Frying Pan vs. Sauté Pan – What’s the Difference

By / Food / August 9th, 2013 / 1

The difference is quite simple; a frying pan or skillet is a shallow pan with sloping sides. A sauté pan has a large flat bottom, taller vertical sides and usually comes equipped with a lid. The real confusion lies in the use of each pan – when should we pull out the frying pan and when do we choose the sauté pan?

Frying Pan

It’s actually easier to sauté in a frying pan. Sautéing (from the French word sauter, to jump) requires cooking food rapidly in hot fat while constantly stirring or flipping. The sloped sides of a skillet make the jump-flip maneuver that much easier. A frying pan is also the best choice when cooking something quickly and serving it directly out of the pan (eggs, frittatas), stir-frying or searing at high temperatures.

Sauté Pan

A sauté pan is great when cooking with any volume of liquid; shallow frying, braising or making a small sauce. It is also the better choice when searing on medium heat. If a recipe calls for a period of covered cooking, a sauté pan would be the ideal choice.

Note: A pan’s circumference is measured at its top sides or lid size, so a 12” frying pan will have a 30% smaller surface area than a 12” sauté pan.

The pans can be used interchangeably in almost all cooking scenarios. It can also just come down to personal preference. If investing in one, high quality pan, we would recommend a sauté pan. In the end, it offers the most versatility – fry an egg or make a small sauce – the sauté pan has you covered…literally… it comes with a lid!


Shannon is an urban soul living (and loving) a small-town, country life. Short term goals include always keeping her wine glass, and outlook on life, half-full. Long term goal…taking her three boys on a 6 month south Pacific adventure. We’ll keep you updated.

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