What Is a Saucepan?


For most home chefs, this saucepan question may seem a bit easy. However, for some of our beginner chefs reading this, it is a very important cooking question to answer.

Saucepans are a very common cooking tool in the kitchen, but some people at the beginning of their culinary adventure may not know exactly what one is, how to use one, what to use it for, and whether or not they need one!

Today, we’re looking at saucepan FAQs and telling you everything you need to know about saucepans. First, let’s find out what a saucepan really is, shall we?


What Is a Saucepan?

A saucepan is a high-sided pan that has a lid and a handle.

They are designed to fit more liquid than a frying pan or a shallower pan. This means that they are perfect for boiling water for veg or pasta, reducing sauces, or making stock or soup.

The tall sides of a saucepan also distribute heat throughout the liquid you put in the pan too.

A frying pan typically has a large, flat-bottom that means all of the heat is focused into the bottom of the pan, allowing you to fry and sauté things.

Saucepans, on the other hand, have a smaller base and taller sides. This means that the heat is distributed from the base into the sides. Thus, it heats the contents much more evenly, allowing water (and anything else) to boil quicker.

The taller sides of a saucepan also help to keep moisture in, making them even better for boiling and making sauces. A frying pan’s shallower sides allow moisture to escape, which is important in lots of cooking tasks you’d use a frying pan for.


What Is a Saucepan Used For?

As the name would suggest, saucepans are perfect for making sauces, reducing water and other ingredients down into a delightful blend of flavours that can be used to dressed a whole variety of meat and veg.

Tomato Sauce in a Saucepan

However, because of their taller sides, saucepans can also be used to boil pasta and veg, for example. They can also be used to create stock, braise, and deep fry. A

All of these cooking tasks are about heating the contents as rapidly as possible, which a saucepan was literally designed to do. 


Can You Use a Saucepan as a Replacement for a Frying Pan?

Saucepans are designed to keep moisture in the pan for as long as possible. This is why they have tall sides to stop moisture from escaping. This stops boiling water from escaping too quickly, sauces from reducing too rapidly, and stock from turning into a jus.

Frying pans, on the other hand, have short sides to allow moisture to escape quickly. As moisture leaves a steak in a frying pan, for example, it will quickly evaporate, meaning the pan doesn’t cool down and can continue to brown the steak.

If you were to try and fry a steak in a saucepan, the tall sides would trap this moisture in the pan.

This is a cooking technique called ‘braising’, and while it is a valid cooking method for cooking steaks, it may not be the desired cooking method.

Braising uses heat and moisture to break down the connective tissues in meat for very tender and moist meat. Frying doesn’t do this. So, while you could absolutely cook a steak in a saucepan, it would be a different method of cooking to a frying pan.

You could use a saucepan instead of a frying pan, but it isn’t a direct replacement. A saucepan cannot fry things because it is designed to trap moisture in and does this very well.

Frying pans are designed to let as much moisture escape during cooking as possible. That’s why if you fry onions in a frying pan, they come out brown and crunchy, and if you cook them in a saucepan, they come out wetter and softer.

Both are valid ways of preparing onions; it just depends on the dish you are making.


What Materials Are Saucepans Made From?

Saucepans can be made from loads of different materials, but the most common materials are stainless steel and aluminium. Both of these materials have excellent heat retention and can handle the high heat needed to boil and braise.


What Can I Use Instead of a Saucepan?

Hopefully, you can begin to see a common thread between saucepans and holding in moisture as you cook throughout this article. To lock in moisture as you cook, a saucepan is an ideal pan to use.

Saute Pan

However, if you don’t have a saucepan right now, you could use a sauté pan. A sauté pan is a cross between a frying pan and a saucepan. It has taller sides than a frying pan (not as tall as a saucepan), a large flat base, and a lid.

All of this means that a sauté pan is perfect for braising tasks but can be (and has in our household) used for boiling too.

You could also use a frying pan and fashion a lid out of a baking tray too. This can work, but boiling pasta, for example, in a frying pan this way can be dangerous and frustrating.


Do I Need a Saucepan?

If I were setting up my kitchen from scratch all over again, one of the first things on my shopping list would be three good-quality saucepans. A small, medium, and large saucepan.

The large saucepan can be used for boiling potatoes or pasta. The medium one can be used for veg and the smaller one for sauces.

Saucepan sets like these are not too expensive, and you can do a lot with three saucepans. In fact, you can do loads with a single saucepan.

Cherry Tomato Sauce in a Saucepan

I would say that for just about any home cook in the world, a saucepan is a vital piece of kitchen equipment. So, if you don’t own a saucepan at the moment, it is well worth getting at least one, but consider getting a few in different sizes.

We hope this look at saucepans has been helpful. Saucepans are so handy, and they really don’t cost too much. Having a few saucepans in your kitchen can really help you cook up a storm.

Make sure you check out our other saucepan articles before you leave. We have all of the best saucepans in the UK available right here that can help you take your cooking to the level.