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Types of Cooking Pans

Updated on August 11, 2012
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Rebecca Graf is an experienced writer with nearly a decade of writing experience and degrees in accounting, history and creative writing.


Most cooks have no idea how many cooking pans there are available for their use, and they certainly don't know their names. I'll be honest, I'm still learning. Many of these pans are not found in the typical home unless someone just loves cooking. For those that don't, here is a short education on a few of the cooking pans you are most likely to encounter.

Do You Need to Know About Cooking Pans?

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Why You Need to Know

Some of you are probably wondering why you even need to know this information. Those that are educated in cooking pans are horrified you have to ask that question. Everyone else is listening intently to know the answer for themselves.

If you hardly cook, you probably don't need anything more than a skillet (frying pan) and a saucepan. I might be hung in effigy after that statement but the reality is that these will serve you very well for basic cooking.


If you want to do a lot of cooking and use the tools designed for specific tasks, you need to know your cooking pans. I don't have all of them listed here, but this will give you a good idea of the different kinds and the many uses they are found most handy.



A saucepan is a relatively taller cooking pan, or pot as some would call it, with a long handle. From its name, you can guess that sauces are prepared in it. This is also the pot you would heat a can of soup in, boil milk in, or anything that doesn't need a larger pot but a frying pan just won't work for.

This pan is designed to use on the stove and not in the oven as many other cooking pans are used for.


Saute Pan

A saute pan is used to ..... saute. To many that was crystal clear. To others that was as clear as mud on the Mississippi River. For those that saw crystals, jump to the next pan. For those that saw mud, read on.

Saute means to cook on high heat quickly and then remove. When I saute onions, I put them in the pan with a little butter and maybe garlic. I cook them quickly and stir them so they don't burn. then I remove them and use them in whatever I'm cooking them for. This pan doesn't need to be huge. It needs to be able to withstand lots of heat. You don't use it to fry anything. You are just want to saute something in it.

If you don't do a lot of cooking, a saucepan or frying pan will work in a pinch. (There goes that effigy up.)


Chef's Pan

If you only could have one pan, this is the one you want. It is designed to be a combination of a saucepan and a frying pan which means it can be used in the oven or on the stove. It is the best of both world and is typically used a lot in a busy kitchen.

It is great for frying pork chops, cooking up a stew, or making stir-fried vegetables. You can't go wrong with this pan. Maybe that is why it is called the 'chef's pan' because it would be the one he/she would choose if they could only choose one.


Omelet Pan

Would you be too surprised to find out that an omelet pan is used to make omelets? Great. Then we don't have to explain that part.

The reason this is pan is perfect for omelets is that it is not too big and has the right sides to dish up an omelet. Seriously, do you want a huge frying pan to make one little omelet? No, it would be huge and way too thin. Crepe eggs is not what you were wanting to cook. This pan is the perfect size and the sides give you the ability to quickly and easily put the omelet on the plate without a huge mess.

Judging from my kitchen when I make omelet's, I think I need one.



There are several styles of woks, but we'll just do an overview of how they all work.

The wok is a cooking pan from Asia that is great to make stir-fried foods with. Why not use a regular pan? Because the wok has a special design. Let's say you are cooking some food and you want it all cooked together but some parts of it cook faster than others. The wok helps you with that. You can pull the foods that cook too fast up on the sides to rest. They are still cooking but are not in direct contact with the heat. The foods that need the intense heat are nestled in the bottom. Anytime you need to change the foods around, it is easily done. Instead of cooking in multiple pans, you can cook an entire meal in one.


Roasting Pan

Want to roast a chicken? You get the best results with a roasting pan. This pan can hold one or two chickens, a large beef roast or even a pork roast. Most roasters come with a 'grate' that holds the meat off the bottom of the pan where the heat is so intense and allows the grease to drain from it.

If you are going to be cooking, this is a pan you have to have.

Are you more inclined now to buy different cooking pans for your various needs?

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Cast Iron

This pan is used primarily by wives to keep husbands in line. When it is not a tool in marriage counseling, it is used to cook with.

Cast iron cooking pans are not really a different type of pan in regard to uses like the others are. Most pans were made out of cast iron years ago. They are extremely heavy and are not as commonly used as they once were. Though I have seen an increase in the types in the stores.

You can get cast iron frying pans, saucepans, omelet pans, and even saute pans. With care, they can last several generations of a family and makes some of the best fried chicken and cornbread.


Baking Pan

The baking pan is used for baking bread, cakes, cookies, and more. When you go to buy baking pans, you will find that there are many different kinds including muffin pans, bread pans, and cake pans of various shapes and sizes. You do not want to fry meat on them.

Cookie sheets are included in this category and does good in baking meats and broiling vegetables. So, in that regard they can be versatile. Use them in the oven and not on the stove where they can easily be ruined.


Crepe Pan

This pan is used for making crepes which are very thin pancakes. If you don't make a lot of crepes, you might not want to spend the money on this pan. A simple omelet pan can double as a crepe pan in a pinch.

It is smaller than most pans with sloped sides to help slide the crepe off onto the plate.

Soups, sauces
chef's pan, wok
Saute pan
chef's pan, omelet pan
Chef's pan
frying, soups, sauces, saute
individual pans
Omelet pan
saute pan
stir frrying, saute, soup
chef's pan
Roasting Pan
roasting meats
chef's pan
Cast Iron
individual pans
Baking Pan
baking, broiling
chef's pan, cast iron
Crepe Pan
omelet pan
Paella Pan
chef's pan
Fry Pan
chef's pan, cast iron

Paella Pans

This pan is used to make paella which is a dish from Spain. It is very similar to a chef's pan but is designed specifically to make paella. I would advice using another pan if you only plan on making it once or twice in your cooking life.


Fry Pans

The versatile frying pan. This is one pan you need to have if you don't have a chef's pan. In fact, you might want more than one if you have a large family. Fry any meat in it. It can be used in a pinch for other things, too.

When using it on the husband clean up afterwards and store away safely. :)


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    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 4 years ago from East Cackalacky

      You should have beaned her with it for that sin.

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I just came home from vacation to find my sister had been using my crepe pan to saute! I nearly had a heart attack. I think I might have a little possessiveness to work through when it comes to my pans. ;)

    • givingfairy profile image

      givingfairy 5 years ago from some place in the Big Apple

      Very interesting hub. I grew up with the cast iron pots so I had to invest in a cast iron set, I have a wok, frying pans, and state of the art pots and pans that you can further read about.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm pretty sure we have all of these, but since I'm male and clueless, I found this interesting. Good job!

    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 5 years ago from East Cackalacky

      As a suggestion, never buy a set of pans. Get each one as you need it. Different materials, shapes and sizes are needed for different styles of cooking, different cooking methods and equipment, different dishes, so an eclectic collection is almost always best. Since I got an induction cooker, I find myself wanting more cast iron. Pottery, I think, works best for baking, at least for me. For a gas stove good, heavy copper is the most sensitive. Stainless steel is easy to use and keep as long as you never scour it, but it's a bad material for cooking. Let your own habits be your guide.