What Is a Saute Pan? + How to Use it!

A saute pan is one of those utensils that are not that common in most kitchens. Hence, many cooks aren’t aware of how useful and versatile it can be.

Well, this article will help with that. It discusses what a saute pan is and how you can use it.

What Is a Saute Pan?

A saute pan is a cooking pan that is used for sautéing food. Sauteing is a cooking method in which you cook food at high heat and with little fat in the pan.

As a result, the food cooks at a much faster rate than through the other methods. This process browns the surface of the food, which, in turn, helps it develop a unique flavor.

With that said, a saute pan is a versatile piece of equipment. So, you can cook a variety of dishes in it.

What Are Saute Pans Used For?

As mentioned before, saute pans are incredibly versatile. So, they can be used to make a lot of different dishes.

This section will go over a few kinds of cooking methods you can use when using a saute pan. Here’s what you should saute pans for.

Cooking Saucy Dishes

A saute pan is excellent for cooking saucy dishes. By saucy dishes, we mean casseroles, chillis, or curries.

The straight sides on the saute pan help with minimizing sloshing. These sides also provide an extra bit of depth (and volume) that you may not find with a skillet.

Also, the large surface of the saute pan provides you with more space for browning meat.

Searing Large Pieces of Meat

Saute pans have a relatively large surface area. As a result, you have enough space to sear large pieces of meat.

So, you can cook a large steak or brown chicken thighs with ease. You don’t have to worry about your food touching the sides of the pan.

Cooking Food in the Oven

Most saute pans are oven safe. Thus, you can finish off a dish by placing it in the oven for a few minutes.

This is a great way to finish off certain dishes such as a frittata or other meat dishes.

What Should You Keep In Mind When Buying a Saute Pan?

When you are buying a sauté pan, you must purchase a high-quality one.

Here are some things you should keep in mind when buying a saute pan.

The Material of the Saute Pan

A saute pan should be durable and versatile. So, the material plays a vital role in determining that.

You should stay clear of saute pans that have a single layer of material. Some of these materials include stainless steel, ceramic, nonstick surfaces, and cast iron.

It’s best if you purchase a saute pan that has a combination of materials. Look for a saute pan that has both hard-anodized aluminum and stainless steel.

The aluminum is responsible for an even distribution of heat throughout the pan. The stainless steel, on the other hand, provides a durable surface.

Both of these materials combined result in an efficient utensil that will last a long time. Plus, you should look for a pan with multi-ply construction.

The Size of the Pan

Saute pans usually come in various sizes. However, the three most common sizes have diameters of 8, 10, and 12 inches.

Because saute pans have straight sides, the cooking surface is approximately the same size as its lip’s diameter. Selecting the size of the pan is up to you.

Think about what you plan on cooking in it before you make this decision.

The Handle Construction

A saute pan’s handle is an integral part of the utensil. This type of pan is generally quite heavy.

Therefore, the handle should be sturdy and securely attached to the pan.

Also, the handle should have proper insulative material for the grip. This way, the heat won’t travel from the base to the handle.

How to Use a Saute Pan?

There are two ways you can apply heat to a saute pan. These ways include direct heat and indirect heat. Both of these provide different results when cooking.

So, you should know a bit about both before you start using your saute pan.

Cook Food Using Direct Heat

You can apply direct heat by placing the pan directly on a source of heat, i.e., the burner. This way, the heat source heats the saute pan, which, in turn, heats your food.

Through direct heating, the food will receive the heat from only one direction. So, if you want to brown a piece of chicken, you must flip it over.

It’s generally a lot of quicker to cook food using direct heat. This is because the pan is a lot hotter. Therefore, this method is suitable for searing meat.

Cook Food Using Indirect Heat

Considering most saute pans are oven-safe, you can cook food with it using indirect heat. Indirect heat is when your pan isn’t placed directly above a heat source.

Therefore, an excellent example of indirect heat is cooking food in an oven. This is because an oven has a warm environment. Therefore, it warms the air, which, in turn, heats the pan and the food inside it.

Indirect cooking is a slow form of cooking. This is because the pan doesn’t heat quickly, as it does direct heating. Indirect and direct cooking methods result in a different consistency and texture for your food.

Cook Food Using Dry Heat

To saute food, you’ll need to use dry heat. Cooking with dry heat involves using a hot pan with just a little bit of fat in it. Therefore, you can use your saute pan and this method to brown your food nicely.

Because of this process, your food will have a complex set of flavors and aromas. Here’s how you should use your saute pan for dry-heat cooking.

Step 1. Heat the Pan

To saute your food correctly, the first thing you must do is heat the pan.

Put it atop the stove and turn up the heat. Once the pan is very hot, you should either oil or butter. Wait until that gets hot too.

Step 2. Add Food to the Hot Saute Pan

After the fat is sufficiently hot, add the food to the pan. The hot fat will coat the food and allow it to become brown evenly. Make sure that you don’t add too much food to the pan.

An overcrowded pan will cause the heat to dissipate. This means that the food won’t get hot enough. This, in turn, will not allow the food to get brown evenly.

Also, the food will more likely steam instead of sauteing in that case.

Step 3. Keep Stirring the Food

Once the food is in the saute pan, keep stirring it. This way, you’ll ensure that the heat stays even throughout the cooking process. Keeping food still in the pan will bring an even larger disparity in temperature between the two.

Once the food is adequately brown and cooked, get ready for plating. With dry heat, your food will have a crunchy and stiff texture. This is because this method removes the moisture from the food.

Cook Food Using Moist Heat

Cooking with moist heat involves using liquid as a cooking medium. Saute pans have straight sides and a lid. So, they’re perfect for cooking food using moist heat.

The liquid you can use for this method includes water, wine, milk, broths, and more. This method adds moisture to food during the cooking process.

Cooking food with moist heat will allow it to be a lot more tender than using dry heat. You can also use a combination of both moist and dry heat.

For example, when cooking soup, you can cook some of the ingredients using dry heat. Once they’re evenly brown, you can then cook the soup using moist heat.

Saute Pans Vs Frying Pans – Similarities and Differences

A saute pan is a combination of a frying pan and a saucepan. Therefore, saute pans look a lot like frying pans or skillets. However, there are some important differences between the two.

Saute pans have long handles and are relatively shallow.

In addition to that, they have flat bottoms just like frying pans do. This design allows for an even distribution of heat in the pan.

Saute Pans Have Straight Sides

Unlike skillets, saute pans have straight sides. As a result, it has a larger surface area than other pans.

So, a 12-inch saute pan will have more surface area than a 12-inch skillet. This is because pan manufacturers measure the diameter of a pan from its lip. As a result, the diameter of the cooking surface (the bottom) will vary.

Skillets lose about an inch on each end of the pan because of the slanted sides. So, a 12-inch skillet/frying pan has about 10 inches for its cooking surface.

On the other hand, the straight sides on a 12-inch saute pan has a 12-inch cooking surface. You cannot overcrowd your food when you’re sautéing it. Therefore, the larger surface area helps with that.

It’s also worth mentioning that saute pans do an excellent job of curtailing things from sloshing over. This is mostly because of the straight sides.

The sides on a skillet, however, are at an angle. So, this design won’t help reduce sloshing. It will also reduce the total volume of the pan. So, you may not be able to shallow fry meatballs and other such foods in a skillet.

Saute Pans Come WithLids

You can further minimize the sloshing of water or oil by using the lid that comes with your saute pan.

Good quality pans usually have tight lids. So, these lids help reduce evaporating when shallow-frying.

So, you can use it to braise chicken in wine or shallow fry meatballs without the worry of it drying up.

Saute Pans Are Relatively Heavy

Saute pans are generally quite heavy. They’re significantly heavier than similar-sized skillets. So, this can be a problem if you try to stir and shake food when you lift it.

You will also struggle to toss food by just holding the handle. Also, the straight sides make it even more difficult to toss food effectively. With frying pans, the angled sides help with the tossing maneuver.

The weight of a saute pan, however, shouldn’t be a problem if you leave it sitting on the stovetop.

Some saute pans also have a secondary handle on the opposite end of the long handle. This way, you can use both handles to handle the pan.

Now that you know what a saute pan is and how you can use it, you should invest in a high-quality pan to take your cooking to the next level.

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