Why you need it: As versatile as they come, a saucepan is an equal-opportunity pot. With its tall sides and thick base, it’s ideal when you want to make anything from a velvety roux to hard-boiled eggs.
What to look for: The pan should feel a bit weighty (at least two or three pounds), but not so heavy that you’ll be struggling to lift it when it’s full of a boiling liquid. Make sure the handles are secure; they should be soldered or riveted onto the base, says Samuelsson. “Opt for long handles―from 12 to 16 inches long,” he adds, “so you won’t burn yourself when you’re pulling the pan out of the oven. And always ask if the handle is heatproof before you buy.” Get a tight-fitting lid to contain sauce splatters (it may be sold separately). Consider a pan with flared sides, called a Windsor pan, which has a wider cooking surface and thus boils water faster and reduces sauces more quickly.
RS pick: The Calphalon Contemporary stainless-steel 3½-quart saucepan has an easy-to-grip handle ($145, bedbathandbeyond.com).