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Sep 24, 2013 06:08 PM

Saute Pan vs Essential Pan vs Simmer/Saute Pan

I'm building up a cookware collection... I have started with two All Clad french skillets and a lodge cast iron skillet, which have all served me well. I am going to get some good sauce pans and a stock pot to replace older cheaper stuff I was given years ago, and I think I know what I want there.

The question I have is about the saute pan. These seem very popular in the cooking world in either a 3 or 4 quart size. However, they tend to run close to $300 for a 4 quart size. Are they really better than these "combination" pans:

They tend to go under the names of "essential pan," "weeknight pan," "chef's skillet," "simmer/saute pan," "saucier." They all tend to be priced $150-$200. All seem to have flat bottom with deep, large sloping sides and generally sacrifice bottom surface area compared to traditional saute pans.

As someone who is building a collection and who wants to improve cooking over time, should I go traditional or start with one of these hybrids?

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  1. Go to cookware and more's website and peruse their offerings.

    They sell cosmetically challenged All Clad at big discounts and more so during their sales.

    The defects are pretty minor. Plus cookware gets beaten up over time

    Mine are perfect performers 16 years later and look good too.

    1 Reply
    1. IMO, the straight sided chef's pan is an essential. You can do so much with one of these. If you can't afford an All Clad, you can buy a Cuisinart, top of the line, and it should serve you well.

      When I had to buy new pans for my new induction cook top, I bought a Sitram Profiserie chef's or saute pan. It is not a tri ply. It doesn't even have the encapsulated bottom. What it does have is a thick aluminum disk bonded to the pan's bottom. It is very responsive. In fact, I love using the pan. It did not cost $300. I feel like I got an excellent pan at a reasonable price. The Sitrams are used in pro kitchens.

      5 Replies
      1. re: sueatmo


        Which pan is yours? IIRC, you have this one: although I'm not sure which size you have.

        Or is it this one:

        1. re: DuffyH

          The former, in the 3.3 qt size. Very versatile pan.

          1. re: sueatmo

            It looks versatile. Do you find the 9.5" width is about right for most things you do? CI (and others) prefer a larger base, but cooking for 2-3 I think a pan that big can be overkill sometimes.

            What are some of the uses you have for it?

            1. re: DuffyH

              I use it for everything I used to use my old chef's pan for. If I have to sautee anything that's the pan I use. I used this pan's big brother (a rondeau) for a big batch of chili. But if I was just making a small amount, then I'd use the smaller pan. However my pan is closer to 10" than 9". I think Sitram calls this a saute pan.

              I like the rounded bottomed pan. I might buy one of those one of these days.

              I hesitate recommending this pan too highly because most people on CH seem to want pricier multi clad. But honestly the pan is quite responsive in induction, I like it a lot. It is nicely balanced with a comfy, and long, handle. And it cleans up well in the dishwasher.

              1. re: sueatmo

                <responsive in induction ... Cleans up well in the dishwasher>

                That covers two of my "must" items. Well, three if we include " comfy, long handle", which we should.

                Seriously, Sitram is now high on my possibles list as I work to overcome my thing about disk bottom pans. Especially for straight-walled saucepans and sauté pans, it matters not at all for performance and only comes down to my personal lunacy.

                Bear with me, Sue, and thanks.

      2. A saute pan with its straight sides will, as you note, have the benefit of a larger bottom plus the high straight sides to keep the food in the pan when shaken. The sloped sides will mean less footprint plus a need for better technique to shake the contents as opposed to handling it with spatula, tongs, etc. Personally I find true saute pans and frypans much better for their specific intended uses than these slope sided "combination" pans. The combination pans are more like what I'd call a saucier, and, as you might guess, are great for reducing sauces. My first high quality pan was a saute pan, and it is still one of my most used pans, exceeded only by a fry pan and a medium saucepan. As you already have good skillets, I'd go with a true saute pan next, but that does not take into account what or how you like to cook.

        1. Hi, Adelphos:

          IMO, those radiused shoulders all defeat, to some extent, the biggest boon of a saute: floorspace. Why not just get a real saute? If you're building a collection, you'll prolly end up with a sauciere (or sauteuse bombee) anyway at some point.

          You already have 2 "French" skillets with radiused, flaring sides. Shake it up.

          If you are limiting yourself to these choices, the Thermoclad one's sides look steepest.


          1. A little more about a saucier, which is like a saute pan whose bottom curves up into the high vertical sides. The advantage of this design is that you can whisk and stir a sauce without any of it getting trapped and burnt in the "corner" of a conventional saucepan. Also, the large bottom area lets you reduce the sauce more quickly. I don't have a saucier myself and don't feel the need to get one. But if you do a lot of classical French cooking, you might like it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: John Francis

              I'd amend that to say that if you cook a lot of sauces, you might enjoy a saucier. I don't do any French cooking, but find one very useful. I cooked all my sauces in saucepans for many years. I picked up a very nice Calphalon Tri-Ply saucier at TJ Maxx for $30, thinking I might give it to my son. To my surprise, I love it and now consider it essential.

              It's easy to incorporate one into your cookware collection. Because it also works well as a saucepan, it can replace one of those.