Small saucepans are useful for a range of tasks—which model is best?
How We Tested
A large saucepan is a core piece of equipment that every well-stocked kitchen should have. We use ours, along with its lid, for cooking grains, making macaroni and cheese, steaming vegetables, making soft- and hard-cooked eggs, and more. Both our winning and Best Buy large saucepans, from All-Clad and Tramontina, respectively, come in smaller versions in a couple of different sizes and shapes. We wondered if these smaller pans would be useful for cooking one or two servings or tackling smaller-volume tasks. We chose the 2-quart version of each pan because we found this size was small enough to differentiate from our large 4-quart winner and it had an appealing shape—narrow with tall, straight sides that would give us enough room to stir while still fitting a reasonable amount of food.
To see how well these two pans performed, we put them through a set of tasks, evaluating the food they produced as well as how easy they were to use and clean and how durable they were. We made browned butter, cooked mashed potatoes for one, sautéed onions, boiled water, and steamed eggs and white rice. After each test, we scrubbed the pans by hand. To test the pans’ durability, we banged each pan against a concrete ledge three times, and then heated it to 500 degrees before plunging it into an ice bath, checking afterward for warping and loose handles.
In the end, each of the pans performed well, closely mimicking their larger siblings’ performances in our previous testing. Both pans are made from our preferred fully clad construction—three layers of metal sandwiched together, with aluminum in the middle and stainless steel on either side. But we found the All-Clad pan to be more durable: It emerged from our abuse testing looking almost brand-new, whereas the Tramontina pan suffered some light denting from the concrete (though remained otherwise unscathed). We slightly preferred the All-Clad’s narrower, scooped-out handle to the fatter, round handle of the Tramontina; the All-Clad handle felt more secure in our palms, especially when we were holding the pan aloft (to scrape out cooked rice, for example). The Tramontina’s handle also got hot after some time on the stove, while the All-Clad’s did not.
All that said, both pans accomplished their cooking tasks well and were reasonably easy to handle. Both earned our approval. We highly recommend the All-Clad (around $100) and recommend the Tramontina (around $50) as an excellent more-affordable option. We think either of these small pots would be a surprisingly useful addition to any kitchen’s cookware collection.
- We tested the 2-quart All-Clad saucepan (about $100) and Tramontina saucepan (about $50), the smaller versions of our winning large saucepans
- Make browned butter
- Make mashed potatoes for one
- Sauté onions
- Boil 1 quart of water
- Make Easy-Peel Hard-Cooked Eggs
- Make Fluffy White Rice for Two or Three
- Scrub by hand after each test
- Bang against a concrete ledge 3 times
- Heat to 500°F on the stove, then plunge into bucket filled with ice
Performance: We boiled water and made browned butter, hard-cooked eggs, mashed potatoes for one, and white rice, looking for even cooking, within stated recipe times, throughout.
Ease of Use: We evaluated each saucepan’s shape, weight, balance, handle design, and lid, as well as how easy it was to lift, pour from, and maneuver.
Cleanup: We washed each saucepan and lid by hand after each use, noting whether any model trapped food or required more-thorough scrubbing.
Durability: We subjected each saucepan to thermal shock by heating it and plunging it into a bucket of ice and then checked for warping. We also struck each saucepan against concrete three times, noting any dents, scratches, or loosening of handles.