Best Saute Pans

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

51 Models Considered
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184 Consumers Consulted
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best sauté pans

Last Updated September 2020

Searing a juicy steak. Cooking up a batch of fragrant curried chicken. Simmering your “world famous” spaghetti sauce to perfect tomatoey goodness. Braising chicken thighs, pork chops, or lamb cutlets to mouth-watering tenderness. A sauté pan handles all of these kitchen tasks with ease, as well as many other cooking techniques. And yet far too many kitchens are without this basic cookware staple.

When choosing a sauté pan, you’ll be faced with a few critical decisions. For example, would you prefer a pan made of stainless steel, cast iron, or another material? Would you rather have a lid that is metal or transparent glass? Do you need a sauté pan that is compatible with a induction stove top? 

We did the research for you and wrote this handy guide to choosing and using a sauté pan. Whether you are a newbie to the kitchen or a seasoned home chef looking to expand your repertoire, you’ll soon find yourself regularly reaching for your favorite pan when it’s time to whip up a meal.

Sauté pans normally include a fitted lid, often made of glass.

Skillet vs. sauté pan

Before you can choose a sauté pan, you need to know what one is. For many kitchen beginners — and even a fair amount of those who know their way around the stove top — there’s confusion between skillets and sauté pans. While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, these two essential pieces of cookware are not the same.

Skillet: Often called frying pans or frypans, skillets have shallow, gently sloping sides, a long handle, and typically are not sold with a matching lid. Skillets come in a range of sizes, which are determined by the width of the pan across its top. The most popular are 10-inch and 12-inch skillets, but an 8-inch skillet is useful for cooking one grilled cheese sandwich or a couple of scrambled eggs. Skillets are perfect for cooking foods that are moved around in the pan a great deal during the cooking process, such as stir-fries.

Sauté pan: By contrast, sauté pans have straight sides that are generally taller than those of skillets. That means the bottom of the pan is flat all the way across — no sloping sides — providing plenty of room to sear meat or vegetables. The taller sides also make sauté pans ideal for liquid-heavy dishes, such as chili, stew, or curry. Like a skillet, a sauté pan has a long handle, but it’s common for sauté pans to also have a short loop handle on the opposite side of the pan to make it easy to lift and move the pan when it’s full. Unlike skillets, sauté pans are normally sold with a matching lid. And the sizes of sauté pans are measured by how many quarts the pan holds, not inches across the top.

DID YOU KNOW?

Unlike skillets, sauté pans are measured by the number of quarts they hold, not by their size in inches.

Key considerations

Material

The biggest consideration when choosing a sauté pan is the type of metal. There are several that are commonly used for cookware.

Stainless steel: This very popular choice resists scratching, denting, staining, and reacting or leaching into foods. On the downside, however, stainless steel isn’t that good at conducting heat on its own, so stainless steel cookware typically has a core of either aluminum or copper. In the best sauté pans, that core extends over the entire pan. In lower-quality cookware, the core only covers the bottom of the pan.

Aluminum: Because aluminum is a soft metal that easily dents, scratches, and leaches into acidic foods, almost all aluminum cookware is anodized, which is a chemical process that creates a harder, more durable surface on the metal. Commonly, aluminum sauté pans and other cookware are also coated with a nonstick finish, making cleanup a breeze. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat and quite inexpensive.

Cast iron: While it’s rare to find a true cast iron sauté pan, there are cast iron skillets that come close, with sides straighter than those of most other skillets. Cast iron is extremely durable but also very heavy and prone to reacting with acidic foods, and it requires periodic seasoning with oil to protect its surface. Although cast iron is actually a poor conductor of heat, it maintains heat for a long time. Most cast iron is black, but there are also enameled, colorful cast iron cookware pots and pans.

Copper: Typically only found in high-end kitchens because of its very high price, copper is an excellent conductor of heat and responds very quickly to changes in flame temperature. Its beautiful, warm glow makes it decorative as well as functional, but copper is prone to discoloration and scratching, and it requires periodic polishing to maintain its appearance.

Handle

The best sauté pans have riveted or welded handles that won’t come loose or fall off even after years of use. By contrast, the handles on lower-quality cookware are usually held in place by screws, which tend to loosen over time, meaning the handle could wiggle or fall off while you’re using the pan. Another nice feature is a silicone coating that prevents a metal handle from getting too hot to touch.

Lid

Depending on the brand, your sauté pan will have either a glass or a metal lid. Many cooks like glass, which makes it easy to keep an eye on the pan’s contents without letting heat escape, but a dropped glass lid is likely going to shatter. The lids on higher-quality sauté pans have a welded or riveted knob or handle, while the handles on the lids of lower-priced cookware are typically held in place with a screw.

Induction compatibility

If you have an induction cooktop, you’ll need a sauté pan with a magnetic material in the base. Cast iron works naturally with induction stoves, and stainless steel works if the base is made of a magnetic grade of the metal, but aluminum or copper cookware must have a bonded magnetic metal base for use on these types of stoves.

Stove-to-oven

While you aren’t as likely to use a sauté pan to prepare recipes that start on the stove and finish in the oven as you are to use a skillet, it’s convenient to have the ability to do so when desired. Some cookware is safe for use in the oven as well as atop the stove, but pay attention to the manufacturer’s guidelines for maximum temperature, which can be as low as 350°.

EXPERT TIP

Don’t confuse a sauté pan with a skillet: Sauté pans have straight sides while skillets have gently flared sides.


Staff  | BestReviews

Sauté pan prices

Inexpensive: For under $30, you’ll typically get a nonstick aluminum sauté pan with handles and lid-knob that are screwed in place. Because inexpensive pans typically have thinner bases than their more expensive counterparts, they tend to heat and cook unevenly. The exception is cast iron, which normally costs less than $30 but is still excellent quality.

Mid-range: In the $30 to $75 range, you’ll find a wide range of good-quality cookware in stainless steel and anodized aluminum. These sauté pans generally have handles and lid-knobs that are firmly attached with rivets or welding. Many are oven safe or compatible with induction stove tops. In this price range, the pan bottom should be thick enough to heat and cook evenly for the best results.

Expensive: Professional-quality sauté pans, or those made of copper, typically cost well over $100. While the average home chef doesn’t need to spend this much for a good piece of cookware, if you only want the best, or you love the beauty of copper, be prepared to spend as much as $300 for the very best sauté pans. 

EXPERT TIP

For most chefs, a stainless steel or nonstick aluminum sauté pan is the best choice.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

Whether you’re living on your own for the first time or just upgrading your cookware collection, it’s helpful to know what’s essential when it comes to your pots and pans. Along with a good sauté pan, here’s what else to have on hand.

  • Skillet: Every kitchen needs at least one skillet to fry, stir-fry, and brown foods. A 12-inch skillet covers just about every need, but if you only cook for two people, a 10-inch skillet might be large enough.

  • Saucepan: This is your basic long-handled pot. The most versatile is a 4-quart saucepan, but it’s also handy to have a smaller 2-quart choice as well. Use these for cooking soups, stews, and other liquid dishes.

  • Stockpot: A tall pot with a fitted lid and short handles, a stockpot is perfect for whipping up larger batches of soups, stews, chilies, and other liquid-intensive recipes. An 8-quart stockpot is the most versatile, but if you only cook for one or two people, a 6-quart pot is sufficient.

  • Baking dish: Typically made of glass, baking dishes are made to bake cakes, casseroles, egg dishes such as frittatas, or potato gratins. The most useful sizes are 13 x 9 inches and 11 x 7 inches.

  • Baking sheet: You can do more than bake cookies on a baking sheet. Choose one with a slight lip and you can prepare an entire meal on this large, flat piece of cookware.

  • Dutch oven: If you love roasted chicken or beef, you’ll want to have a sturdy Dutch oven in either a 6- or 8-quart size. This deep oval pot has a short handle on each end and a tightly fitting lid.

  • Roasting pan: Not every cook needs a roasting pan, but if you prepare your family’s Thanksgiving feast or often cook turkey, large beef roasts, or hams, you’ll appreciate the large size, short sides, and sturdy short handles of a 16- or 18-inch roasting pan. Many include metal racks and lids.

A sauté pan is good for more than sautéing. Use this versatile piece of cookware to braise, sear, or simmer your favorite meats and vegetables.

FAQ

Q. Can I clean a sauté pan in the dishwasher?
A. While some cookware is advertised as dishwasher safe, it’s best to wash all cookware, including sauté pans, by hand. The high temperatures, strong cleaners, and humidity inside the dishwasher wear away at nonstick coatings on aluminum cookware, rust cast iron, and discolor copper. It is generally safe to clean stainless steel sauté pans in the dishwasher, however, but you should take care that the pan won’t scrape or bang against other dishes during the cleaning cycle. 

Q. Is it better to buy cookware pieces in a set or individually?
A. If you’re just starting out and need a full set of cookware, it can be more economical and certainly more convenient to purchase a set. But if you only want to add a few pieces to your kitchen, or you prefer the freedom of selecting exactly the sizes and features you prefer, go ahead and buy your cookware pieces individually. 

Q. What’s the best size sauté pan?
A. There are several sizes of sauté pan available, all measured by how many quarts they hold. If you only cook for one or two people, choose a 3- or 4-quart sauté pan. But if your family is larger, you’ll find a 5- or 6-quart sauté pan is the most useful size.

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