Saucepan vs. Frying Pan – What’s the Difference?

Different pans in kitchen

The age-old cooking question that has plagued human beings since we were all huddled around a fire in a cave.

Is there really a difference between frying pans and saucepans? And, if indeed, there is, does using a frying pan for a saucepans job break some kind of cooking rule that is a big no, no?

Well, let’s explore this cooking question as old as time some more, shall we?

The biggest difference between a saucepan and a frying pan is the appearance. Is this just a design thing? Well, no, a saucepan looks the way it looks because of the job it is intended for, and frying pans are the same.


  • Deep – Saucepans are deep because this allows us to boil water and hold enough liquid to make sauces and things like that.
  • Lid – They also often come with a lid. This means that saucepans are perfect for holding moisture in.
  • Designed to retain liquid – They are designed for heating up a lot of liquid and keeping as much of that liquid inside the pan as possible.

Frying pans

  • Shallow – Frying pans aren’t as deep as saucepans. This is because they are designed for frying food.
  • Wide base – The base of a frying pan is very wide in comparison to the sides. The base of the frying pan is where all of the action happens. It provides a surface that can heat up quickly and evenly to ensure that you get the maximum frying surface.
  • Designed to get rid of liquid – Frying pans are designed this way to get rid of the liquid. Liquid when frying is a bad thing, you’ll know this if you’ve ever had a lot of excess water in a frying pan when trying to fry bacon. The shorter sides of a frying pan allow water to escape easily so the pan can continue to fry and get the contents nice and crispy.

Can You Use a Frying Pan as a Saucepan?

So, can you use a frying pan as a replacement for a saucepan? No, not really. Let’s say you want to boil veg, for example. A frying pan will make quick work of evaporating the water, and then you’ll be left with raw veg that is going to fry rather than boil.

Want to fry some bacon in a saucepan? Again, this won’t work. The tall sides of the saucepan won’t allow excess water in the meat to evaporate, so you’ll be left with slightly boiled, slightly boring bacon!

Just as you shouldn’t use a frying pan as a saucepan, you shouldn’t use a saucepan as a frying pan – see our article on why you shouldn’t use a saucepan as a frying pan.


Frying pans and saucepan are not interchangeable and should be used in conjunction with each other to make a tasty meal.

So, boil your veg in a saucepan and fry your steak in a frying pan.

Do you need a good quality frying pan or a set of excellent saucepans after reading this article? No worries, we’ve reviewed the best frying pans and best saucepans in the UK right now.

Explore our website for the best cookware in the UK and take your cooking to the next level.