Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Aug 29, 2012 08:50 AM

Can someone explain what the different shaped pans are for?

Wasn't real sure how to phrase my question with only a few words in the subject line..... Sorry for the basic / dumb questions. I have not been able to find good explanations.... If this has been covered before, or you know of a good place for me to look, please let me know.

I'm about to place an order for some cookware and while surfing through the different manufacturer's listing of pot / pans, I can't help but wonder what their intended use / functions are.

Whenever I grab a piece of cookware to use, the only thing I'm contemplating is just how big the pan needs to be for whatever it is I happen to be cooking. I mean other than the common sense stuff, like using a fry pan to fry an egg or use a stock pot to boil water anyway.

For your reference, I have been comparing different pot/pans from the M'Cook line and Demeyere lines...

A couple pans I noticed that I've not ever seen before are the Saucier and Windsor. They look handy enough with the tapered sides, but what are they for???

What's the difference between a large saute pan and low casseroles pan of the same shape / size?? One has two handles and the other has one handle, but are they constructed the same and cook the same way?

What about the dutch oven, it looks just like a casserole pan to me. Is it different?

I've been reading that an encapsulated bottom is preferred over a multi clad type pan for cooking some things. I don't quite understand this. Why would you not want a pan to have a thicker side?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Your questions are perfectly valid. Buying the right pan for the job can be a challenge and it is totally unnecessary to buy a huge set of expensive pots & pans only to find you only use a few for your style of cooking. After you've been cooking for awhile you'll begin to add a piece at a time as you discover you'd like to cook Asian food, for example, and could use a wok to cook it in.

    There's really no difference between a Dutch oven, a French oven, ,a round (or oval) oven, or even a covered casserole, as long as each has relatively tall enough sides to accommodate what you want to cook and a tight-fitting lid, and can be used both on the stove top or in the oven.

    Actually I don't use a stock pot to just boil water, I use it to make... stock because it's big enough to hold all the ingredients. I use an electric kettle to boil water... or a sauce pan if I'm going to blanch vegetables or something.

    Here are a couple of links that list Just the Basics:

    1. I own both Windsor and small saucier. I prefer the saucier for making sauces because of the curved sides of the pot. The curve allows a wisk to grab everything as you mix. I only own a Windsor because I found it on sale, in the pot line I was currently buying. I do use it, but not often. I have heated liquids in it, for which use I find it efficient. I have also used it to make a large amount of some sauce or other.

      You could use an iron skillet as a baker with no problem. With other pans, you would have to know that the handle of the pan is heat proof. Sometimes handles are good up to 400 deg, sometimes less.

      Saute pans are like skillets, but with straight sides. A good saute pan is very versatile, and if I could only have one large flat bottomed pan, I'd have a good stainless one with a good tri ply or other similar bottom. But there is no need to limit oneself here. I own cast iron and non-stick pans and use them for specific applications. I think a saute pan with metal handles would surely be fine in an oven. (But I own some German pots with metal handles which have glass lids and which are not oven safe in normal conditions. I had to email the manufacturer to make sure.)

      A Dutch oven is used for braising, basically. A casserole pan is used for baking. A metal pan with a rack is used for roasting. But many pans have multiple uses. I prefer a ceramic baker, and a metal Dutch oven personally. You can put a nice white ceramic baker right on the table for serving, if you want. Sometimes that comes in handy. (I don't recommend Pyrex for baking. Check out other Pyrex thread which deal with breakage and/or explosions. )

      If I understand this, the encapsulated bottom will work on an induction range. (Someone here will probably refine this statement.) I own both sorts of pots and they both work well on electric ranges. I assume they would do equally well on gas.

      1. As you have found out, different manufacturers call their products different things. In reverse order:

        1. I would not want to heat milk, butter, or chocolate in a thick-sided pan. They have a narrow tipping point from good to bad and I want the vessel I am using to be more responsive to heat changes.

        2. Dutch ovens, French ovens, casseroles, braisers...more important than the name is the material and shape. I have seen stainless steel dutch ovens. Some low casseroles look like braisers. Just for a loop, have you looked into the rondeau?

        3. Yes, the handles are the difference for the name in many cases. The absence of a long handle makes it possible to fit into the oven and easier to store in a cabinet.

        4. The first time you ever try to whisk a sauce in a straight-sided sauce pan, you will understand the allure of the saucier. Actually, I prefer the saucier (those that tend to have a wider bottom) to saute things that must be tossed, or to stir-fry for one. A Windsor is a variation on the theme of just-another-shape-that-may-suit-your-purposes.

        These are some of the reasons a poster on your other thread suggested that you start by buying one or two items to upgrade your most-used cookware. And, of course, once you add materials to the list, you could be deliberating for awhile.

        By the way...I, too, made a spreadsheet to aid me in my purchasing decisions.

        1 Reply
        1. re: E_M

          Thanks for all the great input. It is very helpful. I had no idea buying cookware could be so complicated.

          1. re: kaleokahu

            Thank you! That's a VERY informative article. Too informative, because now I feel compelled to buy even more

            1. re: akmike

              As we all do. Just buy the things you think you will use the most first. Then add as you go along. Sometimes you buy a pan when you decide to tackle a particular cooking job you've never done before.

              1. re: sueatmo

                That's the best advice in the whole thread.

                Some kinds of pots and pans you may not already have can be really useful, others are specialized for kinds of cooking you may not have in mind, and still others are just puzzling. Who, other than a sauce-mad Frenchman, would use a Windsor pan instead of a saucepan often enough to make it worth the storage space? And how many of us make sauces in large enough quantities often enough that a saucier is really better for the purpose than a skillet, which likewise has rounded sloped sides, they're just lower?

                I have cookware in the cupboards that I bought in case I might want to use it, but I seldom if ever actually do; a sauté pan, for example (like a skillet with vertical sides, or a short saucepan as wide as a skillet). Others use their sauté pan all the time and rarely use a skillet.

                You already have some cookware, and your way of using it is sensible enough if the results satisfy you. If there are kinds of food you make, or want to make, that are problematic with the cookware you have, that might justify buying a new pot or pan for it. If you're not sure what would do the job best, you can ask here - and probably get a half dozen different answers to sort out. :-)

                1. re: John Francis

                  That is sage advice from John Francis. The only filip I might offer is that if you have identified one thing you really like to cook, seek out a truly ideal pan for it. After using it I am guessing you will develop a sense of what makes it so special, and that sense will help inform future purchases.