一本道理不卡一二三区The versatile saucepan is arguably the most essential piece of equipment for any cook, used for cooking sauces (the clue's in the name) or indeed anything liquid-based. Every kitchen needs at least one – or better, a set, for boiling and simmering the different elements of a dish.
一本道理不卡一二三区Relative to its high sides, the surface area of most saucepans is small, allowing heat to evenly distribute through your béchamel, bolognese and hollandaise. But they also come in all shapes and sizes – from smaller milk pans, to larger pots that can handle batch-cooked concoctions.
So, what do you need from a saucepan set? While you can buy sets in all kinds of combinations, a three-piece set will do the trick for most home cooks. You'll (very) rarely need more than three on the go during one cooking session; and a trio of different sizes should cover your day-to-day needs. Five-piece sets can be useful if you're also looking for a frying pan一本道理不卡一二三区 and a milk pan – say, for a starter kitchen – but those are outside the scope of this article.
According to Lakeland's experts, a 16cm lidded saucepan is ideal for heating portions of veg, tinned soup or even for a portion of scrambled egg; an 18cm saucepan is just right for cooking rice for the family or stewing fruit for a crumble or whisking up a tasty sauce; and a 20cm lidded saucepan is perfectly proportioned for a big batch of mash, a bolognese, or a risotto.
The most desirable characteristic in a saucepan is heat conductivity (or retention, depending on what you’re cooking) – but easy maintenance and durability is also important. These factors tend to vary depending on the material the pan is made from, so at the bottom of this article, I've included a comprehensive guide to the pros and cons of copper, stainless steel, cast iron, multi-ply and non-stick, plus tips from chefs and cookware experts.
一本道理不卡一二三区While researching these products, I found that I favoured 'natural', uncoated pans, because I'm wary about the durability of non-stick coating (which comes in many different guises – some no doubt better than others). However, non-stick is definitely the easiest to maintain, so that may influence your buying decision.
Here's everything I learned while testing the best saucepan sets on the market...
1. Mauviel M'Cook 3 piece stainless steel saucepan set
Why we like it: The professional chef’s saucepan set of choice, for elevating your cooking to new heights
一本道理不卡一二三区According to , who has these stainless steel Mauviel pans at home and in his restaurants in Covent Garden and Paris, Mauviel’s stainless steel pans “make food taste better”.
They might be expensive, but as a restaurateur, he feels they’re worth the investment, thanks to their longevity and superior performance.
Made since 1830 in the Normandy village of Villedieu-les-Poêles, Mauviels are the “sport’s car” of saucepan sets, according to Justin Kowbel, founder of cookware specialists (and Mauviel stockists). He lauds their construction, which combines five layers of stainless steel with aluminium – a brilliant heat conductor.
Having tested the set myself (individual pans measure 16cm, 18cm and 20cm), I have to agree with Kowbel's analysis.
During cooking, it was easy to see just how good these pans are at conducting heat. While making a white roux with parsley, the butter melted gently and uniformly, ultimately creating a smooth and glossy paste once the flour was added. I also noted that water (for rice) came to the boil quickly; and that sautéed garlic (for a tomato sauce) caramelised across the pan, rather than at different rates in different spots.
Of course, sautéeing leads to an element of staining – but since this is high quality stainless steel, it easily scrubs off in the wash bowl. Indeed, I found the steel can take a good amount of scouring without getting marked. Mauviel do sell something called “Inobrill” cleaning paste () to return the steel to its original shine once in a while – but I reckon you'll be just fine with good, old fashioned Fairy liquid. Just never use bleach.
As for construction, the pans feel as good as you'd hope at this price. The stainless steel rivets seem sturdy. Traditionally, this is where pans can falter, as forces prise the handle from body – but if Marchand has found no problems, then that's a good enough recommendation for me. I also liked the design of the oversized handles, which stay cool to touch and have a hook for hanging (although if you're buying the set with lids, that will affect how you store the items).
One other point to make on the design: the pouring rim that runs all around the top is seriously useful. It allows you to pour without drips and spills – handy for otherwise sloppy cooks (guilty).
Finally, a big reason for me choosing this set as our Telegraph Recommended top pick is that it's not copper. Copper pans are brilliant at conducting heat – but they can't go in the dishwasher, they don't work on induction hobs, and you have to polish them to maintain their shine. In contrast, the M'Cook series might not look quite so desirable, but it's dishwasher friendly and is compatible with all heat sources (that includes oven safe up to 360°C – much higher than the standard 180°C other saucepans can handle). Bonus.
The Mauviel M’Cook set comes with a lifetime guarantee (not valid for commercial use). To my mind, it is aspirational cookware at its practical best.
2. John Lewis & Partners 5-Ply Thermacore saucepans
Why we like it: A corrosive-resistant stainless steel set that will probably outlast you
This reliable, sturdy set of pans includes the desirable trinity of 16cm, 18cm and 20cm saucepans with lids, and is billed as John Lewis’s “professional quality” range.
一本道理不卡一二三区John Lewis pride themselves on their reliable stainless steel saucepans, which have a lifetime guarantee – and similarly to the Mauviel M'Cook range, because these ones are made of multiple layers of magnetic stainless steel and heat conducting aluminium, they work on all heat sources, including induction.
These did the job well enough for my parsley sauce, though they’re heavier to lift than the M’Cook range above. Because they’re also 5-ply (constructed of five layers of metal), they do heat fairly quickly and evenly. I noticed that they take a little longer to heat up than the Mauviel pans; and when they did, they retained the heat for a longer time. That's good for reducing heavy sauces and for every day batch cooking; not so great for precision cooking.
The handle, while firmly riveted on, got a bit too hot for comfort while I was cooking.
一本道理不卡一二三区But that’s not to say these aren’t still a jolly good pan, at a good price, for a good home cook – they’re just not quite at the same Michelin-starred level as Mauviel.
The stainless steel is premium grade 18/10, which is the highest grade commonly found in cookware (the numbers refer to the amount of chromium and nickel contained within the metal), and means it has a higher quality, durability and temperature resistance than 18/08 or 18/0 stainless steel.
As a result, these pans are corrosion-resistant – so they will stay in decent condition no matter what you throw at them, and there’s no need for them to have a non-stick coating. I like that they have hooks on the handle for hanging, too.
一本道理不卡一二三区They’re dishwasher safe and oven safe to 230°C (that's high – though not as high as the M'Cook), and the rims are designed to prevent drips.
All in all, a sound, reasonable buy.
If you’re looking to spend a little less, I also liked the John Lewis & Partners Classic saucepan stainless steel set: though they’re only oven safe up to 180°C and don’t boast 5-ply layers, they’re also cheaper ().
3. GreenPan Venice Pro Ceramic non-stick saucepan set
Why we like it: A non-stick coating on this set makes for easy cleaning when your guests have gone home
GreenPan promise a “non-toxic”, healthy ceramic non-stick coating, with all the benefits of ease when it comes to washing up. If all you really want out of your saucepans is an easy life and minimal fuss, this is probably the set to go for.
The 16cm, 18cm and 20cm pans come with see-through lids – a bonus, since you can actually see how your cooking is doing without having to take the lid off.
I elected to make a creamy pepper sauce; everything seems to glide on the shiny smooth non-stick surface, and I found the pans to be light enough so that they didn't strain my wrists and arms when clunking them about. They stayed looking as good as new without any chemical reactions from the heat or acid of my food, after using them a few times.
Beneath the non-stick coating, the pans are constructed of bi-ply body stainless steel and aluminium, a winning combination which conducts heat well. The stainless steel handles are riveted, and stay cool. Oven safe up to 220°C.
一本道理不卡一二三区Why have I elected to put these third in my list rather than third? Quite simply, because I'm less of a fan of non-stick. I'm concerned that the coating will inevitably degrade, even chip away, over time, and I'll end up replacing them sooner than I would, say, a simple stainless steel pan.
GreenPan promise that their patented toxin-free Thermolon Infinity Professional coating (enhanced with diamonds – fancy) will stick around, and last even in the face of intense usage and cleaning (so long as you stick with nylon or wooden utensils). However, I find I'm still wary, and I've heard stories of the non-stickiness not lasting as long as you might hope.
一本道理不卡一二三区It's for this reason that Justin Kowbel of Borough Kitchen goes so far as to not stock non-stick saucepans at all. He reasons that "in saucepans you will mostly be cooking liquids, there's far less likelihood of food sticking badly as there is with frying in a frying pan or a wok, anyway. There's less need for it in the first place."
4. Mauviel M'Heritage M'150S 3 Piece copper saucepan set
Why we like it: A modern take on the classic copper saucepan
Copper is a superior heat conductor, and the copper element of this pan means it is super-responsive to the slightest change in heat.
一本道理不卡一二三区As promised, I find it gives me precise control over heat conductivity; it heats up fast and cools down as soon as I take it off the heat. I found it worked particularly well to cook delicate dishes like shellfish and lighter sauces with precision.
一本道理不卡一二三区However, it’s not suitable for induction since it has a copper outer layer 1.5ml thick; it’s less versatile than Mauviel’s M Cook range or any other non-copper pan.
The stainless steel handle wins my backing: while it's not as 'classic' as the traditional cast iron handles on copper saucepans, it's neither heavy nor prone to heat up. (If cast iron handles are your bag, check out the .)
If I was to go for copper, I’d go for this one in terms of functioning in a modern kitchen. Overall, it cleverly combines the benefits of heat conducting copper with modern design.
5. Le Creuset 3 piece cast iron saucepan set
Why we like it: The look
I’m a huge fan of Le Creuset’s classic cast iron casserole dishes (although Staub beat them to the number one spot in our ).
I wanted to love this admittedly beautiful-looking cast iron saucepan set, but having tried them, I just don’t think cast iron as a material makes any sense for a saucepan. They're too heavy: I struggled to lift these pans with one hand (which is perhaps why they have two handles, one on each side).
一本道理不卡一二三区Cast iron is also not very heat responsive, though it retains heat for a long time (one reason why it's so great for casseroles).
一本道理不卡一二三区There’s still something pleasurable about cooking with such a beautiful object, but these are far better for slow cooking bologneses than a flash-in-the-pan sauce. That said, the custard I attempted worked out wonderfully.
Copper, stainless steel or aluminium: What’s the best material for saucepans?
In terms of the vital engineering of a saucepan, common materials include stainless steel, cast iron, copper, multi-ply and non-stick. As is so often the case, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. The most desirable characteristic of all is heat conductivity, and heat responsiveness over heat retention for exact cooking: but as I noted in my reviews, easy maintenance is also important to save extra effort.
While the traditional copper cookware found in high-end restaurants may be the most decoratively pleasing (step into Paris’s famed cookware emporium E. Dehillerin or chef Calum Franklin’s The Pie Room in Holborn, festooned with copper cookware, and you’ll be tempted to fill your home to the rafters with it like a French farmhouse), it can be a significant investment.
一本道理不卡一二三区Copper is an excellent heat conductor, but the pots don’t work on induction hobs unless they have an induction base – and because copper is such a reactive element, the tin or steel lining may need to be replaced every few years. It can also react with acidic foods like citrus or tomato.
Copper loses heat as fast as it conducts it, which is a blessing and a curse: because it’s so responsive, it’s ideal for searing delicate scallops or making caramel to perfection (as soon as you take it off the heat, the temperature will drop rapidly, reducing the chances of overcooking) – but it’s not so great for keeping a sauce gently simmering.
Multi-ply and stainless steel
The most renowned French cookware brands using copper to their advantage include Mauviel and De Buyer, says Justin Kowbel, co-founder of cookware specialists Borough Kitchen; in Britain, Samuel Groves has been manufacturing them since 1817. If you’re going for copper, look for multiple-ply options (each “ply” is a metal layer, each serving a different function: the Mauviel M'6S induction copper saucepan, for example, has six layers combining the best features of stainless steel, aluminium and copper). Both Mauviel and Samuel Groves have different multi-ply options, and both also manufacture stainless steel sets.
一本道理不卡一二三区According to Frenchie chef Greg Marchand, Mauviel is worth the extra investment if you’re a foodie. “Mauviel for me is the best: they’re long-lasting, the heat conductivity makes food taste better, and it’s a classic French brand with a really great story behind it. I use Mauviel’s pans at home and in my restaurants. Traditional copper pans have a strong kitchen identity, evoking tradition and spirit – but day to day, it’s just too much of a pain. They mostly hang up on the wall as decoration, rather than being a practical tool in the kitchen.”
“Whilst copper cookware is usually at a premium price point, if cared for properly it can last a lifetime. Most copper cookware is bonded with stainless steel to give it strength,” says John Lewis buyer Elaine Hooper.
一本道理不卡一二三区Copper aside, what are the other options like? For Hooper, stainless steel offers the best of both worlds. “Stainless steel is not only durable and long lasting, it is naturally induction-compatible so will not incur an additional cost for modern hobs. Available with or without a non-stick coating, it allows you to get the best of the heat conductivity and the ease of a non-stick pan. It’s important to consider the ply of the steel, as this will impact quality and cooking times,” says Hooper.
Aluminium, carbon steel and cast iron
And what of the more affordable aluminium option? Like copper, aluminium is a brilliant heat conductor. States Mauviel's marketing spiel: “Copper and aluminium are the two best heat conductors, following silver. The allocation of copper and aluminium on the whole surface area of a pan from top to bottom guarantees a uniform heat distribution and avoids overheating some areas".
一本道理不卡一二三区According to John Lewis buyer Elaine Hooper: “Aluminium is available in a variety of gauges, or thicknesses, often combined with a non-stick coating for an affordable pan option. A non-stick coating is much easier to clean than pans without it. Many sets combine aluminium cookware with a stainless steel base to ensure it is induction compatible.”
一本道理不卡一二三区Carbon steel, although popular in bakeware, isn’t suitable for saucepans as it is too thin, she adds.
Compared to copper, cast iron slowly and is prone to hot spots – but once it does get hot, it retains it. “Cast iron pans have great heat retention properties and allow you to take the pan straight from the hob to the table; keeping the food warm after cooking. Usually available in a variety of colours, with an enamel-coated interior, their higher price point and high quality means if properly cared for they can last for years,” explains Hooper.
一本道理不卡一二三区Finally, a note on lids and storage: a stainless steel lid retains heat and keeps moisture in whilst cooking but glass allows you to see the contents of the pan without taking the lid off, ideal for boiling water, Hooper points out. “It’s also useful to think about how you will store the pans and how much space you have. If space is limited opt for a set that can be neatly stacked within each other.”
What are the pros and cons of non-stick saucepans?
Non-stick pans have a coating which prevents food from clinging to the surface, making them easier to wash up. You don't have to try to scour food bits off the pan, which is particularly beneficial when working with foods that might stick, such as eggs. In some cases they may require less oil, such as when sauteeing onions.
However, the nonstick coating will eventually peel off into your food and become ineffective over time, so you need to be careful of using metal utensils which could scratch the surface and damage the coating.
They’re easier to maintain than the likes of copper initially, but less durable in the long-run.
How do you stop food from sticking on a non-stick pan?
“Stainless steel does not stick: overheating sticks,” states the Mauviel cookware brand. “Never exceed ⅔ of your heating source’s maximum power and never leave it empty for more than a few minutes.”
What is a 'saucier' pan?
一本道理不卡一二三区The older cousin of the standard saucepan, a saucier is a wider bottomed pan with rounded sides, ideal for faster reductions, stirring and whisking.
What’s the best way to polish a saucepan, or clean a burnt saucepan?
一本道理不卡一二三区“I polish my saucepans at least once a week: I use a mix of egg white, rock salt, vinegar and flour to make a paste to clean and shine them,” says chef Greg Marchand, of restaurants Frenchie in Paris and Covent Garden.
To clean a burnt pan, according to Good Housekeeping magazine, fill a cooled pan with water, add a dishwasher tablet or 1tbsp biological washing powder (anything with enzymes that will break the food down) and bring to boil. Leave to simmer, and the burnt bits will lift away, leaving your pan as good as new. You could also try vinegar and baking soda if it really needs a good scour.