A cookware collection doesn’t have to be extensive in order to be truly great. A handful of well-built pans are all you need to get most cooking tasks accomplished, and a beautiful sauté pan just may be the most versatile of them all.
Ideal for shallow frying, searing a bronze crust onto cuts of meat and whipping up velvety sauces, a sauté pan is truly a kitchen workhorse. But, to be its most effective, the details have to be right—and not just any material will do if you desire evenly-cooked food that will consistently turn out well. From the design of the handle to the finish of the exterior, it all matters.
The simplest option is often the best, but that philosophy can make discerning which model is superior even more challenging. Luckily, we’ve done the digging for you and rounded up four great contenders.
1. Mauviel M’Heritage Copper Sauté Pan
Mauviel knows copper. Incredibly efficient at conducting heat, the warm material was the prime choice for this covered saute pan. Its sculpted handle is made from cast stainless steel that stays cool to the touch even when developing a crackling crust over high heat. But whatever you make in it, it’ll have you feeling like a professional chef in no time.
Pros: Its five-quart capacity gives it plenty of room to prepare a wide range of dishes.
Cons: The material requires hand-washing to maintain.
2. All-Clad Copper Core 5-Ply Sauté Pan
All-Clad gets its name for the company’s signature method of wedging layers of metal together to harness the best elements of each. In the case of this sauté pan, that means stainless steel has been wrapped around highly heat-conducting aluminum and a copper core to make heat distribution (and retention) as even as possible. A five-quart capacity and wide base is prime territory for braising, frying and sauteeing countless foods. It’s even capable of being used with an induction cooktop without requiring any additional accessories.
Pros: It can be used under the broiler up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cons: It’s one of the pricier options on our list.
3. Ninja Foodi NeverStick 5-Quart Sauté Pan
Traditional non-stick pans rely on coatings that can chip or wear down over time—especially if you prefer to use metal cooking utensils. Ninja’s answer to this is a hard-anodized material called NeverStick, which is fired at 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure a long-lasting finish that releases food without sticking. It’s also durable enough that you can use your favorite stainless steel tongs and spatulas without worrying about damaging the pan, and its aluminum base means that it works with all kinds of cooktops. Both the pan and its tempered glass lid are oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it a versatile option—and can help cut down on the number of cookware pieces you have to store.
Pros: It’s robust enough to put in the dishwasher.
Cons: The glass lid doesn’t include a vent for steam.
4. Le Creuset Sauté Pan With Glass Lid
Some foods, like fish with delicate flesh, require a nonstick surface in order to prepare without incident. Le Creuset’s Toughened sauté pan is crafted with high-quality aluminum. Its sleek body has a striking look and is excellent at conducting heat, which can help you put a crisp sear on your ingredients. Built with two temperature-regulating side handles rather than one fixed to a single side, it is easier to lift from a crowded stovetop. What’s more, you can throw it in the dishwasher when you’re done for easy cleanup.
Pros: Ergonomic handles make it easy to lift, maneuver and pour.
Cons: Nonstick coatings are not permanent, so eventually you’ll have to replace this pan.