Frying pans are the go to cookware. Any cook worth his salt will confirm that a good skillet is needed, and that a frying pan is the central piece of any kitchen. Be it deep fried, seared or just browned, lightly toasted, a skillet can help do it all in the kitchen. Traditionally skillets have been made of cast iron and geometrically shallow with sides that flare to the outsides slightly with a long handle attached. Mostly today stainless steal skillets are what most cooks use. However other type of cookware are also commonly used. We created this frying pan buying guide to help you choose the right frying pan for your needs. The major considerations while buying a skillet should be:
- Which cook top do you use? An induction type cook top for instance would dictate that the skillet be made of ferromagnetic material which means the cookware is magnetically bonded. All cookware is fine for electric or gas stove tops.
- What size do you want to get? Skillets come in various sizes and shapes as well. Depending on the sort of storage space, your dish washers capacity, the number of people you would normally be cooking for you can choose from various shapes and diameters. There’s round, oval, square and rectangle to choose from generally. Sizes vary from a 8 inch diameter to 12 inches generally, but there are 14 inch frying pans available.
- Whether to get an electric frying pan? These are quite convenient when you’re cooking for a lot of people and could use all the burners you can free up with an electricity powered utensil. It’s also a good for outdoors where you have access to a power outlet.
- How easy is it to clean? Most frying pans are dishwasher safe; it’s an added bonus if it’s non-stick. Although it’s recommended for the longevity of all cookware to wash by hand. You could also take a non-stick pan wipe it clean and keep it aside for when you have time to properly wash it.
- Do you finish cooking meals in the oven? Some frying pans such as coated with Teflon are not recommended to be put in the oven.
- Do you need to often do pot roasts in the frying pan itself? If so you might want to look at frying pans with higher walls. So as to accommodate the complete roast.
- Is it safe? Handles that do not get hot when frying and a heat resistant dish cover help a lot in terms of safety.
There are four different types of material coatings that are commonly found in stores. Each type of fraying pan has its own pros and cons.
- Cast iron
- Stainless steel or Multi-clad
Cast iron is possibly the most traditional and oldest material used for making a good heavy old frying pan. The big benefit of cast iron is the ability of the vessel to retain heat upon being heated as well as the durability, good quality cast irons are know to be passed down from one generation to another. The drawback is that cast iron is heavy and a chore to take care off. Putting into a dishwasher is a big no-no. Also seasoning a cast iron frying pan can get quite tricky and cumbersome. Popular cast iron frying pans such as Lodge are priced at 20 dollars.
Stainless steel as the name suggests, should be resistant to staining, but lower quality pans, and even the top brands such as All-clad often discolor. Stainless steel is not a great conductor of heat by itself, so usually a middle layer of copper or aluminum is sandwiched between the two sides of stainless steel. Some stainless steel frying pans come with hard copper plated bottoms. This helps distribute the heat more evenly, and achieve higher temperatures through better induction. Hand cleaning is recommended when cleaning stainless steel cookware, because dishwashing can harm the surface. Stainless steel skillets with relative quality begin at 20 dollars and go up to 100+ dollars for brands such as All-clad.
Ceramic frying pans are a third material used for building frying pans. Ceramic coatings offer a greener and healthier alternative to the toxic conventional chemical-based non-stick pans, by simply not resorting to harmful plastic polymer chemicals such as PFOA, PTFE during the manufacturing process. The great part about ceramic coated frying pans is that they are extremely easy to clean. You can buy the “As Seen on TV” ceramic frying pans for 20 dollars, but durability is a big issue. Customers often complain that cheap ceramic frying pans lose their non-stick properties quite quickly. A good ceramic frying pan should cost in the neighborhood of 40-50 dollars. But be warned over time they too lose their non-stick cooking ability.
Teflon coated frying pans are probably the most commonly used ones, because of their non-stick coating, easy clean up, and cheap cost. Teflon pans have been getting a bad rap lately because of safety concerns. The coating on Teflon pans can start to melt and peel off at around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, but that temperature is rarely if ever reached. Teflon cookware is easy to clean, and dishwasher safe, but like all cookware hand washing is recommended. Teflon is a relatively newer coating created by DuPont and though it does have its own concerns, specifically over coating related ones such as peeling and seeping into food, more expensive pans and from reputable companies such as Caphlon are less susceptible to these issues. Teflon frying pans can be often found at retails stores for under $10, but as with everything else you pay for quality. A good Teflon pan can be bought online for 30 dollars. Like stainless steel prices can reach $100.
Another option is an electric frying pan. Electric frying pans are usually made up of two cooking surfaces, non-stick and stainless steel. They are safe and most importantly they give flexibility in terms of cooking medium and location. You have direct control of the temperature through a thermostat. Another advantage or in some cases a disadvantage is the size. Electric frying pans are larger than their stove top counter parts; they start at 12 inches in length and go up. Although the frying pan itself is quite safe, there have been cases where glass lids have exploded due to extreme pressure. Electric frying pans start at 25 dollars for a 12 inch pan, and go up depending on size and manufacturer.
Based upon your budget and cooking experience as well as the sort of care you can give during usage, can help you decide which one to go with. While the best heat distribution is experienced on a good old cast iron frying pan, the easiest to clean are the ceramic coated or Teflon coated pans. The cost is another factor. A Teflon pan could be available for as little as $5 but you would be hard pressed to find a stainless steel frying pan for even quadruple the price. Durability is another item you may want to consider. Teflon is not as durable as a ceramic coating, cast iron, or stainless steel. Ceramic is known to be better resistant to scratching than the other types of cookware. Keeping all these factors in mind one needs to decide which sort of pan you would like to go with.