Sauté Pans are typically a round or oval shaped cooking pan with straight short sides, a tight fitting lid and a long handle. Sauté Pans are similar to frying pans but have the advantage of offering a larger surface area. When Sautéing, extra cooking space is important so your foods are truly sautéed and do not end up steamed. The straight sides of a sauté pan are also very helpful when you are deglazing the pan for a sauce. In a curved sided frying pan it is easy for your sauces to stick to the sloping sides and burn as the sauce reduces.
Sauté pans are the choice of cooks to combine sauces with other prepared ingredients. The sauté pans are not quite a fry pan and a little shorter than a sauce pan or pot. They can be very good for quickly preparing cooked vegetables and then adding a little meat or pasta in along with a sauce. Sauté pans are available with natural or non-stick finishes and, while non-stick is generally the more preferred of the two finishes, there are foods that cook much better on pans that have a natural finish. Non-stick pans have a grayish finish to them that will feel slick or waxy when a finger is rubbed over the surface. Non-stick finishes are good for use when flipping or turning food in the pan to cook or with ingredients that involve very little butter or oil. Natural finish sauté pans are excellent for cooking foods high in fat or oil, such as meat. Browning meat should always be done in a pan without a non-stick finish as it creates a much more flavorful finished product. Some people also prefer natural finishes because there are no additional chemicals used to make a standard aluminum pan. The extra coating added to non-stick pans can begin to chip and flake off if not properly cared for. This is not the case with natural finish aluminum.