Is your kitchen cupboard home to a towering scrapyard of blackened cookware, complete with wobbly handles and mismatched lids? Does more of your meal end up fused to the bottom of your saucepan than on your plate?
Maybe it's time you invested in a good quality pan, or possibly even a set of them! We're here to tell you what to look for in your cookware.
While cookware sets can seem like a bargain, you'll often end up paying for extra items you don't want or need. It's usually better to buy just a few good quality, heavy-based pots and pans. This way you'll only get the pieces you really want.
How your saucepan performs depends on how it's made and what it's made from. If you have an induction cooktop, you need to make sure any cookware you buy is induction-compatible. Check out our induction cookware buying guide for more details.
Otherwise, these are your main options:
A popular choice because it's strong, hard, non-corrosive and affordable, but stainless steel cookware doesn't conduct heat well, so it's often combined with aluminium or copper in multi-layered bases, which are better at conducting and dispersing heat. Quality pots are usually made of top-grade stainless steel (18/10), which contains 18% chromium (added for rust resistance) and 10% nickel (for acid resistance). Stainless steel with 8% nickel (18/8) is similar in properties to 18/10.
Aluminium pots conduct and retain heat very well, are lightweight, don't rust and tend to be cheap, but they heat up over the total pan surface so some food may stick to the sides. Aluminium can also pit if you leave moist food in it, which can cause it to leach into your cooking. Anodising can help to prevent this.
Copper saucepans conduct heat well and allow precise temperature control, heating up and cooling down rapidly. Copper looks good but is not easy to keep clean and needs to be coated so it won't contaminate the food.
Cast iron saucepans have a very even heat transfer at low settings, but take longer to heat up and cool down. Iron is very heavy, and it can rust and become brittle. While enamel coatings can help stop rust, they can chip if roughly handled.
A saucepan should suit the size of your cooktop elements, especially if you have a ceramic or induction cooktop.
A heavy base helps with heat distribution and cooking performance. Aluminium and copper conduct heat well, so they're often used for the core of the base (the disc).
A glass lid lets you keep an eye on the cooking without releasing heat and moisture.
A shaped lip or spout makes pouring easier.
A comfortable, moulded handle should be securely attached and stay cool to the touch during cooking. An extra support handle helps with lifting larger pans.
If a saucepan is heavy when empty, it will be even heavier when it's full.
Induction cookware has a ferrous metal base and must fit one of the elements perfectly. Check the manufacturer's recommendations.
Saucepans range from $10 to $300 (up to $900 for deluxe models).