For many home chefs, a saute pan is an indispensable tool. The best saute pan heats quickly and distributes heat evenly across the pan’s surface area. Handle and lid design also affect the pan’s comfort and ease of use.
Skillets and saute pans are often confused with one another. The difference lies in the sides: skillets have angled sides, while saute pans have a straight side, making it easier to keep ingredients inside the pan. They also provide a bigger cooking surface area than a skillet.
Materials and design make a difference in a saute pan’s performance. The most common options are nonstick, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and copper. Each has its pros and cons, but all work to hold and evenly distribute heat to create a consistent cooking surface.
- Nonstick pans are a popular favorite because they are easy to cook with and to clean. The nonstick properties typically come from an aluminum or stainless steel core with a nonstick coating. On the downside, nonstick coatings scratch easily, leading to peeling or flaking.
- Saute pans constructed of solid stainless steel bring durability to the kitchen, along with excellent heat retention. However, stainless steel is heavy, and cleaning can be challenging because food readily sticks to the surface of the pan.
- Anodized aluminum is lightweight and holds heat well. Like stainless steel, it can be sticky, making it more difficult to clean.
- Copper holds heat incredibly well and distributes it evenly across the cooking surface; however, it develops a patina over time and can be difficult to maintain.
Look for a material that works within your cooking style—casual or gourmet—and the amount of time you’re willing to put into the pan’s maintenance.
Our Top Picks
The top picks represent the best saute pans on the market. Included are different materials, sizes, and price ranges. There are models for gourmet chefs, first-time cooks, and everyone in between.
The All-Clad E7859164 HA1 has a combination of anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and a PFOA-free nonstick coating. You get the best of three worlds—aluminum’s excellent heat distribution, stainless steel’s heat retention, and the ease of cleaning a nonstick coating. The stainless steel base holds the heat, while the aluminum quickly and evenly distributes that heat. Those qualities add accuracy and efficiency while cooking, whether browning meat or sauteing vegetables.
Additionally, this top pick comes with a matching frying pan. Both pans share a clear lid that seals to lock in heat and moisture for better results. Transparent lids also offer the opportunity to glance at the food while it cooks, eliminating the need to lift and release heat to peek at the food’s progress. Finally, this saute pan is dishwasher- and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the lid cannot be used in the oven.
Available at an excellent price, the T-fal B36290 offers even heating and a patented Thermo- Spot indicator to alert users when the pan is warmed and ready to go. T-fal’s Thermo-Spot technology includes a ring on the inside of the pan that turns red when the pan reaches the optimum temperature to start cooking food. It’s not a necessity, but it’s a nice extra, especially if one’s cooking skills are closer to a beginner than a gourmet chef.
The nonstick interior makes it easy to cook with as well as clean. If you want to be cautious, you can hand-wash; however, it’s dishwasher safe, meaning less work for you. The ergonomic handle allows it to be comfortable and maneuverable, making the pan easy to handle even when it’s full.
The Calphalon Classic Nonstick Saute Pan features a dual-layered nonstick interior cooking surface. The two layers work together to help release food from the pan, making it easier to cook eggs and other notoriously sticky foods. At the same time, those layers don’t get in the way of even and consistent heat distribution. The base layer is made of 3 millimeters of medium-gauge aluminum that’s durable enough for daily home use.
The aluminum also gives this pan excellent heat retention and distribution, eliminating hot and cold spots. A clear lid lets you keep an eye on the food while it cooks. Also, the pan (not the lid) is oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
The T-fal C51782 contains a titanium-reinforced nonstick interior, giving it excellent durability for a nonstick pan. The titanium withstands heavy use yet maintains an easy-to-clean surface. A stainless steel base absorbs and distributes heat. It comes in either a traditional or induction-based design for different kitchen setups.
This pan also contains a patented Thermo-Spot technology that turns a center ring red once it warms to a usable temperature. An ergonomically designed stainless steel handle offers a sturdy hold and comfort when in use. The pan is dishwasher safe and can withstand oven temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Farberware Dishwasher Safe Nonstick Jumbo Cooker brings 6 quarts of cooking power to the kitchen. That large size coupled with the dishwasher-safe construction lets you make large meals without an equally large cleanup job when finished. The heat-resistant handles, along with the rest of the pan, can be used in an oven up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. A clear lid holds in heat and moisture to amplify cooking abilities.
It does all of that with a PFOA-free nonstick interior. That means easy cleaning whether you put it in the dishwasher or not. The Farberware saute pan also comes in three colors, including a fun aqua that adds a splash of color to the kitchen.