What’s the Difference Between Saucepans and Sauciers?

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Making pastry cream in a saucier with a hand mid-whisk.
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

They sound and look similar, so is there even a difference between saucepans and sauciers? Are you going to ruin your meal if you use one instead of the other? The respective answers here are yes (there are differences) and no (you won’t ruin anything), but understanding the nuances of these pans can help you make a more informed decision next time you’re shopping for a new piece of cookware.

Spot the Difference

a spoon retrieving a poached egg from a saucepan
Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Saucepans have straight sides and are functional for tasks like boiling water, cooking pasta, reheating soupy leftovers, poaching eggs—you get the idea. Saucepans tend to have higher sides than sauciers, which makes them useful for containing anything prone to bubbling up and spilling over.

Sauciers, on the other hand, have a shallower profile with slightly flared, rounded sides (which means there are no corners). They’re purpose-built for stirring, with curves that cozy right up to a whisk or wooden spoon. Sauciers are ideal for making risotto, pastry cream, or—shockingly—sauces. Once you’ve made a velvety roux in a proper saucier, you’ll probably find your saucepan spending a lot more time in the drawer.

Ultimately, we prefer sauciers over saucepans because they can do everything a saucepan can do, and then some.

Material and Performance

A person pouring brown butter from a saucepan into a bowl
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Most saucepans and sauciers are made of stainless steel. This material is versatile, durable, and, since many are tri-ply—that is, the base is a stainless steel sandwich with an aluminum center—heat is conducted efficiently. 

When we tested saucepans, we assessed each pan’s competency with boiling water, cooking rice, browning butter, and, in the saucepans that impressed us the most, we also whipped up a batch of pastry cream. We found that we tend to prefer saucepans with a wider diameter (between seven and eight inches was our sweet spot) and a wide, rounded handle for easy pick-up and transfer. 

Our saucier tests included making pastry cream, risotto, and pâte à choux. For these delicate tasks, we favored sauciers with a generous surface area (all the better for stirring) and a just-right weight (all the better for maneuvering). Heavy-bottomed sauciers were effective at retaining heat, but they were less agile and took longer to warm up. 

Pros and Cons

A zoomed in shot of a wooden spoon stirring risotto.
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

The real advantage of a saucepan is its high sides. You can put water on to boil and, in those panicked milliseconds before it boils over, have time to save yourself from a mess. (Hopefully.) Saucepans are commonly available in sizes between one and six quarts, so if you already have a favorite and want a smaller or larger version, you can probably find it with ease.

The saucier’s strengths lie in those curved, sloping sides and rounded edges. There are no “corners” in which things can get stuck while you’re whisking with abandon in a saucier, whereas a saucepan’s nearly 90-degree angle between base and sides means your sauce (or cream, or tender grain) is susceptible to sticking as the whisk skims right past. Sauciers tend to come in sizes between two and give quarts, and we prefer them in the 3- to 4-quart range.

Now,, saucepans and sauciers both usually come with a lid, so that part is easy!

So, Which One is Better? 

five sauciers stacked on top of one another
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

“Better” is a subjective term, but the Serious Eats team tends to prefer sauciers to saucepans. We appreciate the versatility of these sleek vessels, which—after adjusting for capacity, of course—can still be used for all the same things as a saucepan. If you’re going to invest in a shiny new pan, you may as well get the most bang for your buck and maximize usefulness. 

Our Favorite Saucier

When you know, you know. Or should we say, when you’ve tested a whole bunch of them, it’s pretty easy to tell which one is the best. And after reviewing sauciers, our favorite is the one from Made In. It was light, conducted heat well, and stirring in it was simply a dream. We recommend starting out with the 3-quart size.

Made In Saucier against a white background
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

Our Favorite Saucepans

Preferring a saucier doesn’t mean we’re banishing saucepans from our kitchens! Plus, most cooks are familiar with saucepans, and it’s natural to prefer to buy the thing we already know.

This saucepan from Zwilling aced our tests thanks to its flared rim that allows for easy stirring, a comfortable handle that stays cool while boiling water, and helpful details like interior measurement markings and a glass lid.

A stainless steel saucepan on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

Tramontina has impressed us before (we also like their affordable stainless steel skillets), so we weren’t surprised that this mid-priced saucepan performed as well—with even heating and comfortable handles on both the pan and the lid—as some of the models that cost twice as much.

A stainless steel saucepan on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Irvin Lin


What does a saucepan look like?

Saucepans and sauciers look very similar! You’ll spot the saucepan by its high, straight sides.

What’s a non-reactive saucepan?

Non-reactive cookware means that the material won’t react with acidic foods, potentially lending a tinny, “off” taste to your dish. Cast iron, for example, is reactive—which is why you should probably choose a different pan if you plan on simmering a tomato sauce for several hours. 

Should I buy a saucepan or a saucier? 

This really depends on what you’re planning to use it for. If you just need something to boil water a couple of times per week, feel free to grab a budget saucepan and call it a day. But if you want to regularly make sauces, risotto, or generally have more flexibility with your pan, spring for a saucier.

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