What, if anything, is difference between a saucepan, frying pan and skillet? I am heating up some frozen vegetables and the directions said to boil 1/4 in a saucepan. This doesn't really work as 1/4 cup is not much and the pan I used is so large it barely covers the whole surface.

To be complete, the word "pan" in general means any flat metal surface I take it? For example you could also have a baking pan.

  • 1
    1/4 of what measurement? When heating frozen vegetables the amount of water you use won't make that much difference.
    – GdD
    Feb 9, 2017 at 12:59

2 Answers 2


Skillet and frying pan are fairly interchangeable - generally a broad (usually around 30cm), circular pan with slightly sloped raised sides around 2-4cm high.

Saucepans are much deeper in relation to their base width, however. Saucepans come in a variety of sizes, with small pans generally being about 15cm across and around 10cm high, all the way up to big stock pots that can hold 3 or 4 litres of liquid that will be a good 30cm tall if not more. Saucepans almost always come with a lid.

Frying pans, as the name suggests, are made for shallow frying food. Saucepans are made for making sauces and cooking things in liquid. They are better suited to this as the higher sides and narrower base, along with the lid, serves to give better control of evaporation.

Boiling vegetables in a frying pan, with a large surface area to evaporate off and no lid to keep the liquid in, will mean you will either burn your vegetables or constantly be topping off the pan with hot water.

If you are going to be cooking small amounts of vegetables regularly I would suggest you invest in a smaller saucepan, or a set of three different sizes to give you some options.


A frypan or skillet typically has sloping sides and is fairly shallow, so you can easily pour off fat or slide off something you are frying onto a plate. I have saucepans that have the same overall diameter and are only slightly deeper, but the sides are vertical. Much more suitable for stirring a liquid in without splashing it over a side, and less surface area in relation to volume than the frypans. More bottom diameter in contact with the heat supply too.

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