Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the saucepan — that humble, hardworking cookware basic that probably rarely leaves your stovetop. The saucepan may be less exciting than, say, your pretty enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven or your fancy grill pan, but it probably gets a lot more use, too, thanks to convenient sizing (saucepans tend to range from 1 quart to 3 quarts) and all-purpose awesomeness. After all, that one pot can handle everything from boiling water for boxed mac and cheese (yes, we admit it) to cooking rice to steaming the vegetables that your kids probably won’t eat.
Whatever you’re cooking in it, if you’re in the market to replace, upgrade or simply add to your saucepan collection, here are the best options for any budget.
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1. Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Sauce Pan, 2.5 quart
Made from heavy-duty stainless steel, this pot also features lots of useful extras, like a spout for easy pouring. The handle has holes that can be opened or closed. Opened, it allows steam to escape or for colander-free draining. The inside of the pot has liquid fill lines to allow you to measure liquids directly in the pot (which comes in handy both for filling the pot as well as for tracking how much a sauce has reduced). The 2.5-quart size is also a great “not too big, not too small” size for all kinds of cooking jobs.
2. All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Sauce Pan with Lid, 3-Quart
A heavy-duty, high-end saucepan that will last you a lifetime, All-Clad’s tri-clad pot is made from layers of aluminum and steel throughout the entire body of the pan. This allows the entire pot to heat evenly and avoids hot spots that lead to scorching. Like all stainless steel All-Clad pieces, it’s also oven-safe up to 600 degrees F if you ever want to finish a dish off in the oven or keep it warm. All-Clad pieces are an investment, but the material and design will last years.
3. Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Saucepan, 1.5 Quart
A smaller saucepan perfect for jobs like boiling eggs or heating soup, this has a classic look at a great price. While it doesn’t have features like a tri-clad construction or fill lines, small details make it more than just your average budget pan. The curved lip makes pouring seamless from every direction, and the handle stays cool to the touch on the stovetop. Most importantly, an aluminum base makes heating faster and helps reduce hot spots.
4. Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick Saucepan, 1-Quart
While most things you cook in a saucepan are liquidy enough that you don’t need to worry about sticking, a non-stick coating can be useful. For starters, grains like rice that absorb all of the cooking liquid won’t stick to the bottom if you accidentally overcook it. And if you mix up mac and cheese or other dishes in the pot after cooking you also won’t have to soak the dish (as long) if leftovers get (ahem) left behind.
5. Utopia Kitchen Nonstick Saucepan, 2 Quart
Utopia Kitchen makes value-driven pots and pans that are still performance-driven. This one is twice the size of our top pick saucepan, and also features an aluminum base for quick, even heating. The glass lid allows you to see what’s going on while you cook, and a small vent keeps it from boiling over.