Saucepan vs Frying Pan – What’s the Difference?

Unless you are a professional chef or cook for a living, you may not need all the pans that you find in the market.

However, one area where people face a lot of confusion is distinguishing between two very similar pans. The biggest example of this is the saucepan and the frying pan.

At first glance, both pans can look very similar to each other. However, taking a closer look will show you that there are differences between the two.

Additionally, despite their visual similarities, they are both used for cooking different things.

So, if you’re on a budget and thinking about buying either of the two, you need to consider this aspect as well.

For this reason, we’re going to take an in-depth, comparative look at the saucepan and the frying pan.

Saucepan vs Frying Pan – Features

When you take a look at a saucepan or a frying pan individually, it can be pretty hard to tell one from the other.

This is made even more challenging when you do not know the properties of each pan. Additionally, each pan is available in different sizes, materials, colors, and more.

That’s why we’re going to identify the physical features of each pan to begin with.

Features of a Saucepan

A saucepan is considered a deep cooking vessel with raised sides. Saucepans are noted for being deeper in relation to the overall width of the pan.

Saucepan vs Frying Pan – What's the Difference?

They are usually available in sizes, ranging from small ones that are 15 cm in circumference with a 10 cm height to larger pans that are deeper, have a height of 30 cm, and can hold as much as 3 to 4 liters of liquid.

The height of a saucepan is one of its unique selling points. Additionally, a saucepan does not always look traditionally like a frying pan.

Some can be stockier and even resemble a stockpot. As the size gets bigger, the height of the pan does increase significantly.

As a general rule, saucepans always come with a lid but they can also be found for sale without lids. Saucepans do have handles but they are usually not as long as the ones that are on frying pans.

Some may even have an additional handle to provide a better grip to the person.

Features of a Frying Pan

A frying pan is much shallower than a saucepan. One of the biggest defining qualities of frying pans is that they have slanted sides.

Frying Pan

These are designed to help with the cooking method that is used when you are cooking with it.

Frying pans are known for being smaller than a saucepan and even the largest size will look small compared to a saucepan.

Frying pans are generally broader, starting at 30 cm but the height of their sides is much lower, coming up to only 2 to 4 cm high.

They have a longer handle than saucepans and do not come with a lid (in most cases). However, you can add a lid on top if needed.

You can also find some frying pans that are sold with a lid as a combo.

As you can see, both pans are very different when you take a closer look at their features.

By being aware of them, even if you just see either pan separately, you will be able to properly differentiate between the two without any issues.

Cooking Purpose of Saucepan and Frying Pans

Apart from the physical differences, there are also major differences in what you can cook in each pan.

Saucepans are designed for a different cooking style and frying pans are also designed for a different cooking style.

Knowing this factor is important as well because you need to pick a cooking pan that matches your cooking habits as well as the dish that you want to prepare.

Cooking with Saucepans

As the name suggests, saucepans are extremely useful in making – you guessed it right – sauces. This pan can be used for cooking almost anything liquid.

As a result, it is used for stewing or simmering and is a favorite pan for making soups and pasta sauces.

It can also be used to prepare small servings of pasta, risotto, lentils, and for boiling any other grain. However, they can only hold limited quantities of 2 to 3 quarts only.

That’s why, if you are cooking for more people, a stockpot is a better alternative.

On the other hand, if you are cooking for just two to three people, the saucepan can be the best option for you. Some oven-safe versions can also be used in the oven for braising.

Cooking with Frying Pans

When it comes to frying pans, you can also rely on the name to give you an idea of what things you can cook in it.

Frying pans are perfect for quickly frying up small things and are great for making breakfast foods, such as eggs or bacon or even making pancakes. The shallow pan is also better suited for stir-frying vegetables as well.

The shallow nature of the frying pan means that it cannot be used to boil or make sauces like those that the saucepan can.

This is because it has a wider width area and evaporation will occur at a faster rate. You are more likely to burn the vegetables instead of being able to cook them.

As you can see, both have different cooking purposes and at times, you can often use them interchangeably. The saucepan can completely replace the frying pan at times.

However, there are certain items, such as pancakes, which only turn out well when prepared in the frying pan.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Pan

Now before you make the final decision about which pan you should get, it is a good idea to also consider the advantages and the disadvantages that are associated with saucepan and frying pans.

So, we’re going to take a detailed yet short look in this area as well.

Advantages of a Saucepan

When it comes to advantages, the saucepan truly stands out because there are just so many of them, such as the ones below:

  • Flexibility – The saucepan is extremely versatile in use and can double up in use for different pans. With a lid on and when popped into the oven, it can almost function like a mini-Dutch oven. Moreover, it can also be used in place of a frying pan.
  • Better Heat Distribution – The higher walls of the saucepan make heat distribution more even in the saucepan. This makes it possible to cook different foods without any issues.
  • Can Be Used to Cook Anything – Saucepans are not exclusively used for cooking sauces. They can also be great for cooking with soups, pasta, stews, and other liquid-based food items.
  • Available in Different Sizes – The different sizes make it possible for you to pick and choose the serving sizes very easily. Additionally, you can easily find a set of three saucepans, which will be inexpensive and save you money.

All these are some major benefits that you get to experience when you are making use of saucepans.

Disadvantages of a Saucepan

Despite the near-perfect nature of saucepans, they do have some disadvantages too. The following are some of the biggest disadvantages that you can experience with them:

  • Limited Volume: Even the largest size of a saucepan limits the volume of liquid or food that you can make in it. It’s perfect for when you are cooking for a small group but for anything larger, you may have to opt for a stockpot instead.
  • Higher Risk of Burning: Given how evenly it distributes heat, there’s a bigger risk than you can burn food. You need to monitor what you cook with constant stirring.
  • Cleaning Can be Tough: The shape of saucepans makes it difficult to clean in a dishwasher and you will have to do it by hand. Care needs to be taken to ensure that you thoroughly clean it without damaging the pan.
  • Difficult to Move: Unless you bought newer versions of the pan with a hob handle at the front, picking up the saucepan once the meal is done can be difficult. The pan can be heavy and there’s a higher chance to drop it.

With these, you can see that despite the advantages, there are certain disadvantages as well.

While these are not deal breakers, you should still pay attention to them.

Advantages of a Frying Pan

Frying pans have a lot of advantages associated with them.

They can be a great pan type to have in your kitchen. The following are some of the biggest advantages of frying pans:

  • Better Flavor – It’s widely believed that the shallow yet open frying pan gives more flavorful dishes. This is because it allows the ingredients to breathe as they are cooking, preventing them from getting crowded in the pan.
  • Higher Cooking Speed – Frying pans generally cook faster than other pans. This is faster even than the saucepan. The heat also distributes more evenly in frying pans. Additionally, the heat distribution means that the food can easily be cooked on low heat without any worries.
  • Versatility in Cooking – When it comes to cooking, the frying pan is very versatile and can be used to cook anything in oil. From eggs and bacon to stir-fry vegetables or rice, this pan can enhance your cooking skills and help you make many different dishes with ease.
  • Larger Size than Saucepans – Frying pans generally have a larger size than saucepans and have a wider base. This makes it possible to cooking larger amounts of food as compared to saucepans. The smallest size for frying pans begins at 30 cm wide.

These advantages are some of the biggest ones that come with cooking on a frying pan that you can experience.

Disadvantages of a Frying Pan

There are also some particular disadvantages associated with frying pans.

With frying pans, you want to make sure that you pay attention to the following:

  • Higher Chance of Burning Food – With frying pans, even cooking on low heat will give even heat distribution. This means that you will have to constantly monitor the food you cook on it. The shallow pan also makes burning food a possibility
  • Oil is Necessary – Unless you are using a non-stick frying pan, you have to make sure to add oil always when you are cooking with a frying pan. Without it, food will stick to the pan, no matter what heat it is being cooked at.
  • Clean up is Difficult – Sine you are always cooking with oil, you have to make sure that you clean the pan thoroughly. Before putting it in the dishwasher, you may have to hand wash it to get the oil off it completely.
  • Not Very Versatile – Given the shallow nature of frying pans, they are not suited for cooking a lot of sauces or other foods. At most, they are just good for quick cooking and browning food items.

By keeping these disadvantages in mind, you can ensure that you are able to make the right decision about getting a frying pan or not.

Saucepan or Frying Pan – Which One Should You Get?

When you’re picking between which one is better, you should not only take the advantages and disadvantages in mind but also consider which option is better for you based on your cooking style.

It’s a good idea to make sure that you have saucepans in different sizes and at least one frying pan in your kitchen.

This ensures that even if you have a saucepan, you can always make pancakes should the mood ever hit you.

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