A saucepan is an essential piece of cookware with a circular base with tall, straight sides and an extended handle like that of a frying pan. They are made of metal, which may or may not have a non-stick coating. The usual materials for saucepans are stainless steel, copper, or coated die-cast aluminum. Saucepans are deeper than they are wide, giving them a capacity of between 2 and 4 quarts. They have a regular diameter of between 10 and 24 cm, although professionals can have saucepans as large as 32 cm in diameter. They have tight-fitting lids, and their shape ensures even rapid heating.
Saucepans are best used for rice, confit, small-batch braising, and deep frying. Smaller saucepans work best for one or two servings, and the larger sizes work well for families.
The four appropriate uses of a saucepan are:
- Boiling liquids
- Cooking sauces
- Blanching vegetables
The tall sides of saucepans allow sauces to thicken and water to evaporate, which is why saucepans are aptly named.
In a pinch, a saucepan can do the work of other cookware like a stock pot, saute pan, or saucier. It isn't ideal, but if the recipe is small, you can get away with this culinary faux pas.
If you must only purchase a basic cookware set, you should include a saucepan. You may use it for various stews, soups, sauces, pasta, mashed potatoes, curries, even jams, glazes, and gravies.