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Dec 2, 2006 10:17 AM

Skillet versus saute pan - form feeds function?

As I continue to get more comfortable in the kitchen, I'm thinking about upgrading my cookware from the old Farberware I received at my wedding. However, something has me stumped: what is the real difference functionally between a saute pan and a skillet? What cooking techniques would you use for one but not the other?

I think I have a skillet now (I can't always tell the difference form-wise either; do saute pans have straight vertical sides while skillets have the sides that slope away from the bottom of the pan?) but i don't know if it's safe to put in the oven or not. People are asking for gift wishlists and I want to be able to tell them the right thing!

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  1. A skillet has sloped sides to facilitate easy flipping/turning and a sauté has square (90degrees)corners and a deeper sides.

    A saute can be used for braises and longer cooking dishes, and a skillet is primarily used for very hot and fast cooking methods.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      Although a saute pan works just fine for most skillet needs. Also, the straight sides of the saute pan give you a little more flat surface area/cooking space

      1. re: Kelli2006

        Is there a difference between a skillet and a frying pan?

        1. re: PaintedTurtle

          I consider a skillet to be low sides and sloped, but many people consider them to be the same.

          Many people do make a distinction between a cast iron frying pan, and a sloped sided (usually aluminum) skillet.

      2. One important note: saute pans usually often have lids - necessary for braising on top of the stove and in the oven. Get the largest saute pan with cover you can fine - at least 5 quarts/litres. It's the pan I use the most frequently in my kitchen.

        3 Replies
        1. re: FlavoursGal

          I need to replace my 12" saute. What's your favorite/recommendation? (I'm a nonstick girl.)

          1. re: mamaciita

            Cook's liked the All-Clad first, followed by the cheaper Gourmet Standard

            1. re: mamaciita

              Forget about nonstick for a saute pan (or any pan for that matter). It's not necessary, and you'll end up with a better product with regular, not nonstick pans. Saute pans are often used for braised dishes, for which you'll want to create a fond, which results from browning/caramelizing the meat or chicken by high temperature searing, and achieving the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Deglazing these bits (which you'll never get with nonstick) creates the flavour base of great sauces, as does the caramelized exterior of the meat (you won't achieve the same caramelization with nonstick, either). I've tossed all of my nonstick for health reasons. By the way, nonstick cookware should never be used at temperatures over medium on the stove, so you can't even sear properly if you follow the manufacturer's instructions.

              My saute pan is made by Cuisinox (Elite series) in Canada. It's an All-Clad lookalike that is cheaper for me to buy here in Canada than All-Clad. It might be less expensive if you're in the States to buy All-Clad. Here's the Cuisinox link anyway. Mine has a 5.3 litre/quart capacity.


          2. I'm with FlavoursGal - no non stick in my house either. Non stick pans, in my personal (highly opinionated) opinion, are the work of the devil. Detrimental to both your health and your cooking.

            My two sauté pans are a: iron and b: cast iron, enameled. Both can be go on high heat without any ill effects, both can go in the oven.

            1. I understand the curved sides needed for fry pan to easily flip, etc...I just got a large 13 inch stainless pan with curved sides and a glass cover and two short side handles...says it can go in oven up to 400...what type of pan would this be. I am replacing my cookware also and it looked like a nice pan to cook and serve in...I bought it and now not sure the best use for it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tamhud4

                Does it have plastic handles? Sounds like it has phenolic plastic handles, which are oven-safe up to a certain temperature. The shape you describe is a rondeau or maybe a casserole pan of some kind.

                1. re: Buckethead

                  nope...has stainless steel handles...made by a company called Authentic Kitchn...ever heard of em? Maybe the temp limit is 400 because of the glass cover? where it is a disc bottomed stainless pan, that will go in the oven I should be able to use it for a number of things right? Fry? Saute? Braise? What about stir fry's too with the curved sides? I guess by the looks of it I thought it might be a good multiple use pan but it is not fully clad and does not have a long handle. I guess for 30 bucks it is useful enough to keep. What exactly is an everyday pan anyway...

              2. Listen to FlavoursGal, no nonstick!! You really shouldn't use any, but especially not in a saute pan, which is used at high stovetop temperatures and in the oven. Either of those can cause the teflon to break down and vaporize, then you breathe it. You also can't develop a decent fond in a nonstick pan.