As you know from wandering through any cookware store or paging through a cookware website, there are lots of different pots and pans that look pretty much alike. So much so that you probably wonder does it really even matter? We’re going to help you figure that out! Today, we are focusing on the saute pan.
Keep reading to learn exactly what is a saute pan, what it’s used for, and how it’s different from other types of pan.
Characteristics Of A Saute Pan
First, let’s look at which physical characteristics of a saute pan are what make it a saute pan.
Perhaps the most obvious feature of a saute pan that you won’t see on a regular frying pan is the lid. This lid is there to lock heat inside the pan and cook the food more intensely, from above and below.
The lid also works well to retain moisture within the food you’re cooking. Normally, any liquid in the pan would evaporate and be released into the air as steam.
However, the lid’s job in a saute pan is to condense that liquid and keep it inside the pan and avoid making your food too dry.
The only other major physical feature of a saute pan that differentiates it from a regular pan is the shape of its sides.
Regular frying pans will often have curved sides which make them ideal for cooking methods like stir-frying and tossing food.
On the other hand, saute pans have flat vertical sides which make it very difficult to do these sorts of things.
These straight sides make it much easier to keep liquid inside the pan without the risk of it spilling over the edge. This can be particularly useful when cooking something in a lot of sauce.
Also, this design means that the saute pan has a greater surface area at the point of contact with heat.
This makes it great for searing large cuts of meat, ensuring all sides will be cooked with a lovely crispy crust and that there will be space for the whole thing.
When To Use A Saute Pan
Now that we’ve established what a saute pan looks like and how it differs from a normal frying pan, let’s go over exactly when and how to use one.
As the name suggests, one of the best uses for a saute pan is sauteing. This is a process of lightly frying something in a small amount of oil, often done to give a little bit of color to food and to release some of its flavors.
A lot of recipes will call for you to saute some onions before adding them to a sauce and the saute pan is the perfect piece of equipment for the job.
Speaking of sauces, that’s another great reason to use a saute pan over a frying pan. When you’re cooking a sauce, you’ll often go straight for a saucepan or large pot.
However, if you want to cook a piece of meat or vegetables in your sauce, you might want to go for the saute pan instead.
Thanks to the straight-edged walls of the saute pan, you can freely move other ingredients around in the sauce without having to worry too much about anything spilling over the sides.
Of course, because of the lid that accompanies saute pans, you’ll also want to use one for anything that you’d want to retain heat and moisture for. This includes things like simmering sauces, poaching food, and braising.
Basically, you can use a saute pan for pretty much anything you’d use a regular frying pan for.
The only exception to this is stir-frying or making any kind of dish that you might need to toss the ingredients for. You can still stir-fry food in a saute pan but it will be a little more difficult.
Best Material For A Saute Pan
As with any kind of cookware, saute pans can be made with different materials for different effects.
With the main cooking methods, you’d use a saute pan for, thermal conductivity is a very important aspect to consider.
This basically refers to how quickly the pan will get hot when applied to heat and cool down when taken off it.
For that reason, copper is a great material to use for a saute pan. It has a very high level of thermal conductivity compared to other metals.
The main issues with copper cookware are that it’s a very expensive metal to manufacture with, they’re more difficult to clean and it won’t last as long as some other metals.
For that reason, you’ll often see copper combined with other metals in a saute pan.
Instead, a much better way to go for a saute pan is to get hard-anodized aluminum. Aluminum is considerably cheaper than a lot of other metals and is great for cookware.
While it won’t conduct heat as quickly as copper, it will distribute the heat across the whole pan very evenly, avoiding unwanted hotspots at different points of the pan.
Not to mention, the thermal conductivity of aluminum is still better than a lot of other metals.
So we know that aluminum is best for saute pans but you might be asking yourself what ‘hard-anodized aluminum’ actually is.
Well, the hard-anodization process basically protects the metal from acids in foods that can react poorly with it.
In the past, regular aluminum cookware would pose a risk of metal seeping into food as it cooks due to the chemical reactions that take place.
However, hard-anodized aluminum cookware is protected from this issue and is just another reason why it’s the best metal for your saute pans.
Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of exactly what is a saute pan.
As we’ve established, there isn’t a great deal of difference between a saute pan and a regular frying pan so if you’re in a pinch, you can definitely get away with using just one or the other.
However, if you want to take your cooking to the next level, your home kitchen definitely won’t be complete without your trusty saute pan!
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