For our purpose here, we will refer to it as a saute pan. There are way too many things in this world that have multiple names.
If you have only one pan, make it a saute pan. It is the most versatile pan they make, in my opinion. You can saute, pan fry, braise, poach and do anything a sauce pan can do. If yo have big enough one, soups, stews or chili can be done in the pan. I like the straight-sided ones with glass lids. A glass lid lets you see what is going on in the saute pan when it is covered. The metal lid requires you to lift it off to see anything. That is something you usually don't want to do during some cooking processes.
They come in both non-stick and stainless steel. The difference has to do really with flavor. The non-stick does not need the butter and oil that a stainless steel pan requires. Now that butter and oil in a stainless steel pan will give you food particles that stick to the bottom of the pan. Those particles are what gives flavor to the sauces you make in the pan. You don't get that with a non-stick pan. Clean up and care of the non-stick pan is easier than it is with the stainless steel pan. Neither of them should ever be put in a dishwasher.
When you go to buy one, make sure it is a good one. The cheap or light weight pans will warp and not last because they don't take the heat like a heavy good pan. As far as the non-stick or stainless steel option, it is up to you and your cooking needs. If over time you can afford two pans, get one of each. They each have their place.
Clean as you go:
While we're talking about the saute pan, I mentioned their clean-up and not using a dishwasher for them. Let me talk about clean-up in general. In the business, we told and taught our employees to "clean as you go." There are several reasons for this statement. First, if you continue to pick-up and clean as you work the area is safer to work in. Less mess means more safety because you have less opportunities to get injured. Second, it has to do with health. By cleaning as you go there is less chance for cross-contamination of foods. Cross-contamination is when one food contaminates another. The best example is using a cutting board for raw chicken and using it for cutting fresh fruit without first thoroughly cleaning the cutting board and the area where the cutting board was used. Doing this means there is a less chance of getting sick from the food you are preparing. Last, if you have cleaned as you worked than final clean-up will take a lot less time. Besides the kitchen will look nicer throughout the process and a friend won't pop in when it is looking like a disaster area and embarrass you.
Tomorrow we'll cover pan frying and a fried chicken recipe.