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As a professional kitchen gear tester, writer, and editor, I have covered a lot of cookware: Dutch ovens, nonstick and cast iron skillets, you name it. And while I love covering all those types of pots and pans, there’s one piece, in particular, I use at least daily that doesn’t get much air time: the saucepan.
For some reason, people don’t talk (or ask) about saucepans often, but I think it’s time to change that. Saucepans are ideal for cooking grains, boiling a serving or two of pasta, blanching veggies, making a batch of barbecue sauce, reheating chili or soups … the list goes on.
There are as many saucepans as there are uses for them, so to find the best ones, I tested models from top-performing brands, making sure to stir, whisk, and pour again and again and again. Let’s get to it.
For more details on the best saucepans, including our testing methodology, shopping tips and deals, and maintenance, keep reading or just hit the links below.
Best Overall Saucepan: Tramontina Covered Saucepan
Tramontina’s 4-quart saucepan offers fantastic performance at a budget-friendly price (high-end saucepans, like our top splurge pick, easily go for $200-plus when not on sale). It has tall, straight sides, a spacious cooking surface, a sturdy main handle, and a helper handle on the opposite side. The Tramontina is made from stainless steel, which cooks evenly and allows you to easily monitor browning.
I also liked this saucepan from Zwilling, which is a solid pot with a grippy, cup-shaped handle. The main handle is a tad short and doesn’t have a helper handle, but it’s another great option if you have a slightly larger budget.
Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a great stainless steel saucepan, but doesn’t want to spend more than $100.
Good to know: This saucepan comes in several different sizes, including 1.5, 2, and 3 quarts.
Best Splurge Saucepan: All-Clad 4-QT Saucepan
If you’re looking to invest in your cookware, there’s no better pick than All-Clad’s saucepan (the brand’s stainless steel sauté pan is a favorite of ours). This saucepan does it all — it heats beautifully, cooks evenly, has tall, straight sides, boasts a helper handle, and has a stainless steel interior, which makes monitoring browning easy. The pan’s cupped handle provides a non-slip grip and stays cool on the stovetop.
Who it’s best for: Anyone looking to invest in a stainless steel saucepan.
Good to know: All-Clad makes some of the best cookware out there — and the saucepans are no exception. When I say you can’t go wrong with any of them, I mean it. This saucepan also comes in a 1.5-, 2-, and 3-quart version.
Best Nonstick Saucepan: Zwilling Clad CFX Ceramic Nonstick Saucepan
This nonstick 4-quart saucepan from Zwilling offers impressive performance at a reasonable price point. Nothing stuck during testing and the food cooked evenly. I love its helper handle, pour spouts, tall, straight sides, perforations in the lid for draining water, and its cup-shaped handle that felt super grippy and stayed cool on the stovetop.
The dark interior makes it more difficult to monitor browning, and it’s the heaviest of all the saucepans I tested. I was still able to pour from the saucepan using one hand, but this might be too heavy for some people. Overall, this is a great nonstick saucepan and is incredibly easy to clean, too.
How We Tested the Best Saucepans
To rate each saucepan, I performed the following tests:
How We Evaluated the Best Saucepans
I judged all of the saucepans on the following criteria based on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best):
What to Look for When Buying a Saucepan
Saucepans come in many sizes, but I find that a 4-quart pot is best. You can always cook less in a larger saucepan, but you can’t cook more in a smaller one. I think it’s helpful to have both a large and small saucepan, but if you’re only going to get one, opt for a 4-quart capacity. For this testing, I focused on 4-quart saucepans but included some 3-quart models if that was the largest size the pan came in.
You want it hefty enough to heat food evenly (thin pans tend to have more hotspots and can scorch food) but light enough so it’s still easy to pour from, even with one hand. During testing, I found that saucepans weighing less than 3 1/2 pounds without their lids were the sweet spot.
With this weight, I got the cooking results I wanted and could still comfortably tilt the saucepan to pour out boiling water, swirl it around while browning butter, and easily pour my pastry cream into a fine mesh strainer.
The best saucepans have tall walls and straight sides, which don’t cut down on the saucepan’s usable cooking area. Saucepans with light interiors are also preferable to ones with dark interiors, as this helps for monitoring, like if you’re making browned butter or if you’re sautéing aromatics for risotto.
If I can’t firmly and securely grip a pan’s handle, I can’t lift it well — which means I also can’t swirl or pour with ease. The handle shouldn’t be too skinny or too rounded, both of which are tougher to hold and tend to slip from your hand as you pour.
I prefer handles that are cupped, meaning they have indentations at the top to ensure a non-slip grip. The best handles were also at least 7.25 inches long because that length will help keep your hands comfortably away from the heat source.
This brings me to my next handle-centered point: Does the saucepan’s handle stay cool while cooking? If it doesn’t, I don’t want it. And, finally, saucepans that have a helper handle opposite the regular handle are, well, the most helpful. A helper handle is useful for moving the saucepan around the stovetop and if you need extra leverage when pouring. It’s not a must-have, but it is very nice.
What Material is Best For a Saucepan?
This mirrors that of a nonstick skillet: For super gooey things, a nonstick saucepan means easier cooking and cleanup. This includes making sauces or reheating macaroni and cheese. And to no one’s surprise, cleaning pastry cream off of the nonstick saucepans was much easier than the stainless steel models.
However, with stainless steel saucepans, you get longevity. Nonstick cookware has a finite lifespan, but a great stainless steel saucepan will last for years. Because of this, I recommend buying a stainless steel saucepan first and a nonstick saucepan to complement it.
How Do You Clean a Saucepan?
With all of the saucepans, I made sure their interiors didn’t dull or become splotchy after cleanup. While you can put a saucepan in the dishwasher, I don’t recommend it — I’d suggest hand-washing any cookware that you want to last. The heat and detergent from the dishwasher can tarnish stainless steel cookware and cause nonstick cookware to lose its, well, nonstickiness faster, so they’re among the many kitchen items you shouldn’t put in the dishwasher.
I’m a professional kitchen equipment tester and was the former tools editor here at Kitchn. I previously worked at America’s Test Kitchen and my reviews on topics like stand mixers, induction burners, toaster ovens, and multicookers have been published in Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, and on the America’s Test Kitchen website. My work has also been featured on America’s Test Kitchen’s and Cook’s Country’s television programs. And again, I use my saucepan at least once a day.
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