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.
Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel 1.5-Quart Sauce Pan
Works with induction
Bonded aluminum base heats evenly
Lid has built-in strainer
Handle and lid handle get hot quickly
This 1.5-quart 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 ergonomic handle is easy to grip and stays cool while you cook. We've tested this twice, and both times the bonded aluminum base heated 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 sauces from reducing too much. If you love to make an infusion, like lemon-ginger simple syrup, the lid's built-in strainer will be a delight. 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.
Price at time of publish: $56
Material: Stainless steel with aluminum base | Capacity: 1.5 quarts | Oven Safe: 450 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Caraway 1.75-Quart Mini Sauce Pan
Great heat distribution
Nonstick coating makes it easy to clean
Comes in eight attractive colors
Handles can get hot
We've been big fans of Caraway's picturesque cookware, and that extends to its 1.75-quart mini sauce pan. This cookware features a PTFE-free ceramic nonstick coating around an aluminum core, and while we haven't tried out the mini sauce pan yet, we've experienced great heat distribution on any Caraway piece we've tested.
In addition to great performance, Caraway cookware can be used on any type of cooktop and is extremely durable. They're also very easy to clean and oven safe. The few downsides is that the surface can be damaged from metal utensils, and the stainless-steel handles do get hot to the touch. Though not a part of Caraway's main cookware set, it is an available add-on, and comes in eight color options.
Price at time of publish: $110
Material: Aluminum core, ceramic coating | Capacity: 1.75 quarts | Oven Safe: 550 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No
Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Multiclad Pro Saucepan
Even heating and great heat conductivity
Angled, comfortable handles
Well-balanced and high-quality
Handle can get hot
The Cuisinart Mutilclad Pro line is one of our favorites, and the 1.5-quart small saucepan would be a welcome addition to any kitchen. This stainless-steel cookware features a very attractive design with comfortable handles, and is well-balanced for easy pouring.
When we've tested these, we've consistently experienced uniform heating with no hot spots, and great heat conductivity. We successfully browned butter in this small saucepan and appreciated how responsive it was to changing temperatures, allowing for a gentle, gradual browning. When it's time to clean up, that'll be successful too, whether by hand or in the dishwasher.
Price at time of publish: $35
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 1.5 quarts | Oven Safe: 550 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Farberware 1-Quart Nonstick Sauce Pan
Two pour spouts and a built-in strainer
Sticking can happen around the rivets
Coating can be damaged
While testing two dozen nonstick cookware sets side-by-side, we really enjoyed the performance of this line from Farberware. This inexpensive option has an aluminum core and a shatter-resistant glass lid with built-in strainer. The two pour spouts and well-balanced design make drizzling sauce effortless.
When we tested this line, we observed even heating and a strong reaction time during cooking. The nonstick coating proved its worth with the only sticking happening around the handle rivets, though it was easy to clean. While we recommend hand-washing nonstick to preserve the coating, you can put this in the dishwasher.
Price at time of publish: $17
Material: Aluminum core, nonstick coating | Capacity: 1 quart | Oven Safe: 350 degrees | Induction Safe: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
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.
Price at time of publish: $22
Material: Aluminum | Capacity: 0.75 quarts | Oven Safe: 350 degrees | Induction Safe: No | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best Cast Iron
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
Cast iron might take a few moments longer to warm up than stainless steel or aluminum, but it stays hotter for longer (and can handle being hotter than other materials). Having a small cast-iron saucepan can come in handy if you want to warm up everything at once on the grill or like to keep dishes warm in the oven. Cast iron also works well with the increasingly common, energy-efficient induction cooktops.They work by using a powerful magnet to heat up the iron molecules in your cookware. These high-tech stovetops also cook far more evenly than electric.
This stunning enameled cast-iron saucepan from Le Creuset checks all of these boxes. Its high-quality construction means no hot spots, and unlike bare cast iron, you won't have to maintain its seasoning. The tight-fitting lid helps to keep heat and moisture in, and both pieces are safe in the dishwasher (though hand-washing will prevent any damage to the enamel). It’s available in multiple colors so you can definitely find a shade to match your kitchen decor.
Price at time of publish: $225
Material: Enameled cast iron | Capacity: 1.75 quarts | Oven Safe: 500 degrees | Induction Safe: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but hand-washing is recommended
All-Clad 2.5-Quart G5 Stainless Steel Saucier
Lighter than all-stainless or copper core
Shape is great for stirring and whisking
No hot spots
Currently only three pieces available
While you’ll never see the graphite core in this saucier, it makes itself known in several ways. The pot is lighter than it looks, making it easier to move or empty. Plus, the graphite is responsive—rapidly transferring the heat, while the aluminum and stainless layers eliminate pesky hot spots. This means that water will boil faster, but it also means that the pot will respond quickly when the heat is turned down, thwarting boil-overs or burning.
The saucier shape, with rounded bottom corners, means that it’s easier to stir or whisk foods, since there aren’t hard corners where a spoon can’t reach. The all-stainless exterior looks good and is easy to clean—it’s even dishwasher safe. And if the pan needs to go into the oven, this pan is safe to a whopping 600 degrees—which is hotter than most home ovens.
Topped off with an attractive lid with a top handle that’s easy to grab, this pan is one that I grab every time I need a saucepan.
Price at time of publish: $250
Material: Stainless steel with aluminum layers and graphite core | Capacity: 2.5 quarts | Oven Safe: 600 degrees | Induction Safe: 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 looking for a nonstick option, check out the Farberware 1-Quart Nonstick Sauce Pan for a solid saucepan that works.
How We Selected
After extensive research, in addition to testing 40 different stainless steel cookware sets side-by-side in our Lab, we selected the best small saucepans. When testing in the Lab, each set was rated on its performance, heating ability, durability, design, ease of cleaning, and overall value. For untested models, we took into account a saucepan's design, material, size, ease of cleaning, and value.
What to Look for in a Small Saucepan
Saucepans are made from a variety of different material, with most being made from stainless steel or aluminum. These two metals are known for being quick to heat and, if well constructed, should heat the saucepan evenly. Stainless steel will usually have an uncoated surface so you can use metal utensils, but food can get stuck-on. If that happens, you can soak the pan and use an abrasive to fully clean the pan. Aluminum is typically found in nonstick and ceramic-coated cookware. Food is less likely to stick to the coating, though it can be damaged if you use metal utensils or abrasive cleaners.
You can also find cast iron and copper small saucepans. Cast iron takes longer to heat thoroughly, but when it does, it stays hot for longer and can be heated to high temperatures. It is heavy though. If the cast iron isn't enameled coated, you will have to maintain its seasoning in order to have a slick surface. Copper cookware has amazing heat conductivity and it's incredibly easy to control the heat, making it wonderful for delicate dishes. But it's very costly and needs regular maintenance to avoid tarnishing.
With a small saucepan, you need to pay extra attention to construction to avoid broken sauces and burnt dishes. Make sure the base of the pan is wide enough for comfortable stirring, and that it's easy enough to peer in for a glance. Additionally, 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 Askew. If you know you'll be stirring while holding the handle, test that it's comfortable in your grip and will stay cool during cooking.
Additionally, take a look at the lid. Many small saucepans come with one, either metal or glass. If you like knowing what's happening in a saucepan while covered, choose tempered glass. Glass lids do sometimes come with small built-in strainers, which is an added bonus. Whichever you choose, make sure it's tight-fitting. Moisture escaping a small saucepan can quickly lead to a ruined dish.
We consider small saucepans to be anything 2-quart and under. This does mean a range of sizes! Under 1 quart, you'll typically see "butter warmers." These are very tiny, but can be very versatile. Butter warmers can be used to quickly warm up anything you need, from butter (naturally) to milk, chocolate sauce, or maple syrup. Above 1 quart, you can get saucepans in any quarter-size. The smaller sizes are good for warming up single servings, while the larger end is more useful for sauces and anything that needs to be whisked.
What size is a small saucepan?
Saucepans come in all sizes from tiny 0.5-quart butter warmers to your everyday 4-quart pot. Most classify the small saucepans as anything 2 quarts or under. You can find saucepans at every quarter-quart interval. Of these, the most versatile versions are 1.5-quart and 2-quart saucepans, as that's large enough for a can of soup, but small enough to quickly warm a sauce.
How should you choose what size saucepan to buy?
What size saucepan does come down to how you need to use it. If you want something to warm milk for your morning coffee, to melt butter, or to make a single-serving of soup or oatmeal, choose something 1-quart or under. If you'd like to do all of that, plus be able to make rice or other dishes with multiple servings, go for a 1.5-quart or 2-quart saucepan.
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 might not include the handles or 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. Of course, if there is any plastic in the construction or a regular nonstick coating, it's best to keep the saucepan out of the oven.
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.
The Spruce Eats Editor Siobhan Wallace compiled testing data from our official Lab as well as insights from our home testers' full product reviews to update this roundup.
Donna Currie, one of our expert home reviewers, put the All-Clad G5 to the test and highly recommends it as an investment piece.