Buying Guide: The Best Saute Pans For You

Choose the Right Saute Pan to Make Your Favorite Braises and Sauces

How to Buy a Saute Pan

If you like to hear that sizzle when meat and vegetables hit a hot pan or you just enjoy whipping up quick-and-easy meals for the family, then a high-quality saute pan is a must-have for your kitchen. These versatile pans are ideal for quick sautes or slow braises, and the high sides make them perfect for deglazing to get up all the browned bits on the bottom as you make a smooth and silky sauce. A high-quality saute pan delivers even heating free of hot spots or areas that scorch foods easily, and the right saute pan for your needs should combine ease of use and versatility for maximum effectiveness.

Discover how the many different parts and features of saute pans can influence the way they cook and how easy it is to transfer prepared foods from the pan to your dinner table. Learn more about how to buy a saute pan with the right combination of advanced elements and high-quality basic construction that fits your needs.

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Picking a Saute Pan

Commercial Hard-Anodized Saute Pan

As you learn how to buy a saute pan, one of the first things you are likely to notice is the wide selection of available pans, materials, coatings and features. The right saute pan for you should include a combination of these things that matches your cooking style and abilities and make it easy to use the pan to prepare your favorite meals. As you explore available options, keep in mind the types of saute pan uses that you are likely to take advantage of. Think about ingredients and dishes that you like to cook as well as cooking methods that you regularly employ.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by all of the information listed on sales pages or saute-pan inserts as you begin shopping. Focusing on a few key elements can help ensure that you get a saute pan that will more closely fit your needs and simplify your home cooking.

Effective Core Heating

Stainless Steel Saute Pan

The core materials used in the making of a saute pan are important elements that predetermine how the pan will perform. Many modern pans feature durable exteriors made of everything from stainless steel to titanium, but the inner core of the pans are responsible for the speed of heating and how evenly the heat is distributed. The inner core also determines how long the pan will retain its heat.

Modern pans typically have cast-iron or aluminum cores. Cast-iron cores heat exceptionally quickly and retain their heat after you take them off the stove. These cores also become very hot over time, and many require more upkeep than other core types. They are also used for skillets and fry pans as well as saute pans. Aluminum cores still heat quickly, but they distribute that heat exceptionally well, eliminating hot spots and promoting even browning and thorough cooking. Since they can be used with many different pan interiors and exteriors, aluminum cores are more commonly found in modern cookware.

Nonstick Coatings and Ceramic Interiors

Ceramic Nonstick Saute Pan with Lid

The choice of core largely dictates what additional construction features you are likely to be able to choose from. Aluminum cores work well with both nonstick coatings and ceramic interiors, while cast-iron cores are more commonly used with enameled exteriors that surround both the interior cooking surface and the outer surface of the pan. These additional features prevent food from sticking and scorching during the cooking process, though they do so in dramatically different ways.

Nonstick coatings commonly feature proprietary blends of chemicals and plastics and deliver a truly nonstick surface so your food releases easily after cooking. These surfaces may reduce the overall heat of the pan slightly, requiring a slightly higher temperature to obtain the same cooking results. Ceramic interiors and enameled cast-iron surfaces both place an additional layer of naturally nonstick material between the core and the cooked food, and these layers tend to transfer heat exceptionally well. Ceramic interiors look great but may crack or scratch over time, especially with regular use. Enameled surfaces stand up well to metal utensil use. Nonstick coatings typically require exceptional care to prevent scratches that may ruin their nonstick qualities.

Handles and Grips

When you need to move hot pans quickly around the kitchen, the grips and handles on those pans becomes a major consideration. Cookware sets with saute pans typically include similar grips and handles on all pieces in the set, and the way these supports are attached is every bit as important as the construction or reinforcement of the handles themselves. Riveted handles and grips tend to provide exceptional control, making them invaluable for cookware this is likely to travel frequently between the prep area, stove, oven and dinner table.

Stay-cool handles are very important for modern saute pans, as they protect your hands when moving the pans around. All handles should be large enough to allow you to grab them while wearing mitts, even if they have stay-cool plastic or rubber exteriors. Textured surfaces are very useful for helping to prevent messes from accidental slips.

Lids and Storage

Butterfly Covered Deep Saute Pan

Saute pans often feature heavy-duty lids, similar to those of everyday pans, that help prevent spills and messes during heating. As foods begin to simmer during the sauteing or frying process, they release juices that sizzle and boil when they hit the hot surface. A solid lid can help keep these juices in the pan and even return them to the food to help retain moisture and ensure that prepared dishes are tender and delicious. Both modern and traditional saute pans commonly have integrated holes in the handles that allow you to hang the cookware alongside other pans or kitchen tools for easy storage. These features can simplify cleanup and organization in your kitchen.

As you begin to discover how to buy a saute pan, you'll likely find a variety of options and components that combine to create the best pan for your needs. Remember to keep the core construction as well as nonstick elements in mind, and look for features that simplify your kitchen setup. These tips can help ensure that you find just the right pan for your kitchen.

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