Panology 101

Here’s a pop quiz. When is a skillet a frying pan, and when is it sauté pan? What’s the difference between a satoir and a sauteuse? And is a saucier a pan or a person?

Not sure? We admit it can be difficult keeping track of which pan does what. So to help separate a rondeau from a Dutch oven, or a double-boiler from a bain marie, we offer up this comprehensive list of pots and pans that we call Panology 101. We’ve divide the list into two parts: Stovetop pans and those intended for oven use.

Keep in mind that unless you’re a professional, you probably won’t have need for half of these pans, but it never hurts to know what they are and what they can do for you.

  • For Stovetop
  • For Oven
Brazier or Rondeau
Wide shallow pot used for browning, braising and stewing meat. Usually round with straight sides and two loop handles. Popular in restaurants, but not so much so with home cooks. Wider but shallower than a dutch oven.
Cast Iron Skillet
Thick and heavy fry pan forged from durable cast iron. Heats evenly and holds a steady temperature. Over time, if handled properly, the surface will “season” and develop a non-stick quality. Never wash with soap.
cast iron skillet
Crepe/Omelet Pan
Very shallow skillet with flared walls. Commonly made from blue or carbon steel. Some crepe-only pans will have no walls, only a lip around the rim to prevent batter run-off.
crepe pan
Double Boiler
Sometimes called a bain marie. Used to heat foods that cannot be cooked over direct heat. Consists of two nested pots. Lower pot is filled with water, which is brought to a boil. Upper pot rests inside of lower one, while its contents are gently heated to 212°F (100°C).
Dutch Oven
Round or oval-shaped pot with removable lid. Used for making soups and stews and for braising meats. Often made from cast iron or enameled cast iron. Usually 5-7quarts (liters).
Fish Poacher
Long, narrow pot with straight sides, two loop handles and a lid. Includes a removable rack for holding a whole fish.
Sauce pot (or Saucepot)
Deep, straight-sided pan. Usually 5 quarts or larger, with two handles on either side. Useful for large preparations of soups, stews or sauces. Can also be used for braising meats.
Highly practical pan with straight or sloping sides and a long straight handle. Sizes generally range from 1- 4 quarts. Saucepans with rounded sloping sides, called a saucier, make whisking sauces easy. Quality, heavy saucepans distribute heat more evenly than inexpensive pans and dramatically reduce scorching.
Large, deep straight-sided pot that ranges in size from 8-12 quarts (or liters) for the home cook. Professional sizes can be so large a spigot is needed for draining. Used primarily for making large amounts of stock or broth. Also great for cooking pasta, steaming crabs, or heating canned foods and preserves. For home use, some stockpots may come fitted with a colander insert and/or a steamer basket.
Sauté Pan
Sometimes called a skillet. Broad and shallow with a long straight handle. Primarily used for browning, sautéing and frying; there are two types. A straight-sided sauté pan is called a sautoir. Its large surface area is perfect for cooking down sauces and other liquids into reductions. A slope-sided sauté pan is called a sauteuse. The angular or curved sides are good for tossing food. Most common sizes are 8-14 inches (20-30 cm) in diameter. Quality sauté pans are indispensable. If buying only one, 12-inch sauteuse is the most practical option.
satire sauté pan sauteuse sauté pan
Wide parabolic-shaped pan with two side handles, though some may include a long handle. A mainstay of Chinese and other Asian cuisines. The best are made from carbon steel. Excellent for stir fry. Requires a special high-heat burner that also holds pan steady. Some sold with flat bottoms to fit Western stoves.
Bake Pan
Sometimes called a cake pan. Round or rectangular metal pans between 2 and 4 inches (5-10 cm) deep. Used for baking cakes or brownies. Common sizes: 9×13 inches (23×33cm); 9×9 inches (23×23 cm); and 8- or 9-inch round (20-23 Cm).
Baking Dish
Glass or ceramic dish about 4 inches (10 cm) deep. Often has removable lid. Rectangular or oval in shape. Used for baking casseroles and side dishes. Sometimes called a casserole dish.
baking dishes
Broiler Pan
Large metal rectangular pan with a rack that rests across the pan rim. Food, usually meat, is placed on the rack and cooked under an oven's broiler element. Pan is filled with water to catch grease and other drippings.
Broiler Pan
Cookie Sheet
Large flat metal pan, sometimes insulated. Similar to a sheet pan but shallower, often with only a flared rim. Designed for baking cookies.
Cupcake or Muffin Pan
Metal pan with several cups built-in. Used for baking cupcakes or muffins; usually 6 to 12 cups per pan. Also called a muffin tin.
muffin pan
Gratin Dish or Pan
Shallow oval-shaped ceramic dish or metal pan used specifically for making gratins.
Loaf Pan
Deep, narrow rectangular pan with straight or slightly angles sides. Used for baking breads. May have a slide-on lid for making square loafs.
loaf pan
Pie Dish or Pan
Often called a pie plate. Round metal pan or ceramic or glass dish with flared sides for making sweet or savory pies. Usually 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter and less than 1½ inches (4 cm) thick. Deep dish plates are 2 inches (5 cm) or deeper.
pie dish
Ramekin/Souffle Dish
Round, deep ceramic or porcelain dish of varying sizes used for baking custard and soufflé.
souffle dish
Roasting Pan
Large, heavy rectangular pan with side handles. Deeper and sturdier than a bake pan. Used to roast meat or poultry. May have a removable rack for lifting out large roasts.
Roasting Pan
Sheet Pan
Shallow rectangular pan, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Sometimes called a jelly roll pan. Used for baking cakes and cookies. Very versatile for heating various foods. Most common sizes: full-pan is 18 × 26 inches (46 × 66cm); half-pan is 18 × 13 (46 × 33cm); quarter-pan is 13 × 9 (33 × 23cm).
Springform Pan
A round cake pan of various diameters with a removable bottom. Side wall is a collar that wraps around the base and is held in place by spring clip. Commonly used for cheesecake.
spring form pan
Tart Dish or Pan
Shallow, round ceramic dishes or metal pan, often with scalloped edges, used to make tarts and quiches. Shorter than a pie plate. Metal pans may have false bottoms for easy removal.
tart pans
Tube Pan
Deep, round pan with fluted sides and tube in the middle. Often has false bottom for easy release. Rounded versions with decorative indentations and curvatures is called a Bundt pan. Used for making angel food, coffee and Bundt cakes.
tube pans

KJ Editors

The editors of The Kitchen Journals believe that all good cooking comes down to a working knowledge of ingredients, tools, and techniques. To receive email updates, click the subscribe link at the top of the page. Also follow us on Twitter at @KitchenJournals.