How to buy a frying pan
A frying pan buying guide
Frying pans are an essential piece of cookware that lend versatility to all cookware sets, and knowing which frying pan to buy is easy once you know what materials and frying pan sizes are best for you. Frying pan uses include making sauteed vegetables, frying eggs for breakfast and beyond. Almost any food can be prepared in this kind of pan, making it an invaluable addition to your cookware and bakeware collection.
>> Choose between stovetop and electric
When you're learning how to buy a frying pan, first decide between a stovetop pan and an electric pan. Both types of frying pans are nearly identical in function and design. The difference is that one sits on a burner and the other plugs into an outlet.
If you need a pan for your stovetop, a traditional frying pan might be the frying pan to buy. You'll find many frying pan sizes, so pick a size that fits your burners and accommodates the amount of food you want to make.
You might prefer an electric frying pan if you want a cookware product to use almost anywhere or to use when you run out of room on your stovetop. Electric frying pans can double as servers, and they are handy for travel, provided you have access to power.
>> Consider frying pan materials
Part of figuring out how to buy a frying pan is determining which material is best for your cooking style and the dishes you make. When conducting a frying pan comparison, look at the pan material and the non-stick finish, if applicable. Pan material
Each type of frying pan is made of different material, such as stainless steel, cast iron and anodized aluminum; occasionally, you might find glass or other metals. There are four popular types:
- Stainless steel: This material is durable, non-reactive and easy to clean. When scrubbed well after each use, stainless steel maintains its luster for years. Its non-reactive qualities mean you can cook acidic foods such as tomatoes safely and you can run it through the dishwasher. For even heating, look for bases with a layer of aluminum or copper bonded between two layers of steel.
- Cast iron: This material is dense, heavy and heats evenly. In addition, it retains heat for longer than stainless steel or aluminum so it keeps food warm long after removing the pan from heat. Uncoated cast iron is easy to maintain once it is seasoned, but coated pans come in a rainbow of colors. A cast iron pan might be the frying pan to buy if you cook over a campfire or an induction cooktop.
- Anodized aluminum: Anodized aluminum is lightweight and a favorite among cooks for its responsiveness to heat. Although anodizing helps reduce reactivity, keep contact with acidic foods to a minimum to reduce chances of a reaction. To clean anodized aluminum, simply scrub the pan gently with regular dish soap and a scrubber.
- Copper: Many manufacturers fuse copper to the base of a pan made from another material, often stainless steel. Copper is in an excellent heat conductor, and it helps the pan to be responsive at low temperatures. To maintain its beauty, hand wash and polish occasionally.
As you figure out how to buy a frying pan, consider whether a coated or uncoated pan is best. Coated pans include traditional non-stick, ceramic frying pans and enameled pans. Coated types of frying pans are easy to clean and less reactive, while uncoated pans are usually more durable.
- Traditional non-stick coating is composed of synthetic material fused to metal. Use traditional non-stick frying pans over low to medium heat - not high - to preserve the integrity of the coating.
- Ceramic-coated frying pans use natural materials that tend to perform well at high temperatures and release no fumes. Check the instructions to learn if the pan needs to be seasoned and how to care for it.
- Enameled pans use a glaze similar to pottery glaze. These pans require no seasoning and perform well at all temperatures.
To preserve a non-stick coating, use only plastic or wooden utensils and a soft, non-abrasive scrubber to hand wash the pan.
>> Do you need induction-ready cookware?
If you are learning how to buy a frying pan for an induction cooktop, you'll need to choose a pan made of magnetic metal, so look for cast iron or 100 percent stainless steel - although not every stainless steel pan will work. The best way to determine the best frying pan to buy for an induction cooktop is to look for an induction-compatible symbol on the packaging or to put a magnet on the base of the pan. If the magnet sticks, the pan is induction ready.
>> Consider frying pan size and shape
When it comes to comparing frying pan sizes, you'll find a range from about 3 inches to 24 inches wide, though the most common frying pan sizes for household use are between 6 and 12 inches. A 6-inch pan is ideal for cooking eggs or small batches of a sauce, while a 12-inch pan might accommodate a small cut-up chicken.
Decide on straight, rounded or sloped sides. Straight-sided pans are ideal for pan-frying and light stewing, for example, for fried chicken or chili verde. However, a straight-sided frying pan's uses extend far beyond those kinds of dishes. For frying, choose a pan at least 2 to 3 inches deep. To minimize fire risk, make sure that the combined volume of food and oil does not fill more than halfway up the sides of the pan.
Rounded sides are suitable for virtually any dish, including pan frying. They are often easiest to clean because there are no corners to scrub.
Slope-sided pans are usually the best types of frying pans for sauteing. If you want to toss food in the pan like a professional chef, look for pans with a lip about 1/4-inch wide that slants outward at a shallower angle than the sides.
>> Consider the handle of the frying pan
As you figure out how to buy a frying pan, consider the handle's materials, how it attaches to the pan and whether it is safe in the oven. For durability or an oven-safe handle, choose metal. If you want the handle to stay cool, choose plastic or silicone. Plastic and silicone can be oven safe, so check the packaging. Wood handles are rare and are less prone to getting hot.
Riveted and welded handles tend to be the most durable, but these are not removable for cleaning or storage. Many handles attach with a single screw, which means if the handle loosens or falls off, you can simply replace or tighten the screw. Some types of frying pans feature removable handles, which can be handy if you have limited storage space.
Finally, consider whether you want a helper handle, a handle that sits opposite the main handle. Helper handles make it easier and safer to move the pan, and are ideal if you are using large frying pan sizes that are full and hot.