Frypan vs Sauté Pan: Know The Difference

Frypan vs Sauté Pan: Know The Difference

Frypan vs Sauté Pan: Selecting the right one for your kitchen

Want the best results for your cooking? Then you’ll need the right tools, which often mean the right cookware. And by right cookware, we mean one of these commonly used cookware in the kitchen; the frying pan and sauté pan.

You may think “they’re both pans though - what difference does it make?”. Yes, they do look similar at first glance and they are often referred to interchangeably. But they each carry key differences that can certainly impact your cooking experience and cooking performance.

Whether you’re planning to get one or both, it’s important to know the differences and similarities between the frying pan and sauté pan. After all, you’ll want a cookware piece that will be put to great use in the kitchen for the years to come. That’s exactly what this article is here to help you with today. First, let’s get to know each cookware type so you’ll have a clearer picture as you discover what sets the frying pan and sauté pan apart.

Cosmo Fry ceramic-coated frying pan from Cosmic Cookware.

What is a Frypan?

A frypan, short for frying pan, is a shallow pan with a flat bottom. It’s typically made from stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron, aluminium, and even copper. The frypan’s design is made for cooking food through frying, searing, or browning them quickly in hot oil or fat. It's usually a round pan that with sloped sides that make it easy to flip or turn food over while cooking.

Cosmo Pan ceramic-coated saute pan from Cosmic Cookware.

What is a Sauté Pan?

The sauté pan is also a flat-bottomed pan, only this pan has straight sides instead of sloped ones. Sauté pans are generally made from metal such as stainless steel, ceramic, and copper. If you’ve noticed, the sauté pan offers a little less in terms of metal choices over the frypan due to its overall construction. This type of pan is great for cooking stir fries and larger portions of meat, fish, and dishes that call for lots of sauce.

Frypan vs Saute Pan, Their Similarities & Differences

1. Shape and Size

A pan’s shape and size impacts how well it performs over certain cooking tasks. Take the frypan for example, with its typically shallow sloped sides. The frypan is often smaller in size compared to sauté pans and is ideal for cooking smaller quantities of food. Its shallow sides also allow it to heat up quickly and evenly, making it great for cooking dishes like scallops, steak, and fish and recipes that call for shallow frying.

The sauté pan is usually larger than the frypan with straight, taller sides and a wider base. Though this causes it to take a little longer to heat up, it certainly does retain heat better over the frypan. This makes it great for deep frying, cooking stews, simmering curries, and larger volumes of food.

Cooking up to 4 pieces of chicken on a sauté pan.

2. Cooking Surface

Another key difference between frying pans and sauté pans is the cooking surface. The frypan’s sloped edge towards the base gives it a smaller cooking surface, but allows you greater control because you can easily flip your dish while cooking. That said, its smaller cooking surface makes it better for dishes with less sauce and liquid overall. 

Whereas the high walls found on the sauté pan allow you to easily and evenly cook dishes with lots of liquid and sauce. Think cooking up to 4 chicken thighs at a go in one sauté pan, when it can take two rounds to do the same with a frypan.

If you were wondering how to best compare the two in terms of cooking surface, you can do it this way.

Let’s say you take a 28cm sauté pan and a 28cm frypan, you’ll notice that the sauté pan typically gives you the full 28cm cooking surface unlike the frypan even though they have equal diameter. This is because the frypan’s sloped sides give it a naturally smaller cooking surface area, while the sauté pan’s vertical sides allow its surface to be fully utilised.

In terms of differentiation in sizes, the frypan’s cooking surface can sometimes go up to 5cm smaller than the sauté pan’s cooking surface!

Cooking curry with a sauté pan.

3. Cooking Method

Recipes that involve searing meat, quick stir fries and solid food without much liquid usually call for a frypan. The shallow, sloped sides of a frypan makes it much easier to flip and turn food as they cook. Because there’s greater control thanks to its typical build, you can also carry out high heat cooking with the right cooking techniques for perfect results.

Sauté pans are more suitable for recipes like saucy dishes and cooking methods that involve longer cooking times and plenty of liquid. From sautéing vegetables to braising meat and simmering curry, its higher sides can easily contain them while you stir and cook them without splatters. Its wider base also allows for more even cooking, making it great to evenly cook large volumes of food.

Frittata on a Cosmo Pan frypan.

4. Cooking Versatility

When it comes to cooking versatility between the frypan and sauté pan, many would argue for the frypan’s versatility. However, after putting these versatile pans to the test - we are inclined to say otherwise.

The frypan’s shallow sides and flat cooking surface allows for a wide range of cooking methods where you can sauté, stir-fry, pan-fry and sear. You can cook a variety of dishes like omelettes, frittatas, pancakes, stir fries and even sear meat and seafood. But the very same characteristic that gives it versatility also limits it to only these particular cooking styles.

On the other hand, saute pans allow for sautéing, braising, searing, stir-frying, poaching, shallow-frying, pan-frying, and even oven cooking. Essentially the same cooking tasks, but more.

The sauté pan also often comes with a lid which makes it great to simmer food and cook flavoursome braised dishes through the basting technique. See why we think it’s more versatile than the frypan?

5. Heat Distribution

You certainly can’t miss out factoring in how well your cookware can distribute heat. This can make or break your dishes before you even realise it. The frying pan is often smaller with a lighter build that's easier to handle and manuever. So while it can distribute heat quickly it may not do so as evenly as sauté pans, so you may encounter hotspots every now and then.

Sauté pans often come thicker, heavier, and larger than frying pans, which makes it distribute heat slowly but evenly. Its thicker and heavier build also makes it better when it comes to heat retention. So recipes that call for shallow-frying or slow cooking often recommend you to use a saute pan for greater results. Just bear in mind that the cookware material will also play a role here.

Helper handles and lid on a sauté pan.

6. Handles

Handles could technically fall under versatility, but the type, length and build of the pan’s handle heavily affects the pan’s performance. So it definitely deserves a spot as one of the main characteristics to watch out for.

Frying pans often come with a longer handle that is more ergonomically designed for easy lifting and flipping of food. The handle also works to keep your hands safe and away from the heat to reduce risk of burns and accidents. These days larger pans may come with a helper handle so that you can easily carry it away from the cooktop without risk of dropping it.

Then you have the sauté pan, which often if not always, comes with two handles. A main long handle, and a helper handle on the other side. The sauté pan’s handles are often shorter and not as ergonomic as the frypan’s handle, but they do give you greater stability and control when it comes to situations where you have to lift the pan and pour out the liquid.

Saute pan being hand washed.

7. Maintenance

When it comes to maintenance, both the frying pan and sauté pan require regular cleaning, care, and usage of the right utensils. Especially so when nonstick coating is involved.

We’d recommend avoiding the use of abrasive sponges like steel wools or powerful cleaning agents when it comes to cleaning frypans and sauté pans with a nonstick surface. You can also check out our article on how to maintain your nonstick cookware.

Having said that, frying pans are certainly easier to wash compared to the sauté pan, simply because of its generally smaller build and lighter weight. While the sauté pan’s larger and heavier build may pose a slight challenge during the cleaning process for those with weaker arm strength.

Stir frying a pasta dish is possible even with a frying pan.

8. Cost

How much a frypan or sauté pan costs can vary depending on what it’s made of, its size, and brand. Frypans can be less expensive than sauté pans due to its smaller build and sometimes lighter material. But a nonstick pan can be more expensive than traditional frypans without the non-stick. 

While on the other side of the coin, the sauté pan’s versatility, larger size and thicker build can make them more expensive than frypans. Ultimately its material, size and brand will also be a determining factor in its cost.

Frypan vs Sauté Pan with both pictured in Pink Berry.

Between These Two Pans, Which One Is Right For You?

If you generally cook for yourself and another, and you only cook simple and quick dishes, then a frypan like our Cosmo Fry may be the right choice for you. Think omelette for breakfast, a light stir fry for lunch, and pan-fried fish for dinner. The fry pan can cover your meals for the day.

If you enjoy cooking for your family or batch cooking for the week ahead, then you’ll certainly enjoy cooking with a sauté pan like our Cosmo Pan. It's a versatile pan that accommodates larger volumes of food and it can do everything a frypan can do and more with its generous size and added lid.

But if budget and kitchen space is not a concern for you, then we’d recommend getting both as they each have their own part to play in the kitchen. The frypan can carry you through days where you only need a simple dish for your meal times, while the sauté pan gives you the opportunity to cook up a delicious storm for your loved ones, or to batch cook your meals for the week ahead.

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