Saucepan vs Frying Pan – What’s the Difference?

A saucepan and frying are both essential pieces of cookware if you want to cook foods like meat and eggs.

Is the difference between frying pans and saucepans really that significant?

If it is, does using a frying pan to fulfill the task of a saucepan go against any kind of cooking guideline, and will it prevent the user from completing a cooking task successfully?

It might, depending on how much liquids you want to cook.

Distinguishing between two similar types of pans is where many get confused. The saucepan and frying pan are the most obvious examples of this confusion.

Both pans may appear to be extremely similar at first glance. However, a closer look reveals that there are distinctions between the two.

Furthermore, despite their superficial similarity, they are employed for different types of cooking methods.

The most obvious difference between a saucepan and frying pan is the appearance and use.

A saucepan is deep and holds more liquids thus it’s ideal for making sauces and liquid dishes.

A frying pan, on the other hand, is a shallow pan designed for frying and searing foods in oil, like meat and eggs.

Knowing which pan is best for which cooking method is made considerably more difficult if you are unfamiliar with the qualities of each pan. Each pan is also available in a variety of sizes, materials, colors, and other features

The design and depth is the most significant distinction between a saucepan and a frying pan.

A saucepan’s appearance is determined by the job it is designed to perform, and frying pans are no different.

Table of Contents

Features of Saucepan and Frying Pan

What is a Saucepan?

Saucepans are larger, deeper cooking pots than frying pans and are designed to hold more liquid. If a pan’s sides are quite high in relation to its width, it’s most likely a saucepan.

These kinds of pans come in a number of sizes. Some are only large enough to handle a small quantity of ingredients (for sauce), while others can cook up to four quarts of liquid (or more).

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The larger ones resemble stockpots in appearance. In general, the higher the edges of a saucepan are, the larger it is and the more liquid it can fit.

Most saucepans will come with a lid; however, they can also be sold without. They’re also equipped with long, grippable handles. To make the pot simpler to grip, some larger units will come with one handle on each side. Typically, the second handle is shorter than the first.

What is a Frying Pan?

Frying pans, on the other hand, are shallower and have slightly angled sides. They’re typically smaller than saucepans, and their low sides give them an even more diminutive appearance. They may, however, have a much larger circumference, exposing more surface area to the heat.

While some frying pans come with matching lids, it’s not common. Because of their slanted sides, it’s impossible to form a tight seal, which is the whole reason of having a lid. However, if necessary, the cover from a larger saucepan or stockpot might be used.

Another way to detect the difference between a frying pan and a saucepan is to examine the handle. A standard frying pan will have only one handle, which will be longer than a saucepan handle.

Cooking Purpose of Saucepan and Frying Pan

Anything that is comprised of a lot of liquid cooks well in a saucepan. This means it’s fantastic for stewing, simmering, soups, and, not surprisingly, sauces like spaghetti sauce.

Saucepan uses:

  • Sauce: As their name implies, the saucepans are used to cook the sauce.
  • Cook small batches of soups, stews, gravies.
  • Make dishes like custard or mashed potatoes.
  • A saucepan’s modest depth also makes it ideal for thickening sauces or foods like risotto.
  • Boiling liquids: A saucepan can be used to quickly bring liquids to a high temperature. This makes them ideal for quickly heating water for foods like pasta, rice, or quinoa, as opposed to using a bulky stockpot.
  • Blanching vegetables: This means fast boiling veggies in salty water then placing them in an ice bath.
  • Poaching: This is a moist-heat cooking method that involves submerging food in liquid without using fat, similar to simmering and boiling.

Almost anything that is liquid or has a liquid component can be cooked in a saucepan in smaller batches compared to a stockpot.

The frying pan is the shallower version of the saucepan. Because frying pans are used to cook foods over moderate to high heat, they should be thick enough to evenly distribute heat.

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They come in a variety of sizes and are generally circular in shape, making them useful for frying small quantities of oily foods.

Frying pan uses:

The frying pan is generally used to fry, stir-fry, brown, toast, sear, and even deep-fry a host of foods like meat, eggs, and vegetables.

Also, a frying pan can be used to fry all kinds of breaded foods, hash browns, and pancakes.

Pan-frying is a dry heat cooking technique that uses oil or fat as a heat transmission medium. The oil produces steam, which aids in cooking the meat, and the exposed topside allows any steam to escape. Direct contact with the pan’s bottom results in more browning and crisping.

You can also use simple cooking techniques like roasting and toasting (i.e., toast bread) in a frying pan.

Fry pans are ideal for pan-frying meat because their large cooking surface helps to keep moisture away from the food, resulting in a well-browned dish.

A frying pan is also perfect for searing foods like meat because it heats up fast, so you can sear the meat on both sides, add some vegetables, and you have a complete one-pot meal.

Advantages of Saucepan and Frying Pan

Advantages of a saucepan:

  • The saucepans may be used in a variety of ways, including cooking sauce, steaming, and boiling. As a result, by purchasing only one piece of cookware, you will be able to save money.
  • The saucepan’s compact size allows users to save space because one cookware item replaces many, and there’s no need to buy a lot of cookware.
  • The pans are compatible with a variety of cooktops, allowing you to select a saucepan based on the cooktop you have at home (including induction).
  • Saucepans are available in different materials like stainless steel, copper, aluminum, cast-iron, ceramic, and others.
  • Saucepans have tight-fitting lids, which makes boiling and steaming a breeze. They also have a handle to ensure safe handling.
  • Non-stick saucepans are available, which makes cleaning them after each use quick and easy. Some are even dishwasher-safe.

Advantages of the frying pan:

  • Since a frying pan is large and shallow, the food is distributed evenly and thinly. The heat will also be evenly distributed across the pan’s bottom. This ensures evenly cooked food.
  • Food cooked in a frying pan cook faster than food cooked in other types of pots and pans.
  • Because the dish cooks fast, the original flavor of the components is preserved to a large extent. This means more intense flavors and tastier foods.
  • The longer an item is cooked, the less flavor and nutrients it retains. Thus, pan-fried foods are nutrient-dense.
  • Pan-frying browns foods and makes them nice and crispy. Food that is cooked for extended lengths of time becomes crispier and tastes fresher. Using a saucepan to crisp foods isn’t ideal because the tall sides keep moisture inside, which can make food soggy.
  • There are many non-stick frying pans available that allow users to cook food without the use of oil. This means frying pans can also be used to cook healthy recipes.
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Can a Saucepan be Used as a Frying Pan?

No, a saucepan should not be used as a frying pan. Because saucepans are supposed to be the polar opposite of a frying pan, they don’t make ideal frying pans.

You want moisture to flow from a frying pan; you don’t want it to escape from a saucepan. So, if you’re considering utilizing a saucepan as a frying pan, you might end up with sub-par and soggy food.

So, can a frying pan be used in place of a saucepan? Not really. Let’s imagine you want to cook some vegetables like broccoli. The water will evaporate quickly in a frying pan, and you’ll be left with uncooked vegetables that will fry rather than boil.

Do you want to fry some bacon in a pan? This isn’t going to work again. Because the tall sides of the pot prevent excess water from evaporating from the meat, you’ll end up with undercooked bacon that isn’t crispy.

You shouldn’t use a saucepan like a frying pan, just like you shouldn’t use a frying pan as a saucepan.

Conclusion

The first major difference between a saucepan and a frying pan is the design. A saucepan is deeper with taller sides, whereas a frying pan is shallow.

These pans are also used for differing cooking methods. The frying pan is used to pan-fry, sear, brown and crisp food, whereas the saucepan is used to boil, cook sauce, blanche, and poach foods.

Avoid using a saucepan for deep-frying tasks and a shallow frying pan for making a sauce because these two cookware pieces are not meant to be used interchangeably. 

About Sylvette Brown

Sylvette is a homemaker and is passionate about cooking and other kitchen-related stuff. She also loves to do home improvement related tasks and keeps on writing about food and cookware on her blog. When she is not writing, she keeps herself busy with her 2 little kids. :)