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:

  1. Boiling liquids
  2. Cooking sauces
  3. Blanching vegetables
  4. Poaching

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.