more about why.

What is a saucepan?

A saucepan is a type of cookware with a flat, circular bottom, tall, vertical sidewalls, and an extended handle, similar to that of a skillet. A saucepan is technically a pan, not a pot - but it is deeper than a skillet and sauté pan, yet not as deep as a pot. Its depth and tall, vertical sidewalls make a saucepan ideal for cooking liquids and liquid cooking techniques (which is why a saucepan is sized by volume, typically between 2 and 4 quarts). 

Saucepans usually come with a lid to keep heat inside, which is often necessary for the cooking tasks best suited for saucepans. And while saucepans are made with a wide range of materials, we like saucepans that are manufactured using a 5-ply stainless steel construction, which results in a durable pan that distributes heat effectively

How should I use a saucepan?

Often overlooked by home cooks and frequently confused for a pot, a saucepan is a key component of any well-outfitted kitchen. While not as talked-about as cookware workhorses like skillets and sauté pans, saucepans tackle a wide variety of tasks in the kitchen and play an important supporting role in most meal-time productions. 

Saucepan Sardel

Here is how you can use a saucepan:

  • Cooking sauces, soups, gravies, and more: As its name suggests, one of the most common uses of a saucepan is making sauces. The tall, vertical sidewalls make it perfect for holding liquids, while also allowing a sauce to reduce and concentrate its flavor. But for these same reasons, a saucepan is perfect for almost any task that requires heating or cooking with a small amount of liquid.
  • Boiling liquids: A saucepan is perfect for making foods that need to be cooked in a small amount of boiling water, such as rice, grains, and smaller cuts of pasta. It’s the perfect tool for whipping up everything from side dishes of white or brown rice to stovetop mac and cheese.
  • Blanching Vegetables: Blanching is a great way to add flavor and preserve the vibrant color of cooked vegetables. The technique involves cooking an ingredient (like a vegetable) quickly in salted water and then immediately stopping the cooking process by transferring the ingredient to an ice bath. A saucepan is a great tool for this technique, particularly for smaller cuts of vegetables.
  • Poaching: Poaching is a cooking technique that involves cooking an ingredient in a liquid that is heated just below its simmering point. It’s a moist-heat method of cooking that uses a relatively low temperature (for similar reasons, a saucepan is great for confits). As with most liquid cooking methods, reaching for a saucepan is a good choice.
  • Reheating liquids: Have leftover soup in the fridge that you need to reheat? Look no further than a saucepan. 
  • How does a saucepan differ from other pots and pans?

    Saucepans differ from your other types of cookware in several important ways.

    For instance, while a saucepan is in some ways just a smaller variety of a pot, there are important differences between a saucepan and your typical stockpot. A saucepan has a long extended handle - like a skillet or sauté pan - whereas a pot typically has two looped handles on opposite sides. This is because a pot is used to heat much larger amounts of liquid than a saucepan, and therefore a pot needs handles that are easier to manage when transferring a larger, heavier load. Saucepans are designed for less volume-intensive liquid cooking methods, and because they’re frequently used to make sauces, the longer extended handle is more appropriate for cooking techniques that require frequent, fast-paced stirring. 

    A saucepan is also quite different from a skillet and a sauté pan. Skillets and sauté pans are much wider and shallower than saucepans, which make them better suited for searing, sautéing, braising, and pan roasting. And while a sauté pan, has vertical sidewalls just like a saucepan, it’s too shallow for many of the liquid-focused cooking methods that are more appropriate for a saucepan.


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