What Makes a Good Frying Pan? Picking the Right One for Your Cooking Style

Choosing a frying pan for your cooking style does not have to be daunting. However, the wide array of low-quality pans, gimmicks and hard sells make the gauntlet of buying a harrowing experience. So, what do we mean when we say one pan is better than the other? 

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Well, it all boils down to use. What you intend to use the frying pan for will dictate the type of pan you purchase and it is usually better to own more than one for varying situations. So, to help you in making your decision, we have listed down a few guidelines and features to look for when searching for the perfect frying pan. 

1. Cooking with Non-Stick Pans

Non-stick pans are definitely up there for frying cookware. They make cooking a breeze, are easy to clean, and are what many people use on a regular basis. The non-stick surface can be made from an array of non-reactive materials, which is what makes these pans a good choice. For example, the Swiss Diamond non-stick pan features 1000s of commercial diamonds in the coating while the Scanpan features a ceramic-titanium coating. 

The general rule of thumb is: if what you want to cook is sticky, such as eggs, and calls for low to mid-heat, then you should pick the non-stick pan. Also, as with most items, purchase the best one you can afford. The best non-stick pan should be both durable and have a high-quality coating. 

Keep in mind that generally, non-stick pans do not react well to high heat and so, to preserve their coating, always use low- to medium heat. Also, use wooden, nylon, or plastic utensils to avoid scratching the coating. 

2.  Stainless Steel Pans

Most professional chefs swear by stainless steel pans and for good reasons. They are hardy and long-lasting, usually lighter compared to cast iron pans, and are non-reactive (which is excellent when deglazing a pan using an acidic liquid like lemon juice or wine). If you are stir-frying, browning meat, or opt for metal cookware, then stainless steel should be your go-to. Also, this type of pan creates a tasty fond which you can use to make pan sauce- a huge plus. 

An excellent stainless steel pan should be heavier, featuring a core of a highly conductive material such as aluminum, sandwiched between stainless steel. This is a feature to look for as it helps conduct heat evenly throughout the pan. 

Most people think that cleaning stainless steel pans is hard, but that could not be further from the truth. The trick to cooking with stainless steel is to heat the pan on high heat, turning it down, putting a drop of oil, and swirling it around. Leave it for about a minute, and then add food. Doing this allows the oil and heat to close the small pores in the pan, ultimately making it less prone to food sticking to the pan. 

3. Cast Iron Pans

Looking for a great sear? If so, cast iron should be your go-to as it transfers heat in an efficient manner, making it a good option for cooking steaks. Cast iron pans are heavy and heat evenly. They transfer heat very efficiently and hold it for extended periods. Due to this efficient feature, cast iron should also be used at low to medium heat and it will sear your steak wonderfully. Just give it time to heat before you add your food. 

Keep in mind that cast iron pans do not react well with acids such as wine. So, if you intend to deglaze, use a stainless steel variant instead. When it comes to cleaning, allow the pan to cool, scrub with a sponge, and an organic abrasive such as salt. Then store it with a light cooking oil film in order to prevent rust from forming. 

It is important that your cast iron pan is well seasoned. There are numerous ways to season cast iron. Some recommend only using it to cook bacon for the first several months while others suggest baking it covered in fat a few times before use. When it comes to seasoning an old cast iron pan, scrub away the crusted on food and rust. Allow it to dry completely and then rub it with a thin layer of oil before putting it in the oven. Turn the heat to 180 degrees Celcius and let it bake for 30 minutes. Allow it to cool and wipe dry with paper towels. 

As you can see, the best frying pan depends on the type of cooking. The rule of thumb is to purchase the best one you can afford and ensure proper care for longevity.

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