What to Look For When Buying Sauce Pans
- Thick metal construction is an indicator of a quality saute pan.
- Copper saute pans should be lined with stainless steel.
- Anodised aluminium and stainless steel clad aluminium pans give the best performance at a reasonable price.
- Cast iron pans should be heavily coated with enamel.
- Nonstick surfaces require less oil and clean easier, but may not brown as well as metal.
- Riveted stainless steel handles are sturdy and versatile and will remain relatively cool.
- A tight fitting lid is essential for braising, steaming, and for keeping food warm.
The saucepan is an essential multi-functional tool in professional and home kitchens alike. Their tall, straight sides are designed for primarily cooking smaller amounts of liquid. You will not need the best sauce pans for everyday uses, but you still want to invest in good quality pans as they will see more use than any other cookware in your kitchen. Because you will use them for making sauces, heating soups, boiling potatoes and vegetables, cooking rice and oatmeal, among other things, it’s a good idea to have few different sized sauce pans in your cupboard. We recommend investing in a set of at least three pots (1, 2, and 4 litres in volume) to meet most of your needs.
The Sauce Pan
A good saucepan must heat quickly and evenly, being able to cook food without burning it. A good saucepan must also be responsive, able to cool down immediately when removed from the flame for sauce making and other delicate tasks. For serious cooks, only the best will do, but for everyday purposes many mid-range saucepans work exceptionally well. When choosing a saucepan, look for ones made of heavy gauge metals that are as thick on the sides as on the bottom. Anodised
aluminium or stainless steel clad aluminium pans provide an ideal balance of function and affordablity. Avoid thin, inexpensive saucepans as they will cook unevenly and ultimately warp.
The best sauce pans are made from copper and are often expensive. Copper is an excellent conductor, heats very evenly, and is exceptionally responsive to the flame. It is also toxic, reactive, and corrodes easily, so must be lined with another metal to be suitable for cooking. If you are serious about purchasing the ultimate saute pan, we suggest you choose one with a stainless steel surface. Although tin linings are slightly more responsive, they are not as durable as stainless steel and will wear out in time.
Aluminium sauce pans are strong, lightweight, and heat conductive, but are also chemically reactive. Solid aluminium saucepans will alter the taste of foods that are acidic, basic, or contain eggs, will pit in contact with salt, and are wholly unsuitable for sauce making. Anodized aluminium, an electrochemically treated aluminium, is an excellent material for saucepans. It is extremely hard, heats fast and evenly, is nonreactive, and relatively non-stick. We recommend them highly.
Although stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, it makes an ideal cooking surface as it is nonporous, nonreactive, nontoxic, and highly durable. It browns food excellently, a crucial factor for developing flavour. For solid stainless steel saucepans to heat and cook evenly, they must be bonded to a copper or
aluminium base. These pans are acceptable for everyday applications, but if you are considering one, be sure the base extends the entire width of the pan or it will develop hot spots around the edges.
Our top recommendation for saucepans are constructed from layered
aluminium cores and clad entirely in stainless steel. These pans are considerably more affordable than their copper counterparts, cook evenly, and are quite responsive to the flame. As a bonus, they will also work with induction ranges, ranges that cook with electromagnetic fields instead of heat.
Enamel coated cast iron saucepans are great making soups and tomato sauces. They are durable, nonreactive, and a provide steady even heat ideal for simmering. However, they are not very responsive and are therefore not suitable for making more delicate french sauces. If you are considering an enameled saucepan, be sure it is heavily coated as thin enamel will chip and crack in time.
Ultimately, the decision to purchase nonstick cookware will rely on your personal preference.
Nonstick surfaces have their advantages and their disadvantages. On the plus side, they are easy to clean and require less oil than traditional pans to prevent sticking. On the downside, the surfaces can be delicate and they do not generally promote browning as well as metal surfaces.
Although innovations have made Teflon coatings more durable than ever, Teflon will release highly toxic vapours if heated above 350C. Empty Teflon coated pans should never be left heating over a burner. Inexpensive coated pans will scratch and flake easily and should be avoided altogether.
Anodised aluminium pans are nontoxic and scratch resistant. They tend to stick more than coated pans, but they do a better job of searing and browning and are hard enough to be used with metal utensils. Some manufacturers use an anodised aluminium that has been electrochemically “infused” with non-stick polymers and others use revolutionary ceramics to create more efficient non-stick surfaces. We recommend any of these as they are durable and effective.
A good handle must be strong, sturdy, and remain cool to the touch. Wooden handles provide the best grip, but are not oven safe and therefore limit the versatility of a skillet. Plastic handles can withstand oven temperatures up to 250C, but can melt under a broiler. Stainless steel is a poor conductor and handles made from stainless steel are oven safe and will remain cool for a good amount of time. We prefer wide or hollow stainless steel handles for their versatility, but we also keep a potholder on hand at all times.
Handles that have been riveted to the side of a pan are strong and durable, but the rivets may be difficult to clean around and can loosen in time with heavy use. Handles that have been permanently bonded to or forged from the same piece of metal as the cookware are ideal as they will never fail. We suggest avoiding handles that have been spot welded or attached to the cookware by means of a screw system as they will loosen easily and may break entirely.