One of the first things home cooks need to know when navigating a kitchen is what the different style pots and pans are used for. Although you can find a way to cook food in almost any pot or pan, if you want to get your food cooked perfectly, you need to have the proper tools. One of the basic things a cook needs to know is the difference between a saute pan vs fry pan and how to properly use each.
What is a Saute Pan?
A sauté pan features straight sides and has a larger surface area than a fry pan. Sauté pans are great for making sauce reductions, roasting meat with vegetables, searing meat, pasta and more.
What is a Fry Pan?
Fry pans, also called skillets, have sides that fan outwards so that the top of the pan has a larger circumference than the bottom. These pans are perfect for making stir-fry, tortilla dishes, and anything else you might serve straight from the pan.
When to Use a Saute Pan vs Fry Pan
The truth is a sauté pan, and a fry pan can be used almost completely interchangeably. They are available in similar sizes, are made from the same materials when they come in a set and work just about the same way. There are a few notable pros and cons of each, however.
Sauté Pan Pros:
- Quick to heat up.
- Deeper sides
- Versatile for use in the oven and cooktop
- Comes with a lid.
Sauté Pan Cons:
- Can be heavy.
- May not stay hot continuously.
Fry Pan Pros:
- Can flip ingredients without a spatula due to tapered sides.
- Even temperature control
- Long-lasting heat
Fry Pan Cons:
- Takes longer to heat up.
- Sloped sides mean less surface area.
- No lid
One of the most notable differences between the saute pan vs fry pan is that the sauté pan comes with a lid and a fry pan usually does not. The lid is meant to lock heat and moisture inside. When frying, you want to expel the moisture as fast as possible to achieve good caramelization or that nice, crispy outer skin.
When deciding on saute pan vs fry pan for what you are cooking, ask yourself if you will need to use a lid while the dish is cooking. If you want to ensure your food is moist and not dried not, use the sauté pan with lid. If you are trying to fry your dish and expel moisture, use the fry pan.
Or, if you’re not sure about the lid, consider which cooking technique you favor.
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Some dishes that are better cooked with a sauté pan include large pieces of meat that need to be seared, dishes with lots of sauce, and dishes that need to be cooked or finished in the oven.
Dishes that are better cooked with a fry pan include eggs, frittatas, quesadillas, rice, stir-fry, crepes, fish, or cheesy dishes that can slide right out of the pan.
Buying Pans: What to Look For
Whether you are deciding between saute pan vs fry pan, or evaluating entire cookware sets, there are a few things you need to look for before purchasing a set or individual pieces.
Pans are made of many different types of materials and most people who cook frequently have a distinct preference on which kind they like to use. Stainless steel, ceramic, stone, nonstick, cast iron, and copper are popular materials used to make sauté pans and fry pans.
The most durable and advanced pans are made from tri-ply or five ply materials that layers steel with aluminum to create a hard, nonstick surface that offers excellent heat retention and distribution.
The longer the handle, the further away your hand is from the heat source when maneuvering your pan in and out of the oven or around the stovetop. Also, if you like to flip items using your wrist rather than a spatula, you will want to go for the longer handle length.
Skillets and sauté pans should both have stay-cool handles, so your hands are protected from heat, but always wear an oven mitt so there are no accidents.
There are many different size pans, and most homes have multiple sizes stashed in cabinets or hanging on their walls. Just one is never enough, so don’t be afraid to buy a whole set and multiple individual pans so that you can always have what you need on hand. And, as between a saute pan vs fry pan, buy an extra of the one you’ll use the most.
Warranties- Some high-end cookware sets and pans come with lifetime and limited warranties. You won’t ever have to throw your pans away and spend hundreds on new sets when you can use your warranty to replace your old set if something goes wrong. Warranties will often guarantee nonstick surfaces so long as there is no wear from using metal utensils.
- One Lodge Pre-Seasoned 10.25 Inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Unparalleled heat retention and even heating
- Pre-seasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil
- Metal utensil safe, Blue Diamond’s signature diamond-infused ceramic nonstick is 5x harder and 10x longer lasting than traditional coatings
- Diamonds are 4x more conductive than copper, so Blue Diamond heats faster and cleans up easier
- Toxin-Free: Free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium
- Pre-seasoned cast iron skillet with flared side edges; oven safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cast iron for even heat distribution and retention; pre-seasoned products don't have non-stick function; hand wash only
- Always use hot-pads, oven mitts, or potholders while moving or removing cast iron cookware on or from the stove or oven.
Sauté pan vs fry pan which is best? In the end you can use both, and should have both in your home. Having options available to you as you and your family prepare meals is important to making great homecooked meals.
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