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What is a Saute Pan?

Last Updated: Nov 21, 2011 by

Topic: Cookware

A sauté pan is an essential part of any enthusiastic home cook’s arsenal as they help to cook delicious foods and sauces from all cuisines. What exactly is a sauté pan though and why can’t you just substitute with a frypan?  Here’s everything that you need to know.

About Sauté Pans

A sauté pan looks similar to a frypan but it is actually different as it has high, straight sides, rather than the lower, flared sides of a frypan.  The sauté pan has a long handle on one side and it often has a smaller, looped handle on the other side to make it easier to lift.  You will find that sauté pans are most commonly made from stainless steel, aluminium, anodised aluminium, enamelled cast iron, or copper.  The purpose of a sauté pan is to efficiently brown and cook meats and other foods (onions come straight to mind).  Sautéing is essentially the process of quickly cooking food in oil or butter over a high heat in a very hot pan. It is similar to frying but you use less oil or butter and the food cooks faster.

Choosing a Sauté Pan

If you feel that a sauté pan would be the perfect addition to your kitchen’s cooking arsenal, you want to make sure that you have a good one.  Look for a pan that is heavy bottomed and that will conduct heat well. You don’t want any hot spots but you’ll also want the material to conduct the heat up the sides of the pan as well.  Also make sure you get the right sized sauté pan. It can be tempting to go for “the bigger the better” but if it is too big for the amount of food you cook, the juices will evaporate too fast and what you’re cooking will burn.  If it’s too small, you’ll end up stewing or steaming your foods rather than sautéing them.

You’ll find that sauté pans can be either traditional or non stick.  Non stick pans can be easier to clean and it does make cooking food easier but the trade off is that you’ll get less of the “pan crust” that is so essential to making good sauces.  A traditional pan will allow the juices to crust on the bottom of the pan so you can deglaze it when you are making a sauce but the trade off in this case is that you’ll find it harder to clean the pan.  Most importantly when selecting a sauté pan, you’ll want one that is comfortable to hold and use. Make sure the handle feels good in our hand and that you can manoeuvre the pan comfortably – especially if you want to toss the food as you are sautéing.

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