Nearly all stovetop pan bodies are designed with the same basic silhouette – round. Even with that in common, there is a lot to distinguish between different types of pan and some pans are designed to different jobs than others. Here we cover some of the most popular styles & what you will use them for. Which pan do I need to make this?
The standard kitchen workhorse. The saucepan is used for simmering or boiling, melting butter or chocolate, heating milk & creating sauces. The saucepan comes in a variety of sizes from 14cm (0.9L) milk pans, these often come with indented lips to allow easy pouring, to large 20cm (3.8L) pans. Family size & cooking style often dictates the amount of saucepans you need.
A variation on the classic saucepan, these have the same body shape as a saucepan but come with two handles close to the pot instead of one long handle. These can then be lifted with both hands. A saucepot can be used in the same way as a saucepan but the difference in handle style makes them easier to lift when full and heavy.
Also known as a frypan or a french skillet, the frying pan is the most used piece of cookware in most kitchens. They have curved sides and come in a variety of sizes. They can be used for almost anything, from braising meat to frying off an omelette.
A stockpot is a large capacity pan, with sides at least as tall as their diameter. The tall sides allow stock to simmer for longer without reducing too much, making them most useful for soups & stews. Their large size also makes them great for boiling spaghetti pasta and preparing large quantities of food.
The only pan in our list with a non round silhouette; the square grill pan has low sides and raised horizontal lines for hob top grilling in small quantities. You can grill anything in these pans, from peppers to meats, the ribbed base will give ‘char’ lines on food fried in it. A healthier way of frying, because the ribbed base allows much of the fat to drain away from the food.
Similar to a wok, a stir-fry pan has deep curved sides to enable the food to be stirred and turned during cooking. It has a flat base so it can be used on conventional hobs, whereas the true wok has a curved base and has to be used with a separate supporting frame.
A large curved-sided frying pan with no flat base area. Mainly used for Chinese and Thai cookery, but also useful for fast-frying any food in small pieces. The bowl like shape of a wok allows a small pool of cooking oil to gather in the middle and heat using relatively little fuel; which can then be used for frying. The warm sides of the wok are then used to keep the food warm after the initial frying.
A deep frying pan with upright sides, used for quick frying (the French verb ‘sauter’ means ‘to jump’). The low sides allow steam to escape while the food cooks and also permits the chef to toss the food. Also called a sauteuse, it is similar to, but not the same as, a frypan.
A chef's pan is similar to a saute pan with the exception that the sides are curved. This makes the pan more versatile as it combines elements of the frying pan, saute pan & saucepan. A useful pan for someone with little space or the cook who cooks regularly for one or two. they are great for making risotto, cooking grains & rice and reducing sauces.
We've covered some of the more common pan shapes that form the core of a decent cookware collection. If you're interested in learning more, watch this space for our speciality pan guide & bakeware guide.