The BBC Good Food on-test team review everyday saucepans to discover which models are the best for heat distribution, easy cleaning and resilience.
Find out more about our BBC Good Food reviews.
Best... non-stick for all hobs
Circulon Ultimum saucepans
Best bits: Durability, heat distribution and brilliant non-stick coating.
Comments: Whether you cook on gas or have an induction hob, you can’t fail to be impressed by this range of durable forged high density aluminium non-stick pans with stainless steel handles and lids. Not just smart to look at, they are dishwasher and oven safe up to 260C and can be used with metal utensils so you know your investment will last – they come with a lifetime guarantee to be extra sure. They have a thickened base for even heating and a patented 3-layer non-stick coating with the grooved design, which helps stop abrasions and enables you to cook with the minimum amount of fat. And this coating also ensures they are easy to clean by hand – we found the food washed off with hardly any effort. The stainless steel lid creates a great fit so very little steam escaped when boiling veg. We also liked their generous depth – a bonus if space on your hob is tight between rings as the 18cm pan that we tested had a capacity of 2.8 litres.
Available from Harts of Stur (prices start at £34.96)
Best… for using in the microwave
Kitchen Craft 900ml microwave saucepan
Best bits: A great tool for cutting cookery corners
Comments: Who says that you can't use pans in the microwave? If you like to grab the first thing you can to warm up baked beans or that handful of frozen peas I'm betting that this will become your new favourite gadget! It's made from stain-resistant plastic (so hopefully won’t go bright orange the first time you cook carrots in it) and has the handy design of dual pouring spouts, which is a bonus for left handers. The two side vents open to cook in the microwave and close to store food in the refrigerator. I bet that once you start using one of these you’ll be amazed at how much more efficiently your microwave works. It's my new favourite way to cook frozen spinach!
Available from Tesco Direct (£9.49)
Best… budget option
Wilko five-piece stainless steel saucepan set
Best bits: Excellent value for money, plus bonus milk and sauté pans
Comments: For the price you pay, you really can’t beat these pots. I use them frequently and they more than do the job. They do discolour slightly on a gas flame, but it's never a problem. They heat up extremely well and the long tapered design of the handles keeps them well away from any heat source. The set consists of three lidded pans, a milk pan, which heats soup in less that five minutes, and a sauté pan. They are very lightweight so if heaviness is an issue these would make a great buy.
Available from Wilko (£20)
Best… for cooking on gas
Lakeland Flare 20cm saucepan
Best bits: Brilliant heat distribution and can be used in the oven
Comments: This cast aluminum pan has been developed specifically for gas hobs. The fins channel heat from the flame across the bottom, driving it up the sides of the pan, resulting in super-efficient heat distribution. This means the pan heats up significantly quicker on a gas hob so food cooks faster. I was skeptical but it really works. My spuds didn't boil over for a change and took about 10 minutes less to cook, plus I found it simmered food brilliantly. The inside of the non-stick pan is smooth so washing up isn't an issue and you can pop it in the oven up to 205C. Expensive but worth it.
Available from Lakeland (£64.99)
Best... for sauces
Stellar pan 6000 hard anodised 14cm milk pot
Best bits: Handy spout that's ideal for making sauces
Comments: The design of this looks odd but it makes for an indispensable pan for sauces, soups and porridge. Made from anodised steel, it means that the excellent heat dispersion warms the walls of the pan as well as the base, plus making it suitable for all hobs too. With its deep sides, pouring lip, it’s simple to clean and the sculpted handle is surprisingly easy to grip. Although as it's metal, make sure you wear gloves as it does get hot.
Available from Milly’s Kitchen Store (£30)
Reviewed by Sarah Sysum and Sara Buenfeld
We all need saucepans even if it's just to warm up baked beans. A good saucepan can do a multitude of jobs, from making mash to jam. So owning a few in different sizes is a kitchen essential.
What should I buy?
Firstly, take into account the amount of space you have. Large saucepans are great but require room; nesting sets, for example, will save you precious drawer space.
Take into account the hob you are using - some designs work better on specific hob types, plus you should consider the material of the pan. Aluminum is a good conductor of heat and a cheap alternative to copper, but it's soft and won't last as long as other metals. It's also a reactive metal, so when combined with some acid rich foods it may affect taste and colour. Anodised aluminum pans have been treated to stop the metal reacting with food while you cook.
What we looked for:
1. A pan that washes up well. I wanted a pan that, on the occasions when something did catch, a quick soak would bring it up like new.
2. A handle that's comfortable to hold. It's easy to forget how much you use a pan's handle when you're cooking. The handle should be comfy to hold, ideally with smooth edges that won't be slippery when your hands are wet.
3. The weight of the pan should be balanced. Heavy enough to feel stable on the hob so a spoon won't be enough to topple it over, but light enough to carry and pour comfortably. Pans obviously get heavier as they get bigger, but don't forget that the volume can also increase substantially so food will add a lot more weight.
This review was last updated in January 2017. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.