Kitchen Intermediates: Saucepans

Early in the days of The Bachelor’s Kitchen, we considered the basics of kitchen cookware. These were the minimum items you needed to cook a meal. They included a cast iron skillet, a baking dish and a medium-large saucepan. By medium-large, I was referring to something around 4 quart size. This was large enough to do rice, soups and stews, side dishes and even single servings of pasta. But there are other sizes that could be very useful when you’re ready to expand your kitchen equipment stocks.

Saucepans, also called just pots, are sized by volume (how much liquid they hold). Usually, in the U.S., that’s in quarts. A saucepan usually has straight sides, flat bottom and a single handle. It may or may not have a lid. Some also have pour spouts. The difference between a saucepan and a pot is the number of handles. Pots usually have two handle close to the sides of the pot. Pans have single handles that extend away from the body of the pan. Some large pans have a small handle opposite the large one to make them easier to handle when full.

In addition to the medium-large saucepan, I recommend having at least one other size. A small saucepan, about one to one-and-a-half quart size, is very useful for warming single servings and for making some sauces and heating liquids. I use mine all the time. It’s perfect for heating broth when I make risotto.

It’s probably a good idea, when you can afford it, to get a range of sizes in saucepans with lids. But there’s no need to go overboard. Three or four pans will do for most jobs.

Curiously, the standard saucepan is not that good for making sauces. Two other types of pans are better suited. One is the lesser known Winsor pan, which has sloping sides. The other you’ve probably heard of — the saucier (pronounced saw-see-ay), which has rounded sides. These allow for better evaporation of liquids for reductions and more easily accommodate a whisk or spoon.

As you expand your kitchen knowledge and skills, a good set of saucepans are a good and useful addition to your equipment.


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