Question: What's the difference between a skillet and sauté pan? Some places say that a skillet has sloping sides and the sauté pan has vertical sides, but I have also seen the reverse of this. Then of course if you look at a cast iron skillet, it is an in-between.
Answer: Due to the variety of cookware brands, it is common to see different types of pans with the same names. Given these discrepancies, consider the shape and function when you are buying your pans.
Frying pans are often called skillets. With flared sides and no lid, skillets (left) are generally used for quickly cooking foods over high heat. The sloped sides make it easy for cooks to turn, flip, and remove foods from the pan. Well suited for the basic needs of most home cooks, these pans come in a variety of materials: aluminum, cast iron, copper, stainless steel, anodized aluminum.
Sauté pans (right) have straight sides and a lid. They are also very versatile. The added height on the sides allows for cooking with more liquid or keeping moisture in the dish. This type of pan is well-suited for braising, pan-frying, sautéing, searing, or even making small amounts of sauces.