Why is the handle of a saucepan tilted upwards now-a-days rather than the old fashioned horizontal handles?

  • Probably because it's more comfortable to grab. – talon8 Nov 20 '15 at 23:08
  • At first I thought talon8 was referring to the issues of moment & sheer when lifting ... but an upwards sweeping handle would also move the handle further out of the fire, which could keep it cooler. (but I have no idea if this was the intent or not) – Joe Nov 21 '15 at 10:11
  • I also think it must be something to do with that tilted handle would require less force to pick up the same mass as compared to the horizontal one..just speculating here. – metasj Nov 21 '15 at 10:14
  • That's a very interesting question. I've asked two of Germans most famous kitchenware producers, I suspect they should know why they do it, especially if they have both kind of handles in their portfolio. I guess it is really more a design issue than anything else. – John Hammond Nov 21 '15 at 12:22
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    Just as a related observation, I've seen copper saucepans made in the 2000s, the 1900s, the 1800s, and the 1700s. They basically tend to follow the same design with riveted handles, 90+% of the time angled up. The angle tends to vary, but it's been pretty standard to angle it for a long time. High-end pans today made of other materials tend to imitate that classic design. This doesn't answer the question, but I wonder whether "old-fashioned horizontal handles" were ever standard. – Athanasius Nov 21 '15 at 15:43

The answer from the 'Product Manager - Cookware' of Zwilling, translated to English:

[Snipped introduction]

Different factors influence the design of the handle during the product creation process. At the first step there are optical reasons. This is the phase of the first design drawings. As soon as we decide internally on a draft, we craft plastic prototypes that are attached to the corresponding pan body to see the size ratio "live" and verify the look and feel. If we feel that one of the two factors is not optimal, we do another design round.

Stability does essentially not play any role for the tilt angle, more decisive are the handle connection and material thickness.

[The last paragraph was likely in reference to my question about having a certain tilt angle for better hanging on a handle. "Better" was interpreted as 'more long lasting'.]

The answer from the 'Consumer Service WMF', translated to English:

[Snipped introduction]

The pan body shapes and the handles are only attributable to the design. As every human has a different taste, we have an assortment of different designs. There is no other technical reason for the handles and shapes of sauce pans.


An aesthetically pleasing hanging on a handle is at least not such a concern during the design process at Zwilling that it was mentioned. WMF flat out says it's just design.

If the premise of the question is actually true, that there was indeed a change over time, which is questionable, then at least these days such issues play no longer any role for large companies.

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Did some looking and while I haven't found an authoritative answer, in the introduction to this design paper, he describes a theory that I think makes a lot of sense.

Traditionally, pots and pans have always had a long straight handle, since they were designed to be used in an open fire. With the advent of modern stovetops, pots and pans were lifted off the hearth, and the handles simply shortened, with the incidental benefit of saving space in a smaller environment.

I suspect that makes the most sense. With a fire, you want to keep your hand as low and out of the fire as much as possible. In a stove as there is a lot less radiant heat than a fire, it is much more beneficial to just simply move your hand a few extra inches away from the burner. Up and out makes a little more sense then.

In essence, I suspect the pot/cookware design more closely matches to the available heat sources available. As I'm typing this, another theory, is that the change of material used for the handle also makes a difference. With a wooden or plastic handle, you need to move it up and away from the heat source more so than a handle made of pure metal.

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  • I would agree with the general idea here. As far as I can tell from a few searches, the angled handle and "high handle" (where the riveted section curves up and then out roughly horizontally, but at or above the top of the pot) seem to date from the 1700s (approximately), when better kitchens started to have "stovetops." As hearth cooking died out and was replaced by things like cast iron stoves in the 1800s, these designs made more sense, since they kept the handles above the heat (and also made it easier to arrange more pots on a stove without the handles getting in the way). – Athanasius Nov 21 '15 at 15:54

So that the handle hangs straight down if it's used to hang the saucepan from a rack, which is more aesthetically pleasing than having it hang at an angle, which a straight handle would do. For example:

enter image description here

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  • If you're saying it's a balance type thing -- the one on the far right doesn't look straight. It might be that the pot on the left (which isn't balanced the same way) is pushing it, but I can't be sure from the picture. – Joe Nov 21 '15 at 10:08

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