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One of the first pieces of cookware I ever bought for my beginning kitchen collection was a jumbo sauté pan with a handle and lid. I went for the nonstick variety for easy cleanup and found one on a small budget that I still have and continue to use to make a multitude of foods. My favorite foods to make in my sauté pan include lentil dahl, fried tofu, and creamy pasta.
To me, a sauté pan is the multicooker of pots and pans. With its raised edges, you can use it to make liquids and sauces, but it also has a large diameter suitable for searing and frying. It can even be used for poaching and braising. Most come with a lid to lock in flavor and moisture, as well as a handle for stability while stirring. While I stand behind all the recommendations on this list, the All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply 3-Quart Stainless Steel Sauté Pan is the crème de la crème of sauté pans.
Here are the best sauté pans to have in your kitchen collection.
Best Overall: All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply 3-Quart Stainless Steel Sauté Pan
What We Love: High-quality tri-ply construction, stay-cool handle is riveted to the pan, can be used on all cooktops and in the oven
What We Don’t Love: The center is slightly raised, which causes liquid to roll to the outer edges
Stainless steel is one of the most common materials used in cookware. It’s long-lasting, easy to clean, and durable. However, it’s not a great conductor of heat. To get around that, this stainless steel sauté pan is made with a tri-ply construction, meaning it has an aluminum core. When aluminum is sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel, it gives the pan excellent conductivity, so it heats quickly and evenly. It also makes the pan more lightweight since stainless steel can be heavy.
"This 3-quart sauté pan is filled with features your culinary dreams are made of. I've been cooking with it for years, and I definitely recommend it to everyone," says Daniel P. Craig, a chef with more than 20 years of experience working in professional kitchens. "Featuring a hearty three-ply bonded construction that extends from the base up through the sides of the pan, this oven-safe pan heats up quickly and distributes warmth for even cooking every time. Plus, cleanup is a cinch, just hand wash with warm soapy water and wipe with a soft cloth."
Material: Stainless steel and aluminum | Capacity: 3 quarts | Diameter: 11.3 inches | Height: 2 inches
Best Budget: T-fal B36290 Specialty Nonstick 5-Quart Jumbo Cooker Saute Pan with Glass Lid
What We Love: Thermo-spot indicates when pan is heated, helper handle, glass lid
What We Don’t Love: Nonstick coating can get damaged
If you’re like me and need a reliable sauté pan that doesn’t break the bank, this is the exact pan I chose for myself. I like the nonstick surface, ready-to-use indicator, and large capacity. While it takes up a lot of space in my cabinet, it’s worth it for its versatility. I find myself pulling out this pan several times per week.
While some customer reviews state that the nonstick coating peels off easily from utensils and the cooking surface isn’t flat, I haven’t had any of these issues. If you need ideas on what you can make in this pan, Craig says, “Sauté pans can be used for more than just sautéing. Their shape allows them to hold liquids, so they can also be used for making sauces, shallow frying, and poaching.”
Material: Aluminum, nonstick surface | Capacity: 5 quarts | Diameter: 12 inches | Height: 3.5 inches
Best Nonstick: KitchenAid 3-Quart Hard Anodized Nonstick Saute/Fry Pan with Lid
What We Love: Depth is suitable for cooking liquids and sauces
What We Don’t Love: Smaller diameter, not dishwasher safe
Nonstick cookware is among the easiest to use. If you’re a beginning home chef, consider a nonstick sauté pan. This one is made with durable aluminum for even heating and is covered in three nonstick layers to prevent sticking. It doesn't have a second helper handle, but the pan's handle and glass lid's handle are wrapped in silicone to stay cool and give you a good grip. This is oven safe to 400 degrees for when you need to warm up leftovers.
What this pan lacks in diameter, it makes up for in height. It may not fit as many chicken breasts or tofu cutlets due to the smaller surface area, but its depth makes it a top choice if you plan on making a lot of sauces and liquid dishes like pasta or curry.
Material: Aluminum | Capacity: 3 quarts | Diameter: 8.58 inches | Height: 4.5 inches
Related: The Best Nonstick Cookware Sets
Best Cast Iron: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Deep Sauté Pan
What We Love: Premium craftsmanship, beautiful design, extremely durable, can be an heirloom
What We Don’t Love: Pricey, enamel may chip
You’ll find this sauté pan on many wedding registries and social media posts. Coveted by many for its beautiful finish and thoughtful engineering, this sauté pan lives up to the Le Creuset brand name. It’s made of long-lasting cast iron but with an enameled coating to resist staining. It’s also lower maintenance than regular cast iron since it doesn’t require any additional seasoning. It’s even dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean.
If you’re looking for a versatile option, this is it. This cast-iron sauté pan is safe to use in the oven and broiler, on the stovetop, and on induction surfaces. You’ll want to be careful though as the enamel surface may chip or break.
Material: Enameled cast iron | Capacity: 4.5 quarts | Diameter: 12 inches | Height: 3.5 inches
Related: The Best Cast-Iron Skillets
Best Large Capacity: Calphalon Elite Nonstick 6-Quart Sauté Pan
What We Love: Large surface area, metal utensils won't damage coating, large helper handle
What We Don’t Love: Center may be raised, according to some user reviews
Sauté pans can have a capacity of up to 6.5 quarts. This 6-quart sauté pan is perfect for large families or batch cooking, and it's made of aluminum with a PFOA-free nonstick coating. Hard-anodized aluminum cooks food uniformly, preventing hot or cold spots while cooking. If you struggle with utensils damaging your nonstick cookware, this one is up to the challenge. It features three nonstick layers to withstand scratches from cooking utensils, even metal ones.
High walls make this sauté pan ideal for simmering and braising, but it can also be used for frying, poaching, and more. The 13-inch diameter is among the largest available, and consumers rave about the volume it can hold. However, some users noted their pan is raised in the center, which hinders even cooking.
Material: Aluminum, nonstick surface | Capacity: 6 quarts | Diameter: 13 inches | Height: 3 inches
Best Induction-Ready: Cuisinart 733-30H Chef's Classic Stainless 5.5-Quart Saute Pan
What We Love: Affordable, high-quality, heats evenly, stay-cool handle
What We Don’t Love: Food can stick, all-metal lid
Those with induction cooktops can find it tricky to find compatible cookware. The key? Look for stainless steel cookware like this sauté pan by Cuisinart. It has all the pros of stainless steel—doesn’t discolor or react with food—but distributes heat evenly due to the aluminum base.
The handle stays cool during cooking unlike some other models, making this a safe choice that also provides support. The all-metal lid also seals tightly to lock in flavor and moisture, though you can't see what's happening in the pan. It’s dishwasher safe, has a tapered rim for drip-free pouring, and has a brilliant finish. For the quality, this one is reasonably priced, making it a great value for budding home chefs.
"One of the best decisions I ever made was buying Cuisinart's Chef's Classic cookware when moving into my first apartment. The set included this sauté pan and more than a decade and four apartments later, it still looks great and sees frequent use on my stove." — Siobhan Wallace, Commerce Editor
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 5.5 quarts | Diameter: 12 inches | Height: 4.5 inches
The All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply Stainless-Steel Sauté Pan comes recommended by professional chef Daniel P. Craig, and it's easy to see why with the pan’s quality construction and versatility. For those on a budget, the Cuisinart 733-30H Chef's Classic Stainless 5.5-Quart Saute Pan has similar features to the All-Clad for a fraction of the price. The T-fal B36290 Specialty Nonstick 5-Quart Jumbo Cooker Saute Pan is another budget-friendly pick that I can personally vouch for.
How We Selected
There’s no shortage of sauté pans on the market, so a simple search yields hundreds of results. To choose the best sauté pans from the sea of options, Lacey took a deep dive into what criteria you should consider when making your purchase and read all the reviews. A good sauté pan should have a handle and lid, so she made sure our top picks have those features. Sauté pans usually range in price from $30 and $400, so she chose options at multiple price points to suit every budget.
To gain some expert insights, she spoke to Daniel P. Craig, a chef with more than 20 years of experience working in professional kitchens. "When sautéing, you want a pan that heats up quickly so you can cook your food on high heat, and cools down just as fast so you don’t burn anything,” says Craig. He weighed in on what material to look for and shared his own favorite. Lastly, Lacey has personally tested one of these sauté pans in her own kitchen and used her experience to judge the other contenders.
What to Look for When Buying a Sauté Pan
Like most cookware, sauté pans are mostly made from aluminum, stainless steel, or cast iron. They can also be made from copper, ceramic, and carbon steel, but these are less common. Some are also finished with enamel or a nonstick coating.
"There's no shortage of opinions on the best material for sauté pans. And if you look around, you'll likely see cast iron, stainless steel, and nonstick varieties in a range of prices—all with their own pros and cons," says Craig. "I think stainless steel pans are the way to go because they're a lot less expensive than copper and conduct heat very efficiently, and cleaning them is much easier than it would be with copper."
Many sauté pans have an aluminum core or base. This material is among the best for even heating and cooking. If you get frustrated with hot spots and uneven heat distribution, try an aluminum pan. They’re often covered with stainless steel or nonstick finishes, which each have their own pros and cons.
Stainless steel is durable and long-lasting. It’s also non-reactive so it won’t affect the flavor of food, and it won’t be stained by colorful foods like tomatoes. However, stainless steel is heavy and prone to food sticking. It may also expose food to metals.
Nonstick pans are arguably the easiest to use. You don’t have to worry about food sticking to the surface. However, they’re usually not dishwasher safe, so you’ll have to wash by hand. The nonstick coating can also wear off over time or become damaged by metal cooking utensils. Health-conscious consumers tend to avoid nonstick pans since they can contain chemicals that leach into food.
Cast iron may be the longest-lasting option. They’re also relatively affordable and free of unwanted chemicals. The downside to cast iron is that it’s high maintenance. You’ll have to wash by hand and season the pan. The handles also get hot, so you’ll need to be careful.
Most sauté pans can hold a minimum of 3 quarts. If you’re looking for an entry-level sauté pan for yourself, a couple, or a small family, a capacity of 3 quarts is plenty. For larger batches of food, some models can hold up to 6.5 quarts, though they take up more space in your kitchen.
Other measurements to pay attention to include the diameter and height. The diameter speaks to the pan’s surface area. If you don’t cook a lot of liquids but need more space for steaks, chicken breasts, salmon filets, or tofu cutlets, prioritize diameter over height. Most sauté pans have a diameter around 12 inches, but they can range from 9 to 13 inches.
The height refers to how deep the pan is. A deep pan is ideal for simmering liquids and making saucy foods. Sauté pans can be as shallow as 2 inches or as deep as 3.5 inches. If the pan comes with a lid, and most sauté pans do, this can affect the height of the pan. Be sure to check the height with and without the lid to have a better idea of what to expect.
The upkeep and care of your sauté pan depends on the materials and manufacturer instructions. If you’re looking for an option you can pop in the dishwasher, stainless steel is probably your best bet. If food becomes burned-on, fill the pan with hot soapy water, let it soak for an hour, and then boil the water for 15 minutes before rewashing. You can also scrub the pan with a light coating of baking powder. Just be careful if using abrasive cleaners or scouring pads as those could affect the finish.
Some enamel cast iron or nonstick pans claim to be dishwasher-safe, but this varies. We recommend avoiding the dishwasher and handwashing. This will prevent any heat or abrasive cleaners from damaging the finish or cracking the pan.
What's the difference between a sauté pan and a skillet?
A sauté pan and skillet are very similar, but they’re not the same. The difference can be subtle. A sauté pan generally has a flat bottom and high, vertical sides. It also usually has a long handle and lid. While a skillet also has a long handle, it has shorter sides that are slanted.
What's the difference between a sauté pan and sauteuse?
The difference between a sauté pan and sauteuse lies in their shape. Sauteuse is French for "frying pan," so it’s versatile like a sauté pan. However, a sauteuse has rounded sides, making it easier to use with a spatula. A sauté pan has vertical sides.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Lacey Muinos is a freelance food writer. She uses her jumbo sauté pan on a weekly basis to make some of her favorite vegan meals, such as creamy pasta with a cashew-based sauce and lentil and chickpea dahl.
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