What is the Difference Between a Saucepan and a Skillet?

What is the Difference Between a Saucepan and a Skillet?

Selecting the appropriate cookware is crucial for enhancing your cooking experience. In any kitchen, the saucepan and the skillet are two of the most versatile and indispensable pieces. Although they may seem similar, each has distinct features and functions that make it suitable for different cooking tasks.

This comprehensive comparison will analyse the disparities between saucepans and skillets in size, surface, lid availability, heat distribution, and cooking purpose.

Difference Between Saucepan and Skillet

The major difference between saucepan and skillet is in their size, surface areas and the cooking purpose. A saucepan has high, straight sides and a smaller surface area, making it ideal for cooking liquids, such as sauces and soups. In contrast, a skillet has a wide, flat bottom with sloped sides, perfect for frying, searing, and browning foods. Let’s look at the major difference between saucepans & skillet on different parameters:

Size of a Saucepan:

● Typically, it has a smaller diameter and taller sides.

● Standard sizes range from 1 to 4 litres.

● Designed to hold liquids, it is ideal for soups, sauces, and boiling.

● If you’re looking for size ranges in 14cm, 16cm, 18cm, or 20cm, you’ll get the right saucepan at Stahl Kitchen.

Size of a Skillet:

● Features a larger diameter with lower, flared sides.

● Sizes usually range from 20 cm to 30 cm in diameter.

● It provides a broad cooking surface, making it suitable for frying, searing, and browning.

Unique Features

● Saucepan: A saucepan's deep, tall sides are designed to contain liquids and prevent splattering. This makes them perfect for simmering sauces and soups and boiling pasta or vegetables. Also, if you’re searching for a dishwasher and oven-safe saucepan, pick the stainless steel handles that come with Stahl Triply Stainless Steel Saucepan.

Skillet: The broad, flat base and low sides allow for excellent heat distribution and quick moisture evaporation. This design is ideal for frying and browning foods, as it promotes even cooking and easy access for turning or stirring ingredients.



● Generally has a smooth, non-stick or stainless-steel interior surface.


● The smooth surface allows for easy stirring and cleaning.

● It can have various surface types, including cast iron, non-stick, stainless steel, and carbon steel.

● A non-stick surface makes cooking delicate foods like eggs or fish easier.

Cast iron skillets develop a natural non-stick surface with seasoning over time, adding flavour to your dishes.



● Typically, it comes with a lid.

● The lid keeps the moisture and heat necessary for simmering and boiling.


● It may or may not come with a lid.

● A lid can be helpful for tasks like steaming or braising, but many skillet tasks, like frying, do not require a lid.

Heat Distribution


● It is designed to distribute heat properly across the bottom and sides.

● It is ideal for slow cooking and simmering, as it maintains a consistent temperature.


● They are designed for quick and even heat distribution across the broad, flat base.

● Perfect for high-heat cooking techniques like searing and frying, where even heat is crucial for browning.


● Used for making sauces, soups, and stews.

● It is ideal for boiling pasta, rice, and vegetables.

● Suitable for reheating leftovers and cooking grains.


● They are used for frying, searing, and browning meats and vegetables.

● Ideal for cooking eggs, pancakes, and stir-fries.

● Suitable for baking dishes like cornbread or frittatas when oven-safe.

Also, read the guide “5 reason you must have saucepan in you kitchen

Factors to Consider While Buying a Saucepan or Skillet

When choosing between a saucepan and a skillet, it's important to consider various factors to ensure you select the right tool for your cooking needs. Here’s a detailed guide to help you make an informed decision:


Triply Stainless Steel: Durable, non-reactive, and often has an aluminum core for better heat conductivity.

Cast Iron: Excellent heat retention, ideal for searing and slow-cooking, but heavy and requires maintenance.

Non-Stick: Easy to clean and great for low-fat cooking, but the coating can wear over time.

Aluminum: Lightweight and heats up quickly, often anodized to prevent reactivity with foods.

Size and Capacity

Saucepan: Typically ranges from 1 to 4 quarts. Choose based on the volume of liquids and ingredients you commonly cook.

Skillet: Available in various diameters, commonly from 8 to 12 inches. Consider the number of people you usually cook for and the types of dishes you prepare.

Shape and Design

Saucepan: High, straight sides and a flat bottom, ideal for simmering, boiling, and making sauces.

Skillet: Wide, flat bottom with sloped sides, perfect for frying, searing, and browning.

Handle and Lid

Handle: Look for comfortable, heat-resistant handles that provide a secure grip. Long handles are common in skillets, while saucepans may have a long handle and a helper handle.

Lid: A snug-fitting lid is important for saucepans to retain moisture and heat. Skillets may come with or without a lid.

Heat Distribution and Retention

Even Heating: Ensure the cookware provides even heat distribution to prevent hot spots. Multi-layered construction or a heavy base can help.

Heat Retention: Consider how well the cookware retains heat, which is especially important for dishes that require steady, consistent temperatures.

Maintenance and Durability

Ease of Cleaning: Non-stick surfaces are easier to clean, while stainless steel and cast iron require more care.

Durability: Consider the longevity of the material. Stainless steel and cast iron are typically more durable than non-stick coatings.

Saucepan vs Skillet: Which One is Right For You?

Understanding the distinct roles and features of saucepans and skillets is crucial for any kitchen. A saucepan, with its smaller diameter and taller sides, is perfect for cooking liquids, making it ideal for sauces, soups, and boiling. It usually features a smooth surface, which can be non-stick or stainless steel, and often comes with a lid to retain moisture, ensuring even heat distribution for simmering and boiling. On the other hand, a skillet boasts a larger diameter with lower sides, making it excellent for frying, searing, and even baking. Skillets can have various surfaces, including non-stick and cast iron, and may come with or without a lid. They are known for quick, even heating, essential for high-heat cooking techniques.

Stahl Kitchens offers high-quality saucepans and skillets, such as the durable and efficiently designed saucepans and the versatile Blacksmith Plus and Hybrid Series skillets. These ensure you have the right tool for every cooking task and elevate your culinary experience.


Q1. What is the difference between a saucepan and skillet?

Well, saucepans have taller sides, while skillets are broader and more shallow. This makes them suited to cooking different things.

Q2. Can I use a saucepan instead of a skillet, or vice versa?

You can try, but they are designed for different cooking methods, so it likely won't work either.

Q3. Which one is better for cooking sauces : a saucepan or a skillet?

Go for the saucepan - its taller sides will contain splatters better when stirring.

Q4. Can I use a saucepan for frying foods?

It wouldn't be recommended as a skillet is far better shaped for frying with its wide bottom and lower sides.

Q5. Which one is easier to clean: a saucepan or a skillet?

It depends on what you cooked, but skillets often need more effort to remove stuck bits from the wide cooking surface.

Q6. Which one is better for making one-pot meals: a saucepan or a skillet?

A saucepan often works better to keep everything neatly contained in one-pot dishes with lots of ingredients and liquid.

Q7. Can I use a saucepan or skillet in the oven?

Be sure to check if yours is oven-safe first! Many are these days, but materials like non-stick coatings cannot withstand high oven heat.

Q8. What materials are saucepans and skillets commonly made of?

You'll typically find stainless steel, cast iron, non-stick coatings, and aluminium, among many other options!

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