Saucepan vs Frying Pan: Which Is Better For You?

Saucepan vs Frying Pan: Which Is Better For You?

Ultimate Checklist Of Kitchen Essentials: 49 Must-Haves Reading Saucepan vs Frying Pan: Which Is Better For You? 14 minutes

Saucepan vs Frying Pan: Which Is The Real Essential For Your Kitchen?

Are you a beginner starting your home cooking journey? Then, you've probably heard of two particular essential kitchen tools - the saucepan and the frying pan. 

Both cookware may sound like they could be one and the same since both the frying pan and saucepan have "pan" in their names and typically sport a single handle. But other than the shared similarity in their names, these pans have key differences that will affect your daily food preparation, cooking experience, and ultimately, your lifestyle.

If you're on a budget or if you're working with limited storage space in your kitchen, it's only natural to find yourself in a spot where you can pick only one or the other. So which is it going to be? The saucepan? Or the fry pan?

Which is why we've outlined the differences and similarities of both the saucepan vs frying pan. Once you know the fundamental workings of both cookware, you will be able to pick the cookware that best suits your cooking style, daily necessities, and overall lifestyle.

So before you add either cookware to your shopping cart, let's get some clarity on both the saucepan and frying pan so you'll have a better idea on which of the two would be the best pick for you.

Cosmo Saucepan, a ceramic non-stick saucepan.

To Begin With, What Is A Saucepan?

A saucepan, sometimes known as a milk pan, is an all-rounder cookware used everywhere across the world. This particular type of cookware boasts tall straight sides, a round surface, a flat bottom, and a single long handle. The very design of the saucepan makes it ideal for food preparation that involves ample liquid, which is one of the reasons that led to its name.

Smaller saucepans tend to come without a lid, while a lid is usually included with medium to large saucepans, be it a glass lid or a fully opaque metal lid. Saucepans come in different materials, with the usual suspects being ceramic non-stick, copper, aluminium, Teflon, and stainless steel. In fact, some saucepans can even be placed in the oven if their entire build from the "main body" to the handle is oven-safe.

Cosmo Fry, a ceramic non-stick fry pan.

Now, What Exactly Is A Frying Pan?

A fry pan, short for a frying pan, has shallow slanted sides and curved edges with a flat bottom, making it an ideal cookware for the preparation of simple daily fare. The flat base is also perfect for cooking soft foods and fragile ingredients. Meanwhile, its short and sloped sides make it convenient to flip food over while cooking.

Typically, you would use a frying pan for searing, shallow frying, sautéing, and pan-frying food quickly in hot oil. Frying pans are usually made from ceramic, cast iron, aluminium, copper, and stainless steel.

However, is a frying pan the same as a sauté pan? While they sound similar, they actually have distinct functions that set them apart from one another in the kitchen.

7 Similarities & Differences Between Both The Frying Pan And Saucepan

1. Cooking Techniques 

Saucepan

The tall, straight sides of a saucepan keeps liquids contained without spilling or boiling over. Thus, saucepans are perfect for boiling water, simmering soups, boiling pasta, and making sauces.

The saucepan's tall sides and narrow base also means that it promotes a low evaporation rate and rapid heat distribution, making it the perfect cooking vessel to reduce sauces or simmer dishes slowly to develop complex flavours.

Meanwhile, the long handle, often made from heat-resistant material, makes it convenient to manage the saucepan as you cook for more complex recipes such as the classic Italian zabaglione or simple one-pot meals like a hearty ramen. The round, flat base is also perfect for you to stir roux or ingredients without worrying that it'll get stuck in the corners.

Frying Pan

On the other hand, a frying pan has a wide, flat base with a long handle and shallow, sloped sides. The flat base makes it great for preparing food that needs gentle handling such as fish and eggs. 

Meanwhile, the sloped sides allow easy stirring and cooking of food evenly, such as sautéing vegetables, searing meat, pan-frying chicken breasts, making pancakes, and even stir-frying small quantities of food. 

2. Size & Cooking Capacity

Saucepan

Saucepans are essentially the smaller counterpart of the classic cooking pot. You'll find that saucepans typically hold an approximate capacity of 0.9L to 3.7L depending on the size of the saucepan.

For example, the Cosmo Saucepan has a capacity of 1.8 litres, making it more suitable for cooking and reheating food in smaller quantities for small families or couples, preparing small batches of sauces, and boiling milk and water. 

Therefore, this saucepan is very convenient for preparing one-pot meals for those days when you don't want to do much washing but still want a nutritious and filling meal. 

Frying Pan

Frying pans are available in various sizes, ranging from 6 inches (15cm) to 14 inches (35cm), catering to different cooking needs. For example, the Cosmo Fry 24cm is a medium-sized pan with a large cooking surface area and still heats up relatively quickly. 

Meanwhile, the Cosmo Fry 28cm is perfect for preparing food for larger families or parties, and even searing food that requires more cooking surface for the moisture to evaporate and become perfectly crisp.

3. Cooking Versatility 

Saucepan

Thanks to the tall sides, saucepans are ideal for preparing any dish that involves a lot of liquid, such as making a sauce, boiling soup, preparing pasta, and steaming vegetables. The tall sides also prevent the liquids from spilling over, which means less cleaning up throughout the cooking process! Besides, the sides are not very tall, making the saucepan suitable for preparing single-meal portions or heating leftovers.

However, not all saucepans are built the same. Acidic ingredients may wear down cheap Teflon non-stick coated saucepans in the long run, but ceramic non-stick have a strong to impenetrable resistance to acidic ingredients. 

Frying Pan

Frying pans are versatile cookware vessels suitable for various cooking techniques such as preparing pancakes, sautéing vegetables, frying eggs, and searing meats. Therefore, the frying pan will become your best friend in the kitchen if you intend to try your hand at preparing food from different cuisines.

Yet not all frying pans are suitable for the same cooking techniques. For example, ceramic non-stick frying pans are more suited for preparing delicate ingredients such as frying eggs, fish, and tofu, as the food will not stick to the base. However, ceramic non-stick frying pans are not suitable for high-heat cooking like broiling steaks and quick reduction of sauces.

On the other hand, you can use stainless steel frypans to sear food over high heat until it achieves the perfect golden crust. But keep in mind that more oil is needed so the food does not stick to the base.

Storing Cosmo Saucepan on a multi-tiered wooden rack.

4. Design & Storage

Saucepan

Remember how we mentioned that a saucepan has tall, straight sides, a round, flat base, and a long handle? It's built that way for a reason; the tall sides are great at preventing liquid from spilling over. But then it does come with a small downside where it could be hard to stack the saucepan as it then calls for more storage space.

One thing to look out for is whether the saucepan has a hole at the end of its handle. Because this will then allow you to hang it anywhere in your kitchen, saving more storage space.

Frying Pan

In comparison to a saucepan, the frying pan has a large base that is round and flat, a long handle, and shallow sloped sides. Its shallow sides make it easy to stack your cookware and save more storage space, which is why a fry pan is widely regarded as a household's must-have.

If you have a ceramic non-stick frying pan, what you'll want to do is to place a layer of protective padding between the stacked cookware, or hang it somewhere so you can protect the non-stick surface from scratches. This protected padding can be in the form of a silicone pad or a felt cookware protector.

5. Evaporation Rate

Saucepan

A saucepan typically has a low to moderate evaporation rate, making it great for boiling soups and preparing food with ample liquid. This design makes the saucepan ideal for reducing sauces and simmering dishes, allowing them to develop complex flavours.

It's also why most households use saucepans to quickly heat up milk or water in the absence of an electric kettle.

Frying Pan

Meanwhile, frying pans have shallow sloped sides, which naturally results in a high evaporation rate. This makes it ideal for households to cook up quick stir-fries, sears, and sautés without having excess liquid remain. Think less soggy dishes and more crispy textures, yum!

6. Ease Of Use

Saucepan

A saucepan is typically smaller than a frying pan, making it more convenient to handle while cooking and cleaning. The long handle makes it easier to manage as you pour out the contents of the saucepan, since the hot food will be further away from you.

Several larger saucepans even have a helper handle on the opposite side so you can pour the food easily while reducing spillage. Some saucepans even come with a pouring spout for easier pours!

Frying Pan

When it comes to ease of usage, I'd say both the saucepan and frying pan are almost equally matched. Both come with a long handle, making it that much safer since it keeps the hot parts away from you. One distinctive trait that separates it is that a fry pan is typically lighter than a saucepan, making it easier for you to sauté or toss ingredients as you cook.

7. Lids

Saucepan

Saucepans typically come with a lid to retain moisture and heat. Some lids may be made with glass so you can check on the food without removing the lid. Some lids even have a tiny vent hole for the steam to escape while reducing the chances of boil-overs. But if you intend to reduce your sauces, taking the lid off will improve the sauce reduction process while allowing it to develop complex flavours.

Frying Pan

While not every frying pan comes with a lid, you may find one useful for simmering and braising dishes. A lid can speed up the cooking process while preventing the evaporation of moisture in the food. Besides, a lid can also help distribute heat evenly by continuously basting the dishes with evaporating liquids, which is great for preparing thick meat cuts.

Can You Use A Saucepan Like A Frying Pan?

Technically, you could use a saucepan like a frying pan. However, the design of the saucepan is not ideal for frying as the tall sides make it hard to stir or flip food properly.

Can I Fry Food With A Saucepan?

Yes, the saucepan is perfect for deep-frying food, as the tall sides can help contain the oil and prevent splatters. You would want to fry the food in batches to avoid overcrowding the saucepan because it can cause the temperature to drop and the food to turn soggy.

What Is The Difference Between A Pan And A Frying Pan?

A pan is a general term for cookware with flat bases, such as fry pans, sauté pans, and saucepans. Thus, pans come in different sizes and have distinct functions to offer.

On the other hand, a frying pan is a specific type of pan with a long handle, round flat bottom, and sloped shallow sides, making it ideal for stir-frying and sautéing food.

Can A Saucepan Or Frying Pan Be Used For Slow Cooking?

A heavy-bottomed saucepan can be used for slow cooking due to its tall sides, making it ideal for simmering soups, sauces, and stews. Besides, saucepans usually come with lids, which you can use to trap heat and steam to cook food more evenly. You can slow simmer food over very low heat, allowing the flavours to develop better. You may need to stir occasionally to prevent the food from burning.

On the other hand, frying pans have sloped shallow sides, making them less suitable for slow-cooking large quantities of liquid. In fact, they also have a larger surface area, which speeds up the evaporation process. For a smoother slow-cooking process, simmer the food on low heat to prevent food from burning. You would also need to check the pan often to see if there's sufficient liquid and add more if needed.

While you can use either cookware for slow cooking, the saucepan would generally be a better choice due to its taller sides.

Can I Stir-Fry Foods In Saucepans?

It is possible to stir-fry foods in a saucepan if you're in a pinch. However, the tall, straight sides make it difficult to toss and stir food quickly, which is expected from stir-frying. Besides, you would need to stir-fry food in batches since a saucepan has a smaller surface area, making it difficult to cook food evenly, especially if it's overcrowded.

Can I Make Soups In Frying Pans?

Compared to a saucepan, a frying pan has a larger surface area and shallower sides, resulting in the liquid to evaporate faster. Thus, you need to keep an eye on the soup and top up with more liquid as necessary. As the frying pan has shallow sides, you can only use it to prepare small batches of soup to prevent the risk of overflow. It is also important to simmer the soup on low heat to prevent the soup from splashing.

Should I Get A Frying Pan Or A Sauté Pan?

If you usually prepare one or two portions of food and are used to preparing simple dishes, you will love our Cosmo Fry 24cm for your kitchen, which is great for stir-frying and simmering small batches of food.

If you love cooking for dinner parties or prefer meal prepping, then I'd recommend a sauté pan like the Cosmo Pan will be perfect for preparing larger quantities of food, whether it's for braising, simmering, or sautéing.

So, Is A Saucepan Or A Frying Pan Better For Me?

There is no right or wrong cookware in the kitchen, as it all depends on your cooking needs. If you often stir-fry and sear foods, the frying pan will be the better choice. If you prefer preparing soups, sauces, and stews, you will love the saucepan for its versatility. 

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