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A well-equipped kitchen needs a range of sizes, large and small, when it comes to saucepans. "A big pot is good for making soups and braising roasts, but smaller saucepans are what I grab the most," says Tanorria Askew, chef, cooking instructor, and creator of Tanorria’s Table. It’s her go-to piece of cookware for boiling eggs, making sauces, reheating leftovers, melting chocolate, and warming milk or cream.
There are a few key things to consider before you purchase a smaller saucepan, including how you'll be using it, how the handle is attached (look for screws, not glue or welding), and whether or not you want a nonstick surface. Many home cooks will want several different small skillets for different tasks, so you might want to purchase more than one. "I often have two or more small saucepans going on my stove at the same time," says Askew.
Here, we researched the best small saucepan options for all your cooking needs.
Best Overall: Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Sauce Pan
Works with induction
Easy to clean
Lid has built-in strainer
Handle and lid handle get hot quickly
This saucepan checks all the boxes. "I'm a die-hard stainless steel girl for this kind of everyday saucepan," says Askew. The classic material is not too heavy, and the long handle is easy to grip and stays cool while you cook. Plus, the bonded aluminum base heats up quickly and evenly.
This saucepan's shape—narrow with tall sides—is great for minimizing evaporation, which is important if you want to keep meats from drying out or sauces from reducing too much. The bottom also features rounded corners so nothing gets missed and scorched when you stir. There’s a rolled pouring lip around the edges (and a spout) for drip-free serving. This pan is oven and broiler safe, and can be cleaned by hand or put into the dishwasher.
Material: Stainless steel with aluminum base | Oven Safe: 450 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"It has a taller and narrower form than most saucepans to help lower the chance of its contents boiling over and limit the amount of evaporation." — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester
Best Straining: Anolon Advanced Hard-Anodized Nonstick 2-Quart Straining Saucepan
Holds heat well
Dual pouring spouts
Not dishwasher safe
If you're looking for an option with a few more features, this small saucepan by Anolon might have what you need. Its petite size is great for warming up leftover soup or making morning oatmeal—thanks to its 2-quart capacity—but it offers much more. The handle is ergonomic to fit comfortably in your palm, and it includes two built-in strainers, one with smaller slots and one with larger. Not to mention it's still lightweight despite its heavy-duty construction. While it's a little more expensive compared to some other small saucepans, our product tester insists the features are worth it.
Material: Hard anodized aluminum | Oven Safe: 400 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: No
"The inside of the pan came clean easily every time we used it, and there was no scrubbing required." — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester
Best Ceramic: GreenPan Rio 2-Quart Ceramic Non-Stick Covered Saucepan
Slick Thermolon nonstick coating
Bakelite handles stay cool on stovetop
Glass lid lets you monitor cooking
Question of durability of nonstick for the long haul
Nonstick pans are popular because they’re easy to use, easy to clean, and not even your fish, eggs, tofu, and other clingy foods will stick to them. But some people want choices other than traditional nonstick coatings. Enter GreenPan, which uses an alternative nonstick coating called Thermolon made from ceramic and just as slick.
The handle stays cool and is comfortable to hold, and foods release easily from its surface. It’s oven-safe up to 350 degrees, and the clear lid lets you monitor what’s happening in there without letting a wisp of steam escape. This saucepan comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Material: Aluminum with ceramic coating | Oven Safe: 350 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but handwashing is recommended
Best High-End: All-Clad Stainless 1.5-Qt Sauce Pan
Oven safe up to 600 degrees
This luxury saucepan is for the home cook that wants one to last for life. Indeed, All-Clad offers a limited lifetime warranty. "All-Clad is my favorite for a higher-end brand of cookware," says Askew. This made-in-the-USA saucepan boasts 3-ply bonded construction.
Stainless steel sandwiches an aluminum core for swift, even heating. There’s no Teflon here, but the surface is extra polished for an ultra-smooth interior that provides some stick resistance. The material is so sturdy and warp-resistant, you can take it hot from your stovetop and plunge it into an ice bath without any issues.
Material: Tri-ply stainless steel with aluminum core | Oven Safe: 600 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
If you aren’t the nonstick cookware type, stainless steel is the perfect material to choose for your saucepan. Most of the recipes you’re likely to cook in this pan are probably liquid-based, and sticking won't be an issue. Plus, you’ll get a much longer life out of stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron anyway.
Best Mini: Rachael Ray Hard Enamel Butter Warmer
Great for heating single servings
Drip-free pouring spout
Nonstick for easy cleanup
Might be unstable on grill-type stovetops
Question about durability of nonstick
There are small saucepans, and then there are smaller saucepans. This mini saucepan is the perfect size for warming up a single portion of soup or pasta. And, as its name implies, it’s the perfect little pot for melting some butter to drizzle over your freshly made popcorn. It will also come in handy when you want to warm up hot fudge or caramel sauce to pour over a bowl of ice cream.
True coffee lovers like to add hot—not refrigerator-cold milk—to their morning brew, and this is the ideal tool for that job. It’s got a nonstick interior that’s quick and easy to clean and an extra comfortable handle, too. It probably shouldn’t be the only small saucepan in your collection, but once you have it, you’ll find yourself reaching for it over and over.
Material: Aluminum | Oven Safe: 350 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best for Induction: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Saucepan
Works on any cooktop, including induction
Heavy duty construction
Available a variety of colors
Heavier and bulkier than stainless steel
Induction cooktops are becoming increasingly common. They work by using a powerful magnet to heat up the iron molecules in your cookware. Induction is energy efficient and safer than gas ranges. These high-tech stovetops also cook far more evenly than electric.
However, it’s not immediately obvious what cookware is induction compatible. Especially if you shop online, it can be hard to know for sure what will work when you get it home. Cast iron works wonderfully with induction, so you can’t go wrong with this stunning enameled cast iron saucepan from Le Creuset. It’s available in 14 colors so you can definitely find a shade to match your kitchen decor.
Material: Enameled cast iron | Oven Safe: 500 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but handwashing is recommended
Best Budget: Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 1-Quart Covered Straining Saucepan
Rapid, even heating
Useful pour spout and straining lid
Maximum heat threshold is only 350 degrees
This 1-quart pan is part of the Classic Stainless Steel collection, a popular Farberware line for many years. Made from stainless steel with an aluminum core, this pan heats up quickly and evenly, and features a self-basting lid to keep its contents from rapidly evaporating. The lid on this pan can be turned to expose the strainer holes and pouring spout, eliminating the need to use a separate colander for draining liquid from pasta or vegetables.
Reviewers gave this pan high marks for versatility and performance, and note that it's easy to clean, whether by hand or dishwasher. The saucepan is oven safe up to 350 degrees, and also comes backed by a lifetime warranty. It's a great find that won't break the bank.
Material: Stainless steel with aluminum core | Oven Safe: 350 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Most home cooks should look to the Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Sauce Pan to meet all their small saucepan needs. If you are bargain hunting, check out the Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 1-Quart Covered Straining Saucepan (view at Amazon) for a solid saucepan that works with a more modest budget.
What to Look for in a Small Saucepan
Saucepans are made from a variety of different materials including stainless steel and aluminum. Some also come with nonstick coatings, which can make for easy cleanup but impedes good browning on food. Each material can affect the way your food cooks and may determine the type of utensils you can use with it. Consider what types of food you cook most frequently when shopping.
Take a look at how the handle is attached. “You want a handle that is actually screwed into the pot and not glued or welded—you should see screws on the inside of the pot,” says Tanorria’s Table chef, cooking instructor, and creator, Tanorria Askew.
Saucepans come in all different sizes, and even those considered small can hold varying quantities. How many people you typically cook for and the types of food you cook most often should drive your choices.
Think about how you’ll be using your saucepan. If you’re cooking things that need to be covered or partially covered, shop for those that are sold with matching lids. Also look at things like what type of handle it has, plus any other special features that may make your cooking a little easier. Also consider if a pan is suitable for oven cooking, as well as if it's dishwasher-safe.
What is a nonreactive saucepan?
In the kitchen, "nonreactive" is a descriptor for materials that don't react with food being prepared. Foods with high acidity (like tomatoes, citrus, or vinegar-based sauces) tend to react with certain metals, which can lead to discoloration of the cooking vessel and an "off" taste or smell to the food. A nonreactive saucepan might be made of stainless steel or enameled cast iron; highly reactive pans include bare cast iron, untreated aluminum, and unlined copper.
How do you clean a badly burnt saucepan?
Cleaning a burnt pot will mostly depend on what the saucepan is made of, but for starters, you'll want to remove as much of the food from the pan as possible. After that, add an inch of water and a teaspoon of dish soap (stainless steel, aluminum, or copper pans) or a half cup of baking soda (nonstick pans) and bring to a simmer. Use a wooden spoon or plastic scraper to further loosen up any burned bits, empty the pot, then use a non-abrasive nylon scrubber and dish soap to continue washing as you would normally.
Can you put a saucepan in the oven?
This varies depending on the saucepan and what it's made of. Always check with the manufacturer's guide regarding oven safety and maximum heat threshold. If your saucepan is oven proof, it is typically referring to the pot itself and does not include the lid. If your lids are oven-safe, they will usually have a slightly lower temperature threshold, particularly if they are glass. If you aren't sure what the heat maximum is for your lids, it's best to err on the side of caution and use aluminum foil as a lid in the oven instead.
Can you use a saucepan as a frying pan?
Saucepans and frying pans have vastly different shapes, so it might be a bit tricky to use them for the exact same purpose. You might be able to use a saucepan to saute a small amount of chopped vegetables or to make scrambled eggs, but you may find the narrowness of the saucepan limiting.
Can you deep fry in a saucepan?
Yes, depending on the size of your saucepan and its thickness. You'll want a substantial saucepan that is large enough so it doesn't move around on the burner and can hold your oil at a fairly constant temperature. If you're working with a gas stove, we would highly recommend ensuring that your saucepan is at least as big as your burner and keeping the side of your flame smaller than the diameter of your pan to avoid the chance of causing a grease fire.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of "Almost Meatless" and "Stuff Every Cook Should Know."
This piece was edited by Bernadette Machard de Gramont, an LA-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a 2-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight.