What Is the Difference Between a Pot and a Pan | [2023]

Do you know about what is the difference between a pot and a pan? You may have wondered if pans and pots serve the same purpose. Well, you’ve come to the right place to find out! Let’s delve into the distinctions between a pan and a pot

This article explores why they’re both crucial for cooking and whether they can be used interchangeably. By scrolling through this informative piece, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the key differences between a pan and a pot. 

So, join me on this culinary journey, and let’s uncover the nuances that set these essential kitchen tools apart!

What Is the Difference Between a Pot and a Pan: The difference between a pot and a pan lies in their shape and design. While both are essential for cooking, pots are deeper and used for liquids, while pans are shallow and suitable for frying and sautéing.

What is the Definition of a Pan?

What is the Definition of a Pan


Pans are kitchen cookware with low sides and a relatively shallow depth. They typically have sides that are one to two inches high and can either curve or slope. Pans usually have a long handle on one side, which makes them easy to hold and use.

What is the Definition of a Pot?

A pot is a cooking pot with a deep bottom and tall sides. It often has a round shape with straight sides. This design is good for cooking larger amounts of food. Pots frequently have smaller handles on opposite sides, making them easier to carry.

What Is the Difference Between a Pot and a Pan?

Sometimes in your kitchen, you might use a pot and a pan similarly, but there are many differences between the two. The confusing names can make it hard to understand the distinctions, so let’s focus on how they differ from each other. 

These differences can be grouped into four main factors:

  • Other Attachments: Pots and pans may have different additional parts or features.
  • Material: Pots and pans can be made from different materials, which affects their cooking performance.
  • Use: Pots and pans are used for different purposes in the kitchen.
  • Appearance: Pots and pans have distinct looks and shapes that set them apart.

Differences in Side Depth:

Let’s talk about the depth (or height) of the sides of pots and pans. This refers to the measurement from the cookware’s top to bottom. It’s an important factor that sets them apart.

Pots are generally deeper than pans, while pans are shallower. But what exactly makes a pot deep, and how shallow is a pan? 

Some people say that a pot has 4 inches or higher sides, while sides below 4 inches make it a pan. However, the depth alone is not the only thing to consider when distinguishing between the two.

Attachment-Based Differences:

Pots usually have more attachments compared to pans. This is because pans don’t have as much space to accommodate many attachments. Attachments for pots can include items like steamers, pasta inserters, and double boiler attachments.

Material Based Difference:

Pots and pans can often be made from the same materials, but the specific combinations of materials may differ. For instance, pots are commonly made from stainless steel or aluminum, and pans are also made from these materials. However, some pans may be crafted from cast iron, which is believed to enhance the food’s flavor.

Differences in Handles:

differences size of handles

While examining the cookware, it’s also worth looking at the handles. For many people, the handle is an easy way to determine if it’s a pot or a pan.

If you see only one handle, it’s likely a pan. On the other hand, if there are two handles, it’s probably a pot. Moreover, pots typically have small handles on each side, while pans usually have one long handle. 

In the past, I relied solely on the handle to differentiate between pots and pans. However, as you’ll discover later, relying solely on the handle may not always be sufficient. It’s a good factor to consider, but there are other means of distinguishing the two.

Differences in Cookware Purpose:

Now, let’s discuss the purposes of these two types of cookware. While pots and pans can be used interchangeably for many things, there are specific tasks where one outshines the other.

Firstly, pots are primarily used for boiling, while pans are commonly used for frying.

Another notable difference is that pots are often used for slow-cooked meals, while pans are preferred for quick-cooking dishes. However, this distinction is not set in stone. There may be instances where quick meals are prepared in pots and slow-cooked meals are made in pans.

Appearance-Based Differences:

Pots typically have a cylindrical shape with a higher diameter and tall sides. They may vary in size, but the sides are usually straight. Pans, on the other hand, have slanted sides and a lower diameter. 

The sides of a pan are straight, extending only about an inch or two. Pans usually have one handle, while pots may have two handles. Additionally, pans may come with a lid, whereas pots commonly have one.

Usage-Based Differences:

You usually work with liquid-based recipes like stews and soups when cooking in a pot. The pot’s design allows heat to distribute evenly around the sides, aiding in cooking. 

On the other hand, a pan is best for stirring and sautéing because of its shallow depth. A pan is the preferred choice if you’re making pancakes, crepes, eggs, or similar dishes. Its shape and size make it suitable for these specific cooking techniques.

Differences in Accessories Used with the Cookware:

Differences in Accessories Used with the Cookware

Another effective way to determine whether you have a pot or a pan is to consider the use of accessories. If you can use accessories with it, then it’s likely a pot.

As you may have observed, pots have ample space, which allows them to accommodate various accessories. However, pans do not offer as much room, making it more challenging for them to accommodate accessories effectively.

Differences in Versatility and Specialty:

Pots are generally more versatile, as they can be used for various cooking tasks. They are suitable for boiling, simmering, stewing, making soups, and even slow cooking. Pots are great for preparing larger quantities of food, making them ideal for family meals or batch cooking.

On the other hand, pans have a more specialized purpose. They excel at quick-cooking techniques such as frying, sautéing, stir-frying, and browning. 

Pans are particularly well-suited for dishes like pancakes, crepes, eggs, and delicate seafood. Their shallow design allows for faster heat transfer and efficient cooking.

While pots offer versatility for various cooking needs, pans are specialized tools for specific cooking techniques and dishes.


Q:1 When does a pan transition into a pot?

When deciding whether a pan can be considered a pot, the height of the sidewalls is a good indicator. Pans with sidewalls below 3 inches are typical, while those with sidewalls higher than 4 inches are usually classified as pots. Anything in between falls into the category of high-walled sauté pans.

Q:2 Can a pot also be referred to as a pan?

A pot can be called a pan, but a pan cannot be called a pot. If you ask for a pan, you could receive either a pot or a pan. However, if you ask for a pot and receive a pan, that would be incorrect.

Q:3 How does a pot differ from a saucepan?

Pans are shallower with one long handle, while pots are deeper with two rounded handles.


In conclusion, while pots and pans are both essential cooking tools, the two have distinct differences. Pots are characterized by their high, straight sides, making them ideal for cooking larger quantities of food and accommodating accessories like steamers or pasta inserters. 

They are commonly used for boiling, stewing, and slow-cooking meals. On the other hand, pans have lower-depth sides and are designed for frying, sautéing, and quick-cooking dishes. 

They often have one long handle and are suitable for tasks like making pancakes or searing steaks. Understanding the differences in depth, handles, materials, use, and accessories can help you choose the right cookware for your culinary needs.

After reading this comprehensive article, we hope you will be well aware of the difference between a pot and a pan. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This