The 9 Best Saucepans, Tested by Allrecipes
If you're on the hunt for a good saucepan, we tested nine of the best available, including nonstick, stainless steel, and enameled cast iron options. Ranging in price from $15 to upwards of $230, these are the best saucepans to buy in 2021.
Best Saucepans at a Glance
- Best Overall Saucepan: Cuisinart Contour 3-qt. Hard Anodized Saucepan with Cover
- Best Budget Saucepan: Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 3-Quart Covered Straining Saucepan
- Best Nonstick Saucepan: Calphalon Premier Nonstick 2.5-Quart Saucepan
- Best Stainless Steel Saucepan: Avacraft Stainless Steel Tri Ply Bottom Saucepan, 2.5-qt.
- Best Cast Iron Saucepan: Le Creuset Signature Saucepan, 2.25-qt.
What To Look For When Buying a Saucepan
Size and Weight
For this guide, we chose to test saucepans in the 2- to 3- quart range, the reason for this being that this is generally considered the most versatile size. After that, you're getting into pot territory (think for soups, chilis, and pasta). The 2- to 3- quart size can handle most kitchen tasks without taking up obscene amounts of storage space.
Of course, the larger the pot, the heavier it can be. Although, the biggest contributing factor to weight is usually material — your cast iron saucepan is going to weigh significantly more than a stainless steel or nonstick. A heavy, unwieldy saucepan can make it difficult to pour out sauces or drain liquid. We paid close attention to weight and comfortability in our testing.
Today's saucepans come in a variety of shapes, from ones with tall and flat sides to ones with more rounded and shallow sides. The former is going to heat more quickly, while the latter is going to do a better job of retaining that heat without burning or evaporating ingredients.
We tested three different materials in this review: nonstick, stainless steel, and enameled cast iron.
Stainless steel is most popular for its durability and its ability to retain heat. Plus, it's usually dishwasher safe, unlike many enameled cast iron or nonstick options.
Nonstick is of course preferable for it's easy-to-clean surface — that and the fact that you can usually pour the contents out of the pot without ever reaching for a spoon. Both stainless steel and nonstick saucepans are often made with an aluminum core, as it is an excellent heat conductor that isn't durable enough to be used on its own.
Enameled cast iron is the odd one out — rather than an aluminum or stainless steel core, it's made of heavy-duty (emphasis on heavy) cast iron that's coated with an enamel glaze, giving it some nonstick qualities, but with the heat retention of traditional cast iron. Where does enameled cast iron miss the mark? For one, it's very weighty, which can make it unwieldy to use. Plus, it tends to come with a higher price tag.
Each saucepan tested has an included cover or lid. The difference between them is going to come down to material and fit. Glass can be convenient, as it allows you to watch your food while it cooks. However, your view will often be perturbed by condensation or bubbles. Stainless steel and cast iron are going to retain heat better. But the most important factor is the tightness of the lid.
Sometimes, saucepan handles will be the same material as the pan, but other times they will use heat-resistant materials or cushioning. Ergonomically-shaped handles are going to be most comfortable. But arguably the most important thing to pay attention to in regards to the handle is how it's attached to the pan. Handles attached by flush rivets are best— beware of cheaply made saucepans that are glued on or attached by a normal screw — these are unlikely to stand the test of time.
While the above factors are most important when buying a saucepan, today's market provides many additional features to get excited about. Some pans are designed with pour spouts, built-in strainers, and measurement markings.
The Best Saucepans of 2021
Best Overall: Cuisinart Contour Hard Anodized 3 Quart Saucepan
At just under $50, this saucepan earned high marks on every test. The black body is easy to clean and won't show smudges after using, while the glass cover allows you to see what you're cooking when it's sitting on the pan. It was light and easy to maneuver with just one hand and the handle was cool after use — no oven mitt needed.
The base of this saucepan was wider than many of the others, so it was the quickest to boil water (tied with the All-Clad). The speedy heating did mean that the sauce simmered rapidly and needed to be turned down slightly, but the resulting alfredo was smooth and not too thick. The contoured body made it easy to pour the sauce out without it dripping down the side of the pan and the nonstick inside meant that you didn't even need to use a spoon to empty all of it into a bowl. The saucepan can't go in the dishwasher, but cleaning was so easy that it didn't matter.
All told, this is a quality, oven-safe, easy-to-clean saucepan that won't break the bank.
Buy it: Cuisinart Contour Hard Anodized 3 Quart Saucepan, $50; Amazon
Best Budget: Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 3-Quart Straining Saucepan
There's a reason Farberware has been making saucepans for over 100 years and not much has changed: Their products are easy to use and they get the job done. First, a testing note: The 3-quart saucepan was not available, so testing was performed on the 1-quart version with half the water and half the alfredo sauce recipe. Nonetheless, cooking times for each step in making the sauce were comparable to the larger pans. Overall, the stainless steel saucepans tended to produce the thickest sauces, with the cream reducing the most during its simmering time, and the Farberware was no exception. However, I did not need to fiddle with the temperature at all to prevent the cream from sticking or solidifying.
The Farberware saucepan was incredibly light, the cover fit snugly and the pour spouts on both sides made for an easy sauce transfer from pan to bowl. There was minimal sticking on the bottom after the sauce transfer, but you can pop this pot in the dishwasher to take care of that with minimal effort. And you simply can't beat the price!
Buy it: Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 3-Quart Straining Saucepan, $30; Amazon
Best Nonstick: Calphalon Premiere Nonstick 2.5-Quart Saucepan
The first thing you notice about this Calphalon saucepan is its striking appearance: With its black body, stainless steel handle, and glass cover, it was one of the more attractive saucepans of the bunch. The handle has a nice ergonomic shape that feels comfortable in your hand, making it easy to maneuver with just one hand despite it being a bit heavier than some of its nonstick counterparts.
What it lacked in lightness it more than made up for in the fast transfer of heat. This saucepan had the second fastest water boiling time, one of the fastest cheese melting times, and produced the thickest and creamiest sauce of all the nonsticks, while the handle stayed cool to the touch throughout. Best of all, one swipe with a spoon removed all the sauce from the pan with no sticking, making washing a cinch.
Buy it: Calphalon Premiere Nonstick 2.5-Quart Saucepan, $53; Amazon
Best Stainless Steel: Avacraft Stainless Steel Tri Ply Bottom Saucepan, 2.5-Quart
Avacraft's cookware is crafted by women, for women, a difference that was clear from the start. This saucepan is super light and easy to move with one hand, the handle itself was more rounded and the most comfortable to hold of all the pans tested, and the measurement marks on the inside meant I didn't need to use a measuring cup when adding water (however, I did fill it up to the four-cup line then transfer it to a measuring cup and it was closer to 4 1/3 cups).
The saucepan heated up quite fast and produced a very thick and creamy sauce. Cleaning it did take some work with the scrubbing side of the sponge, but this is a pan that would have gone in the dishwasher on a normal day. Unlike some of the other stainless steel saucepans, this one had a glass cover so you can easily see what's going on with your food during cooking.
Buy it: Avacraft Stainless Steel Tri Ply Bottom Saucepan, 2.5-Quart, $41; Amazon
Best Cast Iron: Le Creuset Signature Saucepan, 2.25-Quart
This Le Creuset saucepan delivered in all the ways you would expect it to: It is very attractive and sturdy. The cover has a bit of heft so you can tell when it is seated in the right place atop the pan. While its butter melting time was not the fastest, this saucepan did have the fastest cheese melting time, suggesting that it continues to retain and distribute heat throughout cooking. There were barely any remnants of sauce left in the pan after pouring, and any that were there were taken care of with a gentle swipe of a sponge.
The biggest downside to this saucepan, and cast iron in general, is its weight. You need two hands to move this saucepan around — and even though the handle wasn't too hot after cooking, the weight means you need to grip it so tightly that you're best off grabbing an oven mitt to do so. Le Creuset knows their saucepans are heavy and have added a small handle on the opposite side for easier maneuvering, but the weight is still a knock.
Buy it: Le Creuset Signature Saucepan, 2.25-Quart, $235; Williams-Sonoma
Other Saucepans We Tested
These saucepans, while all functional, fell just short of the competition.
Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Covered Saucepan, 2.5-Quart
This Tramontina saucepan's performance was almost identical to that of the Le Creuset, and it is an equally beautiful addition to your kitchen. The reason it didn't earn top marks: The significant weight, which was more than the Le Creuset, was really a hindrance and made using it a bit of a struggle. This was the only saucepan for which it was impossible to hold it aloft long enough to scoop out all the sauce, and I had to resort to leaving it on the counter while I removed the sauce by the spoonful.
Buy it: Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Covered Saucepan, 2.5-Quart, $60; Amazon
Williams Sonoma GreenPan Premiere Ceramic Nonstick Covered Saucepan, 3-Quart
Stylish and dishwasher safe, this nonstick saucepan from Williams Sonoma performed well on all the tests. However, it fell short of the Calphalon in two key areas: One, it is twice the price, and two, it is heavier. While not as heavy as the cast iron saucepans, I had to set it down on the counter once or twice to rest my hand before picking it back up to finish scooping out the sauce.
Buy it: Williams Sonoma GreenPan Premiere Ceramic Nonstick Covered Saucepan, 3-Quart, $120; Williams-Sonoma
Utopia Kitchen 2-Quart Nonstick Saucepan with Glass Lid
One of the bestselling saucepans on Amazon, this Utopia Kitchen pick performed relatively well given the very low price point. It did have the longest water boiling time and the longest cheese melting time, suggesting that it may not transfer and hold heat as well as some of the other brands. But it was easy to clean and easy to handle.
Buy it: Utopia Kitchen 2-Quart Nonstick Saucepan with Glass Lid, $15; Amazon
All-Clad D3 Stainless 3-Ply Bonded Cookware Saucepan, 3-Quart
This All-Clad saucepan came in a close second in the stainless steel category. Every part of the pan is stainless steel, which gives it a very attractive look, and it produces a thick and creamy sauce and the fastest water boiling time. Where it lost points: With the cover on, it is right on the verge of being too heavy to maneuver with one hand, the handle is very long and not the most comfortable shape to hold and hand washing is recommended, which means you'll need to do some scrubbing to get it clean.
Buy it: All-Clad D3 Stainless 3-Ply Bonded Cookware Saucepan, 3-Quart, $120; Amazon
How We Tested Each Saucepan
Allrecipes product tester Alyssa Sybertz assembled a collection of the best saucepans on the market, across a wide price range. Each saucepan was tested for its ability to quickly come to temperature and retain heat, using two different testing methods:
- Boiled Water Test: Each pan was timed for how long it took for four cups of water to come to a boil.
- Alfredo Sauce Test: Alyssa used each saucepan to make alfredo sauce, in order to test how well the cheese melts, how well the sauce thickens, and whether the cream would consistently simmer without scalding.
In addition to the performance tests above, Alyssa paid special attention to the following factors:
- Overall feel: Is it attractive? Does the outside smudge? Is it hard to get out of a cupboard with one hand? Does it seem sturdy?
- Cover: Is it glass? Solid? Rounded or flat? Does it have a hole to allow steam to escape? Does it have a pour spout?
- Handle: Does it get hot? Do you need an oven mitt to move the pot?
- Ease of cleaning: How much food sticks to the bottom? Can it go in the dishwasher?
- Value: Is it worth the money?
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