Despite its name, a saucepan is really just a small pot with high, straight sides and a single long handle. Saucepans commonly have lids and sometimes include small spouts on the side for easy pouring.
You may already have a saucepan in your kitchen arsenal, but does it have everything you look for in a great piece of cookware? Here’s everything to consider when choosing a saucepan, from what size to look for to what material is best.
Saucepan vs. Pot: Is There Really a Difference?
Saucepans are specifically designed to accommodate sauces and other liquids, while pots are a type of all-purpose cookware that could be any shape. Saucepans have higher, straighter sides than most pots and feature a long handle. Pots may have rounded edges, two looped handles instead of one long one, and may even be oval-shaped as opposed to circular.
Another main difference between saucepans and pots is size. Pots vary greatly in size and even shape, with stock pots being a prime example of just how big pots can be. And you already know that the bigger a piece of cookware is, the heavier it is and more difficult to wash (and more likely to collect dust in a cupboard or on a shelf).
Saucepans are usually small enough to fit on any burner and lightweight enough to easily transport and clean. Overall, saucepans are just as versatile as pots but much more convenient to use.
What Size Saucepan Should I Get?
There is no best size of saucepan for everybody, so consider what you are most likely to cook with a saucepan to decide what size is going to best meet your needs.
If you cook for only one or two people, a 1- or 1.5-quart saucepan is a great place to start. If you cook for a family of four or tend to make somewhat larger servings of meals, a saucepan in the 2- to 2.5 quart range will likely be more appropriate. Saucepans usually come in 3- and 4-quart sizes as well, which will more closely resemble your standard pot and be excellent for even more types of food.
But you may not have to choose just one size. It’s not uncommon to see saucepans come in sets of two or three as having more than one is never a bad thing.
Unlike some types of pots and pans that are too heavy to carry or awkward to use/clean, saucepans are convenient for everyday cooking. You’ll find yourself reaching for it often without thinking twice about it because you know clean-up will be a breeze and the small pot will do the trick for whatever you’re making.
What Is a Saucepan Used for?
Unless you’re a sauce fiend, this is probably not going to be the only thing you use your saucepan for. In fact, to use one only to make sauce would be a waste!
Potential saucepan uses are just about endless. Saucepans can be used to:
- Melt or warm
When you cook with a saucepan, take advantage of its deep sides and handy size. Use it to boil small servings of grains or vegetables, melt butter quickly, or build complex reductions without fear of burning or “breaking” them. Generally, a saucepan won’t be large enough to cook an entire meal (unless you’re cooking for just yourself), but it’ll make a great companion to the other piece or pieces of cookware you use by handling the liquid ingredients and saucier sides.
What Else Should I Look for in a Saucepan?
More than just size, there are other features to consider when choosing a saucepan. These include whether it’s dishwasher safe or hand wash-only, how long it is likely to last, if it's oven safe, and what material it’s made of.
Many pots and pans are advertised as dishwasher safe, but washing your cookware by hand is a great way to ensure that your dishes stay in peak condition for longer. High quality cookware built to last is always a worthwhile investment. A lid is a great thing to have on hand too.
But the most important thing to consider is material. Common materials used for saucepans include:
- Stainless steel
- Carbon steel
- Enameled cast iron
- Pure ceramic
You’ll often find stainless steel and copper cookware in both professional and home kitchens. But which material is best?
Choosing the Safest Cookware Option
All cookware materials are not created equal, and some are not as safe as they seem. You probably think that the PFOAs found in cookware coated with Teflon and other nonstick coatings are the only things to watch out for, but this is not the case. Metal in particular, while a popular material for pots of all shapes and sizes, is known to leach chemicals.
Saucepans made of aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and other seemingly “safe” metals tend to shed trace amounts of chemicals and metals into your food every time you cook. And while these small deposits of unwelcome, toxic ingredients are unlikely to change the taste of your food, they can cause you and your family harm over time.
Pure ceramic cookware is made of raw, all natural clay and free of synthetic additives. This makes pure ceramic cookware, which is also easy to clean and easy to use, the all-around best choice when selecting a sauce pan or other pot. There is also, of course, the environmental impact of your pots and pans. Here, pure ceramic wins again, as it is made of 100% earth-derived materials that break down completely—but rest assured you won’t find yourself needing to replace these long-lasting pots and pans any time soon.
Pure ceramic saucepans from Xtrema are the logical choice for any home cook or professional chef who wants to ensure that they’re using the safest, most effective cookware available. Also, be sure to check out Xtrema’s handmade ceramic cookware sets to get the best value. What will use your saucepan for?