When you are ready to cook a recipe or buy a new piece of kitchen equipment, it is important to know the difference between a saute pan versus a fry pan. Many home cooks and even professionals use these terms interchangeably. No wonder we are all confused.
However, there are differences between the shape and uses of a saute pan vs a frying pan. I will cover the basics here today so the next time you get cooking, you grab the correct pan & have your recipe turn out. And if you are in the market for a complete set of pots and pans for your gas stove, this will help you buy the best ones.
Throughout this article, the terms fry pan and frying pan are used interchangeably. Also, keep in mind, the term skillet is also used when referring to a frying pan. Skillets and frying pans are the same. I will get into that more later too.
I love using a saute pan for saucy hearty recipes like my Zucchini & Chickpea Curry. Whereas, a heavy frying pan is my tool of choice when making some Crispy Caramelized Brussels Sprouts & Bacon in a cast-iron skillet.
- Differences between Saute & Frying Pans
- Weight & Volume
- Surface Area & Lids
- Uses & Recipes for Saute Pans
- Uses & Recipes for Fry Pans
- Best Nonstick Frying & Saute Pans to Buy
- Best 10" NonStick Fry Pan/ Skillet
- Best Straight-Sided Saute Pan with a Lid
- Best Frying Pan for Induction Stove
- Best Fry Pan under $20
- Product Recommendations & Pricing
Differences between Saute & Frying Pans
To determine which pan you have, need to buy, or see being used on a cooking show, just look at it. The sides of the pan tell you everything. This is the first saute pan versus fry pan contrast between the two.
In simplest terms, the difference between the pans is to see if the sides are straight or slanted. If the slides are straight, it is a saute pan. If the pan has slanted sides, it is a frying pan.
Weight & Volume
When it comes to the size and heaviness between fry pans and saute pans, the differences lend to why they are used for different recipes. For example, saute pans are great for recipes that need browning and have liquids like sauces or risotto.
Saute pans tend to have a wide base and cooking area. This in most cases makes them heavier. The straight sides often lend to these pans holding more volume.
In comparison, frying pans are often lighter in weight. They also have rounded edges to their base since the sides are slanted. The surface area of the base is less and holds less volume than a saute pan of the same size.
Surface Area & Lids
The surface area of a saute pan is wider than a fry pan. Because of the wide base and straight sides, saute pans are often used with a lid. Frying pans or skillets in most cases do not come with lids.
Whenever you need to brown something and later simmer it with a lid on top, the saute pan is the way to go. Keeping moisture in a recipe to slow cooking lends better to using a saute pan versus a skillet or frying pan.
Uses & Recipes for Saute Pans
Here are the best recipes and uses for a saute pan. I recommend using a saute pan when you want a large cooking surface to brown several pieces of meat. It is also best to use a saute pan with straight sides when a recipe calls for a liquid, such as making a pan sauce. Examples include beef stroganoff, risotto, or poached fish.
Here are some of my favorite recipes that use a saute pan.
Uses & Recipes for Fry Pans
Here are the best recipes and uses for a frying pan. I recommend using a skillet or fry pan when you want an even sear on vegetables or proteins. Lightweight fry pans are great when you want to flip or toss ingredients. Heavy cast-iron skillets are good for stove-to-oven. Examples include steaks, desserts, and vegetables.
Here are some of my favorite recipes that use a frying pan or skillet.
Best Nonstick Frying & Saute Pans to Buy
Now that you know everything you wanted to know about skillets, fry pans, and saute pans, it is time to see which you have and if you need to buy any. Based on the recipes you love to cook and how best to use a saute or fry pan, you may need to add a few to your collection.
I suggest having a variety of small and large pans so you can cook just about anything. If you are in the market for a good quality saute or fry pan, these are the best ones money can buy. I have included pans that are easy to use & clean, budget-friendly, last a long time, & have great customer reviews.
These are all great nonstick pans, without Teflon. Great prices too, even some saute and fry pans for less than $20 - so buy one for yourself and one for a gift!
Best 10" NonStick Fry Pan/ Skillet
This high-quality pan by OXO is great for just about anything you want to cook. It is dishwasher-safe and easy to clean. It can go from stovetop to oven which is great for searing meats, poultry, and fish. The OXO skillet is sturdy yet easy to use since it is not overly heavy and has a great handle.
OXO Good Grips Pro Hard Anodized PFOA-Free Nonstick 10" Frying Pan Skillet - Great Price, 13K+ Reviews, & Lasts for Years.
Best Straight-Sided Saute Pan with a Lid
So much to love about this T-fal saute pan with a lid. I have owned several T-fal products over the years and they quickly become my favorite pans. They are lightweight, cook evenly, & all for a great price. This pan is great for gas & electric stoves but not ideal for induction cooking. One of the best pans for sauteing.
T-fal Specialty Nonstick 5 Quart Saute Pan with Glass Lid - Dishwasher Safe, Low Price, & 11K Reviews.
Best Frying Pan for Induction Stove
Induction cooking is best when the pan has a magnet. Therefore, pans that are aluminum, copper, or glass are not recommended for an induction stove. Check your current pans to see if they are safe to use and maybe you need to purchase some new ones. Here is my recommendation for the best skillet to use on an induction cooktop.
All-Clad Hard Anodized Nonstick Dishwasher Safe PFOA Free 2-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set - 2 Great Pans (8-inch & 10-inch), Oven-Safe to 500Â°, & One Low Price!
Best Fry Pan under $20
If you are in the market for an inexpensive frying pan/skillet that can do just about anything, you are in luck. This is my recommendation for a budget-friendly fry pan. It is dishwasher safe, easy to handle, & all for less than $20. It can go from scrambled eggs in the morning to Pan-Seared Shrimp in the evening.
CAROTE Nonstick Frying Pan Skillet, PFOA Free, Induction Compatible(8-Inch) - 38K Reviews, Easy to Clean, & Pretty Granite Construction.
Product Recommendations & Pricing
Here are all the saute, fry pans, & skillets recommended in this article. These are the best for your home kitchen budget while offering great cooking performance & longevity. Check out the latest features & prices!
Also, check out my guide for the Best Pans for Searing Steaks. These pans are great for all your searing needs including chicken, fish, pork, & more. With all these choices you are bound to find the right pan!
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Here are some common questions about cooking and using a saute, frying pan, or skillet.
Saute pans can be used for frying. The straight deep sides lend to shallow frying. This type of pan is good for shallow pan-frying with a small amount of oil on the bottom.
Recipes like fried catfish, battered chicken tenders, & fried okra can be done in a saute pan. Also good for frying up small pieces in recipes like Crispy Sauteed Potatoes.
Stir-frying is done at very high heat. Most frying pans will not hold up well or do a good job cooking with this quick & hot method. A wok is best but if you do not have one, a cast-iron skillet that can stand to a high temperature and heats evenly is your best bet.
Whether you want a nonstick or cast-iron skillet, I go into depth about which pan is the best. If you love steak, this article covers everything you need to know about which pans are the best for searing a steak.
Skillet is another word for a fry or frying pan. A saute pan is not the same as a skillet.