Flash in the Pan: A Guide to Different Types of Cooking Pans

It has been said that cooking is an art. Just as a painter needs different types of brushes, a cook needs different types of cooking pans. But if you don’t know your skillet from your saucier or a Dutch oven from a stock pot, you’ll need some guidance as to the best artistic tools to create masterpieces.

Here’s a guide of several kinds of cooking pans, from the famous ones to a few lesser-known varieties, including their proper uses, so that you can appropriately stock your kitchen with the pots and pans best suited to your needs.

Different Types of Cooking Pans and Pots

A note on materials:

Why can pans vary so much in weight, appearance and price? A large factor is material. The primary materials used to make cooking pans are aluminum, cast iron, copper and stainless steel. Most of these pans will be available in all of these materials. The Kitchn shares a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of each material.

Red Casserole PanPhoto licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member planetutopia

Casserole pan

What it is:

A large, somewhat deep dish that is used as cooking vessel and vehicle for serving. It can be used for oven baking but can also be used on the stovetop. Casserole pans may be square, rectangle or rounded, but will typically have straight or only slightly tapered sides.


Though for many of us, “casserole” means comfort foods, such as a melange of green beans with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions on top, or macaroni and cheese, the casserole dish need not be for just one-dish dinners. Meats also cook well in casserole pans, braising-style.

Braising Pan - Types of Pans on Bluprint Photo via Someone’s in the Kitchen


What it is:

This is somewhat similar to a casserole pan, but frequently with a rounded, bowl-like bottom.


As the name might imply, this type of pan is perfectly suited for braising. Braising requires less liquid than, say, stewing, so the shallower sides allow meats and vegetables to cook with the steam from the liquid rather than through being completely submerged and simmered in liquids.

Learn perfect braising techniques in the Bluprint course Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise.

Dutch Oven on Stove TopPhoto licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member naotakem

Dutch oven

What it is:

You may be thinking that a Dutch oven resembles a casserole pan, but if you were to lift both of them, you’d feel the difference immediately. The Dutch oven is a hefty, thick walled pan that’s typically made of cast iron. It has straight or slightly tapered sides.


This is an extremely versatile pan that can be used on the stovetop or put in the oven. It can be used for many types of cooking, from stovetop cooking to baking in the oven to even deep frying.

Hamburgers on Grill Pan Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member cookipediachef

Grill or griddle pan

What it is:

A large, wide surfaced pan with very shallow (and sometimes no) sides, which is heated for griddling or grilling. A griddle pan can have a flat bottom or a ridged bottom; a grill pan will typically have a ridged bottom, to mimic the look and function of an outdoor grill. Either type can have either side handles, or a more traditional pan handle.


A griddle pan is perfect for pancakes; a grill pan can be used for meats, fish, vegetables or anything you’d put on a grill. You can even make waffles on a grill pan.

Full Chicken in a Roasting PanPhoto via Bluprint member princessmiya

Roasting pan

What it is:

A large, usually oval or rectangle shaped pan with straight sides. Sometimes, it will include a rack that fits snugly inside of the pan, which can elevate the roast so that it is suspended above the pan.


This pan’s primary purpose is roasting meat in the oven. The rack allows the meat to sit above the pan, so that the drippings can be caught in the pan and either used, for gravy for instance, or discarded.

Measuring Cream in a Saucepan


What it is:

A pan that can range from small to large, but is typically round and quite deep relative to its width. Often, they come with a lid and have a long handle.


This versatile pan has many uses, including heating liquids, melting butter and cooking pasta. Chances are, if you have emptied a can of soup into a pan, this is the one you’d reach for. Oddly, it is not the best suited for making sauces, though.

Heating Water in a Saucer

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member ilmungo


What it is:

A saucier is similar to a saucepan, but is characterized by its slightly shallower walls and rounded, bowl-like shape.


Sauces are perfectly suited to this pan. The rounded sides make it easier to stir sauces using a spoon or whisk and avoid scorching.

Hone your sauce-making techniques with Bluprint course A Modern Take on the Mother Sauces.

Frying Dumplings in a Wok


What it is:

A bowl-shaped cooking vessel with high, tapered walls. It is a common cooking utensil in China and many other Asian countries. A wok is often used in conjunction with a long-handled spatula or ladle.


A wok can be employed for a number of different cooking techniques, including steaming (often in with a bamboo steamer), stir frying and roasting. The use of the long-handled utensils help cooks from burning their hands while cooking. One fantastic use for a wok is making dumplings, an art which you can learn and perfect in Bluprint course Favorite Asian Dumplings from Scratch.

Cooking Vegetables in a Sauté panPhoto licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Pixonomy

Sauté pan

What it is:

A large, shallow pan with a flat bottom and straight sides.


This pan’s large surface area makes it ideal for reducing sauces or searing meat; the heat can evenly be diffused to cover a lot of volume. The straight sides make it less likely that you’ll accidentally slosh or spatter liquids, such as olive oil, over the sides.

Frying Pan

Skillet/frying pan

What it is:

It’s easy to confuse a skillet with a sauté pan. The main difference is the sides: a sauté pan has straight sides, and a skillet (also called a frying pan) will have slanted sides.


The aforementioned slanted sides make this type of pan ideal for stir-frying, allowing a spoon to slip in to stir the ingredients with ease. That easy “reach” makes a skillet ideal for cooking omelets, since it is easy to reach a spatula under the eggs to flip the mixture.

Various Stock PotsPhoto licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member shoplatintouch

Stock pot

What it is:

You probably recognize this type of pot. A wide top with a flat bottom and tall-ish sides that rise straight, leaving the pot with a mouth that is the same size as the bottom. The sides often have lids, and there is usually a close-fitting top.


Traditionally, to make stock or broth; however, this versatile pot can be used for anything from cooking pasta to popping corn.

Which pan do you feel like you couldn’t live without?

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