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Saucepan vs. Pot: What’s the Difference?

Are you shopping for new cookware but can’t decide between a saucepan or pot?

Saucepans and pots both have a flat bottom and straight sidewalls, but pots have a larger capacity (6 to 20 quarts), wider opening, and handles on each side. Saucepans have less capacity (1 to 4 quarts), a long handle on one side, taller sidewalls, and a narrower opening.

Saucepan versus pot_labeled
Saucepan (left), pot (right)

That’s the quick answer, but there’s more to know before deciding which to buy.

In this comparison of saucepans vs. pots, you’ll learn how they differ in versatility, size, weight, price, and more. I’ll also explain which recipes are best to cook in each.


Use the links below to navigate the comparison:


What Is a Saucepan?

A saucepan is a flat-bottomed pan with tall, straight sides and a long handle. It comes in multiple sizes, but the most common are two, three, and four quarts. Larger saucepans often feature a helper handle opposite the long handle.

Saucepan with long handle
Saucepan

The cookware is cylinder-shaped and usually includes a lid to retain heat and moisture.

It’s the ideal piece of cookware for making sauces. The tall sides allow sauces to bubble and develop without running over. But making sauce is just one food this versatile cookware can cook.

Its construction makes a saucepan ideal for preparing any food with high liquid content. It’s a natural fit for boiling water, steaming rice, deep frying, making homemade custard, and braising.

The typical home kitchen should have at least one saucepan with a large enough capacity (between two and four quarts) to boil pasta, make soup, or cook oatmeal. It’s a versatile piece you can use for preparing a quick meal or simmering food for hours.

What Is a Pot?

Pot is a general term. Saucepans, stock pots (also called sauce pots), and double broilers fit in this category.

Stock Pot with short sidewalls
Stock Pot

Dutch ovens are also a popular type of pot.

Staub Dutch Oven
Dutch oven

I’ll focus on stock pots in this comparison since they’re the most common type of pot and are often used for the same meals as saucepans.

It’s called a stock pot because it’s the ideal vessel for cooking stock — broth formed from simmering meat or vegetables in water.

They’re designed for making large, one-pot meals. Think soup, chili, or even a seafood boil.

It’s a large, wide-mouthed pot with a flat bottom and straight sides. Stock pots feature a lightweight lid and helper handles on both sides to support their weight, even when full.

Most stock pots have tall sides, but some also have a shorter profile. They are usually the largest pots in the average home kitchen.

Saucepan vs. Pot: Comparison Chart

Here’s a quick, side-by-side comparison of saucepans vs. pots.

SaucepanPot
Primary UsesReducing, boiling, blanching, and poaching in small batchesBoiling, simmering, braising, slow cooking in large batches
Capacity1 to 4 quarts6 to 20 quarts
Common ConstructionStainless or hard-anodized aluminumStainless or hard-anodized aluminum
Average Weight3 pounds5 pounds
HandlesOne long handleTwo short handles
Evaporation RatesLowHigh
Price$$$$$

Primary Uses

Saucepans are primarily used for cooking techniques that require ample liquid. For example, you can use them to brew tea or boil noodles, vegetables, or meat.

A saucepan is also perfect for making rice, farro, quinoa, blanching vegetables, and poaching proteins like fish or eggs.

As the name suggests, saucepans are ideal for sauce or gravy. The tall walls and narrow opening at the top create a low evaporation rate. As a result, sauces reduce slowly and develop complex flavors.

It’s much easier to tilt and pour liquids out of saucepans since they have long handles.

Pouring water out of a saucepan
Pouring water out of a saucepan

With stock pots, you need to either ladle the food out or use both helper-handles to carefully tip and pour (this can be extremely dangerous when the pot is filled with hot liquids – always use extreme caution).

A stock pot can perform many of the same tasks as a saucepan but on a larger scale. For example, a stockpot is better if you need to make homemade tomato sauce to feed a large family.

A stock pot is an excellent tool for bringing foods to a boil and reducing them to a simmer to finish cooking. The best examples are stocks, soups, and stews.

Additionally, it’s an optimal choice for braising large cuts or quantities of meat, such as brisket or beef short ribs.

In short, stock pots are designed to cook larger quantities of food, from steaming snow crab legs to boiling a dozen potatoes.

Versatility

Both types of cookware offer multiple uses, but they excel in different ways. Stock pots stand out because of their size. A stock pot is more useful if you need to feed a crowd.

Also, you can sear and brown meats in a stock pot. Since the base is wider and the cooking surface is bigger, you won’t overcrowd and accidentally steam the meat (which would happen if you tried searing in a saucepan).  

Large cooking surface of a stock pot
Large cooking surface of a stock pot

That said, a saucepan is more flexible for the average household. You can use it to cook sauces, boil pasta and eggs, and cook various side dishes, from grains to vegetables.

Saucepans give you options to make dishes with smaller servings. A stockpot is only suited for feeding a crowd (or having lots of leftovers). So, depending on your household size, you’ll have different needs to consider.

Dimensions

Stock pots are much larger than saucepans. In fact, in restaurant settings, stock pots can hold 120 quarts or more.

Stock pot with tall sides and small diameter
Stock pot with tall sides and small diameter

Most are tall and slim, but some have short walls and a wider base.

Height of a 6-quart All-Clad stock pot
Stock pot with shorter sides and a larger diameter

Saucepans have a much smaller footprint than stock pots. They all feature straight sides, but some are taller than others.

You’ll need to consider the dimensions when choosing a saucepan or pot.

The following table shows dimensions for popular saucepans and stock pots to give you an idea of how they compare in size.

CookwareCooking Surface DiameterSidewall Height
All-Clad D5 1.5-Quart Saucepan6 in.3.5 in.
All-Clad D5 2-Quart Saucepan6 in.4.25 in.
Made In 2-Quart Saucepan6 in.4 in.
All-Clad D5 3-Quart Saucepan8 in.4 in.
Made In 4-Quart Saucepan8.5 in.6 in.
All-Clad D3 6-Quart Stock Pot11.25 in.4.25 in.
All-Clad D5 8-Quart Stock Pot10.5 in.5.5 in.
All-Clad D5 12-Quart Stock Pot11.25 in.9 in.
Made In 8-Quart Stock Pot10.75 in.5.5 in.
Made In 12-Quart Stock Pot12.4 in.6.5 in.

Capacity

How much liquid can the average saucepan hold? Saucepan sizes range from 1 to 4 quarts.

For perspective, you could use a 1-quart saucepan to make ramen noodles, a serving of oatmeal, or heat up a can of soup. A 4-quart saucepan is perfect for a one-pot meal for two, reheating leftover stew, or making two cups of uncooked rice (6 cups cooked).

Stock pots are much larger, holding anywhere from 6-20 quarts. The most common sized are from 6 to 8 quarts. With a stock pot of this capacity, you can boil several pounds of pasta or make bone broth using a whole chicken.

Having both a mid-sized saucepan (2-3 quarts) and a small stockpot (6-8 quarts) is ideal for most home chefs feeding up to five people.

Weight

Since stock pots are larger than saucepans, it makes sense that they are also heavier.

Check out the table below for the weights of different sizes of saucepans and stock pots. Often stock pots can be twice the weight of a saucepan.

Brand/CollectionWeight
All-Clad D3 3-Quart Saucepan3 lb.
Calphalon Signature 2-Quart Saucepan3.5 lb.
Made In 4-Quart Saucepan3.1 lb.
All-Clad D3 6-Quart Stock Pot4 lb.
Calphalon Signature 8-Quart Stock Pot7.4 lb.
Made In 8-Quart Stockpot4.3 lb.

Handles

A stock pot features a short handle on each side. These handles help you get a stable, balanced grip on the pot.

Saucepan versus pot_handles
Saucepan handle (left), Pot handle (right)

Since saucepans are smaller, they feature a long handle on one side. However, larger saucepans often include an additional helper handle on the opposite side for better balance.

Evaporation Rates

Saucepans have a narrow opening and tall sides, which lock in moisture and slow evaporation.

Stock pots have wider openings and shorter walls, facilitating faster evaporation. However, if you want to slow the evaporation rate, choose one that is tall and narrow and limit moisture escape by using the lid.

Price

Of the two options, stock pots cost a little more than saucepans. That is because their larger size requires more raw materials for construction.

Still, prices vary based on the material, brand, and collection. For example, a copper saucepan from a high-end brand like Mauviel costs more than a non-stick stock pot from a mid-range brand like Cuisinart or Tramontina.

The chart below shows the current prices of popular saucepans and stock pots from different brands. Click on the price button for more details.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Bottom Line: Do You Need a Saucepan, Pot, or Both?

Saucepans and stock pots are essential cookware pieces, and most kitchens should have both.

But which should you buy if you only have the space or budget for one?

While both can perform tasks like boiling liquids and making rice, look at how each stands out in the kitchen. Compare that to how you cook and the number of people you cook for.

While saucepans aren’t big enough to braise large pieces of meat or make a huge batch of soup or stew, stock pots are too big to properly reduce a sauce or gravy or prepare a modest side of vegetables, rice, or noodles.

If you only have the budget or space for one option, choose a larger saucepan (at least a 4-quart capacity) for a household of 1-3 people or a 6-8-quart stock pot for a family of four or more.

Do you need help deciding which brand to buy? I highly recommend All-Clad, Made In, Scanpan, Le Creuset, Lodge, and Mauviel. Check out this guide to the best cookware brands to learn why I recommend these brands.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s studied consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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