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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
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.
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 Without Teflon: GreenPan Rio 2-Quart Ceramic Non-Stick Covered Saucepan
Non-toxic Thermolon nonstick coating
Bakelite handles stay cool on stovetop
Glass lid lets you monitor what you're 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. There is some concern about the chemicals used to make most nonstick cookware, so some people want other choices. Enter GreenPan, which uses an alternative nonstick coating called Thermolon, which is made from ceramic and just as slick.
The handle stays cool and is comfortable to hold, and foods do 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.
Best High-End: All-Clad Stainless 1.5-Qt Sauce Pan
High-end pan from a trusted manufacturer
Very durable stainless steel construction
Oven and broiler safe up to 600 degrees without lid
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.
Best for Induction: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 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 13 colors so you can definitely find a shade to match your kitchen decor.
Best Mini: Rachael Ray Hard Enamel Butter Warmer
Great for heating single servings
Built-in spout allows for drip-free pouring
Nonstick for easy cleanup
Small size might be unstable for grill-type stovetops
Question about durability of nonstick in the long term
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.
Best Straining: Anolon Advanced Hard-Anodized Nonstick 2-Quart Straining Saucepan
Holds heat well
Dual pouring spouts
Straining lid with two size options
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.
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.
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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.