When it comes to stocking a kitchen with cookware, there are a few obvious pieces you’ll know to invest in, like a nonstick skillet and a Dutch oven. But there will certainly be instances (mid-cooking, of course) where you find the skillet or frying pan a bit too shallow and the Dutch oven too cumbersome. So consider investing in their clever hybrid: the sauté pan.
This kitchen MVP is the middle ground between a shallow, slanted-sided skillet and a deep Dutch oven. Boasting tons of versatility, the pan can sear, braise, simmer, shallow fry, bake, and of course, sauté. Built with tall, straight, sides and a sturdy, durable core, sauté pans are designed to withstand high heats and won’t overflow. But with so many options that span a variety of materials and price points, it can be hard to select the exact one for your needs. We’ve enlisted the experts to help select the best sauté pans suitable for all kinds of cooks.
- Best Overall: All-Clad Stainless Steel Saute Pan
- Best Value: Blue Diamond Cookware Ceramic Sauté Pan
- Best Eco-Friendly: Caraway Sauté Pan
- Best Stainless Steel: Saveur Selects Stainless Steel Saute Pan
- Best Nonstick: Calphalon Classic Nonstick Saute Pan
- Best Hybrid: Great Jones Deep Cut
- Best Ceramic: Food52 x GreenPan Nonstick Saute Pan
- Best Cast Iron: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Deep Sauté Pan
- Best Heat Technology: T-fal HeatMaster Nonstick Jumbo Cooker
Features to Keep in Mind
Hard anodized and ceramic nonstick are among the most popular sauté pans since they require very little clean-up. But there are plenty of stainless steel and cast iron options to choose from as well, both of which are extremely durable and boast high heat retention. In terms of coatings, the nonstick and ceramic layers are free of common toxins like lead and PFOA, while the cast iron pans arrive already seasoned, creating a natural nonstick surface.
There are a variety of sizes available, with the most common measuring in at 3, 4, and 5-quarts. A small sauté pan is excellent if you’re only planning on cooking for yourself or a small group, but if you’re hoping to braise large hunks of meat or shallow fry ribbons of potatoes, it’s worth leveling up to the biggest size.
Nonstick and ceramic coatings inherently make cleaning a breeze—just use a non-abrasive sponge to prolong the pan’s life. Stainless steel and cast iron will need a little bit more elbow grease and TLC. To maintain stainless steel’s shine, work a bit of Bar Keepers Friend cleanser into the cookware. As for cast iron, make sure to wipe out excess water from the base, rub it with neutral oil, and place it over low heat to burn off.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: All-Clad Stainless Steel 3-Quart Saute Pan
It should come as no surprise that chefs and home cooks alike swear by All-Clad’s durable cookware, and this 3-quart sauté pan is no exception. The oven-safe pan heats up quickly thanks to the three-ply bonded construction that extends from the base up through the sides of the pan, distributing warmth for even cooking every time. Its tall, straight sides prevent excess splattering while searing off short ribs or simmering tomato sauce. Plus, it’s compatible on all traditional surfaces, including induction.
While sauté pans can get pricey, you can score quality options for a fraction of the price, like the $40 Blue Diamond 5-Quart Ceramic Nonstick Sauté Pan. Complete with a diamond-infused, toxin-free ceramic coating, the nonstick layer is said to be five times harder and last 10 times longer than traditional coatings, and since diamonds are more conductive than copper, the pan heats up quickly and makes for easy clean-up. A heavy-duty base thwarts unsightly warping or wobbling, while the riveted stainless steel handle is designed to feel secure in your grip.
Best Eco-Friendly: Caraway 4.5-Quart Sauté Pan
Over the past few years, Caraway has become beloved for its colorful, space-saving ceramic cookware, all of which are free of toxins like Teflon, heavy metals, and PFOA. The 4.5-quart sauté pan, which comes with a matching lid, is prepped with a nonstick ceramic coating that requires less oil and reduces your time spent cleaning up. Plus, Caraway’s eco-friendly coating releases far less carbon dioxide than comparable brands.
Best Stainless Steel: Saveur Selects Cookware Stainless Steel Sauté Pan
We may be biased, but the sauté pan designed by Saveur’s recipe team is the dreamy, stainless steel piece every kitchen requires. Built from tri-ply stainless steel and an aluminum core, the pan has excellent heat distribution so you’re not left with hot spots. The edge of the pan is designed with curved ridges to prevent dripping, and the double-walled lid boasts condensation rings that seal in moisture and flavor. Plus, the two handles stay cool even when the pan is placed on high heats.
“Our version is a pretty uncommon shape in the home cookware space, in that it’s more of a home-sized version of a very standard restaurant-style pan called a rondeau,” says Kat Craddock, Saveur’s editorial director of recipes and service. “All that increased surface area makes the shape ideal for anything you want to cook down both quickly and gently—think braises and jams.”
Best Nonstick: Calphalon Classic 5-Quart Nonstick Sauté Pan
If it’s nonstick you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the Calphalon Classic 5-Quart Nonstick Sauté Pan. The pan is enveloped in a PFOA-free dual-layer nonstick coating that not only enhances durability but also ensures that nothing will stick. Cooks can easily slip the pan from the stove into the oven since it’s oven-safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, with the fitted tempered glass lid, you’ll know exactly what’s going on inside without removing it.
Best Hybrid: Great Jones Deep Cut
While some kitchens may be large enough to tout a full collection of cookware, others simply don’t have the space. If you’re being selective, you won’t have to settle with the Great Jones Deep Cut. This pan boasts tall, sloped sides and a deep interior that won’t overflow when simmering or braising, making it the ideal hybrid of a skillet and a sauté pan.
Best Ceramic: Food52 x GreenPan 4-Quart Nonstick Saute Pan
GreenPan’s exclusive offering created with the help of Food52 highlights its versatile capabilities. It’s built with a stainless steel handle, a sturdy hard anodized body, and finished off with a Thermolon ceramic coating that’s free of PTFE, PFOA, PFAS, lead, and cadmium. It’s scratch-resistant (go on, use metal utensils) and can even be slipped into the dishwasher after you’re done cooking—a rarity for pans of this quality and price point.
Best Cast Iron: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Deep Sauté Pan
The 4.25-quart Le Creuset sauté pan’s heat retention is unmatched thanks to its enameled cast iron base. It’s ready to go out of the box (no additional seasoning required), complete with a newly improved enamel interior that hinders staining and dulling over time. The pan can be used on any cooking surface, including induction, and is oven- and broiler-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. For best results, Le Creuset recommends using the pan only on low or medium heats, which extends its longevity.
Best Heat Technology: T-fal HeatMaster 5-Quart Nonstick Jumbo Cooker
Upon first use, you’d never guess that the T-fal Jumbo Cooker retails for just $36 on Amazon—especially since it boasts over 4,000 five-star ratings from shoppers. The deep, three-layer nonstick sauté pan is plenty versatile, perfect for braising hunks of meat or cooking off a sauce, and it comes with a fitted glass lid that allows you to continuously monitor what’s going on. But what makes this pan stand apart is the built-in thermo-spot technology that shows when it’s reached the appropriate temperature to start cooking—no guessing necessary.
Ask the Experts
What do professional chefs use sauté pans for?
“We use sauté pans for searing, shallow frying, reducing sauces, longer braises, or anything where the evaporation of liquid/water content makes a difference,” explains Christine Lau, executive chef at Kimika in New York City. “Some examples: making beurre blanc, fontina fonduta, blanching asparagus, and caramelizing onions.”
What’s the difference between a sauté pan and a frying pan?
The biggest difference between the two comes down to the basic shape. “A frying pan will have a wall around the edges while a sauté pan will have a lip that will let you flip or toss items,” explains chef Felipe Donnelly of Brooklyn’s Colonia Verde.
How long does a sauté pan last?
“Good sauté pans should last a lifetime,” Lau says. “The material that they are made of makes a big difference. Stainless steel is the way to go, All-Clad being the kitchen favorite.”
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