Whats the Distinction Between Pots and Pans?

Quck answer

Pots and pans are both essential kitchen tools, but they have distinct differences. Pots are deeper and have higher sides, designed for cooking liquids, making soups, and boiling pasta. They often come with lids to retain heat and moisture. Pans, on the other hand, have shallower sides and are better suited for frying, sautéing, and browning food. They come in various shapes, such as frying pans, sauté pans, and grill pans, each with its specific purpose. While both pots and pans are used for cooking, their designs and functions make them suitable for different types of dishes and cooking techniques.


If you’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen, you’re aware that most cabinets are filled with a variety of pots and pans. However, how can you differentiate between the two? And how can you determine which is which?

For instance, is a shallow pot essentially a pan? What about a deep pan? Could it be a pot? And what about the saucepan? Is it truly a pan or a pot in disguise?

While the names can occasionally be perplexing and there’s always room for debate, there are some general guidelines you can follow when attempting to distinguish between pots and pans. Pots and pans are typically categorized based on their size and shape.

Pots tend to have greater depth with high sides that rise directly from a circular base. Pans, on the other hand, are usually shallow with sides that extend only an inch or two from the base. The sides of a pan may rise straight up like a pot, or they may curve up at a gentle angle.

Pots and pans also tend to have different types of handles. Pots generally have two small handles located on opposite sides of the pot. Pans, however, usually have just one long handle.

For professional chefs, another significant distinction between pots and pans is their purpose in the kitchen.

Chefs primarily use pots for liquids, such as making soups or boiling water for pasta. The high sides of a pot allow heat to evenly distribute around the liquid, ensuring even heating throughout rather than just from the bottom.

Chefs typically use pans for frying foods. The wide base and shallow sides of pans allow for quick and even cooking of a thinner layer of food. Pans are commonly used for frying meats, eggs, and pancakes.

At this point, it may seem clear that pots and pans are distinct objects. However, things can get confusing.

For example, a pot can be correctly referred to as a pan, but a pan cannot be correctly referred to as a pot. So if you ask a chef for a pan, you could receive either a pot or a pan. However, if you ask for a pot and a chef hands you a pan, the chef would be mistaken!

To make matters even stranger, you may have an item in your kitchen called a “saucepan.” While its name suggests that it would clearly be a pan, saucepans are actually pots.

Despite having a single handle that resembles a pan, saucepans’ steep sides make them perfect for heating sauces – liquids – just like regular pots.

Try It Out

So, what’s hiding in the cabinets in your kitchen? Let’s find out! Make sure you have permission first, but then head into the kitchen and start searching through the drawers and cabinets.

How many pots and pans can you find? Gather all the pots together in one pile and all the pans together in another pile.

What’s leftover? Do you have any kitchen tools that don’t fit neatly into either category?

While you have the pots and pans out, why not put them to use? If you enjoy cooking, here are some enjoyable and easy-to-make recipes that will allow you to see how those pots and pans function:

If you don’t feel like cooking, you can always engage in playing music. Pots and pans are among the initial “instruments” that children use to create music.

Take a look at these innovative musical endeavors:

  • Lasagna soup
  • Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich
  • Mini football subs

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