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Jan 25, 2011 01:56 PM

what saucepans would you buy?

I'm finally ready to ditch the garbage cheapo saucepans that keep burning my hands. What would you all recommend? There are so many sizes and kinds I'm not sure what I'm looking at.


ETA: Does the thickness matter at all?

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  1. How many and what sizes? What's your budget?

    4 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      I'm not really sure about how many. I kind of want to get a plan in place and start buying them as I am able over the next few months - a year or so. I am willing to pay for good cookware, I know that it can sometimes be expensive. So far I have converted my skillets over to 2 All Clad stainless and a LC enameled cast iron. Saucepans are next on my list.

      I used to have a really big pan with a lid that I could make big meals in when I needed - it had the helper handle. The problem was that it was non-stick, and I really dislike that. It fell apart and that was the end of it. I'm thinking that may be a saucepan by definition, not a skillet, but I'm pretty new at this so I sometimes don't know what I'm looking at.

      1. re: justlearning

        "I used to have a really big pan with a lid that I could make big meals in when I needed - it had the helper handle."

        If it's relatively short (3-5") and skillet-like, and has one long handle and a helper handle, with flat or slightly curved sides it is probably a sauté pan. A sauté pan or curved sauté pan / saucier can be very useful for a number of applications, and the latter can also be used for much of what a saucepan can be used for, so it's versatile.

        For a sauté pan, or a pan you're going to be using for a lot of delicate sauces, something with a copper disk bottom (or a stainless lined copper pan if you can afford it) is great, though stainless with aluminium disk or multi-ply clad is fine too.

        flared / curved:

        straight sides:

        If you want something a little taller than that, you might be thinking about a casserole / dutch oven or short stock pot.

        1. re: justlearning

          Sur La Table's store brand is similar to All Clad (made overseas, in Thailand, like All Clad's lowest end line IIRC); I've seen them in person and they feel pretty solid. They also have a helper-handle if that's useful for you (personally, I don't mind not having one on saucepans, even large ones).

          Le Creuset has a stainless line that's frequently on sale recently, and I think the quality also seems fairly good. Their saucepans seem to have a rolled edge, and don't have as goofy looking a lid as the SLT store brand.

          1. re: justlearning


            For saucepans, I say aluminum or copper, the thickest you can find/afford.

            Aluminum: Try

            Copper: Try

        2. Maybe one small (1.5 - 2.0 qt ) and one larger (3.0-4.0 qt)? Brand depens on your budget and there are many diverse opinions here, I guess but recommend to see the pots in person and make sure how comfortable you feel when you grip the handles and lift them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hobbybaker

            I would recommend All-Clad 2qt saucepan ( great shape for boiling vegitables) and a 3.5 qt Chef's pan of Le Creuset Stainless steel (or All-Clad 3.0qt Saucier ). Those Chef's pan (or Saucier) can do what a equivalent saucepan can do. Also, you can use it sauteing small amount of meat and vegis, too. So more versatile than a saucepan.

          2. Personally, I'd say Sitram or Mafter Bourgeat, and to me, 2 qt and 3.5-4 qt are good places to start. I like to have a slightly larger (4.5-5 qt) as well.

            [lids all sold separately]

            Since you mentioned the burning hands thing -- keep in mind that these are commercial kitchen style pots, so the handles will get hot. The way to solve that is to use a towel to hold them. 2 of the 3 models linked above have the hollow handles, and these will probably stay a little bit cooler under most circumstances. You might also be able to find a silicone cover for the handles if that's more convenient for you.

            3 Replies
            1. re: will47

              If I could only have one saucepan, it would be 3-qt. And I'd want a helper loop on the side opposite the handle. It's less clumsy. A 2-qt. is easy to handle when it's somewhat full, but 3 and above, I like a loop.

              1. re: will47

                Thanks for the links. I didn't realize the handles would get so hot. The ones I have right now get just as hot as the pan. I'm not sure what's going on, they have plastic coating, but they are terrible. A little bit of heat is OK, I just don't want to be able to cook on the surface of the handle too.

                1. re: justlearning

                  Yeah - none of the ones I mention should get that hot, unless the handle itself is right over one of the burners. But in some cases, they will get hot enough you'll want to use a towel (and the Sitram Catering pans, while excellent, do not have handles which are designed for comfort, so using a side towel isn't a bad idea with them anyway). The hollow handles look goofy to me, but are maybe a little more comfortable in the hand.

              2. justlearning, when you say "saucepan," do you refer to the pans that the French call casseroles, and which are generally called saucepans in the United States: pans in which you cook soup, boil water, poach eggs, etc.? Or do you refer to a pan in which you make sauces, what the French call a sauteuse, sort of a hybrid between a frypan and a (French) casserole?

                Assuming that what you want is a (French) casserole pan, you want a pan that has a bottom than conducts and distributes heat very well, and vertical sidewalls that hold the heat within the pan and that do not send it out into the room. In other words, the best saucepans are those with thick disk bottoms -- ideally (but never found) of silver, practical best practice of copper, and common-sensible of aluminum. The more conductive the disk the thinner the disk can be, so an aluminum disk bottom should be thicker than a copper disk bottom. For sidewalls, stainless steel is a poor conductor, and so the heat will not be radiated into the room from a stainless steel sidewall pan as readily as it is from a clad, or sandwich constrution, saucepan.

                Sitram Catering is a good benchmark against which to compare (French casserole) saucepans. You may end up preferring another pan, but the Sitram Catering line provides an excellent reference point from which to compare.

                The considerations are completely different in looking for sauteuse pans.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Politeness

                  Great summary.

                  But isn't a casserole typically a pan with two equal looped handles vs. a single long one (and optional helper handle)? Most of the French manufacturers, including the one you mention, have a standard "saucepan" with straight sides and a long handle, and I think this pan would be equally appropriate for making sauces or for the other types of thing you mention (boiling water, poaching eggs).

                  While I'm sure small casseroles exist, I've usually seen people here in the US use saucepans for smaller applications (<= 6 qt) of either type, and casseroles for larger applications (making soup or stew, boiling large amounts of pasta, etc.).

                  1. re: will47

                    will47: "... isn't a casserole typically a pan with two equal looped handles vs. a single long one (and optional helper handle)? "

                    I think that you have accurately described the North American understanding of "casserole," but the French would call the pot in the following link a "casserole":

                    1. re: will47

                      will47: It doesn't pay to get too tied up in/misled by the French vs. American names--some folks just like flaunting their French. "Poele" just sounds so much better than frypan, likewise "Sauteuse Evasse" vs. slant-walled saucepan. If you really want to impress/bumfuzzle, call your Dutch Oven a "marmite". Even the French gladly call saucepans saucepans on their English web pages.

                      If you want to demystify the shapes, see:

                    2. re: Politeness

                      I'm not sure! I had no idea there were so many distinctions! Thanks for all of the info.

                    3. by sauce pans, I think pots with tall sides--taller than a saute pan or skillet. like for making a curry or red sauce or chili? for this, the ones I use the most are my 4 qt and 4.5 qt. I have a one qt and a 2 qt that get less use, but are nice to have around. I also have a 1.5 or 2 qt that is much wider that is handy for some things. I would buy them in the order listed.

                      I do think thick and heavy matters. It helps to cook evenly and lessens the chance of scorching. my Mom had a revelation when she went from revereware (thin) to calphalon--it was so much easier to avoid burning! I have calphalon that I got for my wedding almost 18 years ago that is still like new--this was back when there was only one line, so it is thick and heavy and super-durable. I also have some all-clad which I also like. the all-clad is light colored on the inside, so it makes it easier to see as some foods darken, but you can often get calphalon on sale for cheaper, although you have to watch what line it is.

                      I also have 5.5 qt, 8 qt, and 12 qt pots, but I wouldn't really call them sauce pans.