August 26

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How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

By trk

August 26, 2020

clad stainless, cooking, sauce pans, saucepans

Looking for the best sauce pan for your kitchen? Here, we discuss what makes a saucepan great and look at aspects such as material, size, shape, budget, design, and more. 

If you're thinking about a sauciér instead, we talk about those, too.

Why take advice from us?

Our primary goal is to help people learn about products and find the best fit for their needs. We never take any money or free products from any seller, ever. We do extensive, product-specific research and testing on every product we review, and look at as many features as we can to help you decide. 

You don't have to spend a fortune to get a good quality saucepan, but there are huge ranges of price and quality to consider. If you educate yourself on the basics, you'll have a better chance of finding the best saucepan for you

Saucepans at a Glance: A Quick Look at Our Favorites

Here's a table showing our favorites in the categories we think are the most important. Scroll down for the detailed reviews of each. 

Our Picks

Why We Love It

Our Rating/

Approx. Price

Our Overall Best Sauce Pan:

All-Clad Tri-Ply (w/helper)

All-Clad Tri-Ply (no helper)

All-Clad D5 (w/helper)

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

-Several sizes

-Double boiler/steamer inserts

-Even heating and durable

-Helper handle on 3 qt and up

-Dishwasher safe

-Limited lifetime warranty

-Made in USA.

Most Popular Sauce Pan (Amazon):

Farberware Classic Stainless

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

-4 sizes, 1-4 qt.

-Strainer lid option

-Bottom clad (aluminum) base

-Dishwasher safe

-"Iconic" handles (oven safe to 350F)

-Affordable

-Made in China

-Lifetime warranty.

Starting around $20

Best Budget Sauce Pan:

Cuisinart Multiclad Pro

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

-Several sizes

-Grooved lip for drip-free pouring

-Full tri-ply cladding

-Made in China

-Limited lifetime warranty.

Starting around $30

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

-Rivetless cooking surface

-5 ply construction

-Silvinox finish for easy cleanup
-Shot-blasted handle (for grip)

-Made in Belgium

-30 year warranty.

About $150

See it at Sur la Table (insulated lid, same price)

Best Strainer Lid: 

Farberware

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

-2 sizes, 1 and 3 qt.

-Stainless lid

-Bottom clad (aluminum) base

-Dishwasher safe

-Affordable

-Made in China

-Lifetime warranty.

About $20/$28

Best Double Boiler:

All-Clad D3 Insert

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

-Fits 3- and 4-qt sauce pans

-Stainless

-Excellent quality

-Limited lifetime warranty.

About $60

Best Steamer Insert:

All-Clad D3 Steamer Insert

-Fits 3- and 4-qt sauce pans

-Stainless

-Excellent quality

-Limited lifetime warranty.

About $60

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First: What Is a Saucepan, Exactly?

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

A saucepan is a deep pan with straight sides or slightly angled sides and is almost always sold with a lid. It is used primarily for heating liquids or foods that contain (or start from) a lot of liquid such as rice and pasta. A lid is essential for holding in moisture, which is essential for many cooking tasks.

Most saucepans have one long handle and, if 3 quarts or larger, can have a helper handle on the opposite side. If a pan is deep with two short handles, you can still use it as a sauce pan, but it is considered a small stock pot.

Though called a sauce pan, this pan is used for multiple kitchen tasks. A sauce pan is a kitchen essential, whether you're a gourmet chef or use it to heat canned soup or make boxed macaroni and cheese. Along with a skillet, it's one of the most-used pans in any kitchen.

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Saucepan Vs. Saucier: What's the Difference (And Which One Is Best?)

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Somewhat ironically, a sauce pan is not the best choice for making sauces. For that, you want a sauciér.

In many ways, a saucepan and a sauciér are interchangeable. You can use both for making sauces, for heating leftovers, for boiling pasta, for custards, rice, etc. 

However, a sauciér is better designed for actual sauce making. It's shallower than a sauce pan to facilitate proper evaporation, and the curved sides are built so a whisk can reach every inch of cooking surface.

Most sauce pans have straight or sharply angled sides that aren't ideal for whisking. 

So which one is the better choice?

If you are a serious cook, we think you need both. A sauce pan is deeper for, say, boiling pasta or making oatmeal, so you don't have to worry about liquid sloshing over the sides. A sauciér is essential if you're going to be making any sort of "real" sauce, especially those that require whisking (such as bechamel). They are also optimal for custards, puddings, and other thick, liquidy solids that require ample stirring (whisk or no whisk). 

If you're not into sauce making, a sauce pan is the logical choice. It's the more versatile of the two, as many sauce pans have steamer and double boiler insert options. Sauciérs do not offer this option; their wider angled sides are not made for inserts. 

Sauciérs are also more likely to come without a lid, which can also make them less useful than saucepans.

Saucepans, being the more common of the two, are also usually less expensive than sauciérs of a similar size.

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Sauce Pan Options: What Makes the Best Sauce Pan?

As with all cookware, there are a lot of options for sauce pans. We think clad stainless steel is the best option for sauce pans and sauciérs.

To see why, we'll look at all the options.

Clad Stainless Steel

Example: All-Clad D3 Sauce Pan

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

We think clad stainless steel makes the best all-around sauce pan. It's durable, it can take high heat, and it's fairly east to clean and maintain. 

Not all clad stainless is made equally, though. You need to buy the right brand in order to get the right performance. Some of the less expensive brands are too thin-walled to provide good heating performance. For a clad stainless sauce pan to be good, it has to have a heavy bottom--and preferably clad sides as well, though that isn't absolutely necessary--that distributes heat evenly. 

We prefer full cladding to disc cladding as it helps distribute heat throughout. But a disc-clad sauce pan can be fine too, especially if you're using it primarily for liquids (think: boiling pasta).

Because we think it outclasses all other sauce pan options, all of our recommendations are clad stainless. However, we give examples of other sauce pans so you can take a look at them, too.

Aluminum

Example: Winco Aluminum 4 Qt Sauce Pan

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Most aluminum pans these days have a nonstick cooking surface, however, the one linked to above does not. It's made entirely of aluminum. Aluminum conducts heat beautifully, or at least it does if it's thick enough and heavy enough. Most aluminum cookware is inexpensive, and because it's inexpensive, it tends to be on the thin side, meaning that it will heat too fast and too unevenly to make a good sauce pan (scorching!). 

Furthermore, aluminum can react with acidic foods such as tomato sauce, producing a metallic flavor.

You don't want that in your cookware.

There's also some sketchy evidence that aluminum is related to Alzheimer's, but this has not been proven.

For these reasons, we do not recommend pure aluminum sauce pans.

Anodized aluminum is dark gray or black, and it's aluminum that's been treated to make it more durable and less reactive. Most anodized aluminum cookware has a different cooking surface, either nonstick or stainless steel. There may be saucepans with an anodized aluminum cooking surface, but we couldn't find one.

If aluminum or anodized aluminum cookware has a stainless cooking surface, it could make for a great sauce pan; this is the case for both All-Clad MC2 and All-Clad LTD2. But that is because of 1) the build quality/heft of the aluminum, and 2) the stainless steel cooking surface. 

We do not recommend any anodized aluminum sauce pans with an aluminum or a nonstick cooking surface. (More on nonstick sauce pans in a minute.) 

Cast Iron

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Example: Old Mountain 2 Qt Sauce Pan

Cast iron is dense and heavy, so imagine how heavy a large cast iron sauce pan full of boiling pasta water would be. This is the main reason cast iron doesn't make good sauce pans, but it has a problem similar to aluminum in that it will react with acidic foods.

Also, because cast iron rusts easily, cast iron sauce pans are not ideal for cooking tasks involving a lot of liquid, like making rice, boiling pasta, or heating soup. The high water content can cause the pan to require frequent re-seasoning, which is a bit of a pain.

For these reasons, we love cast iron for skillets, but for sauce pans, not so much.

Enameled Cast Iron

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Example: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Sauce Pan

Enameled cast iron is excellent for Dutch ovens (see our review of enameled Dutch ovens), but it is not ideal for sauce pans. It's durable, it can take a lot of abuse, and it will last forever if you buy the right brand. But the right brand is expensive. And once again, cast iron is heavy. Heavy is not what you want in a sauce pan, at least not when you can get equal or better performance from clad stainless, which is significantly lighter weight. 

If you love enameled cast iron and don't mind the weight, then it's not a terrible choice. But clad stainless is lighter, less expensive, and just as durable. 

Carbon Steel

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Example: Mauviel Black Steel Curved Sauté Pan

Carbon steel, also called black steel or blue steel, is very close in performance to cast iron. It is best known for skillets, so the Mauviel pan above was the only example we could find of a sauce pan-like piece (notice that they don't call it a sauce pan, but a sauté pan, even though the cooking surface is far too small to be considered a sauté pan). 

Therefore, the main reason not to buy a carbon steel sauce pan is that there just aren't a lot of options available. They are also on the heavy side (they have the same density as cast iron, though they're thinner, so not quite as heavy).

Carbon steel also requires periodic seasoning like cast iron. 

There aren't a lot of carbon steel cookware sets around, either, so if you want a matched set, carbon steel doesn't offer a lot of options. 

Glass/Ceramic

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Example: Xtrema Traditions Sauce Pan

NOTE: By ceramic, we mean fully ceramic, not ceramic-coated nonstick, which we discuss in the nonstick section below.

Ceramic cookware is heavy, breakable, expensive, with terrible heating performance (after all, ceramic is an insulator rather than a conductor of heat). 

Then why do people buy ceramic cookware? Primarily because it is considered the safest cookware on the market. It is--or is at least marketed as--a completely non-toxic, non-reactive cookware. The main purchasers of ceramic cookware are people whose number one concern is safety (and don't give a lick about heating performance).

This is not to say that other types of cookware are dangerous. All cookware is safe when used properly. It's just that ceramic cookware has the perception of being the safest, most non-reactive type of cookware. 

We do not recommend it for all the reasons above (e.g., heavy, fragile, and a terrible heat conductor), and also because we consider stainless steel to be equally safe, non-toxic, and non-reactive.

Copper

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Example: Mauviel M'Heritage 250C Sauce Pan

NOTE: By copper, we mean real copper cookware lined with stainless steel or tin. We do not mean the inexpensive copper-colored nonstick cookware such as this, which we discuss in the nonstick category (below). Note also that there are many other types of copper cookware, many of which are lined with stainless steel, and so have some of the properties of clad stainless sauce pans. For more on that, see our article Copper Cookware Review: The Ultimate Guide to All the Types of Copper Cookware

We at TRK are the first to proclaim the fabulousness of real copper cookware. The heating properties are the best available: fast, responsive, and extremely even. For making bona fide sauces, a heavy-bottomed, real copper sauce pan or sauciér is hard to beat. 

If this is so, then why aren't copper sauce pans our first choice? Primarily because of the cost: the 3-quart sauce pan pictured above is right around $400. Yikes!

Copper cookware can also be very heavy, is not induction compatible, and requires polishing 2-3 times a year to keep its gorgeous luster (though letting it oxidize does not affect its performance in the least).

For all of these reasons, we prefer good quality clad stainless to copper for sauce pans. 

If budget is not an issue for you, then real copper is an excellent performer, especially if you don't mind the drawbacks. But many clad stainless brands are just about as good for a lot less. 

Nonstick

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen
How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Example (Ceramic): Green Pan Bronze Lima Sauce Pans

Nonstick cookware comes in two types: PTFE (also known as Teflon®) and ceramic. Both PTFE and ceramic are coatings that are applied to a base metal such as aluminum or clad stainless steel. The coatings can also contain other substances such as titanium particles and diamond dust to reinforce the nonstick coating--but note that if a nonstick pan is called "titanium," "diamond," "granite," it is still either PTFE or ceramic.

We do not recommend either type of nonstick coating for a sauce pan. 

We know this goes against the grain because so many people love nonstick cookware. And if you just can't live without your nonstick cookware, at least educate yourself about it so you know that you're using it safely. Our article Nonstick Cookware Brands: PTFE or Ceramic? contains a lot of good information about both types of nonstick cookware. 

Here are all the reasons why we recommend you don't buy a nonstick sauce pan.

You Don't Need a Nonstick Sauce Pan

The main appeal of nonstick cookware is that it's easy to clean. Since most foods cooked in sauce pans are liquids, they don't result in messy cleanup. Therefore, a nonstick coating isn't as necessary on a sauce pan as it may be on a skillet (though its usefulness on a skillet can also be debated).

Yes, foods such as oatmeal and macaroni and cheese can be a bit messy to clean up. But there are ways around this (such as a simple soaking).

We think a saucepan's durability and the freedom to use any temperature and utensils you want is more important than easy cleaning.

You Can't Use High Heat on a Nonstick Sauce Pan

Just as you should never use high heat on a nonstick skillet, you should never use high heat on a sauce pan, either. This is true for both PTFE and ceramic--the high heat destroys nonstick properties faster than just about anything else (except maybe scratching with metal utensils). 

Think what that means for boiling pasta water. Are you seriously going to use medium heat for this? (You know you aren't.)

Once again, we think durability and being able to withstand any temperature is more important than easy cleanup--and also once again, easy cleanup is possible with any type of sauce pan. You do not need nonstick for easy cleanup.

You Can't Use a Steel Whisk or Other Utensils on a Nonstick Sauce Pan

If you have a nonstick sauce pan, don't even think about using a metal whisk to stir a sauce, or a fork to fluff up your rice or risotto--these are nonstick killers! You run the risk of scratching your nonstick sauce pan, which renders it pretty much useless (and, in the case of PTFE, possibly unsafe).

The Dark Color Makes it Hard to See Results

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Not all nonstick sauce pans have a dark cooking surface (here's one that doesn't), but most do. A dark interior can make it tricky to judge the doneness of many foods. One example is caramelizing onions: a dark interior makes it super easy to go past the point of golden caramelization. Browning butter is another: you can go past brown to burnt in just an instant, and a dark cooking surface makes this much easier to do.

Other pans have a dark interior, like cast iron and some brands of enameled cast iron. We do not recommend these for sauce pans, either.  

The Nonstick Coating Won't Last

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

And probably the number one reason not to buy a nonstick sauce pan? The coating won't last. No matter how much you spend, no matter how great the quality of the pan, the nonstick coating has a finite life of about 5 years, and possibly much less. This may not sound awful, but when you compare that to the lifetime warranty on clad stainless steel cookware, the appeal fades quickly. And once the nonstick coating wears off, you're left with an otherwise perfectly good aluminum--or worse, clad stainless--sauce pan that you can't use. 

This is not only bad for your budget and your kitchen, it's terrible for the environment. Though nonstick cookware is recyclable, it's not a simple process in most areas, so the vast majority of discarded nonstick cookware ends up in landfills. 

Very sad, indeed.

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What Is the Best Size for a Saucepan ?

In truth, most cooks need at least two sauce pans: a small one and a medium-to-large one.

Small is 2 quarts and under. These are good for melting butter, heating cans of soup, oatmeal for two, and other small jobs.

Large is 3 quarts and over, with anything over 4 quarts straying into stock pot territory. This size is ideal for making rice, cooking pasta, and hundreds of other kitchen tasks. Your large sauce pan is probably going to get the most use of any pan in your kitchen.

What about medium? 2-3 quarts is medium, and can also be a good size for a lot of tasks. Small enough to melt butter or heat soup, but large enough to boil a half pound of pasta. 

If you're on a budget and want to buy just one sauce pan, our recommendation is a 3 quart size. It's the most versatile size for most uses. Also, a 4 quart sauce pan starts to get a bit cumbersome, so unless you are routinely cooking for a large family, you'll find yourself reaching for the 3 quart size more often. It's just easier for most people to handle.

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Buying Factors: What to Look At Before Buying

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

As with all of our cookware buying guides, we break down the saucepan decision process into several categories. If you look at all of them, they will help you make the right choice, and you will almost certainly end up with a saucepan you can love. 

No cookware is perfect, and different people will give weight to different categories. For example, heating properties will probably matter most to an experienced cook, while ease of care might matter most to a beginner or someone who sees cooking as a chore. 

Here are the features we consider important: heating properties, durability and stability, ease of care, design, and budget/warranty. Whichever you deem most important, rating a sauce pan in all of these categories should be a tremendous help with your purchasing process.

Heating Properties

Heating properties refer to thermal conductivity and heat capacity, and they are the most important aspect of any cookware you buy--they determine how well the pan transfers heat to food.

Thermal conductivity measures how fast and how evenly cookware heats and responds to temperature changes, while heat capacity is a measure of how long cookware hangs onto heat. 

If the two sound at odds, you're right: they are. That is, cookware with good thermal conductivity has poor heat capacity and vice versa. 

On the one end of the scale is copper cookware, which has superior thermal conductivity, heating evenly and quickly (i.e., it's responsive). On the other end is cast iron, which heats slowly and unevenly, but hangs onto heat like nothing else can. Both are excellent for different cooking tasks. 

In the middle we have cast aluminum and clad stainless steel (which depends on an aluminum layer to spread heat). These two, when of sufficiently good quality, are an excellent compromise between conductivity and retention, and are excellent options for most cooking tasks. 

Another factor that affects heating properties is weight, or wall thickness: the thicker a pan is, the slower and more evenly it will heat, regardless of what it's made of. Thus, a thick aluminum pan is going to have better thermal conductivity than a thin, flimsy copper pan, even though copper has a higher thermal conductivity rating than aluminum. 

This means that for saucepans and sauciérs, you want a decent amount of heft, regardless of what the pan is made of. A heavy-bottomed sauce pan will heat more slowly, but the heat will be even and help to prevent scorching.

Too lightweight, and a sauce pan will scorch easily, and thus isn't good for much beyond boiling water. 

A good quality clad stainless pan contains enough weight and enough aluminum to provide excellent heating properties for a sauce pan. 

Durability and Stability

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Durability refers to how much abuse a pan can survive: high heat, rapid temperature changes, hot oil spattering, metal utensils, abrasive scrubbing pads and cleansers, and going in the dishwasher. A durable pan is ideal because you never have to give a second thought to heating, scrubbing, or scraping. The pan can take it all.

Stability means how a pan reacts with its environment, especially food. For example, cast iron and aluminum both react with acidic foods, so they have a poor stability rating (although well-seasoned cast iron can be quite stable). If a pan has a poor stability rating, you will always have to be careful about what you cook in it and maybe even how you wash it (e.g., if you don't dry cast iron after washing, it can rust).

Clad stainless is our pick in this category, too. It's durable enough to withstand use and abuse (as long as it is of decent quality), and it doesn't rust or react with any types of food. A clad stainless sauce pan is both durable and stable.

Ease of Care

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

The best sauce pans should also be easy to care for. This doesn't necessarily mean nonstick sauce pans (for all the reasons we listed above), because the truth is, most sauce pans are easy to care for, especially when used properly. 

It's great to have the option of throwing a sauce pan in the dishwasher, but it's usually not necessary. If a sauce pan does get scorched or covered in cooked-on goop, you can soak it to make it easier to clean. This doesn't add a lot of time to care, and can make a huge difference.

So while washing dishes is a pain, we really don't think ease of care should be a main factor in choosing a sauce pan. If it is, you may end up with nonstick, which has its own set of undesirable characteristics. 

Instead, be happy with the fact that most of the time, a sauce pan is easy to wash. And for those few times when it isn't, there are tricks to make it easier.

Design: Ergonomics and Aesthetics

How to Choose the Best Sauce Pans for Your Kitchen

Ergonomics and aesthetics are both about subjective choices: what looks and feels good to you may not to somebody else. So this is probably the most important category for most people. If you don't buy cookware you love, you won't enjoy using it. If you don't buy cookware that's comfortable, you won't enjoy using it. So both are important factors for getting the right sauce pan.

Here are the design features of a saucepan that we think are the most important to consider.

Size

We talked about size already, but keep in mind that while a big saucepan is more versatile, bigger isn't always better: you may prefer a 3-quart to a 4 quart simply because it's easier to handle. And a small sauce pan is great for small jobs, though you will probably get the most use out of a 3-quart or larger size.

If you are a serious cook, or routinely cook large meals, you will no doubt need at least a couple of sauce pans in small and medium-to-large sizes.

Handles and Helper Handles

A lot of people don't think about handles until after they've bought, and this is a shame, because handles can make or break how easy, and how comfortable, a sauce pan is to use.

Handles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are long, some are short. Some are round, some are flat. Some are thick, some are thin. Some are smooth, some are rough (to help with grip). And every single one is going to have both lovers and haters, because no handle is perfect for everybody.

The traditional All-Clad handle gets a lot of hate for being uncomfortable. It's U-shaped, with a groove along the top edge where you can park your thumb, finger, or even arm and it will dig in a little bit, providing a tremendous amount of stability. It looks like this:

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

We're showing this handle because we think it's the best one out there. No, it may not be the most comfortable for many people, but we think it's the safest because it provides the most stability. 

Cusinart Multiclad Pro has a flat handle that also offers a great deal of stability, which you should be able to see just by looking at it:

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

You can probably see that this handle is not going to rotate out of control or slip out of your grip easily.

Round handles feel nice in the hand--especially when the pot is dry and empty--but they can slip out of your grip or slide around. 

The point here is that you want a handle that allows you to get the best grip possible on a full, hot, heavy saucepan. By this measure, it goes beyond what's most comfortable to what's safest.

On large saucepans--3-quart and larger--also consider helper handles. This is the loop handle opposite from the long handle. It is a huuuge help in stabilizing large, heavy pots, especially when lifting or pouring:

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

If you have any strength or mobility issues at all, a helper handle is a must-have. It makes handling a large sauce pan so.much.easier. 

Note that many, many brands of sauce pans do not have a helper handle on 3-quart sauce pans, and some don't have them even on larger sizes. For some brands, such as All-Clad, it's optional: you'll find it on some but not on others. So be sure the sauce pan you're buying has a helper handle if it's important to you to have one.

Weight

The weight of a sauce pan, much like its heating properties, is usually a compromise. This is because the thicker and heavier a saucepan is, the more even the heating is going to be--and even heating is very important in a sauce pan. 

However, if a sauce pan is too heavy, it becomes unwieldy, especially when full of hot liquid. 

So as far as weight goes, you want the best balance between weight and maneuverability that's right for you

This is another reason we like clad stainless sauce pans. You can get good, even heating in a fairly lightweight package. 

If you can handle a heavy pan, then buy the Demeyere Industry 5. If not, then go with the All-Clad D3, D5, or Copper Core. All are excellent, with Demeyere falling more on the performance side of the equation and All-Clad falling more on the maneuverability side. Though you can't really go wrong with either one.

If you're on a budget, then your options are limited to the maneuverability side, because the majority of clad stainless pans are All-Clad knockoffs. We recommend Cuisinart Multiclad Pro as being closest to All-Clad D3, but Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad is also a great option (just more expensive, and probably slightly better quality than the Cuisinart MC Pro).

Pour Spout/Strainer Lid

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Is a pour spout necessary on a sauce pan? Is a strainer lid?

We don't think so. After all, that's what colanders are for. 

Probably our biggest objection to a pour spout is that you can't get a tight fitting lid; there will always be holes where steam can escape. You really don't want that in your sauce pan--you don't always need a tight-fitting lid, but when you do, it's nice to know you have the option. 

Also, we found in testing that pouring spouts are largely unnecessary. You can pour just fine from any sauce pan and not have an issue with dripping--even true for sauce pans with a straight edge (like All-Clad D3).

Probably our biggest objection to a strainer lid is that, to the best of our knowledge, they are found mainly on inexpensive cookware. So you may get a lovely strainer lid that makes draining pasta a breeze, but if it's on a sauce pan that's thin and flimsy, that's probably all you'll ever want to use it for. Not good.

Lids

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

You want a sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid. You won't always need it, but for making rice or just heating leftovers, you really want to keep that steam in there. 

Most sauce pans come with a lid, but not all. Unless you're buying for a specific purpose that doesn't require a lid, we strongly recommend buying a sauce pan that comes with a lid. 

We also much prefer stainless lids to glass lids. Stainless is lighter, more durable, and easier to care for. You may think a glass lid is nice for keeping an eye on your food, but the truth is that glass steams up, and you have to remove the lid 9 times out of 10 anyway to see what's going on. So if at all possible, go with a stainless lid.

Color

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Color refers mostly to the color of the cooking surface. We already discussed this in the nonstick section above, but we much prefer light-colored cooking surfaces to dark-colored. With a light-colored cooking surface, you can keep an eye on cooking progress much more easily. A dark-colored surface can camouflage doneness and cause you to overcook and even burn food that you otherwise wouldn't. 

If your sauce pan has a dark cooking surface, you will get the hang of using it. But we much prefer the lighter color here.

As for external color, we really like the appearance of clad stainless. It's kind of the ultimate in kitchen utilitarian chic design, and in our opinion, timeless. But if you don't like it, you have a lot of other options. 

Copper, of course, is also beautiful and timeless. It's just very expensive to get good quality copper cookware.

Lately, some pastel colors have been popular, as with these Our Place pans. We're not sure why people think they're so attractive, as many seem to. In our opinion, they're the candy pink stove or avocado refrigerator of decades gone by. But hey, to each their own. 

Budget and Warranty

Budget is probably the most subjective trait of all, as only you know what your budget is. We'll just say that you should buy the best sauce pan you can afford because if you buy right, it will last for your lifetime.

This doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend a small fortune. You can get a good sauce pan with a lifetime warranty for under $100. 

As for warranty, you should go for the best warranty you can find, as well. A good quality clad stainless pan should have a limited lifetime warranty. A good company will honor the warranty, as well.

There's not a lot else to say here, except that you should avoid any sauce pans that do not offer a warranty of at least ten years. Also, know that if you buy nonstick, even if the maker offers a limited lifetime warranty, it will indeed be limited--don't count on them to automatically replace a pan that's been scratched or lost its nonstick properties. Few nonstick makers will do that. 

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Best Overall Sauce Pan: All-Clad D3 or D5

How to Choose the Best Sauce pans for Your Kitchen
How to Choose the Best Sauce pans for Your Kitchen
How to Choose the Best Sauce pans for Your Kitchen

For a straight-up, daily use sauce pan, it's hard to beat All-Clad D3. It's durable, it heats evenly yet is lightweight and easy to handle, and it's beautiful. From the first moment you hold it in your hand, you know that this is a high quality piece of equipment. 

The shape of the pan is almost perfect: not too deep, and wide enough to be easy to scrape out and clean. The lid fits snugly, and while the handle gets a lot of hate, we actually like it: the U-shape makes it easy to stabilize with your thumb or with your arm. In fact, though it might not be the most comfortable, it's probably the safest handle you'll find on any cookware anywhere. 

The D3 sauce pan doesn't have a grooved lip, but it pours drip-free nevertheless. D5 does have a grooved lip, but we didn't find the pouring to be any better than D3.

From a performance standpoint, All-Clad is at the top of the list. In all of our tests, All-Clad D3 performed almost flawlessly. There are a few brands that will outperform it (Demeyere, we're looking at you), but the cost is prohibitive.

We think All-Clad D3 is the best balance of performance, durability, usability, aesthetics, and budget on the market. 

Another great feature of All-Clad, especially the D3 line, is that there are a lot of open stock buying options. So you can not only get the steamer and double boiler inserts to seamlessly match and upgrade your collection, you can also find every other piece of cookware imaginable, from sauciérs to pasta pots to woks--and everything in-between. Note that the steamer and double boiler inserts  work with all the other All-Clad sauce pans, too.

There are also plenty of sizes available. So if you want to augment with a smaller or larger sauce pan or sauciér, All-Clad has you covered. 

Helper Handle: All the D5 pieces 3 qt and larger come with a helper handle, but on the D3, it's optional. If you want it, be sure the piece you buy has the helper handle (like this one). Unfortunately, these pieces are often out of stock, so you may have to go with the D5 or wait. You can also check out the All-Clad website, though their prices are usually quite a bit higher.

What about Copper Core? Copper Core is beautiful cookware, and it performs as well as D3, so if it's in your budget, it's a great choice. However, it's probably not noticeably better than D3, so we don't recommend spending the extra money on it unless you fall in love and don't mind the higher price. 

How to Choose the Best Sauce pans for Your Kitchen

Purchasing Options: We provide a lot of purchasing options because the D3 sauce pan sells out fast. And while we prefer the D3 to the D5, the D5 3-quart is a good price and will provide equally excellent performance for not too much more. (Note: This is not the case with other sizes of D5 sauce pans, which are significantly more expensive than the D3.) The D5 also comes in a polished finish or the brushed finish shown here:

How to Choose the Best Sauce pans for Your Kitchen

You can also try Bed, Bath & Beyond and Sur la Table, but we've found that Amazon and Williams-Sonoma tend to have the best All-Clad selections.

For more information on All-Clad D3 and D5, see our article All-Clad D3 Vs. D5: Which Is Better?

Features

  • Even heating and durable
  • 2.5mm walls with 1.7mm aluminum layer
  • 18/10 polished finish (D5 also available in brushed finish)
  • Steamer and double boiler inserts available for 3- and 4-quart sizes
  • Several sizes available, from 1 qt up to 4 qt
  • Helper handle on 3 qt and up (optional on D3, standard on D5)
  • Induction compatible
  • Oven and broiler safe to 600F (including lids)
  • Dishwasher safe
  • 3 qt. pan weighs about 3 pounds (slightly more with helper handle)
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Made in USA.

Recommendation

You can spend more for a heavier sauce pan, but you don't need to. We think All-Clad D3 is the perfect balance of performance, durability, and beauty. Yes, you'll pay a premium for it, but this sauce pan will last forever. You will not regret making this investment. We like the 3-quart for all-around versatility and maneuverability, but the 4-quart is also great if you want the larger, deeper pot.

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

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Most Popular Sauce Pan on Amazon: Farberware

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

See Farberware Classic Stainless Sauce Pan on Amazon

See Farberware 3 Qt Pot with Steamer Insert

This isn't a sauce pan we actually recommend, but we're including it because it's wildly popular and much loved on Amazon. If you are considering buying it, we think you should know more about it before they do.

Farberware cookware goes back more than 100 years. Most Americans grew up in a household with at least one Farberware pan. This easy recognition is what makes Farberware "iconic," particularly the plastic handles and lid pulls unique to this cookware.

Early Farberware cookware was made in the USA and was considered top quality and largely indestructible. However, somewhere in the past few decades, Farberware began making cookware overseas, mostly in China. Has the quality gone downhill? You can read Amazon reviews and decide for yourself--we think it probably has.

In any case, if you're on a tight budget and want an "iconic" and extremely popular sauce pan, this Farberware stainless one fits the bill. The pan is lightweight--the 3 quart weighs under two pounds--and probably not as durable as the other sauce pans we recommend. The aluminum base is on the thin side, so the heating properties are going to be mediocre: it will be fine for heating soup and boiling pasta, but you probably don't want to melt chocolate or make caramel in it. 

Note also that if you want the steamer insert or double boiler, you have to buy two separate pots. Click here to see the pot with the steamer insert (it's also very affordable), and click here to see the double boiler. We think it's a big miss to not have pieces you can buy separately for use with the sauce pan. 

Features

  • 4 sizes, 1-4 qt.
  • Tight fitting, "self-basting" stainless lid
  • Strainer lid option (see below for more info)
  • Bottom clad, aluminum encapsulated base
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Induction compatible
  • "Iconic" handles oven safe to 350F (plastic)
  • Affordable option
  • 3 qt. weighs under 2 pounds
  • Made in China
  • Lifetime warranty.

Recommendation

Farberware makes some of the most popular sauce pans sold on Amazon. This popularity is due to two things: 1) The name recognition and iconic status of this cookware, and 2) the affordable price. This isn't the highest quality sauce pan you'll find (especially since Farberware is now made in China), but it's a good sauce pan for the price. There are no inserts available; if you want a steamer or double boiler, you have to buy those pieces separately.

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

BUY FARBERWARE SAUCE PAN ON AMAZON NOW:

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Best Budget Sauce Pan: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

See Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Sauce Pan on Amazon

See Cuisinart MC Pro Steamer and Double Boiler Inserts on Amazon

If you're on a super tight budget, you can find cheaper sauce pans (like the disc-clad Farberware we review above). But if you want to go budget and still get quality tri-ply construction, we recommend the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro sauce pan. Cuisinart Multiclad Pro is a straight-up All-Clad D3 knockoff with virtually identical specs--but for significantly less.

Features

  • Comes in 1.5, 2, 3, and 4-quart sizes
  • Tri-ply, fully clad, and close to All-Clad D3 in construction
  • 18/10 stainless steel
  • Grooved pouring lip
  • Tight-fitting lid
  • Induction compatible
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Oven safe to 550F (including lid)
  • 3-qt weighs about 4 pounds
  • Made in China
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

Recommendation

If you want All-Clad performance for less and don't mind a product made in China, the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro sauce pan is an excellent choice. Easy-to-find double boiler and steamer inserts add to this pot's appeal.

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

BUY cuisinart Multiclad Pro sauce pan ON AMAZON NOW:

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

BUY CUISINART MULTICLAD PRO Steamer/double boiler inserts ON AMAZON NOW (fits 2, 3 and 4 qt sauce pans):

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Best Sauciér: Demeyere Industry 5

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

See Demeyere Industry 5 3.5 Qt Sauciér/Essential Pan on Amazon

See Demeyere Industry 5 3.5 Qt Sauciér/Essential Pan at Sur la Table (insulated lid-same price)

Demeyere Industry 5 cookware offers about 25% more aluminum than All-Clad D3 and is one of the highest quality brands of cookware on the market. Its 5-ply construction has three internal layers that add up to 2.6mm of aluminum. This makes for a thick, heavy pan that may not be ideal for everyone, but if you're looking for the cream of the crop performance, you can't do much better than this sauciér. 

We list the features below, but here are a few highlights: the handles are welded, so there are no rivets on the cooking surface:

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

If you hate washing your pots and pans, we don't have to tell you how huge this is.

Also, the Silvinox® finish makes the stainless steel extra durable and makes it easier to clean--it's not nonstick, but it's easier to wash than other stainless steel, and it keeps its shine longer than other stainless steel.

Next, the handle is shot-blasted to make it non-slip:

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

As for performance, the thick walls and flat, heavy base make it perfect for browning, frying, and saucemaking.

We're not sure why it's marketed as a sauciér and an essential pan, but it certainly works as both (though 3.5 quarts is on the small side for an essential pan). We suspect Demeyere has struggled with marketing in the US because of All-Clad's popularity, so they've re-named a few pieces--and lines--to try to change things up.

Don't let this deter you. This sauciér is superb.

If Demeyere is so great, why don't we recommend it as our overall favorite sauce pan instead of All-Clad D3? Two reasons. First, Demeyere cookware is expensive, with just a few exceptions--and this sauciér is one of the exceptions. For many years it was priced at just $99 and only recently jumped to $149--but even at the new price it's still a fabulous deal. (Compare to All-Clad D3 sauciér prices to see what we mean.) So if you're in the market for a good sauciér, this one is a no-brainer.

Second, you don't need stellar performance in a sauce pan. Sauce pans typically do not have to withstand the abuse that skillets do--no hot oil, no rapid temperature changes, no scraping with metal utensils. Also, most foods you heat in sauce pans are liquid, and liquids provide natural currents that make up for shortcomings in a pan's heating performance. In fact, if you were always going to use your sauce pan for liquids, bottom cladding would be perfectly adequate. We prefer full cladding on a sauce pan only because you're sometimes going to use it for more solid foods (oatmeal, stews, and chili, for example). 

For a sauciér, however, you do want top notch performance. You really need the heavy bottom and even heating sides for that bechamel, Hollandaise, lemon curd, choux pastry, risotto, all the other wonderful delights you'll be making.

Not only is the Demeyere Industry 5 sauciér top of the line performance, it's also a top of the line deal. 

And remember: if you go with the Sur la Table option, you get a double-walled, insulated lid for the same price. This isn't something you need, but it's nice for keeping sauces and other foods warm before serving. 

For more information about Demeyere cookware, see our article All-Clad Vs. Demeyere: Which Is Better?

Features

  • 5 ply construction (stainless-aluminum-aluminum-aluminum-stainless)
  • 3.0mm walls/2.6mm aluminum (about 25% more aluminum than AC D3)
  • Rivetless cooking surface
  • Silvinox® finish for easy cleanup
  • Flat base for induction optimization
  • Insulated lid (Sur la Table only)
  • Shot-blasted handle (for grip)
  • Weighs 5.7 lb
  • Made in Belgium
  • 30 year warranty. 

Recommendation

Demeyere Industry 5 is excellent all-around cookware. This 3.5 quart sauciér/essential pan is priced more competitively than other pieces (and more competitively even than All-Clad D3). Features like a rivetless cooking surface, Silvinox® finish, shot-blasted handle, and insulated lid (Sur la Table version only) make this incredibly well-designed cookware. The 3.5 quart size is perfect for many uses, as well. Our only caution is that it's heavy, so if you have strength or ergonomic issues, you may want a lighter option. Other than that, highly recommended.

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

BUY Demeyere industry 5 SAUCiér ON AMAZON:

BUY DEMEYERE INDUSTRY 5 SAUCIÉR w/insulated lid at sur la table:

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Best Strainer Lid: Farberware

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

See Farberware Sauce Pan with Strainer Lid on Amazon

A strainer lid is a little bit gimmicky, and mostly found on low budget cookware brands. Even so, it can be a nice feature that you'll get a lot of use out of, especially if you're using your sauce pan mostly for cooking pasta, beans, and the like.

Most strainer lids are glass, and we much prefer stainless for its durability and lighter weight--so this Farberware is our pick--yes, the same as the Farberware pan above, but with a different lid.

It's not the highest quality sauce pan around, and it's not fully clad, so don't expect stellar heating properties. It also has a pouring spout only on one side, so if you're left-handed, you may prefer this strainer lid sauce pan

Features

  • Available in 1 qt. and 3 qt. sizes
  • Stainless lid can be turned to allow steam release or lock in moisture
  • Bottom clad (aluminum encapsulated) base
  • Iconic Farberware plastic handle and knob, oven safe to 350F
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Induction compatible
  • Affordable
  • Made in China
  • Lifetime warranty.

Recommendation

If a strainer lid is important to you, you'll probably have to settle for mediocre quality. We like the Farberware strainer lid because it's stainless rather than glass (so it's more durable). If you're left handed, you should buy a pot with lips on both sides like this Avacraft sauce pan, which comes in 3.5 and 6 quart sizes. 

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

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Other Sauce Pans We Looked At

Here are the other sauce pan brands we looked at and a short summary about each of them. An asterisk indicates a recommended option. 

*All-Clad Copper Core: As good as D3 or D5, just more expensive. We love that the 3-qt and larger has a helper handle, which is optional on D3. All All-Clad inserts will fit this pot as well. If it's in your budget, it's a great option. Made in USA.

Cook's Standard 1.5/3-Qt Sauce Pan: Good value, well made, very pretty, but no helper handle on 3-quart size. Made in China.

Cuisinart Chef's Classic 1.5 Qt: The Cuisinart Professional has a thicker, more evenly heating bottom but this one has a stainless lid. If you're looking for the best performance at a low price, we'd go with the Cuisinart Professional. If you want a stainless lid, go with the Chef's Classic. Made in China.

Cuisinart Professional: Better (thicker) bottom cladding than the Chef's Classic but we wish the lid was stainless. Made in China.

Cuisinart French Classic 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-Qt Sauce Pan. Pretty, good quality, great reviews. No helper handle on larger sizes makes this a poor choice for any size over 2 quarts. Made in France.

*Demeyere Atlantis 2.1-3.5 Qt Saucier: Top quality clad stainless cookware, but the 3.5 qt weighs 5 pounds, which is probably too heavy for many cooks. Made in Belgium.

*Duxtop 1.6/3 Qt Tri-ply Sauce Pan with Lid: ($42, both sizes) Outstanding reviews, shape makes it great for use as sauce pan and saucier--great price, esp. for a 3 qt. saucepan. Are there inserts available?? Unfortunately we couldn't find any. Made in China.

Great Jones Saucy. Nice size, love that it has a helper handle, good price. However, the first time you try lifting that handle when the pan is full, you'll curse yourself for having bought this pan--terrible handle design that cuts into your hand almost painfully. (They chose form over function--and yes, it does look nice.) We also don't like that it has a pour spout; not only is this gimmicky, it's unnecessary, and it makes it so the lid can never get a completely tight fit.

Made-In: 5-ply with three inner layers of aluminum, slightly thicker than All-Clad D3 or D5. Nice sauce pan in 2-qt and 4-qt sizes, both under $100. Unfortunately, no options for double boiler or steamer insert, though an All-Clad insert might fit. Made in USA.

Misen: Misen makes a 5 ply, 3.0mm thick sauce pan/saucier hybrid with a round bottom and straight side walls. It's a nice design that people love, and the price is good (about $85 for the 3 qt). But here's why not to buy this brand: there are no options for a steamer or double boiler insert. Also no helper handle. Made in China.

*Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad: Excellent sauce pan, comparable in quality to All-Clad. Harder to find add-on options than All-Clad (steamer, double boiler), but otherwise an excellent option. We wanted this to be our budget recommendation, but the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro cost quite a bit less--so if you don't mind paying a little more, this is the best budget upgrade option. Made in China or Brazil (same quality, though Chinese Tramontina is usally a little less).

Final Thoughts

How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

Most kitchens need at least two sauce pans: A small one (2 qt and under) for heating cans of soup, melting butter, and other small tasks; and a medium-to-large one (3 qt or larger) for pasta, oatmeal, side dishes, soups, and everything else you don't do in a skillet. If you're into serious sauce-making, you also need a sauciér so you can get your whisk in there all the way and get the proper amount of evaporation.

We hope our recommendations here were helpful.

Thanks for reading! 

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How to Choose the Best Saucepans for Your Kitchen

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