The Best Saucepans, According to Our Test Kitchen
Despite its name, a saucepan can do much more in the kitchen than make sauces. It can be used to make a batch of grains, boil eggs for sandwiches or even prepare soups. Of course, a saucepan can also be used to make delicious recipes like Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Cream Sauce and Hollandaise Sauce. To help you find the right saucepan, we've pulled together a list of the best saucepans for any job.
Best Material for Saucepans
Saucepans can vary widely in material, and different materials may have an impact on the pan's heat conductivity and retention, style and cleaning instructions. For this guide, we tested nonstick, ceramic, stainless-steel and copper saucepans.
Nonstick saucepans can vary in terms of appearance and construction—some might be made from a nonstick material on both the exterior and interior while others might only have a nonstick interior and be made from a different material on the exterior, which will impact heat conductivity and retention.
It's worth noting that regardless of how they're constructed, nonstick pans often have a bad reputation as people are concerned about the chemicals associated with nonstick coating like PFOA and PTFE (Teflon). While more research is needed, you're unlikely to be exposed to toxic levels of the chemicals through nonstick cookware.
One way to avoid these chemicals is to opt for a ceramic saucepan, which, despite its name, is not actually made from ceramic. Instead, ceramic saucepans are typically made from aluminum and feature a ceramic nonstick coating. This coating is touted as being free from the chemicals associated with regular nonstick coating; however, more studies need to be done on the safety of ceramic coating.
Meanwhile, a stainless-steel saucepan is a durable option that's known to conduct heat well and can withstand high temperatures. With stainless-steel saucepans, you'll want to avoid using metal utensils as they will scratch the surface. One positive of stainless-steel saucepans is that most of them are dishwasher-safe, which is a great time-saving feature.
Finally, copper saucepans are known for their ability to conduct heat quickly and retain it. However, copper saucepans do require more maintenance if you want to keep the shiny exterior from developing patina, which is a layer of film that can develop on copper surfaces due to oxidation. Luckily, a product like Wright's Copper Polish Cream can prevent spots and blemishes (buy it: Target, $8).
Size and Shape of Saucepans
Saucepans vary in size—the ones featured in this guide range from a capacity of 1.5 quarts to 4 quarts. In addition to its capacity, you'll also want to consider the shape of the saucepan. While saucepans might have the same capacity, some have higher sides, which might make it more difficult to see the contents of the pan (but also keeps the contents from sloshing out if you are whisking or stirring vigorously).
This is our list of the best saucepans. Each saucepan was tested twice, first with water to see how quickly it would boil (this is a good test of a pan's heat conductivity). Next, each saucepan was used to make our Easy Cheese Sauce.
Read on for what makes these saucepans the best, as well as the ones that deserve an honorable mention.
Best Nonstick Saucepan
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick Hard Anodized Saucepan
The Cuisinart 3-quart saucepan tops the category for a few reasons. First, while the saucepan conducted heat well when melting the butter for the cheese sauce, it was the pan's ability to retain that heat that made it stand out. Once removed from the heat, the cheese melted more quickly and smoothly into the sauce than the other nonstick pans tested. This oven-safe saucepan also comes with a glass lid, so you can easily keep an eye on the contents without letting any steam escape. Although the saucepan is hand-wash only, the nonstick coating did its job well as any leftover sauce came off immediately under the stream of water.
Buy it: Walmart, $45
Best Ceramic Saucepan
The Caraway saucepan is a great choice for a ceramic nonstick option. With a capacity of 2 quarts, this saucepan conducted and retained heat well while making the cheese sauce. This saucepan is oven-safe up to 550℉ and can go directly to the table for serving thanks to the included trivet. Available in a range of stunning colors, the Caraway saucepan features a nonstick ceramic coating that is free of PTFE, PFOA, heavy metals and more. With a stainless-steel handle that stays cool to the touch, this is our pick for the best ceramic saucepan.
Buy it: Caraway, $105
Best Stainless-Steel Saucepan
With a capacity of 2 quarts, the Abbio stainless-steel saucepan performed well across both tests. The cheese melted easily and the sauce thickened well, which indicates the pan's strong ability to retain heat. Thanks to the pan's tapered lip, there was zero dripping while pouring the sauce, and the ergonomic handle was comfortable to hold during the task (although the handle of the pan did get a little warm while on the stovetop). In addition to these thoughtful design features, the Abbio saucepan also comes with a silicone trivet, so it can go directly from the stove or oven to the table.
Buy it: Abbio Kitchen, $80
Best Copper Saucepan
Williams Sonoma Thermo-Clad Copper Saucepan
If you're looking for a sleek and functional addition to your kitchen, the Williams Sonoma saucepan is the perfect choice. At 1.5 quarts, this oven-safe saucepan heats quickly thanks to its copper construction. The saucepan also retained heat well as the cheese incorporated easily into the sauce without any issue. The best feature of this saucepan, though, is its rounded ergonomic handle, which was comfortable to hold and kept cool when cooking (which wasn't the case for the other copper saucepans tested). Although the pan has to be hand-washed, the lid is dishwasher-safe.
Buy it: Williams Sonoma, $170
Best Budget-Friendly Saucepan
Anolon Advanced Home Nonstick Hard-Anodized Aluminum Straining Saucepan
With a budget-friendly price tag and numerous helpful features, the Anolon saucepan can't be beaten for the price. First, when compared with other 2-quart saucepans across the different materials, the Anolon saucepan boiled water the quickest. Plus, the heat retention was also strong as the cheese incorporated easily into the sauce. The Anolon saucepan has two pour spouts that make it easy to serve a sauce. On top of that, the lid has two sets of different-size straining holes, so you can drain water without worrying about losing food to the sink. The lid is also glass, so you can see the contents of the pan, and features a silicone grip, which stays cool and allows you to grab the lid without an oven mitt (no other saucepan tested had a lid that stayed cool). With all of these features, the Anolon saucepan is a solid choice for any cook.
Buy it: Bed Bath & Beyond, $40
Best Small Saucepan
360 Cookware 2-Quart Saucepan with Cover
If you have limited cabinet space, the stainless-steel saucepan from 360 Cookware is a great option. At 2 quarts, this small yet mighty saucepan retained heat as well as the larger saucepans tested and boiled water quickly and efficiently. The lid of the saucepan is domed, which is designed to keep moisture in, so you don't have to worry about food drying out. But our favorite feature of this saucepan is its ergonomic handle, which has grooves for your fingers that make it easy and comfortable to hold the pan. (If you're looking for an even smaller saucepan, see our pick above for the best copper saucepan, which is 1.5 quarts.)
Buy it: 360 Cookware, $169
Best Large Saucepan
Made In 4-Quart Nonstick Saucepan
Featuring a stainless-steel exterior and a nonstick interior, the Made In saucepan is the best of both worlds when it comes to heat conductivity and cleaning. The stainless-steel exterior heated up well and kept its temperature off the heat as the cheese melted very quickly. Plus, it was easy to hand-wash the interior of the pan thanks to the nonstick coating (one blast of water removed most of the sauce). With a capacity of 4 quarts, this saucepan definitely has some weight to it, but it's no issue to hold thanks to the two handles, which make it easy to transport the saucepan.
Buy it: Made In, $115
You might also consider:
Zwilling Spirit Ceramic Nonstick Saucepan
Similar to the Made In pan, the Zwilling features two materials with a stainless-steel exterior and a ceramic nonstick interior. The 4-quart saucepan conducted heat well as the roux for the cheese sauce came together quickly (although it did take longer to boil water in the Zwilling). Despite its similarities, the Zwilling does differ in a few areas. First, the lid of this saucepan is glass, which allows you to keep an eye on the contents of the pan without releasing any moisture and steam. The Zwilling is also dishwasher-safe, which means an easier and faster cleanup. So if you're looking for a slightly more affordable option for a larger saucepan, the Zwilling is a solid option.
Buy it: Amazon, $100
Best 3-Quart Saucepan
Le Creuset Stainless-Steel Saucepan
A 3-quart saucepan is the perfect in-between size that can handle small tasks and large jobs with the same ease. Made from stainless steel, the Le Creuset conducted heat very quickly and strongly retained it as the cheese melted almost instantaneously into the sauce once the pan was removed from the heat. The lid features a built-in steam vent, so you don't have to worry about things overflowing. And compared to other stainless-steel saucepans, it's safe to use metal utensils. Plus, the saucepan is dishwasher-safe for a fast cleanup.
Buy it: Le Creuset, $185
You might also consider:
Calphalon Premier Hard-Anodized Nonstick 3.5-Quart Covered Saucepan
If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Calphalon saucepan is a great choice. With a capacity of 3.5 quarts, this nonstick saucepan retained heat well as the sauce thickened nicely off the heat. In addition to being oven-safe, the saucepan also has two pour spouts and a glass lid. Plus, the lid also has two different-size holes for straining, which makes this saucepan an all-around winner.
Buy it: Bed Bath & Beyond, $80