Dear Lynne,

What is the difference between a skillet, a fry pan and a sauté pan? Cookbooks talk about these things but never explain how to know what is what!

-Rhonda from Portsmouth

Dear Ronda,

Equally annoying is when the recipes don't specify any type of pan. A sauté pan has straight sides, giving you more flat surface in direct contact with the heat. A skillet or fry pan has sloping sides.

The diameters of the sauté pan and skillet or fry pan may be the same, but how much they can brown and cook effectively differs. I always go for the sauté pan for the best return on my investment.

Once you have your pan, test drive it with this streamlined version of an old favorite, Chicken Braised with Garlic and Sherry Vinegar.


Chicken Sauté with Garlic, Sherry Vinegar and Almonds

Serves 4


  • 1-1/2 cups good-tasting chicken broth 

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (organically raised if possible) 

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

  • 6 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced 

  • 1 cup Spanish sherry vinegar (like La Posada or Sanchez Romate) 

  • 2 teaspoons cold unsalted butter 

  • 1/2 cup whole salted almonds, coarsely chopped 


1. In a 10-inch sauté pan (preferably not nonstick) boil down broth until reduced by about two-thirds. Pour into a container and set aside. Wash and dry sauté pan.

2. Film the pan with the oil. Heat over medium-high. Add chicken, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Sear quickly on both sides. Lower heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, 6 minutes to a side, or until firm but not springy when pressed. Remove chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.

3. For the sauce, add the garlic and vinegar to the pan. Simmer, scraping up any brown bits in the pan, until vinegar is reduced by about three-quarters.

4. Stir in broth and simmer 2 minutes, or until sauce is rich tasting. Boil it down further if more depth is needed. Adjust salt and pepper. Swirl in the butter until it's barely melted. Immediately pour sauce over the chicken, topping it with the almonds. Serve hot with rice and steamed green beans.

Making Ahead: Do up to a day ahead by cooking up to the point of adding butter. Refrigerate chicken in its sauce. Reheat together. Once chicken is hot, remove it to a serving platter and finish the sauce with the butter.

(Related: Cast-iron pans)

Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.