Not all frying pans are created equal. A well-chosen frying pan can make the difference between a good dish and an extraordinary one. Read on and let us empower you with the vital insights needed to navigate your choices confidently.

Cast Iron Frying Pan

Cast iron is a classic favourite among chefs, and for good reason.

They excel in high-heat cooking, distribute heat evenly, and are great for achieving crispy textures. They last a long time, can be used for stovetop and oven cooking, and are well-suited for deep frying and baking.

A good cast iron frying pan should be quite heavy and have a thick base to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the pan. This is important for preventing hot spots and ensuring that your food cooks evenly. But that also means it is challenging to lift, manoeuvre, and pour. It also takes a longer time to get heated up evenly, extending your cooking time.

There are two main types of cast iron frying pans: traditional bare cast iron and enamelled ones. When it comes to choosing between the two, the benefits of the latter shine brilliantly.

Bare cast iron offers a connection to culinary heritage, can be used at literally any temperature, but requiring seasoning to for a non-stick and rust-free surface.

Enamelled cast iron, on the other hand, modernizes the experience with a smooth enamel coating that eliminates the need for seasoning, so you don’t ever need to worry about rust. While traditional cast iron radiates authenticity, enamelled cast iron is more durable, safer, and easier to clean. Enamelled cast iron is also naturally non-stick, but it’s not alarming to see that food seals to the pan at the beginning of cooking. This is because high heat on the surface of pan seals the surface of meat – this retains the taste, water and all nutritional values of the food sealed. It forms a dry and hard layer in a short period of time or briefly, let’s say it browns. So, while the meat first sticks, it loosens within a couple of minutes – after the humidity on its surface is removed.  

Recommendation: LAVA

Stainless Steel Frying Pan

Stainless steel frying pans are definitely lighter than cast irons. And it is one of those materials that requires minimal maintenance over its lifetime.  

There are three main types of stainless steel: SUS200, 300, and 400 series. The 200 series has manganese in place of nickel, which makes cookware less expensive but more prone to corrosion. The 300 series is a higher quality range that is much more resistant to corrosion. The cheapest stainless-steel cookware is usually in the 400 series. This alloy is more corrosive as it is almost entirely nickel-free.

Here, we will focus on 300 series stainless steel frying pans. These pans are prized for their durability, resistance to staining, and ability to handle high cooking temperatures. Multi-ply stainless steel cookware offers excellent heat absorption and distribution, making it ideal for a variety of cooking techniques. Stainless steel is robust enough that you can scrub away stains and debris, but keep in mind that rough sponges will leave scratches behind.

One downside of stainless steel frying pans is that food may stick to the pan more easily, especially if you do not use enough oil. However, there are a number of ways to season stainless steel pans, and with practice, you can easily get them to produce a non-stick surface.

Recommendation: Safico, Lacor, DeBuyer

Non-stick Frying Pan

Non-stick pans step into the spotlight when it comes to handling delicate foods that demand a gentle touch. Tasks like flipping omelettes and sautéing easily-torn foods become a breeze with these pans. Thanks to their special coating, ingredients glide effortlessly, eliminating the need for excessive oil or fat. This paves the way for chefs to craft healthier dishes without making any compromises on flavour or texture.

It’s worth noting, however, that despite their impressive advantages, non-stick pans come with certain limitations in terms of high-heat cooking and overall durability. They are sensitive to high temperatures; subjecting them to intense heat can lead to coating degradation, the release of toxic fumes, and a decline in their non-stick properties. Therefore, a gentle preheating approach is advisable. Similarly, exposing a hot non-stick pan to cold water risks thermal shock, which can result in coating damage or warping. If you notice signs of peeling, flaking, or a significant reduction in non-stick performance, it’s time to consider replacing the pan. Invest in a high-quality non-stick pan from a reputable brand. Cheaper pans may have coatings that wear out faster.

Recommended: Lacor, De Buyer, Zyliss

Cooper Frying Pan

Copper conducts heat twenty times better than stainless steel. And it loses that heat just as fast. Remove a copper pan from the heat and its temperature will drop fairly quickly, advantageous in preventing overcooking foods like fish, finishing sauces, caramels, and emulsions.

So if delicate foods and temperature sensitive foods are part of your menu, then copper frying pans will bring remarkable value to your cooking processes. Opt for a copper pan enveloped with a nonreactive metal lining, such as tin or stainless steel, assuring absolute food safety. It’s worth noting that copper pans are not compatible with dishwasher cleaning due to their unique composition. Moreover, they require periodic polishing to sustain their sheen, a small investment to preserve their radiant appearance.

Despite their premium price point, the exceptional benefits that copper frying pans bring to your culinary creations justify the investment.

Recommended brands: De Buyer, Mauviel

Aluminium Frying Pan

One of the standout features of aluminum frying pans is their lightweight nature. This makes them easy to handle and manoeuvre. Using a heavy pan for extended periods can lead to fatigue and strain on your wrists and arms. A lightweight pan alleviates this issue, making cooking more comfortable, especially during long cooking sessions.

Aluminium is an excellent conductor of heat, though not as efficient as copper. Nevertheless, it still provides even and consistent heat distribution across the cooking surface. This quality reduces the risk of unevenly cooked or burnt spots. Aluminium frying pans are ideal for quick searing, sautéing, stir-frying, and cooking delicate foods like eggs and fish. With even heat distribution, they’re great for preparing grilled sandwiches, pancakes, and frittatas. However, caution should be exercised with acidic ingredients as these can react with the metal.

Recommended brand: Alegacy

All in All

Whether you seek superior heat conductivity, durability, non-reactivity, or ease of use, there’s a frying pan tailored to your needs. Just like a painter selects the right brush for each stroke, a chef selects the right pan for each dish. So choose wisely, for each pan carries with it the potential to turn a meal into a masterpiece.