Saucepans are an essential piece of kitchenware, but they don't get talked about nearly as much as many other pieces. But having the right saucepan for your needs and preferences just makes life better in the kitchen, whether you're simmering a sauce, boiling pasta or eggs, making veggies, preparing soup, cooking rice or anything else.
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What to Consider When Purchasing a Saucepan
Material: Stainless steel is probably the best overall material for a saucepan, as it's versatile and durable. Nonstick hard-anodized aluminum is another good choice, particularly if you prioritize easy cleanup over life expectancy and tend to make stickier stuff like macaroni and cheese. Ceramic saucepans are also nonstick and more durable than aluminum products. Pricier options include enameled cast-iron, which is heavy, versatile and excellent for its heat retention, and copper, offering exceptional temperature control because of the material's superb heat conductivity and its ability to heat and cool very quickly. But keep in mind that copper is a reactive material, so it's not for use when preparing acidic foods like tomato sauce.
Size: Smaller saucepans are generally 0.75 to 1-quart, mid-size ones are about 2 to 3 quarts, and larger ones are 4 quarts (pots larger than that are usually called stockpots). Ideally, you should have a few different sizes on hand for various uses. But if you just have one, make it a mid-sized or large one. After all, you can always cook something in a saucepan that's too big, but it's a lot harder to cook something in one that's too small. For our purposes here, we single out mid-size saucepans; most saucepans you consider are available in more than one size, though.
Straining: Some saucepans come with a strainer lid that has holes on the sides as well as a pour spout on the side of the pot. If you'll primarily use it for pasta and other preparations that require draining, this is a convenient feature. However, some steam tends to escape with this style, so if you'll mostly use the saucepan for making foods that need the steam trapped securely (like rice), opt for a product without a strainer lid and pour spout. If you're unsure, go with the latter, as you can always use a colander if your saucepan isn't designed for straining.
Handles: Cookware handles are always important, but they're arguably a little more important on saucepans. These pots can be heavy when full of liquid, and there's often lifting and pouring involved. A longer handle over 7 inches keeps your hand distanced from the hot pot, and it stays cooler further out on the stovetop if it's a material that heats. A squared handle (one that's concave on top or boasts other design features to improve the grip) is good, as round handles can be harder to maintain a secure grip on. A helper handle is always nice, too.
Choosing the right saucepan for your needs and preferences should be easier if you think about these factors—along with your budgetary considerations, of course.
The Best Overall Saucepan
Tramontina Stainless Steel 2-Quart Covered Saucepan
This is a durable, elegant-looking stainless steel saucepan at a great price point for the quality. At 2.55 pounds, it's sturdily built with tri-ply construction, promoting even heating (from all sides, not just the bottom) without hot spots and good heat retention. While it has a rounded handle, it's ergonomically designed and not difficult to hold on to—it's a good length and doesn't get hot on the stovetop. There's a large helper handle too, and the precision-fit stainless steel lid reliably holds in steam. The interior bottom is slightly rounded, which helps with stirring and whisking. This product is compatible with all cooktops, including induction, and it's oven-safe (with or without the lid) up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Best Nonstick Saucepan
Cuisinart Contour Hard-Anodized 3-Quart Saucepan With Cover
This saucepan is as sturdy and reliable as nonstick hard-anodized aluminum cookware gets, and it's well priced considering. It heats quickly and evenly, while the nonstick quality is effective and long-lasting. The body is a little wider than normal, which speeds up certain tasks like bringing liquids to a boil, and the contoured sides and tapered rims let you pour without dripping. The pot has a long, easily gripped, comfortable handle that stays cool on the stove, but it has no helper handle. The tempered glass cover fits snugly to seal in moisture and lets you monitor food without removing the lid. It's oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's even freezer-safe.
The Best Stainless Steel Saucepan
AVACRAFT Stainless Steel 2.5-Quart Saucepan With Strainer Lid
A lightweight option for stainless steel, this saucepan still heats evenly and retains heat well. Between its weight and long, comfortable ergonomic handle, it's easy to move around and maneuver. Other user-friendly features include the pour spouts and straining lid for draining without a colander and the liquid measurement markings on the interior that eliminate the need for measuring cups. While most stainless steel cookware comes with stainless steel lids, this glass lid lets you see your food without taking it off and releasing lots of steam. There's a special matte finish inside to make the interior more scratch-resistant, and it's dishwasher- and refrigerator-safe. This one also has a sleek, elegant design for a high-end look with an affordable price tag.
The Best Ceramic Saucepan
GreenPan Rio Healthy Ceramic Nonstick 2-Quart Saucepan
Ceramic products offer a more durable nonstick alternative to nonstick-coated aluminum. This saucepan from a leader in affordable, quality ceramic cookware will be a welcome addition to any kitchen. Because it's free of PFAS, PFOA, lead and cadmium, it won't release toxic fumes, even if you accidentally overheat it. The ceramic coating is reinforced with diamond, and it's safe for use with metal cooking utensils (though there is a risk of scratches). It can go into the dishwasher, too. A glass lid lets you check on food without letting any steam out of the pot. This piece is oven-safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (with or without the lid). The Bakelite handle is comfortable to hold and won't get hot during use on the stovetop.
The Best Enameled Cast-Iron Saucepan
Le Creuset Signature 1.75-Quart Covered Saucepan
For those who want to invest in hefty, versatile, beautiful cookware that lasts a lifetime, pre-seasoned enameled cast-iron products from Le Creuset are a go-to. While this saucepan is a bit smaller and considerably more expensive than the others here, it's a piece you'll love for a long, long time. The material is perfect for heat retention, making this an especially good item for techniques like slow cooking and braising. The heavy, secure lid with built-in stabilizer locks in moisture, and the gently curved sides facilitate stirring and mixing. With a large, flat handle and a helper handle, it's not difficult to maneuver this piece, either. A light-colored interior lets you monitor your food easily, and the exterior comes in a number of attractive colors. This saucepan is compatible with all cooktops and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It's also dishwasher-safe, but it's better to hand wash to help prevent cracks or chips in an investment piece of kitchenware like this.
The Best Copper Saucepan
Mauviel Copper M'150 B 2-Quart Covered Saucepan
Mauviel is a leading brand for high-end copperware, and this oven- and broiler-safe saucepan is a great buy for serious cooks looking for exceptional temperature control for more delicate foods and cooking techniques. Its ability to heat and cool quickly in response to heat-source temperature changes is unrivaled. Significantly improving its practicality, this copper pot has a stainless steel-lined interior, providing a nonreactive surface for a traditionally reactive material. The flat handle is comfortable to grip, and the rolled rim allows for pouring without dripping. And it should be said that this is a gorgeous piece of cookware you'll be proud to display in your kitchen.
The Best Budget Saucepan
Utopia Kitchen 2-Quart Nonstick Saucepan With Lid
As for a reliable saucepan at the bottom of the price range, this nonstick aluminum one's a good pick. It's perfect as a starter saucepan that can handle the basics if you're not looking to get fancy with your cooking or shell out for anything longer lasting. The double-layered nonstick interior does the job, and it's scratch-resistant too (though you still shouldn't use metal cooking utensils). It's also dishwasher-safe, but this will wear down the nonstick coating over time. The Bakelite handle is comfortable and stays cool on the stove.
The Best High-End Saucepan
All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded 3-Quart Saucepan With Lid
When you're looking to spend more on upscale, high-performance cookware, All-Clad is one of the best brands to turn to. This tri-ply bonded stainless steel saucepan has a relatively high price tag, but it's actually a great price for the brand and what you get—including, most importantly, stellar performance as far as even heating and heat retention are concerned. You're also getting a piece of cookware that can last a lifetime with proper care. The extra-high sides are a helpful feature, and the flat handle is easy to grip and stays cool during use on the stove. Also, the highly polished interior offers more nonstick action than just any stainless steel pot. This product is compatible with induction cooktops, and it's oven- and broiler-safe up to an impressive 600 degrees Fahrenheit.