Cooking Equipment

Sauté Pan vs Fry Pan: A Complete Guide

5 Mins read

The age-old debate: sauté pan vs fry pan is a classic case of kitchen confusion that has baffled cooks for years. At first glance, these two pans might seem pretty similar. After all, they’re both round, have a flat bottom, and cook food on the stove.

The sauté pan vs fry pan debate shows how even the smallest details can make a big difference in the kitchen. Understanding the nuances of each tool can help you create truly delicious dishes.

Some key differences between the two can make a big difference in your cooking. So, what’s the difference between these two kitchen essentials? Well, let’s start with the frying pan.

What is a Frying Pan?

A frying pan is a flat-bottomed cooking tool with low, slanted sides typically made of stainless steel, cast iron, or non-stick coatings. Fry pans are commonly used for frying foods such as eggs, bacon, or vegetables but can also be used for sautéing, searing, and even baking.

The sloping sides of a frying pan make it easy to flip or stir food and allow for the quick evaporation of liquids. Fry pans come in various sizes and shapes, from small 6-inch pans to large 12-inch pans, to suit different cooking needs.

frying pan
All-Clad D3 3-Ply Stainless Steel and Nonstick Surface 2 Piece Fry Pan Set 8

What is a Sauté Pan?

A sauté pan is similar to a frying pan but with straight sides and a flat bottom. It can cook dishes that require high heat and quick cooking, such as stir-fries, sautéed vegetables, and seared meats.

A sauté pan is an all-purpose pan with low, flaring sides and a flat bottom, used for sautéing and pan-frying. It can also be used for shallow frying, simmering, and baking.

saute pan
All-Clad D3 3-Ply Stainless Steel Sauté Pan with Lid – 3 Quart

Sauté pan vs Fry pan

The frying pan is your go-to tool for frying up crispy bacon, eggs, and all sorts of deliciously greasy treats. On the other hand, the sauté pan is a bit more sophisticated. It’s the pan you turn to when you want to cook up some veggies or sear a piece of meat to perfection. But wait, there’s more!

There’s also the bonus of pretending you’re a fancy French chef when you use a sauté pan. It just sounds fancier than a fry pan, doesn’t it?

FeatureSauté PanFry Pan
ShapeStraight sides, slightly sloped    Flared sides, sloped
SizeAvailable in a range of sizesTypically smaller than a sauté pan
DepthDeeper than a fry panShallower than sauté pan
Food capacity  Can hold more food due to deeper sidesHolds less food due to shallower sides
Cooking techniqueSuitable for sautéing, braising, pan-frying, and shallow-fryingSuitable for frying, searing, and browning
HandlesLong, straight handle opposite a helper handleShorter handle, often with a second helper handle
Cooking surfaceOften has a larger flat cooking surface for even heat distributionMay have a curved or angled cooking surface for easier flipping and tossing
LidOften comes with a fitted lidNot always included
ExamplesStir-fries, pan-fried chicken, braised dishesFried eggs, seared steaks, pancakes

Note: There can be some overlap in using these terms, and the names may vary depending on the region and brand.

Another word compatible with “fry pan” is “skillet.” However, many people wonder if a skillet is the same as a frying pan or if there are differences between the two. So, what sets them apart? Let’s explore and see if there are any distinctions between the two cooking vessels.

Fry pan vs. Skillet 

The terms “fry pan” and “skillet” are often used interchangeably and share many similarities. Both are flat-bottomed cooking tools with low, slanted sides for frying, sautéing, searing, and other cooking techniques. So, there are some subtle differences between the two.

The word “skillet” typically refers to a type of fry pan made of cast iron with a rough, textured surface. Cast iron skillets are known for their excellent heat retention and durability and are used for dishes like cornbread, fried chicken, and stews.

Fry pans come in a wider range of sizes and shapes than cast iron skillets. In short, while there is some overlap between the two, “skillet” typically refers to a specific type of cast iron fry pan with a textured surface. In contrast, “fry pan” can refer to a wider variety of flat-bottomed pans made of different materials.

Benefits of Sauté pan over Fry pan

Sauté and fry pans are useful tools, but some differences make them better suited for different cooking tasks. Here are some benefits of sauté pans over fry pans:

  • Deeper sides: Sauté pans have deeper sides than fry pans, making them ideal for cooking dishes that require more liquid, like stews and sauces.
  • Straight sides: The straight sides of sauté pans make it easier to stir and toss ingredients without spilling them over the edge. The straight sides are especially helpful when cooking dishes that require a lot of movement, like stir-fries.
  • Larger surface area: Sauté pans usually have a larger surface area than fry pans so that you can cook more food at once. Having a larger surface area is useful when you are cooking for a larger group or want to cook a lot of food in one go.
  • Better for searing: Sauté pans are better for searing meat because they retain heat better than fry pans. The deeper sides also help prevent splatters and keep the stovetop cleaner.

Overall, sauté pans are a more versatile tool than frying pans that can be used for a wider range of cooking tasks.

Benefits of the Fry Pan over Sauté pan

Here are some of the benefits of using a frying pan over a sauté pan:

  • Flared edges: Fry pans have flared edges that make it easier to flip and turn food, especially when using a spatula. Sauté pans typically have straight sides, making it more difficult to flip and turn the food.
  • Versatility: Fry pans are more versatile than sauté pans. They can fry, sear, and sauté, as well as for making omelets and frittatas. Sauté pans, on the other hand, are primarily used for sautéing.
  • Size: Fry pans come in a wider range of sizes than sauté pans, making it easier to find the perfect size for your needs. They are also available in different depths, which can be useful when cooking certain dishes.
  • Heat distribution: Fry pans are made with materials that offer good heat distribution, such as cast iron, stainless steel, or aluminum. The heat distribution ensures that your food cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Sauté pans may not always have the same level of heat distribution.
  • Price: Fry pans are often less expensive than sauté pans, especially when you consider their versatility and the fact that they are used for a wider range of cooking tasks.

Overall, fry and sauté pans are useful in different cooking situations. If you’re looking for a more versatile pan that can be used for a wider range of cooking tasks and is generally less expensive, a frying pan may be the better choice.

However, Sauté pans are best for dishes that require more liquid, like stews and sauces, while fry pans are more versatile and can fry, sear, and sauté. 


To sum up, both pans can be used interchangeably in a pinch, but it may affect the quality of the final dish. Understanding the differences between these two pans can help you choose the right tool for the job and elevate your cooking game.


What is the primary contrast between a sauté pan and a frying pan?

Their shape and size are the primary differentiating factors between a sauté pan and a frying pan. A sauté pan features straight sides and a larger surface area, perfect for preparing dishes that require frequent tossing or stirring. On the other hand, a frying pan has sloping sides and is shallower, making it ideal for cooking foods that require high heat and quick cooking, such as frying.

Can you use a sauté pan as a frying pan?

Yes, you can use a sauté pan as a frying pan, but it may not be as effective because it has higher sides and less surface area than a frying pan.

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About author
I love enjoying good food. Since you can't always find good food in the middle of nowhere. I've been on a mission to learn all I can about pairing multi-faceted flavors together and cooking delicious food myself. Founder of flavrstream.
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