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Sauciers

Published March 2016

How we tested

Mention the word “saucier” in the test kitchen, and you’re in for an earful. The loyalists among us rave that these vessels, which are essentially rounded saucepans with wider mouths, flared walls, and rolled lips, can do everything a conventional saucepan can do—and that their distinct design features make some cooking tasks even easier. These include preparations like oatmeal, risotto, and polenta, where the food is prone to getting lodged in corners and burning, as well as custards and sauces that require frequent stirring. And as their name and wide-mouth design imply, they’re built for reducing sauces. (“Saucier” is also the name given to French cooks who prepare sauces, stocks, and soups.) And though models vary in shape and size, sauciers offer depth and capacity, as well as easy access to their interiors and corner-free surfaces that are easy to clean.

But while a saucepan is standard in any kitchen, sauciers have mainly been the domain of restaurant chefs. We thought it was time this changed. We gathered eight models with capacities ranging from 3 to 3½ quarts—the most common large size—and compared them with our favorite 4-quart saucepan from All-Clad. Six of these pans were fully clad, meaning they were made of alternating layers of steel and aluminum, which takes advantage of the best qualities of each metal. We also tested a “disk bottom” model (only the base is fully clad, and the sides are a single layer of stainless steel) and a hefty model made of enameled cast iron. In them, we prepared risotto, gravy, and pastry cream, noting their cooking performance as well as how comfortable they were to maneuver. We also tested their reduction speed by boiling a measured amount of water in each model for 10 and 20 minutes and weighing the results. Finally, since their curvy sides are known for being easier to clean than L-shaped saucepans, we washed each model by hand.

Surface Tensions

The good news: Every model delivered creamy risotto, satiny gravy, and smooth pastry cream, and it was a pleasure to whisk and stir in most of them. Our utensils glided against their curvy walls—a noticeable difference from the stiffer, bumpier movements they made in the saucepan. The Paderno was the exception; its L-shaped corners meant that it behaved more like a saucepan, trapping custard and rice.

The diameter of the base separated top performers from lesser models, affecting how frequently we had to stir the contents to ensure that food cooked evenly. When softening aromatics for risotto and gravy, testers using sauciers that measured less than about 5¾ inches across the bottom had to stir continuously, lest the vegetables pile atop one another and steam. The same diligence was also required if the base was too broad, since the too-thin layer of vegetables was prone to scorching. Pans with bottom surfaces measuring between 5¾ and 7 inches were best.

As for reduction rates, water evaporated faster in all of the sauciers than it did in the All-Clad saucepan; the fastest, by Le Creuset, evaporated about 13 percent more water than the saucepan did after 20 minutes. That’s proof that these flared pans are more efficient for sauce-making, though the disparity isn’t so great that a recipe designed for a saucepan will fail in a saucier. When using a saucier, expect that the food might be done on the earlier end of the cooking time range.

How’s It Handle?

The more distinct discrepancy among these pans was their overall design: the size and shape of their handles, how much they weighed, and how comfortable they were to maneuver. All testers struggled with stumpy, skinny, or sharp-edged handles that slipped from or dug into our palms, and we docked points from models with handles that became too hot and forced us to use potholders. The best models sported relatively long (about 8 inches), wide (2½ to 3 inches around) handles that were easy to grasp, stayed relatively cool, and offered enough leverage to lift the saucier with one hand.

The cast-iron Tramontina literally sank into last place. Clocking in at nearly 6 pounds, it outweighed every other pot by at least 2 pounds and was a bear to maneuver. Other, less-heavy models felt just as solid, and none chipped or scratched when we sharply rapped them with a metal utensil.

But there were also a few lighter-weight models that were cumbersome to handle, thanks to the awkward angle at which the handle extended from the bowl. For example: The handle on the lighter-weight Mauviel pot jutted so sharply that testers struggled to move it. Likewise, the handle on the hefty Demeyere curved steeply upward and offered little leverage. According to Jack Dennerlein, professor of ergonomics and safety at Northeastern and Harvard Universities, the key consideration is “the line of your hand and forearm compared to the line of the pan,” which affects how much leverage you have.

Finally, there was cleanup—which might be the most convincing reason to invest in a saucier. In the best models, the absence of sharp corners meant not only that there was nowhere our utensils couldn’t reach and no crevices in which rice grains or drops of custard could get stuck, but that it was easy and natural to swipe a sponge along the curved walls and wipe out every speck of food.

Our favorite, the Le Creuset 3½ Quart Stainless Steel Saucier Pan ($250.00) has it all: Its wide bowl with walls that slope gently down to a 5¾-inch cooking surface encouraged broad, efficient strokes with a whisk, rubber spatula, or sponge. The long, wide, comfortable handle gave us great control, and its relatively straight extension from the pot made it easy to maneuver. It’s pricey and won’t replace our favorite All-Clad saucepan—the latter’s 4-quart capacity is a must for any kitchen—but give this pan a spot on your pot rack and you’ll be reaching for it almost every day.

Methodology

We tested eight sauciers with capacities ranging from 3 to 3 1/2 quarts (the largest common size). In them, we prepared risotto, gravy, and pastry cream, noting their cooking performance as well as how comfortably they handled and how easy they were to clean by hand. Products were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

PERFORMANCE

We stirred Parmesan risotto, sautéed aromatic vegetables and reduced broth to make gravy, and whisked pastry cream. To test reduction speed, we filled each model with 1,840 grams (about 8 cups) of 75-degree water, timed how long each took to boil over high heat on the same burner, boiled the water for 10 minutes, weighed the results, and repeated the weighing again after 10 more minutes of boiling. Sauciers received high marks if they produced good-quality results in the three recipe tests and offered a relatively broad cooking surface and a rounded shape that made it easy to stir and whisk.

EASE OF USE

We evaluated the length, circumference, and angle of the handles, as well as the weight of the pans (without lids)—all of which contributed to the pans’ ease of use.

CLEANUP

We washed the sauciers by hand throughout testing, noting how easy they were to scrub with a sponge and whether or not they showed any visible scrub marks, scratches, or discoloration.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*
Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB