This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Cottage Life magazine.
The best saucepans have three (or more) layers of metal sandwiched in a “clad” or “tri-ply” construction, meaning the whole pot is three ply, not just the base. The typical combination is an aluminum core wrapped in stainless steel, which balances fast, even heat distribution—no hot spots—and durability.
The most versatile saucepan size is two to three litres.
Look for a snug fit. Glass lids let you see what’s going on without releasing heat and steam, but metal can go into a hotter oven. A small vent prevents a vacuum seal when a pot cools. Some lids have a strainer built into the rim.
While plastic, silicone-covered, or metal handles all stay cool on a hot burner, stick with metal if you plan to put the pan in a very hot oven. How does the handle attach? Rivets are tough but protrude inside the pan; electro-welded handles leave the interior smooth but aren’t as durable as rivets; screws tend to loosen over time. Lift and tilt the pan in the store to find a handle that feels right; a helper handle opposite the main one is useful for manoeuvring a large pot, but it isn’t essential.
A rolled lip pours more smoothly.