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. Zwilling 3-Ply Sauté Pan
Zwilling uses the fully clad technique to craft its five-quart saute pan. Constructed from stainless steel, it has an aluminum core that is highly responsive to fluctuations in temperature, which makes it especially useful for preparing delicate dishes. The flared rim helps cut down on mess when pouring out liquids while the glass lid lets you see what’s happening even when covered—great for monitoring steamed buns and vegetables. And if you’d don’t feel like scouring it by hand once a job is done, this model is perfectly okay to go in the dishwasher.
Pros: Dishwasher safe.
Cons: The matching lid is glass which may not be every cook’s preference.
4. Calphalon Contemporary Hard-Anodized Sauté Pan
Some foods, like fish with delicate flesh, require a nonstick surface to prepare without incident. Calphalon Contemporary’s nonstick sauté pan has the largest capacity of any pick on our list at seven quarts. Its dark anodized aluminum body has a striking look and is excellent at conducting heat in a flash to attain a crisp sear. Built with two side handles rather than one fixed to a single side, it is easier to fit on a crowded stovetop and throw in the dishwasher once your meal is done.
Pros: Multiple handles make it easy to lift, maneuver and pour.
Cons: Nonstick coatings are not permanent, so eventually you’ll have to replace this pan.