Saucepan buying guide: How to find the best saucepan
Compare saucepans and cookware sets to find the best saucepan for your culinary creations.
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Quick facts about comparing saucepans:
- If you're ready to update your pots and pans, there are plenty of options to choose from.
- Types of saucepans include stainless steel, aluminium, copper and cast-iron.
- Prices range from less than $20 up to $350 or more depending on the brand and material.
When to get a new saucepan
A couple of good saucepans (at least) are essential in any kitchen. Not only are saucepans likely to see more use than just about any other piece of cookware in your kitchen, they also play an integral role in preparing a huge range of dishes.
Sometimes it can be hard to say goodbye to your old pots and pans after their many years of service, so here are a few telltale signs that it's time to upgrade:
Remember, you're only as good as the tools you have at your disposal. You might be surprised by the difference a high-quality saucepan can make to your cooking, while it'll also be easier to clean afterwards.
What materials are available?
The cooking performance of a saucepan and how easy it is to clean depend on the material it is constructed from. Here are the main options:
- Stainless steel. Known for being long-lasting and affordable, stainless steel is widely used and is dishwasher-safe. Many options feature a thick aluminium or copper base for better heat conduction, but some pans can have problems with food sticking.
- Aluminium. Affordable, lightweight and an excellent heat conductor, aluminium is another popular choice. However, aluminium pans can stain and have problems with food sticking to the sides – so a hard-anodised aluminium pan, which has a durable and scratch-resistant surface, may be your preferred choice.
- Copper. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat and copper pans warm up and cool down quickly, giving more control to the home cook. They're suitable for a wide range of cooking tasks and their good looks mean they can also double as presentation dishes. However, copper can be expensive, can be difficult to keep clean and can't be used on induction cooktops.
- Cast iron. Long lasting and highly effective at absorbing and retaining heat, cast iron is another option worth considering. It's also oven safe, but can be heavy and may also rust.
How to compare saucepans
Aside from the saucepan material used, there are several other factors you will need to take into account when buying saucepans. Make sure you consider the following:
Type of pan
From frying pans and sauté pans to saucepans, stockpots and Dutch ovens, cookware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit different cooking tasks. Make sure any pan you choose fits the type of cooking you like to do.
Cookware with a non-stick surface has its pros and cons, so whether to purchase it comes down to personal preference. Often applied to aluminium pans, a non-stick coating is easier to clean and requires less oil when cooking. However, non-stick surfaces can scratch and they don't brown meat as well as some other materials.
Some people have concerns about Teflon, one type of non-stick coating, releasing fumes that pose a cancer risk when used in cooking. However, according to the American Cancer Council, "Other than the possible risk of flu-like symptoms from breathing in fumes from an overheated Teflon-coated pan, there are no known risks to humans from using Teflon-coated cookware."
Glass lids allow you to check on the progress of your cooking without removing the lid and letting steam escape. However, they add weight and are also easier to break.
Metal is durable and easy to clean, but you'll need to remove the lid to see what's happening underneath
Some larger pans feature a spout or shaped lip to make it easier to pour the contents of your pot into another dish.
Are the handles heat-proof so you don't have to worry about them burning your hands? Are they firmly attached to the pan and comfortable to hold?
For example, while plastic and wood handles are heat-proof, you can't put them in the oven. Metal handles with removable heat guards offer a practical solution, allowing you to avoid a hot handle while on the stovetop but then transfer your pan to the oven if needed.
Not all materials are dishwasher safe, so check the recommended cleaning method before you buy. Also, consider the construction – some handles are connected to the inside of a pan using rivets, which is generally quite a sturdy arrangement but can make it harder to get the pan clean.
- Size, shape and weight. The dimensions of a saucepan are important to determine whether it's suitable for the type of cooking you want to do as well as if it will be a good fit for your kitchen. Will the pan be large enough (and have high enough sides) for the quantities you will be cooking? Will it fit comfortably on your stovetop?You'll also want to look for a saucepan with a sufficiently sturdy base so it won't slide around your cooktop while you stir your risotto, but which is also lightweight enough to move around the kitchen.
- Oven safe. Are you looking for cookware you can transfer straight from the stove and into the oven? If so, check the maximum temperature to which a pan is oven safe, as some are limited to 180 or 200 degrees Celsius.< li>
- Appearance. The look of a saucepan won't be a major concern for most people. However, if you're planning on using the pan as a from-the-stove-to-the-table serving dish for dinner guests, or if your cookware will be on display in your kitchen when not in use, remember to keep aesthetics in mind.
- Warranty. Some manufacturers offer 5-year, 10-year or even lifetime warranties. However, it's worth reading the fine print to find out exactly what incidents and circumstances that warranty actually covers.Other manufacturers will offer separate warranties for different features. For example, they may offer a two- to three-year warranty on a non-stick coating but a longer warranty for the body of the pan.
- Price. While you can pick up a cheap aluminium saucepan for less than $20, high-quality pans can generally cost anywhere from $50 to $350. However, the longer lifespan of good-quality saucepans can often make them worth the extra investment.
Should I buy one saucepan or a whole set?
If you're shopping for a new saucepan, you might be considering buying a whole new set of cookware. This may be a sensible choice if you need to upgrade all your pots and pans, and you can often find good value for money by purchasing multiple items all at once.
However, be wary of buying items you don't really need or that you don't have enough space to store. While a 10-piece cookware set may seem like a good deal, you'll need to be sure that you'll actually use all the items in the set on a regular basis.
If the small number of pots, pans and baking dishes you currently have are more than adequate for your cooking needs, your money may be better spent investing in a couple of good-quality saucepans of different sizes.
If it's time to upgrade one or more of your pots and pans, start comparing saucepans today.
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