The differences between a skillet and a sauté pan may be subtle, but they are definitely significant, especially if you do a lot of cooking. But how significant are they? Does every kitchen really need both types of fry pans?
As the years pass, many of us tend to acquire more pots and pans than we really need. If you've been cooking a while, you’ve likely accumulated a vast assortment of cookware that rarely makes it out of storage.
Many at-home chefs find the differences between a skillet and sauté pan too insignificant. In the name of kitchen organization and budget consciousness, more and more people will no longer invest in multiple types of frying pans. Many of the best cookware companies have caught on to this trend and are now making versatile, multi-purpose fry pans that can be used in a variety of ways.
Eliminating Pans You Don’t Need
Many people, just like you, are taking stock of and reducing the amount of overflow in their kitchens. Eliminating cookware redundancies by ridding your kitchen of duplicate or similar items can free your storage space and help you stay organized. When you simplify the organization of your kitchen, you will spend less time clanging and clamoring your way through overstocked cupboards and cabinets searching for pots, pans, and casserole dishes.
In your efforts to simplify your kitchen, you may have wondered which of your cookware pieces are essential and which you could do without, particularly if you have an abundance of pans that all appear to serve the same function. Skillets and sauté pans tend to cause most of the kitchen clutter. Since you can fry, braise, and brown in either pan, we can’t help but wonder if having both is a necessity or a space-hogging extravagance.
Skillet vs. Sauté Pans
Your skillet, also known as a frying pan or fry pan, is a flat-bottom pan used to sear, brown, or fry food. The relatively short sides of the pan flare outward slightly. Keep in mind that the size of your pan is determined by the diameter of the lip of the pan, not the size of the cooking surface at the bottom.
A skillet has a smaller cooking surface than a sauté pan—usually about 30% less. For some at-home cooks, this is a significant difference; for others, this is a matter of little concern. Some of the benefits of cooking with a skillet pan include:
- Quick cooking over high heat.
- Sloped sides allow for easy turning, flipping, and food removal.
- A more efficient design for tossing foods during the cooking process.
- A typically lighter weight than a standard sauté pan.
While a sauté pan has a flat bottom, just like your skillet, the sides of a sauté pan are straight. The straight sides allow for a larger cooking area in relation to the diameter of the pan. Since a sauté pan is typically heavier than a skillet, large sauté pans often have an additional handle—a helper handle of sorts—across from the main handle to assist in handling a hot, heavy pan. You may want to consider some of the additional benefits of sauté pans:
- More cooking capacity.
- May be easier to use.
- Well suited for searing, braising, and pan-frying.
- Intended for use with lower cooking temperatures but will double as a skillet.
- Typically comes with a lid.
- Higher sides allow for cooking with more liquid.
Is Non-Stick the Best Pan Coating?
Whether you choose a skillet, sauté pan, or a multi-functional hybrid version of both, the cooking surface you select determines how easy your cookware is to both use and care for. Some pan coatings work better for specific types of cooking.
Cast Iron Pans—Can Be Used for High Temperatures
While cast iron provides even heating and can withstand high temperatures, a cast-iron pan may not be recommended because it can be porous and prone to rust.
Cast-iron skillets require seasoning to create a surface of oxidized fat over the iron to protect the surface and eliminate sticking. Stainless steel can interact with some foods and can also be challenging to clean.
Use a Copper Pan for Even Cooking
Copper skillets are known for their ability to conduct heat. Chefs often use a copper pan to prepare delicate foods that require controlled temperatures, like sauces and seafood.
Some people worry about whether or not copper pots and pans are safe. Copper is a mineral found in all body tissue and can help form blood cells; the recommended daily allowance is 900 micrograms for adults and adolescents. Although large amounts of copper are potentially toxic, Medical News Today reports that both copper deficiency and copper toxicity are rare in the United States.
Today, most copper cookware is designed with a tin or stainless steel coating to protect against the release of copper into food.
Are Teflon Pans Really That Bad?
For decades, many cooking enthusiasts have gravitated to the use of Teflon skillets and sauté pans to keep food from sticking during cooking. Teflon pans are also well known for their browning abilities. Teflon is the brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE); in the process of making PTFE, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used.
A debate exists due to potential health concerns of the fumes released when pans containing PTFE & PFOA overheat, while others dispute that claim. The American Cancer Society states that while Teflon is “not suspected of causing cancer,” provisional health advisories for both PTFE & PFOA have been released by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Cerami-Tech Non-Stick Cookware
Cerami-Tech pans are both PTFE & PFOA free. Cerami-Tech is a newer type of non-stick pan coating designed for consumers who want a Teflon-free pan for browning and sautéing.
Cerami-Tech pans are said to require little or no oil for easier cooking and cleaning. Most Cerami-Tech pans feature a built-in induction plate that is said to help the pan reach high heats faster and cook food evenly.
The Copper Chef brand offers a Cerami-Tech copper skillet that serves the purpose of both a skillet and sauté pan. With this unique cooking surface, you can cook healthier meals without sacrificing the ease of clean up. This Copper Chef pan is a sautéing or frying pan with some of the features of a traditional skillet, like gently sloped sides.
Easy Kitchen Organization
While years of experience in the kitchen undoubtedly enhance your cooking skills, most people have accumulated more cookware than they need or can store comfortably. Sometimes, it's necessary to take stock of kitchen inventory and eliminate some of the clutter.
Click here for all-purpose pan designs to suit multiple cookware and baking needs.