The Best Saucepans for the Kitchen

Cooking and steaming sauces, soups, vegetables, and rice is easier with these versatile kitchen basics.

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The Best Saucepan Options

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Saucepans are incredibly versatile tools in the kitchen, though their value often goes under the radar. Though you may not recognize this type of pan by its name, you likely already have one in your cupboard. Saucepans are typically circular and made of metal, with taller sides compared to regular pans, more closely resembling pots. As indicated by their name, saucepans are often used to cook sauces, though they have a range of other applications like boiling rice and vegetables, sauteing, making puddings, soups, and more.

Good quality saucepans are durable, heat quickly and evenly, and cool rapidly. These pans are made for a number of different materials, the most common being durable stainless steel or aluminum for even heating, and ceramic models are also available. Many of these saucepans have firmly riveted handles for added stability and don’t transfer heat to the cook’s hands, as well as a lid for simmering and steaming. The best saucepan for your kitchen depends on your preferred material, the range of recipes you cook, and what quantities you plan on cooking with. If you tend to prepare larger meals with more complex recipes, you’ll likely want to invest in more than one saucepan in various sizes.

Popular Types of Saucepans

Saucepans are made in several different materials. The materials have different properties in terms of heat transfer and distribution, as well as differences in the care and maintenance of the pans, so it is important to consider the materials that best suit your stove top and cooking style.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel saucepans are the most common type available, but they’re not all the same. Stainless steel is easy to scrub clean, will not react with acidic ingredients, and is durable enough to last through years of daily use. Stainless steel also transfers heat quickly, so foods heat up faster. There are some variations here: many stainless steel saucepans on the market today feature an aluminum core, which makes for more even heat transfer and reduces the likelihood of hotspot on the bottom or sides of the pan as a result of uneven burners. Other stainless steel pans have copper bottoms, which also make the heat transfer more evenly. Stainless steel pans are often dishwasher safe, and are suitable for use on electric, flat electric, gas, and induction cooktops.

Aluminum

The most common aluminum saucepans on the market today contain anodized aluminum. Anodizing is a process through which aluminum is placed in a chemical bath to develop an aluminum oxide coating. Electricity is passed through the chemicals, hardening the coating into a solid, permanent layer. Anodized aluminum cookware retains all the benefits of non-anodized aluminum, including excellent thermal transfer and even heat distribution, along with a light weight. The anodization process leaves the cookware with a hard, durable shell that is resistant to scratching and other damage, as well as nonstick properties, although the pans are not fully nonstick. Anodized aluminum saucepans should not be placed in a dishwasher, and most are not compatible with induction cooktops—although some companies are now integrating magnetic steel plates or iron disks into the aluminum to build compatibility, if your cooktop is induction you should verify this before buying. Anodized aluminum saucepans are compatible with gas and electric cooktops.

Ceramic

Ceramic saucepans are crafted from hard-fired clay and have several natural advantages. First, they’re oven-safe up to approximately 700 degrees fahrenheit, so they’re ideal for stove top -to-oven recipes. These saucepans are also naturally nonstick because of the glazing process, so cleanup is easy, and there’s no need to worry about potentially dangerous chemicals leaching into the food. Ceramic holds heat extremely well, so these saucepans also warm easily and hold the heat evenly distributed around the food. There are, however, some drawbacks—ceramic cookware is quite heavy and prone to chipping, and does not work with induction cooktops.

The Best Saucepan Options

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What to Consider When Choosing a Saucepan

There are several things to consider before making a decision on which saucepan is best for you.

Material

Stainless steel, anodized aluminum, ceramic, or a combination—it’s critical that the material of the saucepan you choose is compatible with your cooktop and cooking style. As mentioned, each has their own benefits and drawbacks including ease of cleaning, weight, stove top compatibility, and features like nonstick capability and oven safety.

Size

Saucepans are generally sized by how many quarts of liquid they will hold. The smallest ones are generally 1 quart and run to 4 quarts, often with half-quart sizes. While there may be some specialty pans that are a bit smaller or a larger, 1 to 4 quarts are the standard. A range of sizes and sets are offered to cover different cooking needs, from a small saucepan to a pound of pasta.

Handles

Usually, saucepans have a single handle extending from one side of the pan. These handles may be the same material as the pan and sometimes contain heat-resistant plastic or cushioning. Shoppers should think about what will be most comfortable for them to hold as they cook: handles that do not transfer heat are often preferable, as are ergonomically shaped or rolled handles that allow the pan to be lifted easily for pouring or draining.

Nonstick Coatings

Recent concerns about the chemicals involved in creating nonstick coatings cause many shoppers to hesitate before purchasing nonstick pans. Chemicals such as PFOA (the main ingredient in Teflon coating) can, when overheated, potentially release dangerous fumes into the air, and if a nonstick coating begins to chip or scratch, some of it can be ingested. Scientists have generally concluded that the coatings on the market are safe as long as the pans are not significantly overheated, but if this is a concern for you there are other nonstick options. Titanium-coated saucepans are a newer alternative to traditional nonstick; titanium is naturally nonstick, adds to the heat transfer of the saucepan, and is also metal-utensil and oven friendly.
Anodized aluminum has naturally nonstick properties as well, and ceramic coatings on aluminum and stainless steel saucepans similarly make those lighter-weight materials nonstick.

Features

There are several options shoppers will see while looking through the selection of saucepans on the market. Many have a rolled lip for easy pouring, but some actually have a pouring spout integrated, so cooks who make a lot of sauces or pour off liquids will want to investigate those. Most pans include lids that fit tightly—some are glass for easy viewing and others are metal for durability. Saucepans may include measurement markings on the inside of the pan for precision while cooking.

Our Top Picks

Bearing material, size, and other shopping considerations in mind, these are the best saucepans on the market.

Best Overall

The Best Saucepan Option: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Anodized Saucepan
Photo: amazon.com

Cuisinart’s Classic Nonstick Hard Anodized Saucepan is denser than stainless steel and resistant to the scratches and dings that accompany daily use. The interior is made from quantanium, which is naturally nonstick, and reinforced with titanium for outstanding durability. The anodized aluminum exterior of the Cuisinart provides a swift and even distribution of heat all the way up the sides of the pan, so the heat is not limited to the base plate. The pan features a stainless steel handle that remains cool during cooking and a tempered-glass tight-sealing lid so the cook can monitor the contents without opening it. The nonstick interior is easy to clean, though the anodized aluminum pan should not be placed in the dishwasher. This handy 2-quart size is just right for many daily kitchen tasks, and the pan is also available in larger and smaller sizes to fit your needs.

Best Small Capacity

The Best Saucepan Option: Calphalon Classic Nonstick Saucepan
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Smaller saucepans are often useful for making pan sauces and reducing dressings. These tasks are made easier by the interior measurement markings on the Calphalon Nonstick Saucepan. Featuring a double nonstick coating (so that even surface scratches don’t damage the nonstick capability), the durable hard-anodized aluminum wil stand up to regular use and continue to transfer heat evenly. The tempered-glass lid makes viewing the contents easy and includes an integrated strainer. When lined up with the integrated pouring spout, the lid can take the place of a colander—so one less dish to wash.

Best Large Capacity

The Best Saucepan Option: Cuisinart Multiclad Stainless Steel Saucepan
Photo: amazon.com

Cuisinart’s 4-quart MultiClad Stainless Steel Saucepan is large enough to boil a pound of pasta or make mashed potatoes for a crowd. The Cuisinart MultiClad is made of 18/10 stainless steel with a solid aluminum core for excellent heat distribution. The MultiClad pan also features an updated riveted handle made of cast stainless steel that stays cool while cooking and after being taken off the stovetop. Its rolled edges make pouring easy, even without a spout. The Cuisinart is dishwasher safe for easy cleanup, and durable enough to use and wash daily. Multiclad offers saucepans in a variety of other sizes, so cooks can assemble a set.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Saucepan Option: All Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Sauce Pan
Photo: amazon.com

All Clad’s heavy-duty Stainless Steel Try-Ply Sauce Pan features tremendous performance and construction, suitable for home and professional cooks alike. A thick aluminum core is sandwiched between two layers of heavy-gauge stainless steel and bonded for outstanding heat distribution and transmission. The stainless steel handle has a comfortable ergonomic shape with a wide base that is double-riveted to the pan for stability and durability. The pan can handle temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be used on the hottest stove top burner and transferred to the oven or broiler. This 1-quart pan is also available in 1.5-, 2-, 3-, 3.5-, and 4-quart sizes, allowing cooks to tailor their purchase to the size they need most often.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Saucepan Option: Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Saucepan
Photo: amazon.com

A shiny mirror finish and solid aluminum core makes the Farberware Stainless Steel 2-Quart Saucepan a beautiful, efficient tool to have in the kitchen. Do not be fooled by the bargain price: this pan is a durable, reliable tool that will get the job done. The aluminum core allows for extraordinarily even heating with no hot spots, featuring a stay-cool riveted plastic handle for safety and stability. The entire pan is oven safe up to 350 degrees in case you need to finish a sauce in the oven. The matching stainless lid seals to keep steam and heat inside, making this an ideal pan for steaming rice and vegetables. Safe for use on gas, electric, and induction cooktops, this 2-quart size is suitable for many tasks and is also available in 1-, 3-, and 4-quart sizes. At a cost of less than half of some other brands, this strong and highly functional pan is a steal.

Honorable Mention

The Best Saucepan Option: Avacraft Stainless Steel Saucepan
Photo: amazon.com

Avacraft’s Stainless Ergonomic Saucepan features pour spouts on two sides, making it easier for both right- and left-handed users to pour and strain liquids through the lid’s integrated strainer. The pan also has measurements stamped into the steel on the inside for easy measuring. The Avacraft saucepan is incredibly tough, made of 18/8 stainless steel with a tri-ply encapsulated aluminum core with a special matte finish that resists scratching. This 2.5-quart saucepan is intended for use on gas, electric, ceramic, and induction cooktops and is oven, freezer, and dishwasher safe.

Also Consider

The Best Saucepan Option: Cuisinart Contour Stainless 2-Quart Pour Saucepan
Photo: amazon.com

The Cuisinart Contour Stainless 2-Quart Pour Saucepan is made of premium stainless steel with an encapsulated aluminum core, which makes for even heat distribution and simple cleaning. A contoured stick handle with stay-cool technology offers a comfortable grip. The edge of the Cuisinart pan is rolled for easy pouring from any side, with an integrated pour spout that provides procision. A flat tempered glass and steel lid is shatterproof and allows the contents to be viewed and features an integrated straining mechanism in two sizes. Simply rotate the coarse or fine strainer until it aligns with the pour spout and pour off liquids to drain or strain. Oven, broiler, freezer, and dishwasher safe, this pan is ready to handle any stove top job.

The Best Saucepan: Saucepan Maintenance

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Saucepan Maintenance

While saucepans do not generally require the high-level maintenance of stoneware or cast iron cookware, careful maintenance will help increase their longevity. In general, it is preferable to hand-wash saucepans even if the manufacturer states that the pan is dishwasher-friendly, as dishwasher cleaning is more abrasive and aggressive and is likely to break down the finish on the pans more quickly. Beyond that, maintenance depends largely on the material your pan is made from.

  • Stainless steel pans should be washed with warm water and a sponge or non-scratch cleaning pad to protect mirror finishes. They can be soaked to remove stuck-on particles, and should be dried promptly to avoid spotting from hard water.
  • Ceramic saucepans are more resistant to scratches, but should still be carefully cleaned and promptly dried to avoid soaking, as the water will eventually permeate the ceramic and can increase the possibility of chipping. Ceramic pans should also be carefully stored with a pad or dish towel between stacked pans to avoid cracking and chipping.
  • Anodized aluminum saucepans should always be hand washed in warm soapy water with a sponge or soft cloth; do not use abrasives, or the coating may be damaged. Care should be used when stacking these pans as well to protect the finish.
  • Saucepans with other non-stick coatings should be given extra care when cleaning: avoid abrasive scrubbing pads and scrapers.

FAQs About Your New Saucepan

Q: What is a saucepan?

A: A saucepan is a round vessel with a single handle and a lid used on the stove top to heat, melt, cook, or boil liquids, and can be used for sauces, puddings, soups, rice, and more. Some saucepans are also rated for use in the oven for recipes that require finishing under a broiler or in surrounding heat. Saucepans generally come in a variety of sizes from 1-4 quarts. These pans are deep with vertical sides to contain liquids and prevent unwanted or rapid evaporation, and usually come with a lid to give the cook even more control over the level of moisture escaping the pan as it cooks. Made of durable, hard-working materials, saucepans are used for many purposes in the kitchen and are considered a staple of the well-stocked kitchen.

Q: Does the pan heat evenly?

A: It’s very important that a stove top pan transfers heat quickly and distributes it evenly, not just at the bottom of the pan, but up the sides as well. Hot spots or cold spots can cause a recipe to go terribly wrong. Most modern saucepans are made from materials designed or combined to produce even, well-distributed heat. Stainless steel and aluminum are two of the most commonly used materials, and are often combined to reap the benefits of aluminum’s excellent distribution and stainless steel’s wonderful heat transfer. Ceramic pans are slower to heat, but hold and distribute the heat evenly over a long period of time. Most concerns about uneven heat distribution arise from older pans that were not made of the consistent, carefully calibrated materials current manufacturers are using.

Q: Are the saucepans dishwasher safe?

A: Some saucepan manufacturers state that their pans are, in fact, dishwasher safe. If that is the case, then they are—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should wash them in the dishwasher. While a dishwasher may not destroy a coating or surface, the high heat and abrasive cleaners in a dishwasher cycle will naturally eat away at the coatings and finishes little by little and gradually erode them, reducing the lifespan of the pan and making it less effective. An occasional dishwasher cycle for a pan labeled as compatible is not the end of the world, but a thorough hand washing is always preferable. Anodized aluminum pans should never be cleaned in a dishwasher.

Q: Can my saucepan be used on an induction cooktop?

A: This is a concern for many shoppers buying pans prior to purchasing a new stove. Induction cooktops are extremely efficient, as long as the pans you’re using are made of a ferrous or magnetic metal. If not, the induction cooktop’s heat will not be drawn through the pan and will not heat the food within. Cast iron and most stainless steel pans are compatible. Aluminum and ceramic cookware are not, unless the manufacturer has added a layer of iron or stainless steel into the bottom of the pan that will allow the induction stove top to create a magnetic connection. If you have or plan to buy an induction stove top, look specifically for this information from the manufacturer: most cookware explicitly states whether or not it is induction-compatible.