This guide builds on the research and testing of senior kitchen writer Lesley Stockton. Lesley has been in the culinary business for more than two decades and has covered all kinds of cookware for Wirecutter, from Dutch ovens to nonstick pans.
In , she also interviewed three culinary producers and recipe developers—Nora Singley, Sarah Mastracco, and Clare Langan— about what makes a good saucepan. A small saucepan is useful for all kinds of everyday cooking tasks, from boiling eggs to making oatmeal to warming leftover soup. A small saucepan is also helpful for recipes that go beyond providing basic sustenance, like making a small batch of ice cream base, a quick caramel sauce for an impromptu sundae bar, or to reduce pan drippings into a rich gravy.
If your current saucepan scorches foods easily or is full of nicks and dings, it may be time to upgrade. But some still stand out for their materials, design, and construction. Based on our research, expert interviews, and personal cooking experience, we determined that a great sauce pan should meet the following criteria:.
Fully clad tri-ply: We mainly focused on fully-clad tri-ply stainless steel pans. Tri-ply consists of an aluminum core sandwiched between layers of stainless steel. Aluminum heats more quickly and evenly than steel, but steel is more durable and holds heat better——by combining the two, tri-ply offers the best of both worlds. Fully clad pans have the aluminum core extending up the sides of the pan and heat more evenly throughout than pans with encapsulated bottoms, which have only an aluminum disk in their base.
We did make an exception for two five-ply sauciers from Made In and Misen, because they were relatively inexpensive, and we were curious to try out these new brands. But after testing them, we still think tri-ply is the best option for a saucepan. Aluminum is reactive to acidic foods like tomatoes and can leave behind a metallic taste. Nonstick coatings scratch easily, degrade over high heat, and will deteriorate after a few years even if you treat them well. A good tri-ply pan, on the other hand, can withstand decades of abuse.
Most nonstick coatings are also dark in color, which again makes it harder to see browning or tell if your caramel is burning. Saucepan or saucier: We considered two styles of subtly different pans: basic straight-walled saucepans and curved sauciers. Saucepans, which have straighter walls and a narrower opening, typically cost less and will work for most basic cooking tasks. With a pan this size, you can dump in a ounce can of tomatoes for sauce, reheat soupy leftovers, make oatmeal, or boil water for tea and the pan is still lightweight and compact.
Many sauciers come in only a 3-quart size, and we prefer the larger capacity for certain tasks best performed in a saucier like making risotto , so we also included those in our tests. Ergonomic handles: We looked for handles that fit comfortably in our palms with or without a towel wrapped around them and that also felt balanced for a range of hand sizes.
We also looked for lid handles that were large enough to grip easily even with a towel or oven mitt. But good saucepans should have slightly curved corners so you can easily reach every last bit of sauce while whisking or stirring. Pans with rounded corners are easier to scrape out and clean, too. Pours cleanly: We preferred saucepans with a bent lip, which makes pouring liquids out of the pot without splashing easier—think of going down a playground slide versus jumping off of the climbing wall. Metal lid: We considered only pans with metal lids.
Easy to clean: Some saucepans with rounder corners are easier to scrape clean and scrub out. We put each saucepan through several cooking and cleaning tests. To see how easy it was to whisk creams or sauces in them, and to test for even heating, we made pastry cream. We noted how easily a whisk reached the corners of each pan and checked for any hotspots that led to scrambled eggs.
8 Best Saucepans:
To further check for even heating, we made a heat map by coating the surface of each pan with a thin film of oil followed by an even dusting of flour, then heating it on medium for three minutes, observing where flour darkened. While doing so, we also measured the surface temperature of each pan using an infrared thermometer.
We poured water out of each pan to test handle ergonomics and to see if liquids splashed or dribbled. We also tried grabbing the handle of each lid with a folded kitchen towel to see if it was big enough for us to get a secure grip. Lastly, we washed all of the pans by hand several times to see how easy they would be to use in real life. We think the Tramontina Gourmet Tri-ply Clad 2-Quart Covered Saucepan stands out for its even heating, slightly rounded corners, and ergonomic handle. This pan was one of the easiest to use and maneuver of all the ones we tested and is also part of the same line of cookware as our favorite cookware set.
In both our cooking and thermometer tests, the Tramontina distributed heat evenly. We whipped up a silky custard in the Tramontina without any signs of hot spots or scrambled eggs. We repeated our heat map tests three times, checking to see how evenly flour browned across the surface of the pan. The Tramontina heated evenly each time, with no noticeable hot spots.
The Tramontina took about as long to boil water as all of the other pans we tested, about eight minutes. Out of all the saucepans we tested, the Tramontina was the most comfortable to hold and the easiest to maneuver when stirring and pouring, even when it was full of water. The rounded handle extends from the pan in a gentle arc and conforms to your palm.
Other pans had weirdly shaped handles that cut into our hands like the Great Jones Saucy or protruded in such a dramatic rainbow that they felt unbalanced the Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 2-Quart Saucepan with Cover. This pan is dishwasher safe, but we recommend washing it by hand to give it a thorough scrubbing. For tips on cleaning your stainless steel pans, check out our guide to cookware sets. Like all tri-ply cookware, the Tramontina saucepan works on induction cooktops.
Each of the pans uses thermo spot technology which tells you when the pan has reached optimum temperature and they are oven safe up to c so you can keep food warm. Although pricey, the extra thick titanium base means that this set will stand the test of time. If you cook regularly for big families, this 13 piece set is your go-to option.
If you are a student looking for a basic set of pans, this is an ideal choice.
If you like idea of real copper pans but can't bring yourself to part with that much cash, this Cooksmark set is a perfect choice. Big new features call for a big new camera bump Fast-drying, energy-saving appliances rated in a rough and tumble struggle for hot-air supremacy. From big family dishes to portion control pots; simply blend your way to your 5 a-day with these easy-to-use soup makers.
Our pick of the best blenders from Nutribullet to KitchenAid. Kitchen gadgets to mix and prepare any ingredient you can think of. Yes, they ARE good for more than just ready meals and reheating soup.
Cook with science, with ultra-fast, brilliantly controllable, easy-to-clean induction hobs in every size and shape and for all budgets. Cook, cook, cook, cookability: that's the beauty of gas cooktops. T3 is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Visit our corporate site.
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England and Wales company registration number T3 Smarter Living. Sign up to our newsletter Newsletter. You want one of these… The best chef's knives and cook's knives Hello Fresh review The best non-stick frying pans The best saucepan sets to buy, in order 1. Stellar Stay Cool stainless steel 4-piece set The classic mid-range pan brand serves up the perfect pan set. Specifications Best for: Everyday cooking.
Material: Stainless steel. Non Stick: 2 of the 4 pans have non-stick. Reasons to avoid - The Stay Cool handles maybe don't look all that premium - Not everyone wants a frying pan in a saucepan set.
The Best Affordable Cookware Sets You Can Order Right Now
Specifications Best for: Everyday use. Material: Anodised aluminium with stainless steel base. Non Stick: Yes. Reasons to avoid - Anodised coating wears away over time - The smaller frying pan is perhaps unnecessary. Specifications Best for: Investment piece. Material: Aluminium. Reasons to avoid - Very pricey. Specifications Best for: Induction hobs. Reasons to avoid - Takes up space. Specifications Best for: Starter pack.
Reasons to avoid - A little expensive for a first set. Tefal Ingenio Pan Set A large saucepan set perfect for cooking family meals.
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Specifications Best for: Family kitchen set. Reasons to avoid - Not dishwasher friendly. Specifications Best for: Students. Reasons to avoid - Not suitable for induction hobs. Specifications Best for: Copper look.