Pot vs Pan: Which One Do I Need For Cooking My Favorite Dish?

Cooking can actually be a lot of fun once you get used to it. Learning how to make your favorite dinners can be very rewarding. When you first start out in the kitchen things can seem a little bit overwhelming. There are so many different dishes and utensils, each one serving a different purpose. When it comes to making a stovetop meal which do I need: pot vs pan?

When it comes to pot vs pan, the easiest way to tell which one you need is to know the difference between the two. A pan is shallow, usually only 1-2 inches deep. The side will either be straight, or curve out slightly. A pot on the other hand comes in various sizes and is much deeper. They have high sides that go straight up and a circular base.

Both pots and pans are necessary in any kitchen. They each serve a different function and some meals require you to use both in order to prepare them properly. For example, if you’re making chicken alfredo for dinner you will need a pot to boil the pasta and a pan to cook the chicken. You will need a saucepan for the alfredo sauce, but we’ll get to what that is in a moment. For now, let’s learn a bit more about the pot vs pan differences.

Check out my article on crock pot sizes!

How Deep Does A Pan Have To Be To Be A Pot?

Since pots and pans both have a circular base, it might be a little confusing for you if you’re going through a big kitchen for the first time. You may not know what the pans end and the pots begin. How deep does a pan have to be to be a pot?

In order for a pan to be a pot it needs to be deep enough to boil water in. If the height of the pot’s walls are the same size or taller than the base it is a pot. If the walls are shorter than it is a pan. Pots need to be deeper because they are used for heating liquids.

Why Is It Called A Saucepan?

Just when you think you have the differences between pots and pans all figured out, we introduce a saucepan to you to add a bit of confusion in the mix. If you look at a set of pots there is always one small one that looks like it can only hold a few cups of liquid. This is the sauce pan.

Why is it called a saucepan? This pan originated in the 17th century specifically for preparing sauces. The measurements make it a pot and it’s deep enough to boil water. One of the confusing things about pot vs pan is that a shallow pot can be considered a pan but a pan can never be considered a pot.

If this makes it simpler for you, a small pot can be a pan because it is capable of cooking the same foods as a pan. A pan can never be a pot because it’s not deep enough to safely boil water.

Which Pots Are Better For Cooking?

Shopping for pots and pans can be a little bit overwhelming because there are so many types and styles out there. Which pots are better for cooking? You want something that is safe to use, always makes your food taste it’s best, and is the best value for your money. 

For both pots and pans the best material you can get is stainless steel. It is the safest because stainless steel can withstand high temperatures without releasing toxins into your food. Always try to avoid buying pots and pans with a non-stick surface because they can’t handle heat as easily and will release toxins in your food, which could result in your getting very sick.

Stainless steel is durable and it’s interior doesn’t scratch easily. A set of stainless steel pots and pans will last you for decades. This is why it’s the most popular choice of cookware among chefs.

Pot vs Pan: Final Thoughts, Which One Do I Need For My Favorite Dish?

Now that you understand the difference between pots and pans (and saucepans too) I hope you are feeling more confident to learn how to make your favorite dishes. Use your pots to heat liquid and boil water. Your pans can be used for sauteing and frying. Think “stirring” for pots and “flipping” for pans in case you ever forget.

For some meals you will have to use both. Knowing which size of pot or pan you need for your recipe will help you cook it most efficiently. Cooking takes time and practice, so don’t feel discouraged if your first couple tries don’t work out. With the right practice you’ll soon be cooking delicious meals for all your family and friends.

When it comes to shopping for a new set of pots and pans always compare the reviews other customers have left. This is the best way to get the real scoop on how these pieces of cookware really perform on the stove.

Read my review on inexpensive cookware set.

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