Sauciers

From America's Test Kitchen Season 6: Dinner on a Dime

Overview:

The Cook's Illustrated test kitchen is divided fairly evenly into two distinct groups: Those who count sauciers among their most essential pans and those who never use them. The two noticeable characteristics of a saucier are a slightly wider mouth and rounded, flared sides—the latter designed expressly to accommodate wire whisks and to eliminate any distinct edge where a sauce might seek temporary "refuge" and overcook. Tasks for which the saucier camp reported reaching for this pan rather than a saucepan included preparations demanding constant stirring—custards, risottos, sauces—as well as those requiring poaching (especially fruit) and braising. One staffer praised the saucier for combining the best qualities of a saucepan and a skillet: "It's got depth and capacity but also width and easy interior access."

We'll cut to the chase. Except for one model, every pan performed every task brilliantly, including the test kitchen's favorite saucepan, which we included for comparison. Given that our trusty saucepan was among these… read more

The Cook's Illustrated test kitchen is divided fairly evenly into two distinct groups: Those who count sauciers among their most essential pans and those who never use them. The two noticeable characteristics of a saucier are a slightly wider mouth and rounded, flared sides—the latter designed expressly to accommodate wire whisks and to eliminate any distinct edge where a sauce might seek temporary "refuge" and overcook. Tasks for which the saucier camp reported reaching for this pan rather than a saucepan included preparations demanding constant stirring—custards, risottos, sauces—as well as those requiring poaching (especially fruit) and braising. One staffer praised the saucier for combining the best qualities of a saucepan and a skillet: "It's got depth and capacity but also width and easy interior access."

We'll cut to the chase. Except for one model, every pan performed every task brilliantly, including the test kitchen's favorite saucepan, which we included for comparison. Given that our trusty saucepan was among these good performers, these tests raised the question: Why purchase a saucier if you already have a good saucepan?

The quick (and honest) answer is that you don't have to, especially if you already have a large, high-quality saucepan. Sauciers have their advantages to be sure: easy access to the corners (thanks to the rounded bottom), slightly easier stirring, and an extra-wide mouth that allows for wider, lazier circles with the whisk. But these are not deal breakers when it comes to using a traditional saucepan. If you don't have the ideal saucepan, however, you might consider purchasing a saucier instead. The question is, which one?

After several weeks of stirring and studying, we developed some pretty clear preferences. First, we liked a lip around the edge to facilitate pouring. Second, the wider the pan, the easier and more luxuriant seemed the task at hand. These larger diameters allowed for loose, relaxed, forearm-powered rounds rather than tight circles directed mostly by the wrist—a notable difference between our saucepan and the best sauciers.

Less subjective than "luxuriant whisk feel" was the direct relationship between the width of the bottom of the pan and the amount of heat that wafted up its sides during cooking. The narrower pans, which covered a smaller area of the gas burner, allowed more heat to escape. And this residual heat proved uncomfortable after about 10 minutes of cooking—a legitimate concern when using a saucier, which is designed primarily for tasks that demand a cook's constant proximity to the pan.

We also preferred long, substantial handles: After 15 minutes on moderate heat, most pans were plagued by about 4 1/2 inches of unusable handle.

Finally, weight was also a significant factor. Cooking proceeded more evenly in the heavier pans, and their heft also gave us a greater sense of security at the stovetop.

Methodology:

We tested and evaluated seven medium-size sauciers (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 quarts), sufficient for a risotto dinner for four or multiple servings of sauce or gravy. Because manufacturers differ on nomenclature, our criterion for selecting pans was the mixing-bowl shape rather than the product name. Tests were performed over gas burners on the ranges in our test kitchen. The pans are listed in order of preference.

WEIGHT

Weight (as measured in the test kitchen) without the lid, rounded to the nearest ounce.

DIAMETER

Measured across the top of the pan, from rim to rim.

HANDLE

Length from its point of contact with the pan.

LIP

Does the pan have a flared lip on its rim to facilitate pouring?

PERFORMANCE

We boiled water; made béchamel sauce; cooked a basic risotto; sautéed chopped onions; and sautéed a mirepoix, then deglazed the pan and prepared gravy. For each test, both the quality of the end product and the factors contributing to it during cooking were important. These factors included ease of stirring, development of fond, evenness of cooking, and reduction time. Scores of good, fair, or poor were assigned for each test, and the composite of these scores constitutes the overall performance rating.

DESIGN

Factors evaluated included whether the pan’s dimensions, shape, and handle design contributed to maneuverability and user-friendliness. Comfortable handle temperature was important, as were pan contour and ease of pouring.

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