Saucepan handle angles

I’ve been given this some thought lately, because I’ve never thought about it before. :slight_smile: Some handles come out fairly perpendicular to the pan side (horizontal orientation) and other angle upwards. Why the difference?

QUOTE: A: The handles on AllClad pots owe their design to the cast iron handles of heavy copper cookware. The handle is at incline to provide added support and stability when the pot is full and heavy - if you hold the pot the right way. Most people want to hold the pot as far away from the heat as possible and without towels or pot holders, and the inclined handles can feel tippy and unsteady like that depending on your arm and hand strength. If you hold the pot with a towel at the narrow point nearest the pan and let the handle run up the inside of your arm you will find that you can hold a heavy pot very steadily. That is how you handle heavy copper with cast iron handles, and that is how AllClad style handles work best. If you have the handles bent at a metal shop you’ll probably void the warranty that came with your pots. Should be, “…if hot liquids…” What about the “helper handles” on many pots? Aren’t you supposed to use them? They have the same alleged disadvantage as “choking up” on the handle - you have to get close to the pot to use them and you need some kind of insulator (towel or pad). If it is so bad to put your hand near the pot then why do manufacturers put them on pots? I agree that in the hands of inexperienced or careless cooks holding the pot close in can be dangerous, but everything in the kitchen can be dangerous in careless hands. I think helper handles are more dangerous than choking up on the handle. First, both hands are involved. If you slosh the pot, both hands will get it and then you’ll really be in trouble. Second, you have to hold the pot relatively close to and across your body. If you use the angled handle as I described, you won’t need the helper handle. You still have a free hand, if needed, and you can work with your body at arm’s length from the pot. I’m not going to respond to the rest of your rant. It seems “Mr. Hyde” gets the better of you there. Take a deep breath and find your “happy place.” There. Feel better?

I don’t know who wrote this. But the technique of choking up and tucking the far end of the handle under my forearm is pretty much how I handle exactly one pan: my De Buyer carbon steel country fry pan. It has an obscenely long handle and using this technique I can easily flip an entire pan of veggies. (I don’t hang the far end of the handle under my armpit; I rest it under my forearm). The thing is, the handle is horizontal, that is to say perpendicular to the side of the pan (f the pan walls were vertical–they’re not; they are splayed out like a deep fry pan which is what it is and explains why I’m jumping veggies with it).

I’m gonna go home tonight and try some different holding techniques on the Maviel 11" copper 3.5 mm saute pan with the classic upward angling cast iron handle and a few other pots and pans. I don’t think it’s gonna work. I notice that my Demeyere saucepans have a near horizontal orientation and shortish handles. But then, they are comparatively light pans.

I have other ideas on why some handles angle upwards, which I am going to try to verify tonight through experimentation. Meanwhile, are there any thoughts or comments about this horizontal versus upward angling handles? I suspect most people favor the horizontal variety.

I am trying to understand the logic of the different designs. Assuming there is a logic to it all. WIth the French, you got to assume they know what their are doing when it comes to kitchen tools. Italians too.


QUOTE: A cooking surface that heats slowly and evenly is a must in any good saucepan or skillet. But a well-positioned handle also separates a top pot from a lesser vessel. Case in point: In our large saucepan testing, our Best Buy, the Cuisinart MultiClad Unlimited 4-Quart Saucepan, won testers’ raves not only for its cooking performance but also for its comfortable design. Most notably, its handle extends horizontally relative to its body. Better balance and weight distribution depend on the handle’s angle; when too acute, the pot feels considerably heavier than its true weight. The more parallel the handle is to the pot rim, the more leverage you have and the lighter the pan feels in your hand. Surprisingly, some of the priciest pots in the lineup didn’t get this consideration right. An overly steep handle angle made the already heavy $385 Mauviel M’Heritage 3.5-Quart Copper Saucepan feel like a dead weight, dragging it down to the bottom of the rankings.

In Babette’s Feast when she’s pratically drenched while cooking over the wood burning stove all the cooper pots had steep angles. Made me wonder if it was an attempt to get them far away from the stove top as possible.

I also hold my de Buyer fry pan the same way. I liked it a lot more after I figured that out.

Hi Hiracer,

I think that All Clad handles have been at least tweaked for ergonomics in recent iterations: the AC d5’s are wider, and have a sort of knob on the underside about halfway up, and Tom Keller’s AC are completely different. I think that the angles are for tipping to move food around.

I usually grip the handles from below, with my thumb in the groove on top.

However, when I shift to more conventional horizontal handles, it doesn’t make that much difference.


After playing around tonight I find in the heavier pots and pans that the upward pointing handles definitely aid the rotation to pour stuff out. When the pot is heavy, using the wrist and forearms alone is insufficient. The vertical angle recruits the biceps and shoulder muscles, both spreading the work load and recruiting larger muscles for the task.

Think of a ladle. When you pour out of the side of a ladle you lever the top of the handle downward. Similar effect when the saucepan handle angles upward. You don’t just rotate the wrist to pour, particularly if you need both hands on the handle. The handle becomes a bit of a lever, the forward hand operating like a fulcrum.

I always thought that the high arched handles on French saucepans were to make it easier to handle multiple pans on crowded gas stove tops in restaurant kitchens.


Hi, Hiracer:

IMO, this is a classic example of how CI gets nearly everything wrong when it comes to cookware.

A perpendicular (i.e., parallel to the cooktop) handle makes a saucepan feel far heavier than an upward-canted one. To (no pun, really) grasp this, one need only consider the lowly sledgehammer. Hold at the end it with handle pointing up–no problem. Hold it at the end with handle parallel to the floor–good luck, you’ll sweat bullets. Once in a great while, French saucepans will come available with vertical handles; once you move one around, you can see how wrong CI is about this.

It’s no mistake that the heaviest copper saucepans almost uniformly have canted handles. IMO, the placement of where the handle joins the pan body is more important, and that’s only for balance, not perceived weight.


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Hi Kaleo,

I agree that the handle attachment point is really important too. Demeyere gets this profoundly wrong on their disk saucepans, which are wickedly bottom heavy. The handle needs to attach closer to the center of mass or you get a strong twisting force fighting you every time you want to pour. Their horizontal handles accentuate the effect. Wrong on both accounts. Funny how their sauciers have both a slightly more vertical angle and a lower attachment. More better, as I say.

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