What’s a Saucepan and How Do I Use it?

Author: Chef Sydney

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What are Saucepans?

A saucepan is a small round pan with straight and tall sides.  Saucepans are meant to be used on the stove and usually have long handles and lids.  Because of the shape of the saucepan, it evenly heats the foods or liquids inside the pan.  Saucepans come in different sizes, but common sizes are 2, 3, or 4-quarts.  A saucepan is usually stainless steel or nonstick, but can be made out of copper, aluminum, ceramic, and even cast iron.  

What are Saucepans Used For?

Saucepans can be used for a variety of reasons.  One of the most common uses for a saucepan is to make or reduce sauces like rue, marinara, or gravy.  This type of pan can also quickly and evenly reheat a sauce.  Saucepans can be used to boil water for single servings of pasta or to steep tea.  A big enough saucepan can be used to deep fry certain foods.  A saucepan can even be used to make a homemade caramel sauce or homemade hot chocolate.

Learn About Saucepans
Warm cheese sauce melted in a saucepan.

What are the Different Types of Saucepan?

  • Stainless Steel
  • Nonstick

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel saucepans are one of the most common types of saucepans.  Stainless steel saucepans heat evenly and continue to cook food and sauces evenly.  Food is more likely to stick in a stainless steel saucepan, so the contents of the saucepan will need to be stirred regularly to prevent burning.  Stainless steel saucepans are scratch-resistant and will last with proper care.

Nonstick: Nonstick saucepans are frequently used because foods and liquids are not as likely to stick to the bottom or sides of the pan.  This type of pan is best suited for rue sauces or foods with melted cheese because of the nonstick material.  Foods in a nonstick saucepan require regular stirring to prevent burning on the bottom.  Because stirring in a saucepan requires scraping the bottom of the pan, this type of saucepan may scratch easily.  Nonstick saucepans will have to be replaced when the nonstick coating begins to wear.

Recipes Using Saucepans

In our authentic Mexican red rice cooking video we use a sauce pan to boil the dry California chiles that gives red rice its red color, and to sauté the rice in olive oil before boiling it.

How To Make Authentic Mexican Red Rice
Authentic Mexican Red Rice Video Lesson

In our white rice and peas cooking video, we use a sauce pan to sauté the rice in olive oil before boiling it.

white rice with peas
White Rice and Peas Video Cooking Lesson

Homemade Caramel

Cook up homemade caramel sauce to top your favorite desserts. Start by heating sugar in a saucepan until melted. Add butter and stir until melted. Then, remove the saucepan from heat and mix in heavy cream until combined.

White Hot Chocolate

Use a saucepan to make a warm, tasty drink. Simmer white chocolate, milk, and vanilla in a saucepan. Pour into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick and whipped cream.

Teriyaki Sauce

Glaze your meats in this sauce for a tasty meal. Combine water, soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, and corn starch in a saucepan. Simmer the ingredients until the sauce thickens. Teriyaki sauce works well with chicken dishes.

Single-Serve Pasta

Making pasta just for yourself is easy when you use a saucepan. Boil water over high heat in a saucepan. Salt the water, then add your pasta of choice. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking and serve with your favorite sauce.


Make your breakfast in a saucepan. Combine oats, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan and simmer until the milk has mostly soaked into the oats. Stir in your favorite berries or fruits and nuts.

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