What is a Saucepan?

Patti Kate

A saucepan is any type of pan most commonly used for heating sauces and gravies. Saucepans are also made to cook, saute and reheat various foods such as rice, pasta and potatoes. They can be shallow or deep and come in various sizes and materials. From large stockpots to smaller saute pans, some are made for use in the microwave as well.

A stainless steel saucepan with a tempered glass lid.
A stainless steel saucepan with a tempered glass lid.

Most commonly, saucepans are available with a non-stick coating or a copper-clad bottom. Those with copper-clad bottoms are good for distributing the heat evenly while cooking. Aluminum cooking pans are also popular, as well as the anodized aluminum. Stainless steel is another commonly seen variety. Cast iron versions have been around for many years.

Some saucepans can be used in the microwave.
Some saucepans can be used in the microwave.

Consumers also have the option of purchasing a saucepan set, which is made for versatility and convenience when preparing a large meal. Some of these sets come packaged with other cookware as well, such as a frying pan or some type of baking utensil. Some are known as a double-boiler. Generally, the double-boiler incorporates the use of a large pan and a smaller one, which is placed inside. This is a popular method of cooking puddings and other desserts.

Copper saucepans, which distribute heat evenly, are good for making sauces.
Copper saucepans, which distribute heat evenly, are good for making sauces.

Many saucepan sets come with tempered glass lids. Often, the lids will be ventilated to allow steam to escape. This is for the convenience of steaming foods such as fresh vegetables. Many of these can also withstand a high degree of heat, so they can be used in the oven as well as on the stove top.

A saucepan with a stainless steel straining lid is used for cooking foods like pasta. The strainer acts as a built-in colander. Also known as a straining saucepan, it can come in various sizes, from the personal one-serving to a large family-size pan. Some of these pans have a spout for pouring boiling water for tea or other beverages.

Different types of saucepans have advantages as well as disadvantages to consider. Stainless steel ones are known to resist scratching and require minimal care and clean up. Cast iron pans generally require guarding against possible rusting, although they are generally sturdy and long-lasting. Copper saucepans often require polishing to help retain its reflective shine.

Saucepans that can withstand a high degree of heat may be used both on the stovetop and in the oven.
Saucepans that can withstand a high degree of heat may be used both on the stovetop and in the oven.

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Discussion Comments


The only complaint I have about my saucepans is the handles get loose every so often. All I have to do is get a screwdriver and tighten them up and they are good to go. I think you get what you pay for when it comes to cookware. A high quality set of saucepans will last you for many years, while a cheaper set will probably need to be replaced after a few years.


I have a set of stainless steel saucepans that I have had for 20 years. They are the only pans I use for cooking and you wouldn't know by looking at them that they are 20 years old.

My daughter just moved into her own apartment and bought a new set of saucepans that look a lot different than what I have. They still do the same thing such as boiling water and heating up things, but they are very colorful.

Sometimes I am tempted to go out and buy some of the new saucepans with the bright colors, but really don't have a need for them. When I saw how much a new set of saucepans would cost me, I really decided I could just stick with the set I have been using all these years.


We still like to make popcorn on the stove in a saucepan. I use a glass lid to put on the top and my kids love to watch the popcorn pop through the clear lid. I think this makes the best tasting popcorn. It really doesn't take much longer than putting a bag of popcorn in the microwave, you just have more of a mess to clean up.


I have three different sizes of saucepans that I use for everyday cooking and find that I use the medium sized one most of the time. There are times when I have started out with the small saucepan and realized it wasn't big enough. If you have ever had anything boil over on the stove, you know how big of a mess this can be.

I only use the big saucepan if I am cooking for a larger number of people. If I try to heat up water for pasta in the large saucepan it takes so much longer for the water to heat up in the larger saucepan than it does the smaller ones.


I have been hearing a lot of talk about copper saucepans lately. What is all the hype about?


I saw a clever fix for a broken saucepan the other day. If you have a saucepan without a handle, use a pair of vice grips or some other kind of locking pliers to grasp onto the edge of the pan. Good as new!


@Perdido – I think it's funny that some saucepans are huge. Like you, I associate the term “saucepan” with something small.

I have a big aluminum saucepan that I use to make soup and bisque whenever my husband's family is coming to town. Having to cook for four extra people requires a big pot!

This saucepan is the only thing big enough to hold twelve servings of soup. I have a dipper with a long handle that can reach to the bottom. Otherwise, it would be pretty messy to have to turn this pan upside down to get the last bit of soup out!


I actually use my small saucepan for its intended purpose. I make different kinds of sauces in it, because I generally only need a little bit of room for this.

For my baked salmon, I make a sauce of butter, honey, brown sugar, and lemon juice. I only make enough to drizzle over two pieces of fish, so I don't need a large pan.

For steamed broccoli, I make a sauce of garlic, butter, and lemon juice in the saucepan. It's the perfect size for small servings.


I do nearly all my cooking in saucepans. I have one that has strainer holes on either side of the lid, and I always make spaghetti in it.

It's nice not to have to use a separate colander. I'm all for saving on dish washing whenever possible.

This lid also comes in really handy when I boil lima beans or green beans. The water drains off easily, and the beans don't escape, because the holes are too small to allow them to pass.


My cookware consists of saucepans with copper bottoms and sides. The heat transfers so well that water will come to a boil sooner in these saucepans than in other kinds.

I boil a lot of vegetables and soups, so this is important to me. I hate waiting around a long time for water to boil, and now, these pans save me a good bit of time by heating up so well.

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